It’s hard to believe that we just arrived here a week ago; when we arrive back to the place we’re staying it seems so natural to say “We’re home!”
Welcome to Yonkers, NY where the freshman class of Mater Ecclesiae College has been for the last week doing missions for St. Peter’s Catholic Church, a parish run by the Legionaries of Christ. From June 5th until now we have been staying in the 5th floor of a parish school building, and going out every day to do door-to-door missions, talking to people and inviting them to different events at the parish. It has been quite the adventure so far: everything from starting a fire in the oven of our small kitchen to getting caught in a rainstorm in the middle of the neighborhood, attending a youth group event with a rapping Franciscan brother, and chatting with and helping out the nuns who live on the floor below us.
At first I was not very excited about the whole idea. Yes, of course I understood the purpose of the missions: to close our first year of discernment, where we have received a tremendous amount of knowledge and grace, with a “hard-core” mission experience where we get to give back all that we’ve received. That part was beautiful of course. It was the externals I wasn’t excited for: sleeping on a sleeping bag on the floor for two weeks, having my eating schedule messed up, walking for hours every day. The devil made this list so long and so clear in my mind! But once I got here, I just decided to go in full force; once you’re in midair above the pool there’s no time to think about which stroke will tire you the least. You just have to hold your breath and start swimming.
Once we got here we decided we wanted to have a theme for our missions. The first week happened to coincide with the feast of the Sacred Heart, and so we decided on 2.C.hz.fAs.2.B.hz.hRt. (The longer version is To See His Face, to Be His Heart, but I like the abbreviated version better.) We also came up with a prayer we wanted to say after we visited each house. The consensus was “Blessed Mother, help these souls to see your Son’s face, and bring them home to the family of the faith.” It was a beautiful way to be united as we spread throughout the neighborhood in small groups to visit houses and hand out flyers.
After the first few days I began to see a change of view and perspective within my own heart. Visiting countless homes, being welcomed by some and shut out by others, I started to see a trend: no matter the state of each person, they were all thirsting for God. You could see it in their voices and in their eyes.
One night we went up on the roof of the school building where we were staying to say our night prayers. As I looked out onto the streets below, one apartment building in particular caught my attention. It was dark enough and quiet enough that you could see and hear movement inside the building. I could see a mother desperately rocking her crying baby, in another apartment a child sitting at the table by himself, maybe working on homework, and outside the front door a man sitting on the steps with his head in his hands. As I pondered their possible situations, I felt Christ whisper “I want them to see my face. I want all of the people on this earth to see my face. But I must stay on the cross and in the Eucharist. So you must be my voice, my eyes. You must be my heart.”
As the last rays of sunlight disappeared over the horizon that night, I whispered back to Christ, “I promise I will try to be your heart for this thirsting city, so that all the people I encounter in these two weeks of missions might experience your love through me, and, by that, see your face.”