“Lord you have probed me, you know me. You know when I sit and stand, you understand my thoughts from afar.” Psalm 139:1-2
Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral, SoHo. Four missionaries, two priests. Too small a group to make anything happen, for sure! Not to worry! “Face of Joy!” We knew our wing man would show, and with a gentle smile, He buzzed us as we arrived to announce His presence– six penitents waiting in the back of the church for confession. Easy when the Holy Spirit is on the team!
Marie took charge in the back of the church. John organized mission HQ for the deluge to come later in the week. And we put the other two missionaries out on Prince and Mott. They were busy literally all night. In “Joy mode” from the start, our usual 40 to 1 hit ratio gradually declined; by 6:00 when two more missionaries arrived to reinforce us, we were almost at 10 to 1. “Lady” and her joyful fiancé Scott stop to talk. “Yes, that is my name! Lady Clarice! We’re getting married soon in the Church!” “You’re Catholic Scott?” “No, but I am looking forward to becoming one for Lady. You Catholics seem to have something going!” “Lady, have you been inside the Basilica?” “No, where?” “Right here. Go and visit. It’s been recently restored and the stain glass windows are beautiful. Joyful!” “Scott, let’s go!” “Sure!” “Lady, have you been to confession lately?” “Not really. I guess I should. Can I go now?” “Absolutely! We have two missionary priests back there. Amazing. I just went to confession with them myself! Lady, there’s no time like the present!” “Ok, I’ll go. I’ll go right now!”
Another young woman approaches. Decked out in very showy attire. Underneath all the makeup, her natural beauty still shines forth. “Are you guys really Catholic? I didn’t think there were any Catholics left!” “Oh, Maria, there are quite of a few of us ‘left.’. It’s a joyful faith to be a part of!” “I’m sort of Catholic—at least I was. Can I have a rosary?” “Of course, Maria. What color?” “I’ll take purple.” “Maria, where are you going? We have lots to talk about?” “I’ve got a run! I’m a stripper now. But I am going to pray on this rosary.” From previous experience, we believe she’ll be back next year…
Peter “hasn’t been to confession in years! I don’t even know the act of contrition!” “Peter, with a name like that, you’ve got to go to confession, especially on this of all weeks. Don’t worry about the act of contrition. I have a guide here for you. You can meditate on it in the church, and when you’re ready, the priest will guide you through it. It will be like having a conversation with the Lord. The priest is en persona Christi. It will be amazing….” “I’m going!”
On the corner, Bob is engaged with another young woman, Christa. She’s just come back from confession and stops to thank him. She wants to join us at the San Genaro mission in September and takes down particulars. Meanwhile, Jeremy waits patiently at the corner of Prince and Mott to speak with Bob. “Jeremy, what is it? Can I help you?” “Not really. I just want to thank Bob for getting me into confession. It was really beautiful. I feel completely changed, new again.”
Two more missionaries from Connecticut arrive, Catherine and Ken, and take up a station across the street at the cupcake shop. They seem to attract heavy traffic. I go over to help out and run into Amy and Jasmine, hurrying on their way to dinner. Catholic. I walk with them down Mott toward Spring. “Yes, we’re Catholic. We went to school here years ago!” “Wonderful! And here we are in the most important Catholic week of the year, Holy Week!” “I still go to Mass when we can, don’t worry. We’ll be going on Easter Sunday for sure!” “Fantastic! And do you know what makes the Mass of Easter Morning the best Mass of the year?” “I’m not sure.” “Going there just after receiving confession! It changes everything. You feel as bright as the sun! You feel almost like you are being resurrected with Jesus!” “Yeah, I felt that way once. I probably should go. I’’ll admit it. It’s been years—many years. Maybe we’ll come back later in the week. There’s things I need to confess that I’m embarrassed by.” “Jasmine, help me out here. You and Amy here are about to have a really tough week. You’re going to be thinking about this missed chance for confession, and it’s going to haunt you. It’s going to make you both very regretful.” We read Psalm 139 together out on the street corner. “Lord, you have probed me, you know me; you know when I sit and stand, you understand my thoughts from afar.” We’re not hiding anything—He already knows about it. All we’re doing is apologizing, seeking His forgiveness. “You’re right Steve. I feel it already. Amy let’s go! Let’s go now!”
On it went all night. Six missionaries, two priests, Love, Joy, and the Holy Spirit. We had them outnumbered.