New York City, like any other big city, can get a bad rap if you only watch the news. The news anchor would have you believe all New Yorkers do is shoot and rob each other, run over pedestrians and bicyclists with cars and buses, or get away with more unconscionable greed on Wall Street, in between their quest for the chicest new restaurants, getaways or other penultimate pleasures. But there are millions of good, radiant hearts in New York, some of them are really living saints. I found dozens of them, far more than ever before, during The March for Life Week. It seemed like nearly every passenger, every encounter, had some angelic message for me.
G.K. Chesterton said in every single little thing on earth is a type of the eternal. Saint Josemaria Escriva puts it into pastoral terms, “Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.”
Radiant Hearts Live in New York
So many good people live just below the sight line. Few know about them, except a few family members, co-workers or friends whose lives they touch. Theses good people might actually save souls by guiding them to heaven. I have seen many such people in my church but also in the most unlikely of places- on street corners, at newsstands, in delis and some in the back seat of a Yellow Cab. Those who know these people know their goodness.
I just want to share just a few of their stories.
On the Eve of the March for Life: a Troubled, Young Pregnant Woman
I picked up a young black woman in front of Columbia University on the Eve of the March for Life. She wanted to go to Harlem because she just got out the hospital.
“Oh, dear. What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I’m pregnant and the baby is not sitting right. Oh, does it hurt.”
“Oh, that’s terrible. What’s your first name, I’ll pray for you, dear.”
“Joanna. Oh thank you so much.” Her enthusiasm sounded like she was a religious woman.
“Are you going to keep your baby?”
“Oh, yes,” she said with assuredness.
That just lit me on fire. I said, “Oh, thank God! God bless you, Joanna.”
“Thank you,” she said with deep emotion.
“I’ll get the people at church to pray for you. They are prayer warriors and everyone they pray for gets better. They have powerful prayers. And I’ll post it on the internet so many more will pray for you.”
“Oh, thank you,” she said with deep appreciation.
“You’re getting a free ride tonight, Joanna.”
“Oh, thank you so much. You’re so nice,” she said with such emotion that I could tell she had very little money.
“God bless you, and your baby.”
After she got out I just shook my head and cried. How amazing is it that our most gracious Lord would send this precious woman my way after I had been writing about Pro-Life all week?
Please, please, pray for Joanna and her baby, and tell everybody you know to pray for her.
A Real Star Couple—Giving Up their Cab to a Man with a Cane
A few nights later I picked up a couple in their late twenties with movie-star good looks. A half a block into the ride they told me to pull over to a heavy-set man with a cane.
“We’re giving him our cab. Is that okay?”
“Absolutely,” I said, “That’s incredibly kind of you. That’s the nicest thing I’ve ever seen in my 30 years of driving a cab. I’m going to put you on Facebook.”
“Oh, no, no, no,” said the wife. “And thank you too.”
This couple was one of the real stars you never hear about.
The man with a cane, Jerry, said “Thank you, thank you” as he got into the cab.
“You know, I’ve been waiting 20 minutes for a cab. I’ve got an artificial knee. I fell down during Hurricane Sandy and I was afraid it was going to go out and I would fall over. I just said, ‘Jesus, send me a cab’ and you folks showed. Wasn’t that a nice couple?”
“They sure were. There have been so many amazing things like this happening to me this week. Maybe they were angels?”
“Maybe they were,” said Jerry who turned out to be a devout Catholic with a niece going into a Nashville Dominican convent soon. Jerry’s aunt was named Sister Dominic, obviously a Dominican.
He was an encyclopedia of knowledge about EWTN which is right down my wheelhouse. After I told him EWTN had converted me, he told me he had been following them since the 80’s. Many celebrities had contributed to Mother Angelica in the early days such as Loretta Young, Ricardo Montalban, and Jane Wyman who was a Third Order Carmelite and buried in a Carmelite habit. Bob and Delores Hope also gave. Bob was a convert, Jerry told me, a former Anglican, influenced by Delores.
I was sorry the ride ended, I could have talked to Jerry for hours.
“Can I ask you a question?” I said, “If you ask someone if they are an angel do they have to tell you the truth?”
“Well, angels being supernatural beings, are far superior to us; they cannot tell a lie. But they can avoid it by saying something like ‘I wish it were, or that’s something I would like to be.’”
“So, are you an angel?” I joked.
“I wish I were; that’s something I would like to be,” he colluded.
“Aha!” I laughed.
“No, no, I’m not an angel,” laughed Jerry as he got out of the cab.
I am still not convinced.
A Young Woman Working in a Women’s Homeless Shelter
Earlier in the week, a young woman flagged me down on the Upper East Side. She was going to 47th and 2nd Avenue. As we got near her destination, she said she was going to Holy Family Church.
“Holy Family Church!” I exclaimed. “Is that ever awesome. And ‘Holy Family,’ do you know how profound that is during this week of The March for Life?”
“Yes, I’m going to work at the homeless shelter for women. It’s a ministry of my church’s women’s group. We open the shelter three months a year.”
“God bless you. What a wonderful thing to do. What’s your first name, I’ll pray for you.”
“Daphne, and thank you.”
“Well, Daphne, you get a free ride.”
“I already paid with Arro (an electronic fare paying service).”
I offered her money back for the fare and a donation to the shelter.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “Believe me, these women are treated very, very good. Just pray for them.”
Please pray for those women and for Daphne.
The Forgotten Heroes of Jamaica
A final story: Last week I fell asleep on the subway on my way home from work at 5 a.m. and ended up in Jamaica, Queens. Now Jamaica has a reputation for its high crime rate and drug use. I had to backtrack and take a train westbound towards Manhattan.
I expected the train to be nearly empty at this hour but it was jam-packed, with some passengers already standing. As I looked at the faces I could see some were somber, some sleepy. Everyone dressed in heavy dark coats, scarves, and hoods, with a few passengers wearing white shoes because they were in the medical professions. They were all going to work—at 5 a.m.! All ten cars were full. In 10 minutes another ten cars would be full, and on and on until 9 a.m. I could see these were people of every race and nationality. Queens has one of the most diverse population in America.
You never hear of these good souls on the news. They are living examples of dying to self, for their families here and abroad, at 5 a.m., every bleary-eyed morning. As the westbound trains thunder to Union Turnpike, my stop, some people will transfer to the Q46 bus for Queens Hospital, St. John’s University, North Shore Hospital, and Long Island Jewish Hospital. Other passengers will stay on the train to Elmhurst Hospital or Queens Mall, and some will slog on into Manhattan to a thousand hospitals, businesses, and schools. These diligent, unheralded souls are the quiet heartbeat of Jamaica that you never hear beating but are they are what gives the neighborhood its life.
Please pray for them too.
“Hidden in the media’s love of the tragic is not only a hidden death wish, but also an unconscious concern with the ultimate death. Accidents, muggings, assassinations are interesting as penultimates because they avoid facing the ultimate.” Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Those Mysterious Priests)
Bad news also helps sell insurance, alarm systems, and vacations to utopias.