By Michael H. Brown
Of Angels And Strange Old ‘Women’ Who Ministered Their Blessings In Manhattan
Years ago, when I lived in Manhattan, I knew a charismatic preacher on the Lower East Side. He was said to have recently encountered a beggar near the Bowery and, like many who live in the city, was tempted to ignore the man (and his requests for money). There are many homeless. They can be a nuisance. Some are simply looking to buy drugs. It’s tempting to disregard them. As I recall the preacher was ready to do just that but gave the guy some money and when he turned around the “bum” had disappeared. He was just gone. There was nothing to hide behind, and the preacher didn’t think there was any chance he had walked away so fast. On reflecting on it, he believed it had been a test from God and that the beggar had been an angel.
I have no idea if that was anything supernatural but many have had such encounters. You probably have your own stories. I remember another friend who was out of work and looking for a job in Manhattan’s financial sector. He didn’t know the preacher (my friend was not at all religious), but he too ran into what I can only describe as The Mysterious Beggar. And like the preacher, my friend was likewise tempted to turn the homeless man away. Instead, something prompted him to give the guy $20, despite his own precarious financial situation. That was in midtown. Soon after, my friend landed a job down on Wall Street, and the day he did, as he was walking out of the place where they had just hired him, he spotted the same beggar — even though it was more than six miles south of the midtown location where he had seen the beggar days before, in a city of millions.
Was that too an angel? Check out Hebrews 13:2. Angels often come as “mysterious strangers.” I remember speaking with a woman from Louisiana named Sondra Abrahams who had a near-death experience. She said one of the most striking aspects of her experience was learning from Christ how many times in her life she’d run into angels without knowing it.
Think about it. Reflect back on your lives. I remember that after my return back to the Church, I was walking down the east side of Third Avenue between 89th and 90th streets one late afternoon during rush hour in the early 1980s and suddenly an old woman was standing smack in front of me. Just stopped me in my tracks. She was right in my path and facing me. I’d never had anything quite like this happen, and I really don’t remember many of her traits. I remember that she was short, perhaps a bit hunched over, like one of the sweet elderly women who attended daily Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel around the corner.
Was she just a woman from Good Counsel? Was she simply a holy woman who had noticed me during Mass?
She just stopped there, forced me to halt, faced me, smiled this smile I’ll always remember, and made the sign of the Cross. I don’t remember much, but the smile I do. And the feeling. Never said a word. Just disappeared into the throngs. Later, while on business in Lewes, England, I was at early morning Mass at a church dedicated to St. Michael and during the peace exchange an elderly woman in front of me turned with the same smile and sent a wave of what I can only call grace through me as we shook hands. I couldn’t really say for sure, but there have been times when I’ve wondered if it was the same “woman.” They seemed so similar. They behaved in the same silent way. Still later, when my sister was in Lower Manhattan — far from the Upper East Side — she said she ran into an elderly woman who made the sign of the Cross over her — and I heard the same from a woman who worked in the publicity department at Doubleday (she was blessed in a subway!).
Think about it: Was there really some elderly woman running around New York blessing everyone?
Or are there angels in human form — even in the concrete jungles of Manhattan?
[We think of such accounts as we approach Christmas. If you have extraordinary accounts, e-mail us. We may post some of them. Perhaps you saw the account nearly a year ago about a number of photographers and others who claimed that in the days following September 11, they spotted an unusual young man near Ground Zero, playing a trumpet. Attempts at photographing him met in inexplicable jamming of one man’s camera.]