It seems to be working in its small way. I've run into numerous Christians--some Catholic, some not--who are surprised and edified by what we are doing. I've also met many non-believers who are intrigued by our presence (such as Eon).
Three Priests Doing Great Work
I've recently read about three different priests who are each "re-branding Catholicism" in their own mission field. A reader of the blog sent me a delightful write-up of Fr. Lawrence Carney, who evangelizes the streets most days in St. Joseph, Missouri. He's hard to miss in his full-length black cassock and traditional soutane, carrying a crucifix and rosary. As he walks along, the curious are drawn to him, and he wins unlikely friends and admirers. His sense of humor certainly helps his evangelism; he describes his efforts as "fishing". A fellow priest describes his unusual appearance as "a visible image or icon of the Church" and notes that in Fr. Carney's walks he "sees, talks and prays with those that the average parish priest doesn't have a chance to encounter." Fr. Carney hopes to attract more priests to the charism, and form a society of priests committed to street evangelization. I find it significant that Fr. Carney is chaplain to the much-admired Benedictines of Mary as well as friends with many FSSP priests. It seems to me that both of these orders have been raised up by God to help re-build the Father's House. As iron sharpens iron, God often clusters saints together in time and place so that they might strengthen each other. Here's praying that Fr. Carney is the start of something big.
If I'm ever in his area I'll go out of my way to meet him. His experiences are largely our experiences, especially the initial trepidation at starting off alone. In the meantime I will read his book, due to be released at the end of the year.
|Fr. Carney fishing for souls|
Fr. Jason Cargo is another priest who has taken to the streets, though in his case he sets out with other Catholics in the form of a daily rosary procession during Lent. The group walks local neighborhoods in prayer, and is led by a medium-sized crucifix. The crucifix is a powerful sacramental when prayerfully used, and mystics have testified that it puts demons to flight by making the crucifixion present again (since God and spirits exist outside of time). Processions can have a remarkable impact on by-standers, especially when accompanied by music and the Blessed Sacrament. I wrote of Phillip Trower's conversion here; he was always touched by the Walsingham processions in England while he was still an atheist. At the close of the Sacra Liturgia conference in New York, Daniel Marengo writes of the procession along Manhattan streets:
If you'd like to hear more about Fr. Cargo's rosary processions, his diocese has put out a short video here.
Finally, I'd like to direct you to the remarkable story of Fr. Fames Mawdsley FSSP. Fr. Mawdsley became a human rights activist in his youth, and was even imprisoned in Burma for more than a year. His time in solitary confinement began to re-direct his life to a higher calling--toward "the peace that surpasseth all understanding". There is something brutally jarring and finally suffocating about solitary confinement. I've seen it drive hardened cons a little wacky (though they straighten out within a few days or weeks of their release). I fought the suffocation of "the hole" with beauty--wandering in tight circles reciting the hundred poems I had come to memorize while in prison. Fr. Mawdsley found a beauty much greater than poems from Keats and e. e. cummings. He continues to pursue and witness that beauty in the sacred liturgy because he has learned the most important lesson: "Without God, we can do nothing."
|Fr, Mawdsley with Archbishop Schneider|