Throughout this Holy Week of Easter, God needs us to reach out to those who have fallen away from faith
Taking it to the streets! During Holy Week, over 200 “missionaries” composed of seminarians from the Legion of Christ — both youth and adults from Regnum Christi — are converging on the Cathedral of Old St. Patrick’s in lower Manhattan’s SoHo district, to bring the loving message of Christ to New Yorkers.
The seminarians are gently reminding people to make a visit to church or to go to confession at the cathedral. They’re also asking people if they have any prayer intentions.
This event was inspired by the words and the personal example of St. John Paul II: “This is no time to be ashamed of the gospel,” he said. “It is the time to preach it from the rooftops. Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern metropolis.”
One of the missionaries, Bob Infanger, is very passionate about this effort, so I asked him to share his insights about the experience.
“A friend asked me to help promote the Holy Week activities for a church in SoHo, a very secular part of New York City. I typically don’t get involved in my own parish activities, and since I don’t know this particular parish in the city, I said no,” Infanger told me. “But because of the persistence of a good friend, I eventually said yes. I decided I would help out just one time. We talk to Catholics or fallen-away Catholics as they walk near St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral and ask if they would like a schedule for the Holy Week masses and activities. In that brief discussion, we offer a free rosary. And if they haven’t been [to confession] in awhile, we also invite them to confession with one of several priests waiting inside the church.”
He continued: “We end up speaking to a wide variety of Catholics. Some are regular parishioners, and others haven’t been to church in months or more and haven’t been to confession in five to 20 years or more. Sometimes, all it takes is a heartfelt invitation to return to the church. Many times, they have drifted away for no particular reason other than they’ve just gotten ‘too busy’ with life.”
He added this: “After doing this once, I decided to continue to help out with these Holy Week missions because I felt like I might be making even just a small difference. Every individual soul counts. It seems clear to me that through my efforts on any given day in Holy Week, God invites a couple of Catholics my way. They may have strayed — and now we’re inviting them back to more regular participation in the church.
“Based on the responses from people I have spoken to over the years, many are appreciative of the invitation and encouragement. In those brief encounters, both of us feel the tug and love of God encouraging them to a more active participation. Clearly, God acts through personal relationships — many have told me they believed our encounter was no coincidence. In a word, it felt providential. Some have specifically told stories about how this was no accidental interaction with me (and God).”
Bob Infanger concluded with this: “Why do I continue to help out, aside from my good friend’s insistence? (And he is insistent.) I do ask myself: ‘What if it were me or a family member who drifted away from the church — wouldn’t I like someone to invite me back and encourage me to participate more regularly? Can’t I afford to spend a couple of hours a year to try and bring God’s personal invitation of love for every soul? If I don’t do it, who will?’ I guess I feel it’s ‘God’s party’ and a good one at that — so why not help deliver His invitation?”
So many folks come back to the church and back to confession thanks to this selfless and humble effort by the missionaries. God’s mercy is pouring out in the five or six open confessionals — and the missionaries see so many peaceful and grateful people coming out of the church as a result of this experience.
Jesus Christ wants to be in the hearts and minds of every person — but He needs our help. He needs more people willing to live and share the message.
Fr. Michael Sliney, LC, is a Catholic priest who is the New York chaplain of the Lumen Institute.