Third Sunday of Advent

“Mercy”

I am back from the mission.  What an awesome day!  It started slow but it picked up momentum when Mass started.  The Church was packed for the 12:45 Mass – standing room only!  The Bishop celebrated Mass, and 8 LCs con-celebrated.  They had a children’s choir, in addition to the regular choir.  Such angelic voices!

There were 60+ LC Brothers and Novices, accompanied by 3 priests who came from Cheshire.  Fr Jason and Fr Donal gave a meditation to the missionaries.  Very moving, inspirational talks.  It was so much fun to work with the young Brothers!  Incredible smiling faces – a sea of black suits!  They sang before they left this evening and their voices reduced me to tears!  They sang “Alma Redemptoris Mater”.  It was their goodnight song.

The opening of the Holy Doors was a new experience for me!  I love all Catholic Church rituals and ceremonies!  And the presepio!!!! Wow!  They are incredible! You can spend hours looking at the figures and meditate on them.  The theme being Mercy, you see figures depicting humans needing mercy.  There is a leper, a murderer, prostitutes, immigrants, poor farmers and fishmongers, etc.  Anna Maria was with me the whole time.  She was very brave in standing in front of OSP!  Gianna came with her family as well and all three of us took advantage of the LCs and went for a good confession.

For now I need to put my feet up as I have been on my feet since 9AM.  No complaints!  I really feel so energized by the Brothers.  Their enthusiasm, their joy, their energy was so infectious!  They could not wait to get into the streets!  They came back with stories of people ignoring them, some impolite reactions, and many others they will not repeat.  But they were undeterred.  I quoted Marie who simply said, ” today I am only a little donkey carrying Jesus to the world”.  Such a true, humble expression of our true role!  The Brothers gave testimonies of times of panic as they talked with some folks, and how they called on the Holy Spirit at the street corners, finding the courage they need, and the right words to say.  The graces I felt just listening to them will hold me up for a long time, and I know it will pull me up when I am down!  Marie and I kept giving each other knowing looks as the Brothers gave their testimonies.  I know Fr Simon’s blogs for the next several weeks, maybe months, will be about the miracles we witnessed today.  Msgr Sakano said he knows he will hear the buzz in the community for months!

And…one last story….one team of Brothers found a homeless woman who was hungry and in need of a place to stay tonight.  She was relatively young, tall, thin, intelligent.  They invited her in to the OSP Youth center where we were and served her some of the dinner for the missionaries.  They sought my help to find her a place to stay.  I was stumped.  I didn’t know where to send her.  Fr Jason went to the Parish Center and looked for someone who knew more about NYC’s programs for the homeless.  They found her a shelter nearby!  I wish you saw how the two Brothers and Karen Puga (RC member from the Jersey shore) ministered to her, before they themselves had any bite to eat!  They treated her like she was a long lost cousin…with dignity, love, and respect.

It was a beautiful day, a beautiful night.  The rain that threatened us as we processed to the Church of the Most Precious Blood disappeared.  The sun came in and out, as if teasing the missionaries, playing hide and seek. In the end, that playful sun warmed us up, erasing from memory another advent mission three years ago when we had to persevere through an early winter blizzard.  It is our God who does that!  Never running out of surprises!

In Christ’s love,
A missionary