Be Jesus — and with Jesus — on the streets

By:

“What are they protesting?”

“Sin.”

I’ve been to more than a few Eucharistic processions in major American cities in my time. And part of the joy of it is the questions people ask along the way. Even New Yorkers, who are known to keep their heads down and keep moving, stop and look. And sometimes they even join.

For the feast of Christ the King this year, the Sunday before Advent, St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Manhattan, run by Dominicans, took Jesus from 66th and Lexington to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The majority of the procession was on Fifth Avenue. There are no words to explain the power of the Presence. This is what we believe. That Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. And here we were walking with him, taking him to the people. It was just days before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on some of the same streets. Already, some of the high-end stores had their Christmas lights and decorations up. And, yet, here was the Son himself.

The answer about sin was actually the response I wish I’d had on the fly during a Eucharistic procession in Philadelphia a number of years ago. The priest who came up with the response when I told him about the question after the fact is much better on the fly than I tend to be — I tried to explain Eucharistic theology to passersby while taking photos on my phone.

During another procession this fall in New York City, people joined along the way. People stopped and prayed. Some people knew what was going on, which makes me wonder: Where are they on Sunday? How can we get them back?

During the Christ the King procession, the Sisters of Life handed out cards explaining what was going on and inviting people to monthly Eucharistic Holy Hours at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Inviting is not all that hard, and yet, how often do we do it?

And seeing is believing. That’s the power of being out on the streets with Jesus.

In June 2020, right after the COVID lockdowns, St. Joseph’s Church in Greenwich Village, another Dominican parish, had its first Eucharistic procession for the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ — Corpus Christi — in decades. To walk around the block there means walking past gay pride central — the Stonewall Inn and a national monument, with just about as many rainbow flags as possible. We walked with Jesus through it all. And people stopped and wondered. And asked questions. One young man was excited, thinking that he had encountered the most progressive Catholic church in the city, declaring that he might just start going back to Mass. The door is open. They even have confessions on Sunday before Mass. I often think there should be an express lane for those who have been away for years. Jesus wants them back. And there should be no hindrances. Those of us who will be there on Monday anyway perhaps should wait on Sunday, or during the long lines of Advent and Lent.

That young man felt an invitation. We didn’t even voice the invite. We were just with Jesus in the streets.

Last year, one Sunday, I brought the Eucharist to a man who had COVID. I walked past Planned Parenthood in lower Manhattan with Jesus. There was an open door, and to this day I wish I had walked through it with him. Perhaps my guardian angel knew better — and where the surveillance cameras were. But his Presence was there, and we believe miracles are possible.

St. Joseph’s in Greenwich Village is building a perpetual adoration chapel. We don’t have one of those in New York City. It will be a powerhouse. One thing we do have going for us is that the Franciscan parish in midtown by Penn Station, which has been known to host a pride Mass in June, and the Opus Dei parish by Grand Central have Eucharistic adoration during the day. We’ve got our issues in the Church today, but if we keep going to Jesus, we have a prayer. His Presence is our hope. And it gives me hope that we still seem to know it.

If these years of Eucharistic Revival in the U.S. are going to mean anything, be present, invite people, and pray people into the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The Holy Spirit works miracles there.

This article comes to you from Our Sunday Visitor courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

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