Last week, my brother seminarians and I had the opportunity to go out into the city and bring our joy and prayer to the people we met on our street evangelization trip. We take these trips once per semester not simply evangelizing by questioning people or making arguments. Instead, we say hello to whoever we meet, introduce ourselves as Catholic seminarians, and ask if they have any intentions for which we can pray. This year, we were blessed by the Sister Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara who accompanied us. At the end of the day, we returned to the seminary chapel to bring all those prayers we received to the Lord.
A special grace this year was that our street evangelization location was the neighborhood right around the seminary in Northeast D.C. My group, which included two of the sisters, met some students on campus at the Catholic University of America and then found a local farmers’ market. It was exciting to meet people who live nearby and who we thought we might be able to see again – and the fruit of one of those encounters came almost a week later, when we least expected it.
The week after our day of evangelization, some of my brothers and I went off campus to the bookstore. Outside, we met a man who asked us for some spare change. We were unable to give him anything, but we introduced ourselves and spoke with him for a few minutes. Afterwards, as we walked away, we observed that his name “Mike”, sounded familiar. At the meeting after evangelization, one of the seminarians had mentioned meeting someone by that name. Mike was probably in the same spot looking for help on the previous weekend, and one of our brothers had been able to talk and pray with him. This encounter stuck with me because I realized I might very well see Mike again the next time I am at the bookstore or nearby.
As a seminarian in the city, looking forward to priesthood can be intimidating. I am reminded, from time to time, of the vast amount of people who live in my diocese. There can be a feeling of pressure to evangelize to everyone in Washington D.C., and at the same time a feeling that this is impossible. My meeting with Mike, however, reminded me that our Lord doesn’t ask us to evangelize everyone, but to be present to whoever he offers us. With my mind on crowds of people, it would be easy to miss a guy like Mike, sitting on a street corner. The Lord, however, is present in the real people around us, and that is where he invites us into relationship with Himself. Meeting Mike was a reminder that the Lord doesn’t expect us to do the impossible, but that He does the impossible through us. We will never know the true impact that our chance meetings have, but the Lord uses every conversation and every prayer to share His light and to invite people to leave their dark and narrow selves and to find joy in relationships with others and with Christ.
The faculty at the seminary remind us often: all the men we live with were chosen by the Lord from all eternity to be our brothers. I can be annoyed by other seminarians or fall into thinking that one of them (or I myself) don’t belong at JPII. But the truth is, the Lord in His wisdom has chosen each of us to help with the formation of the whole seminary. I don’t always understand why I have been given these particular friends and brothers, just as I didn’t understand why we met Mike out on the street. But praise God for His wisdom that orders our chance meetings and friendships to do his work – to draw us closer to Himself.
Mr. Riordon is a College III seminarian for the Archdiocese of Washington.