Seminarian Connor Danstrom, from Mundelein Seminary, did that in downtown Chicago a few days ago and wrote about it over at Word on Fire:
“Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give.”
My phone told me it was three degrees when I woke up at 7 A.M. This was the gospel reading at Mass, which seemed fitting as I prayed my holy hour afterward. Once I was done, I set to making the sign I had thought of just a few days before – a large white foam-board rectangle that read, “Free Blessings.” My friend Deacon Brian and I clumsily affixed a wooden handle to it with a combination of glue, nails, and duct tape, and then shoved it in the back of my truck.
We arrived at Holy Name Cathedral around 1:45 P.M. We offered a prayer inside and then made our way three blocks east to Michigan Avenue. From there we headed south, where we found a convenient place to set up shop away from the street performers and in front of a jewelry store. There were some cops standing on the corner, and if there was any doubt about the legality of what we were doing, all that was put to rest once one of them walked by and took advantage of the offer.
“What’s your name?”
“Officer Burns,” he said sternly.
“Is there anything specific you want to ask from God?”
He looked confused.
“How about safety?”
“Always safety. Every day.” His authority returned to him.
I prayed for him to God, and blessed him. He walked back to his confreres who were waiting for him and continued his beat.
The first few hours were very slow. It was cold, and people were shuffling by in hordes after walk signals were given. We held up our sign and invited people to stop. “It only takes a second! A blessing to keep you warm!” Many would glance to the side and read the sign, look down at us, and quickly return their gaze to the empty space in front of them. When we spoke directly to someone, they would often say, “Thanks” or “I’m already blessed.” Many couldn’t even be bothered to return a “hello” or “have a nice day.”
“I wonder if this is how God feels,” Brian said.