Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral, SoHo. Chilly morning. Weather finishing where we started: cold, partly sunny then cloudy, windy, dry. The weather seems to be the only thing unchanged around here since Day 1. The Regnum Christi missionaries have changed for sure, grown even deeper in Faith having worked hand in hand with the Holy Spirit and witnessed His many little miracles. Ditto the teens and brothers who experienced their own little miracles as they washed through the neighborhood, wave upon wave of them, through this long, wonderful Holy Week. The Legionary priests have changed, moved by some of the most challenging and deep confessions of their priesthoods. The penitents who made it into confession, for many the first in years, have changed, on a new journey now towards sainthood, with us hopefully in tow. The parishioners have changed, many praying on their new rosaries and thanking us for the transformation they have experienced, individually and collectively. And the neighborhood has changed, abuzz with new life, seeming to cheer us on, in some cases very visibly so by way of flowers, coffee, and warm words of encouragement, relieving our tiredness through the long and tough mission of Holy Saturday. The themes of the week, “Rolling back the stone,” “I’ll be back,” “Crossroads”, “Light 112, Darkness 74”, “Sinners to Saints,” and “Long Journey Home”, all seemed in play today in a wide, bustling climax of activity out on Prince and Mott, outside the wall that surrounds and protects the Old Cathedral. Lots can happen when Catholics, “The Alleluia People” as, Msgr. Sakano calls them, “break from their holy huddles and reach out into the streets, outside the wall.” (Thank you, Bishop O’Hara.)
This morning, we sent two waves of missionaries outside the wall. Up in Harlem, our NY
Tri-State teens were sharing their love with poor kids fighting for a chance, organizing an Angel for a Day program designed to be fun but also providing some much needed hope. In SoHo, our 50-strong Regnum Christi team from Connecticut, led by a small platoon of Legionary brothers and two priests, headed out into the streets, walking prayer crosses around the neighborhood. And as usual, near the church itself, we stationed a number of RC salespeople to gather in the fruit of the rich harvest….
Reports flowed in throughout the long afternoon of the many encounters our teams well outside the walls were having. Some were of special successes, others messier. It’s like that outside the wall.
Brother Jonathan’s team, down at Most Precious Blood on the far side of Little Italy, had many takers visiting the Holy Doors and some receiving reconciliation from our Legionary priest we’d stationed there. In one case, he reported a “five bagger” (simultaneously convincing a group of five friends and/or relatives to all go to confession in the spot), amazingly one of two such feats by the Holy Spirit reported yesterday. Brother Hunter’s team out on Bleeker met a self professed “satanist and earth lover”, who initially was confrontational until the brothers kept praying for her and showing her love not hate from “The Alleluia People”. “You can’t have a relationship with a rock, but you can with Jesus!” She eventually calmed down and asked if she could confess to them right there on the street. They encouraged her to see one of our priests instead and though she wouldn’t, she seemed to leave the encounter with a lighter heart. Brother Theo’s team on Elizabeth had yet another dog slow down its owner long enough for the brothers to share some love with him, and eventually for him to chat with Fr. Edward. “I live nearby. I wish you guys wouldn’t leave. I feel the love radiating from you.” Brother Stephen’s group out on Lafayette with the Pope cutout, had a beautiful exchange with a youthful skateboarder who stopped for a Pope selfie. “I love the Pope, and I love you guys,” he said as he headed off later, shedding tears of joy. Brother Renee, out on Mulberry and Prince walking the prayer cross past the street vendors, took a prayer from Evonne, selling stained glass art. “This is my first day doing this job. I was really nervous, until you showed up. Now, I feel great, ready for anything! Thank you.”
On it goes. On Prince and Mott, and in the Church itself, a continuous flow of penitents, some out shopping or touring brought in today after running into one of our teams, others snagged by the Holy Spirit and our gently persistent missionary in the back of the church after coming in to pray, and still others coming back confident and prepared for reconciliation after having met us earlier in the week. Local shopkeepers, tourists, parishioners, casual passersby, bike delivery guys, old friends converted in missions past, even fellow “missioneros” from Regnum Christi in Brazil , we seemed to have them all today. Right up to 7:40, as Bob and I left our last two penitents, a combined 30 years away from their last confession, with Evelyn at the door of the cathedral just minutes before we were shutting down confessions in advance of the great Easter Vigil Mass blasting off in a burst of fire just at sundown.
One last story from outside the wall. Brother Alfonso’s team found two gay men out on Lafayette, walking a baby. He approached them, and found that one was a Catholic, or former Catholic, that still prayed but felt cut off from the Church. Messy out here outside the wall. Not easy. Brother’s team engaged him, affirmed him, assured him that he is welcome and loved. We hope he rejoins the ranks of the Alleluia People.
Alleluia! Alleluia! The stone is moved! The tomb is empty! The Lord is risen! And He’s here, with us, outside the Wall! Rise up! Join us out here! The sun is shining! Alleluia!
What the Church needs is more Mission…or maybe constant Mission. Wonderful stories and cooperative weather (contrary to our expectations).
Words cannot come near to express my feelings during these high holy days. Just knowing that the missionaries are around brings to fruition all that the Gospel is about. Frankly, the liturgy is truly alive with the Spirit with the missionaries present…
Monsignor Donald Sakano