NEW YORK (LifeSiteNews) — Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8
When I heard the above New Testament reading on the Sunday before my colleagues and I left for New York City, I could only think how unlovely and dark the world was in the immediate aftermath of the massacre in Israel. Enemies of humanity were already celebrating the bloodbath in Times Square, calling for the death of more Jews, and our assignment to cover the already scheduled eucharistic procession through Times Square became slightly concerning. What kind of hostility would we encounter, marching triumphantly through the heart of the secular, anti-Christian world with Christ in the Eucharist?
But sometimes God gives us a glimmer of the heavenly feast, and as the standing room only crowd of more than four thousand filled St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the Mass preceding the procession, I think we all sensed something very special was about to happen.
Father Mike Schmitz candidly confessed in his homily before the procession that he was uncomfortable taking Jesus into the streets of Manhattan. “We’ll walk outside these doors in a few minutes, and most people will not have any idea what we’re doing,” he said. “I don’t want to ambush them with the Lord, but I think it’s what we need to do. What did God say to Jonah? He said, ‘Go to the people I love. I know that they don’t get you. I know that they sometimes hate you, but go to the people that I love and bring Me with you.’”
The inspired Catholic photographer and essayist Jeff Bruno wrote recently that St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the soul of New York City. When the souls of four thousand faithful believers are fed with Christ, and overwhelmed with the truth, beauty and goodness of God, heaven becomes open to us all, and that includes unbelievers who also yearn for transcendence even if they don’t acknowledge it.
So, we went to the people that God loves, and we brought Him with us, and what ensued was the most profound, unexpected experience of the Holy Spirit that I have encountered in my entire Christian life.
With two New York City Police motorcycle officers leading the way, we set off from St. Patrick’s in a half-mile procession of believers representing the catholicity of New York’s melting pot of ethnicities – a most beautiful tapestry of Italian, Polish, African, Asian, Latino, Irish, and more. We were united in our love for Christ and each other, and as we passed through Times Square, I began to notice what was happening on the sidewalk.
Working alongside Jeff Bruno with LifeSiteNews colleagues Michael Hogan and John Paul Gutschke at the front of the pack, I began photographing the reactions of onlookers who had no idea they would be meeting Jesus on their way home from work.
It was stunning. There was no hostility. Most people took out their phones and began recording, while others made the Sign of the Cross, and many hit their knees. They wanted to know what was going on and were genuinely moved by seeing something so lovely under the bright lights and tacky neon of Times Square. We processed by Radio City Music Hall, the television networks, and the bawdy ads that lure thousands of people every day to worship things that their lives are lacking.
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But for a few moments they watched the Sisters of Life singing hymns with four thousand peaceful followers of Jesus boldly and beautifully witnessing to the love of Christ.
It’s easy to get overly sentimental after an experience like this. But the truth is that we desperately need public demonstrations of Christian unity and love. How many seeds were planted in the hearts of those who stood dumbfounded in the streets? In the midst of almost unprecedented angst in the world and the Church, we need to pay attention to what is good. For two hours in New York City, we were reminded that the one Holy, Catholic and apostolic Church is not only good, it is beautiful, and that beauty has the power to heal this broken world.