Shakira Shakira! Greetings from Denver… House of the Beatitudes!
Matt and Bryce here and we want to just evangalize via the blog-o-sphere! So by now I’m guessing you are wondering if we took advantage of some of the new legalization laws here in Denver, but I want to let everyone know we are just very tired and full of the Holy Spirit which as many of us know fills us with great joy. After an adoration filled night, the day began with Mass and Lauds. The sisters sang to our hearts and nourished ours souls for the day. Once again we were late to Christ in the City and after much discernment the group decided to meet at Holy Ghost Church in downtown Denver. From there we began a pilgrimage to all the different churches in the city. Let me tell you Denver sure knows how to “Church.” Some highlights from the walk included; walking in the pouring rain without appropriate gear, Matt slipping on a banana peal, and praying a Rosary through the busy streets. After the pilgrimage lunch we ventured back to Christ in the City to break bread as the group decided to fast together in observance of Lent. Grace, laying in her bread crumbs proclaimed, “LENT!” thus making her the poster girl of all those fasting. After a period of down time the group began the penetant task of making rosaries. Let’s just say my purgatory will be spent making Rosaries, Bryce began to contemplate pagan beliefs. However, after seven hours I (Matt) have completed a rosary.
We now want to take this time to inform you about the big city driving experience. Katie and Matt change more lanes faster than shakira’s hips don’t lie. Let me tell you, Matt set the record for the most consecutive days of being honked at, which could barely be heard over our screams. One time Matt nearly killed a man, we were pulling out of Christ in the City and like a Gazelle, this runnner jumps in front of us. We all scream and Matt hits the breaks barely missing the dude. I peed a little. I will tell you though, Matt may be our best driver, I still have not stepped foot into Katie’s car. Especially, after watching Katie cross a double white line to make an exit cutting off some people…. I-was-horrified. I am still here so it leads me to believe that my many prayers to our guardian angels protected us. We are not home yet, but so far so good, right. Lets not even talk about Tessa and driving……. let’s just say speeding tickets in Wyoming are very expensive.
Tonight in the Jewish tradition Shabbat is celebrated as the sun sets welcoming the Sabbath. The Community of the Beatitudes celebrates Shabbat as a way to remember our roots in Judism as Catholics. After all Jesus, Mary, and all the Apostles were observent Jews. During the Shabbat meal the group prayed in Hebrew different psalms. We then sang and danced around the table celebrating the arrival of the Sabbath. While the praying lasted three hours Bryce felt the prayer was more of a celebration. If you have never heard of Shabbat you need to google it is truly amazing and our words cannot do justice to the grace of the meal. Father Gregory pushed the wine a little too much, but no one fell to their weaknesses. Overall the Shabbat meal will be a fond memory for all involved. The evening came to a close with many stories and much laughter by all.
On a more serious note today was a day designed for us to remember all the graces of serving in Denver. I (Matt) have been so blessed to be apart of this group. As the only senior on this trip I can now say I have so many new friends both in the Carroll Family and here in Denver in the streets… Ask me about Lawerance if you want a good story! In prayer I have been very “focused” on the importance of presence while loving others. To be fully present to another is very important to making others feel loved. While on this trip I really learned how unloving I can be. Those experiencing homelessness are very easy to judge, but after encountering people in a more intentional way I came to the realization that it would be very hard to tell which one of us truly was poor if you only could hear our conversations. Mother Teresa once said that, “We have forgotten that we belong to eachother.” While on this trip I met brothers and sisters who will forever hold a place in my heart because of the love they helped me come to know. One of my favorite quotes is from Toni Morrison is, “If I had known more people. I’d of loved more.” I’m reminded of this quote as I prepare to leave Denver and know God has graced me with the ability to love more because of all the people I encountered.
Bryce here on the more serious note. As we have journied through this week it has led me to understand alot of things. Before this trip I feel like I was a dry root of a fruit out of soil and for the Lord I did thrist for his love and will. By the end of this trip (and tomorow we leave), I feel as if i have quenched this thirst. I came here to do what I could in his name and I cannot leave happier. You see, what I have learned from this trip is a type of recognition, a new sight, spiritual sight and my human sight that blinded me was washed away. I began to recognize that God’s will is in me and everone around me and as a whole we are a part of a holy community, a holy family. So instead of walking up to a man that was homeless , I instead was walking up to a brother in Christ and in recognizing this I no longer was just trying to serve this man but instead I was bringing two humans together to share a story. It is in other’s experiences, not just our own that we must learn how to live the life that we are in. This is our call to the human experience to be in union with one another, so that we can grow with one another. This trip taught me a lot and I am thankful for every second God gave me on this trip.
Departure from East LA, Slot Canyon at Snow Canyon State Park
An interesting bit about the church of Dolores Mission is that it houses the homeless during the nights. When this practice was first starting there were some people of the community who’s noses weren’t too pleased. For the church was originally covered in carpet and after many nights of homeless men sleeping there with their various ailments and such, you can imagine the smell that began to arise within the church. The community then gathered to decide the fate of this practice and if the homeless should be moved. The very first person to grab the mic began inhaling deeply while standing in the smelly church and in front of everyone said, “To me and my mother, it smells like roses.” That was the end of the conversation, from then on the church became a shelter for the homeless and the community of Dolores Mission fully surrendered to the will of God. It has been a blessing to be a part of this community and to see great things happen just by allowing the Spirit to move freely.
This morning we had to say goodbye to our host families and start on our journey to Helena. After eating delicious pancakes made by our wonderful host mother, we set off into the sunrise for the vans parked at Dolores Mission. As we were walking, Cory had noticed that all around this community it smelled of roses. He had a great reflection tying it all together with the story mentioned above. This community does smell like roses and it is beautiful with a goodness that is difficult to describe. God is with this community in a very real, authentic way.
Before leaving LA, we got to pray one more time with Fr. Ted as he led us in a reflection over our journey through Dolores Mission. It was here that for many of us we were able to see God and start to prepare our hearts for our own mission. I ask that all of you reading take time to reflect with us and look to your own life and your own journey and ask God to prepare you for the mission. He asked us to journey back through our lives and our time in East LA looking for God’s call to live the Gospel in our own lives back home. It was during this time that I realized this week had not just opened my heart but ripped it open. The people of this community had tilled the soil of my heart.
As the mini vans headed for Snow Canyon State Park, Fr. Ted’s reflection remained planted in our hearts. While at the slot canyon we were able to soak in God’s creation and let that seed start to grow into something concrete and real. And it was something else! We all got to take some time to look and really see, touch and really feel. Through God’s creation we were able to open up our senses to be more attentive to His voice. This then prompted a discussion on our car ride home that really bore some amazing fruit. One reflection in particular was that of the Gospel where the widow gave to the treasury not from her excess but from her poverty (Mark 12: 41-44). We realized that we met this woman of the Gospel while at Dolores Mission. We encountered people and had host families that gave their all. They were in extreme poverty and yet they still gave. How many times do we give from our excess and think that we’ve “done enough” or that we’ve made our weekly sacrifice? These people gave all that they had and even if they seemingly didn’t have anything they would look harder and find something. They are the women from the Gospel, they are all living the Gospel completely and therefore living fully. Once again, I’d like to go back to Fr. Ted’s last conversation with us where he was frank and said that Dolores Mission is not there because of the wealth of the rich but because of the love of the poor. We are all called to don the spirit of the poor. This means that we are called to give not from our excess but from our poverty. It is here that we begin to experience the love of the poor in our own hearts. This love is one that is deeper than I, and most of us, have been able to encounter. We’ve been moved to compassion, to suffer with, and carry these people with us. We’ve been called to a new depth of love.
I hope that our story has begun to till the soil of your own heart and opened it to new growth ignited by the Holy Spirit. Become the face of the faceless in the Gospel and don the spirit of the poor.
Dolores Mission School, Father Ted’s talk, and the screening of American Crime
God has already blessed this week in more ways than I can count. Whether this was through providing us the opportunity to serve the homeless at the Saint Francis Center on Hope street, or allowing us to see the generosity of those who are serving the homeless on skid row in the Cardinal Manning center, God is good.
Today, God was no less generous. Our main task of the day was to work in the Dolores Mission School in a designated classroom. Being an education major myself, this was right up my alley. For my placement, the Dolores Mission School had me help out with the 1st grade class. Coming into the school, I expected the children to reflect the difficulties that they faced during their home lives, and to have many issues in the classroom. However, when I entered the classroom, all of the students were filled with joy and compassion, and were so willing to learn. One thing that really stuck with me from this time spent in the school was a conversation I had with one of the teachers, Mr. S. In this conversation, Mr. S. explained how his placement at Dolores Mission could not be described as a job, but rather a vocation. Our careers that we decide upon shouldn’t be based on our wants, but rather on what God is calling us too, and what He needs most from us. Mr. S. was the perfect example of someone doing their job in order to serve the Lord, and it was apparent through his enthusiasm and passion for what he was doing.
After the school, we had the privilege of listening to Father Ted give a talk about the community of Dolores Mission and some of the struggles that they face. I honestly don’t think that I have ever met a man more passionate about what he was doing that Father Ted. In my eyes, I would consider Father Ted a walking saint. In this talk, Father Ted really gave us a deeper understanding of the flaws in our immigration laws and regulations. On this trip, many of the people that we met would be considered undocumented. With this, many people say that we need to deport all of the undocumented immigrants. However, these people have never actually taken the time to get to know and understand the situations that these people are facing. Many of the people that we met fled Mexico in fear of their lives, and the lives of their families. Personally, as a Christian, I don’t understand how we can morally say that we should send these people back to an area in which they are in constant fear for their lives.
One thing that really stuck with me in Father Ted’s talk was his explanation of one of the pieces of art in the Dolores Mission Chapel. In this piece of art, Mary is portrayed as carrying Jesus on a journey from a small Mexican village to the city of Los Angeles. Mary has one arm extended as if welcoming us to join her in the journey, and to explain to those who have immigrated that they were not alone on their migration. Father Ted then went on to explain that Mary and Joseph, as well as Jesus could be considered undocumented immigrants, as they fled from King Harrod into a new country, Egypt. This picture really summed up the journey that the immigrants have made with faith in hope to find a better life in which they can serve the Lord as well as promote the well being of their families. I don’t want anyone who reads this blog to think that I am telling you to change your opinion on the subject, however I do think that anyone who reads this needs to take a moment to consider what the people who immigrate to our amazing country are facing, as well as the moral and ethical implications of our actions in forcing these immigrants to return to their home countries where the idea of tomorrow is a hope rather than an opportunity.
I really give no justice to the talk that Father Ted gave, as it truly moved mountains in all of our hearts and really changed the opinion of not only myself, but many others. The last part of our day was spent at a screening premier of episodes one and two of the new drama on ABC, American Crime. This show is about the realities that many of the homies of Los Angeles face in their lives and many things that they have gone through. What was amazing about this experience was not the show itself, but rather being able to see the men and women who are going through Homeboy Industries in a more natural setting. These men and women are incredible people who were caught in unfortunate circumstances throughout their lives but are seeking to give up their old ways and to be integrated into our society. Being able to hear them talk outside of Homeboy was really powerful because it really showed the hope and joy that they had towards the pursuit of a better life. It is hard to look past what people have done in their past, however it is essential in the process of loving everyone as Jesus loves us.
To end the night, we got to go back to our host families and spend the night with them. When I got back to my host family, we all sat around the table and asked each other questions and those who spoke English answered in Spanish and those who spoke Spanish answered in English. The language barrier was definitely one of the struggles that I have had on this trip, however this experience was extremely powerful because we got to work through that and assist each other in that struggle. Overall, I think the theme of the day was; that we need to learn to love people based upon who they are rather than what they are. These people have gone through situations that I can’t even imagine, and to see the compassion and joy that they live with is still beyond my comprehension. These people have ignited a passion inside of me that I hope I can share with you, and I hope that as I mentioned before, you take the time to think about the situations that these people have faced, as well as who these people are before you jump to conclusions.
Today we went to mass at the Cathedral at 7 and then we went to the Santa Monica beach and reflected. It was our second time at the Cathedral, and we learned a bit more about its history from a tour guide. It was built only 12 years ago. It was easier to appreciate it the second time because we weren’t as caught up in looking at the archietecture or art, but more the religious aspect that is there. We did some team building activities at the beach and got to know our group better. We also took some quiet time to reflect on everything we saw and heard this week. (Side note-we saw seals and dolphins at the beach!) We came back and had a picnic with all of our host families at the park. One host mom said it was the first time a group had come and stayed, and had dinner with everyone and played at the park with the kids. We thought that was pretty special and were glad to be a part of it. We also learned very quickly that we should not take the power of God and his ability to control the universe and all of its planets for granted, because the sun was definetly sent our way and we all had sunburns. Overall, our experience in LA has been very eye opening. It’s clear that God is at work through the community and people at Dolores Mission. We could not have felt more welcome in such a restless place. They are a very clear testimony of faith. Once more the sun has risen, and another day begins, but we are enjoying the LA weather and nature on this beautiful morning! Roger. Over and out. Steve and Veronica.
B: It was awesome and very humbling! Serving the homeless and low income was a great experience.
X: The St. Francis center was a different feel than any other soup kitchen I have volunteered at because they really focused on community. They had round tables with about 8 chairs at each and they welcomed in only three at a time. They did this because they explained that people would build relationships as they waited in line and then when they would come inside they were able to continue those relationships as they shared a meal together.
B: Then we were off to Denny’s for a very entertaining breakfast.
X: we parked on the top floor of a parking garage and dared each other to look down at the world below us. On our way back from breakfast, Katie was dared to climb a tree on the sidewalk of a very busy LA street! Some people said, “She’s like a tom cat!” Then, while we all wanted to fit in the elevator back up to our car, some were dared to run through the parking garage all the way up to the top floor. I can’t really explain how funny this was to witness.
B: After this Denny’s adventure, we went to the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels and celebrated mass together. As we toured inside and outside, we found there is so much diversity between cultures. It’s such an open and beautiful space where all are welcome to pray to God. Everything from the floor tile to the tapestry on the walls had so much architectural meaning.
X: My personal favorites were, the piece of the Tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the tapestry on the walls. The Tilma is the cloth that Juan Diego wore when he received the sign of Our Lady of Guadalupe and where the Lady of Guadalupe left her imprint. The Cathedral of our Lady of our Angels is the only other place besides the Cathedral in Mexico City to have a piece of the Tilma. The tapestry displayed saints from all the countries of the world. These saints were placed side but side but also were positioned to face the altar. Therefore when people walked up to the altar it seemed like the saints were walking with them.
B: After the church we went to the Cardinal Manning Center. We were 40 minutes late to our tour after experiencing mass and were afraid we wouldn’t be able to tour. When we got to the Cardinal Manning Center they understood and proceeded with our tour. The center is basically like a homeless shelter for men of skid row. They have beds, showers, and a community center room where they watch movies. This was a neat experience for us to see the community coming together to provide one of many shelters for the homeless to feel called to.
X: One thing that they said that really stuck in my mind was that there is a very identifiable line between skid row and “the other world” which is down town LA. On one side of the street you see people in tents begging for money or food, and on the other you see modern buildings with people that look like they are on their way to work. After running to our car for our next adventure that we were once again late to, we arrived at Jovenes Inc.
B: Jovenes Incorporated is another shelter for men ages 18-24 to find a place where they can get cleaned up and figure out how they need to change to work in the modern world. This is a very unique place because they look at all the individual gifts and characteristics that the men bring with them. They look at the dreams all the men are pursuing to get better, and they take these factors and help them work towards their goals and support them.
X: After this, half of us were off to the market to buy food that we would prepare and serve to the Guadalupe Homeless Project at Dolores Mission. I think we REALLY worked as a team and made some really great food. We proudly cooked chicken Fettuccini AlfredoJ with garlic bread and salad. After this we all walked away with memories of great conversation with the people we served.
B: At this dinner it was fun to practice my Spanish with those who spoke fluent Spanish. Ximena lead a great prayer in Spanish to the whole group. After this dinner we went back to our host families for the evening. They all provided great hospitality and truly shared their culture with us.
X: As you can see we had a very busy day however my night did not end there. Both Anna and Christina’s kids decided we should go to the park. A group of us played volleyball, tag, and many other games. It was so hot and we all ended up with grass stains and drenched in sweat. Our day that started off with an alarm (to the song Chainsaw) at 6 am ended at 11pm in our host family’s beds.
Thanks for reading and Hasta La Vista from East LA,
Baili and Ximena.
Day 5 in Denver! I have the opportunity to be staying with a soon-to-be consecrated lay family. So every morning, Sidney and I wake up and walk to the Beatitudes’ convent just down the road from their house for morning prayer at 7 am. I absolutely love praying with the Beatitudes everyday; there’s nothing like a 5-part harmony to wake you up in the morning! After prayer and mass this morning, our whole Headlights crew took a trip to the Mother Cabrini Shrine. I didn’t know much about this Saint until today, but I am truly fascinated by her. Fun fact: she was the first canonized American Saint! She purchased over 500 acres of land in Denver for an orphanage, which we got to go visit today. Mother Cabrini miraculously found a spring that is filled with holy water. The latest known miracle was a year ago when a woman visited the Mother Cabrini Shrine in Denver and poured some of the water from Cabrini’s Spring on her wounded leg. Instantaneously, her wound was healed. After hearing this story, I was beyond eager to go visit the spring myself. Upon reaching it, I noticed paper cups were available and I actually got to drink the holy water from the spring!!! Then we continued hiking up to visit the Shrine of Mother Cabrini. It was an incredible experience to be surrounded by the beauty of the mountains and I can honestly say I felt the undeniable presence of both Mother Cabrini and the Lord today.
After such an amazing morning, I was so ready to go out and do some street ministry in downtown Denver. It’s amazing how much my perspective has changed on this whole ministry. I’ve been walking around for 3 days now talking to people on the streets of Denver and I don’t think of any of them any different from myself. Jesus is so present in each and every encounter I’ve had on the streets. Today I met a 26-year-old guy who was traveling from my own hometown back to Pennsylvania. We had a great conversation about Sacramento and how much he loved it there. Simple similarities and commonalities such as this remind me that we’re all connected. And on an even deeper level, we’re all children of God. I hope that by simply reaching out to the homeless and treating them with the dignity that they deserve, they may come to know their worth. It was just yesterday at our lunch in the park when a man thanked my friends and I for letting him know that he had a great heart because he claimed he often couldn’t see that himself. Sometimes it takes a little reminder- a smile, or a conversation- to remind others that they are important and that they are LOVED.
I’m feeling truly blessed for each of the encounters I’ve had on the streets of Denver and with the Beatitudes. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.
Greetings from Denver!
We started off the day with mass and breakfast with the Beatitudes and then headed over to Christ in the City. We listened to a talk by Fr. Daniel who spoke about Spirituality of Action. One thing that Fr. Daniel emphasized is that every action we have in a day is an opportunity to glorify God. He gave the example of how God could have made one “super fruit” that had all the nutirents we needed. However, He chose to give us a variety by making many diferent kinds of fruits and in this small way, He shows His love for us. We can do the same by recognizing the constant gifts from God and making every encounter we have a way to glorify Him. Applying this to the ministry on the streets of Denver, every conversation we share with someone, every smile or act of acknowledgement to another is an opportunity for us to glorify God and make that act of love a prayer.
Today we also had the opportunity to expereince lunch in the park with Christ in the City’s friends on the street. To give a simple explanation, lunch in the park is like a big family get-together. Everyone is welcome and we all share a meal together, getting to know new friends. The atmosphere is comfortable and you are able to have true authentic converstations that don’t seemed forced. It was a beautiful day in Denver and around 150 people attended Lunch in the Park. I had the priviledge of meeting and talking with Chuck and Junior. These two men are very different, each possessing different talents, interests, and histories. It is really beautiful to be able to get to know these individuals and recognize the gifts and talents they have and contribute to the Body of Christ. Yesterday, a man I met named Taylor (who commonly goes by the name of Fishbait), said it perfectly, “a hand can’t do what the foot does in the Body of Christ”. This statement really stuck out to me. We all have our own purpose and we are here to work together and help each other because have different skills as well as struggles. Christ in the City has done a beautiful job in recognizing this and showing love and compassion to individuals that are often dismissed easily. As we have found out, we have a lot to learn from our friends on the street and they are vital members of the Body of Christ.
I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring! Please continue to pray for us as well as those we meet.
Not many people can say that they have had the opportunity to see lives changed in a concrete way; but we DID have the chance to see this at Homeboy Industries. The one and only Fr. Greg Boyle originally founded this organization. (Many of you have either read his book or listened to him speak at Carroll earlier this year). Fr. Boyle was sent to the Dolores Mission, where the largest housing projects west of the Mississippi were located and gang related shootings were a weekly occurrence. By working through kinship with the community surrounding the Mission, Fr. Boyle was able to create a space where formation of person could occur and people could turn their lives around. Enemy gang members work side by side making cupcakes, producing t-shirts and graciously serving others.
We first toured Homeboy Silkscreens. We met our tour guide C, a former gang member who turned his life around thanks to Fr. Boyle and Homeboy Industries. He shared with us both his life’s journey and the workings of the silkscreen business.
After our tour, we went to Homegirl Café, where homegirls with attitude will gladly take your order. The food was beyond incredible and the homegirls were even better. Even though there seemed to be an issue remembering who ordered what taco, they served us with smiles and grace.
Our last stop on our Homeboy Industries tour was the building where all the magic happens. G, our phenomenal tour guide, had a story that touched our hearts. The bravery required to turn his life from being an active gang member to a family man was incredible. Not one person in our group was left unaffected by this very genuine, authentic individual. We were shown the tattoo removal area where gang tattoos can be erased, free of charge, by a staff of volunteer doctors. We were also shown the administration end of the program and the many individuals it takes to run such a big industry.
Finally, we worked with the young students of Dolores Mission Catholic School in the Underwings after school program. In order to provide an enrichment activity they would not normally have the opportunity to participate in, our group split in two and worked with either kindergarten through 3rd grade or 4th through 8th grade. The younger students made oobleck, a messy but fun rubbery substance that the younger kids LOVED. The older group made towers out of BBQ skewers and marshmallows. (We definitely have some future engineers on our hands!)
This was by far one of the BEST DAYS EVER!!
We cannot wait to see what tomorrow holds!
Abby and Kaycee
Hello from Denver! Actually the basement of the Beatitudes House!