In the wake of Hamas’ barbaric slaughter of innocents over the weekend and with war now raging in the Middle East, some Christians have courageously invited others to find shelter in the only refuge possible this side of Heaven.
In New York City on Tuesday, thousands marched and sang hymns in a Catholic Eucharistic procession.
Their actions called to mind Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”
The Napa Institute, a Catholic leadership organization in California, posted a clip of the procession to social media showing the faithful, both laity and ordained servants of God, processing by Radio City Music Hall.
As they marched in reverence past that icon of secular broadcasting, many sang hymns often heard only in churches.
An incredibly blessed evening in New York City with @NY_Arch and @RVCDiocese priests and religious. We were delighted to have @frmikeschmitz celebrate the opening mass and participate in the procession. God be praised! #catholic #catholicch #eucharist pic.twitter.com/MF3FA0qt1V
— Napa Institute (@NapaInstitute) October 12, 2023
In a lengthy social media post that accompanied the video and a separate news article Thursday, ChurchPOP, a Catholic news and culture site, reported that an estimated “5,000 Catholics attended the procession.”
ChurchPOP added that Father Mike Schmitz of Duluth, Minnesota, began the event with a “standing-room-only Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.” The Eucharistic procession and Benediction followed.
The Eucharist in Times Square: Procession With Father Mike Schmitz Draws Thousands on NYC Streets
Priests, nuns, and laity participated in a massive Eucharistic Procession on the streets of New York City on Oct. 10, 2023.
Approximately 5,000 Catholics attended the procession… pic.twitter.com/4gWMm8LhV0
— ChurchPOP (@Church_POP) October 11, 2023
The post noted Schmitz’s general reluctance to lead a public Eucharistic procession. Many nonbelievers simply will not understand, and we know how people sometimes respond when they do not understand.
“When He walked through the streets of Jerusalem carrying His cross, this was not Jesus in His glory. This was not Jesus in His power,” Schmitz said in his homily. “When God was in the process of saving the world, most people didn’t even know what was going on.”
“Many of them spat upon him and abused him as God was in the process of saving the world — as God was in the process of pouring himself out and love for us,” he added.
“When I think of a Eucharistic procession … I want them to know this is Jesus. I want them to understand.”
Apparently, some New Yorkers not only understood but showed their understanding in powerful ways.
According to the Catholic News Agency, “some bystanders looked on with interest and others dropped to their knees” when they saw the procession.
CNA described Schmitz as both “a priest of the Diocese of Duluth” and “a popular Catholic speaker and podcaster.” His sermon, therefore, attracted great interest.
“We have hearts that are a mess. And we need Jesus,” Schmitz said in his homily.
“We don’t have the kinds of hearts that can love him the way he deserves … every one of us is a sinner, and we need Jesus to rescue us.”
The CNA story featured photos of the procession, the faithful and — in one inspiring image — an elderly bystander on his knees.
A procession bringing Jesus in the Eucharist through the heart of the largest city in the U.S. attracted hundreds of participants on Tuesday evening. https://t.co/jg4db2lIRo
— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) October 11, 2023
Schmitz told worshipers that he wanted them to treat the procession as an act of communion with God.
“Let this procession be your choice to say, ‘God, I want you to recognize me in your glory. So I’m going to cling to you when you’re hidden … I want to be known as your friend when you come in triumph. So let me be your friend now,’” Schmitz said.
Thus, thousands of Christians showed courage worthy of Proverbs.
In displaying that courage, they also made a humble appeal in the spirit of Schmitz’s homily.
We want to love Jesus, Schmitz said, but we lack “the kind of hearts that can love him the way he deserves.” Our own hearts remain drenched in sin.
Indeed, a Eucharistic procession through the streets of New York amounts to a collective acknowledgment of our fallen nature. But it also reminds us that we have the very help we need. And we have it from only one source.
In Book 2, Chapter 4, of “Mere Christianity” — a chapter titled “The Perfect Penitent” — legendary Christian author C.S. Lewis gave us the sort of imagery that allows us to envision how and why Christ effected our atonement.
To repent, we must undergo what Lewis called “a kind of death.” Yet the “badness which makes us need” repentance also “makes us unable to do it.”
God, of course, gives us everything. “But unfortunately we now need God’s help in order to do something which God, in His own nature, never does at all — to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God’s nature corresponds to this process at all,” Lewis wrote.
“But supposing God became a man – suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God’s nature in one person – then that person could help us,” he wrote.
Therein lay the full meaning of Schmitz’s reference to outsiders’ views of the Eucharist procession: “I want them to know this is Jesus. I want them to understand.”
Of course, as long as we remain in this world, the need for Christ’s help never diminishes.
When we feel that need the most, however — as in times of terror and war — bold public acts of humility such as the one seen this week in New York can remind us that the help we need remains available to all who seek it.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.