I had an experience on Monday that I just can’t stop thinking about.
If there’s one thing that New York has taught me, it’s that A) every single person has a story. And B) every single person is fighting a hidden battle.
Steven and I had our first meeting of Pre Cana marriage prep on Monday. It was at the parish office, which is attached to the big, beautiful church on one of the busiest streets in the world, literally, in lower Manhattan.
Having attended Mass there for ten years, believe me when I say, I have seen a lot of things. lol
But as Steven and I were leaving the parish office that night — it was around eight o’clock — we opened the door to the street, and almost ran into this very frenetic young man.
He dodged the door, and realizing that we were coming from a church — looking all doe-eyed and in love, having just learned we were eligible candidates for the sacrament of marriage — he pulled out one of his headphone ear buds, and asked us…“Oh my God, do you know of any church that is open right now?”
He looked frazzled and super stressed.
Steven and I racked our brains….Unlike the midwest where most churches are perpetually open, due to NY’s crime and homeless problems, nearly all NYC churches remain closed, except for Mass times. “Oh gosh, I don’t know! We were just at the office, and the church building is closed. But the church on 14th street might be open.”
Steven asked him, “Hey man, are you okay? Can we help?”
And the young man just kind of half-laughed – seemingly at his wit’s end, and said, “It’s been *a day.* Oh well, doesn’t matter. God is everywhere, I guess, right?” And with that, threw his hands into the air exasperatedly, and whirred off into the sunset, J-walking across the busiest avenue in New York.
Steven called after him, “We’ll pray for you, man!”
That interaction stayed with me for the rest of the night — and clearly, here we are four days later and I’m still thinking about him: Wondering how he’s doing; If his situation has gotten any better.
It broke my heart that there was no church that he could go to, no comfort to seek at a physical place.
I’ve come to realize that, even if you’re not a person of faith, churches — just the very building itself — can be a very comforting place. I’ve had friends who have told me, that on really hard days, they’ve just gone and sat at a church during their lunch hour. And I get it, it’s a beautiful place that is quiet and peaceful.
And it just made me sad that we couldn’t offer him a place to go, when clearly he needed it.
I think it’s really easy to forget that the world is full of hurting people. Which is a really really depressing thing to think about, honestly. But sadly, it’s true
Big or small, every person has something weighing on their hearts…especially right now with inflation, with the baby formula shortage, with gas prices and the cost of food, with loneliness, with loss, with illness.
People are carrying heavy loads, whether they show it on the outside or not.
But there was something that man said, that was profoundly accurate: God is everywhere.
He was absolutely right about that.
The real question is, do we realize that? And what’s more, do we appreciate that?
Yes, God is absolutely in a church building, but He is everywhere. His beauty is in the nature around us; His voice is in the Bible; His touch is in the hug of a loved one or the gentle breeze on our cheek; His comfort is in a beautiful piece of music: if we really look, we’ll see that His fingerprints are over absolutely everything.
And what’s more: He lives in the hearts of His children – yours and mine.
How differently would we treat people if we recognized that last truth?
How much more respect, reverence, dignity and compassion would we show others, if we recognized the sanctity of the human person: created by God and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit?
That young man on Monday: he is a creation of God, and was desperately seeking his Father. I don’t know what turmoil had befallen him leading up to that moment, but his soul was hurting, and the whole interaction happened in such a whirlwind of 30 seconds (aka: a New York minute), that he was *poof* gone before we could even process what to do.
What gives me comfort is this truth: that when we seek God, we WILL find Him.
God always shows up when we search for Him. Because He is always pursing us.
I pray that’s what happened with that young man. That even though he couldn’t sit in a beautiful church with stained glass windows, and gaze upon the cross and the statues and be in the stillness, that He found God in his heart. That he experienced His comfort in a real and tangible way.
Where do you feel closest to God? Is it in a physical church? In nature? With your family?
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