Denver Headlights 2022: Day 3
Today was full of laughter, exhaustion, wonderful conversations, and so many graces! The day started out really early with morning prayer, mass, and adoration. It was a really beautiful way to start the morning, even if part of me wanted to go back to sleep! After getting back, we ate breakfast and then prepared for lunch in the park! This is something that Christ in the City does every Wednesday where we prepare food for all of our friends on the streets and share a meal with them in one of the parks in the middle of the city. Some people were cooking the food, some were getting the vans ready to carry all of the coolers to the park, and others began to set up an assembly line for building the lunches, which is what I got to help with. When the food was cooked and the music was turned up, we packed the coolers, had a spontaneous dance party, and got bundled up to have lunch in the park!
Lunch in the park was a very cold, snowy but beautiful display of the community that Christ in the City has created. Seeing so many friends come to the park to share a meal, have a good conversation, and just enjoy each other’s company was such a blessing to be a part of. In the midst of the wind and snow, I quickly began to recognize how blessed I am to be able to warm up inside, since most of our friends don’t have that ability. The joy that was expressed from our friends on the streets because of something as simple as a warm meal was inspiring! Getting the chance to talk to some of our homeless friends is a gift, especially when they light up about the things they are passionate about.
We quickly transitioned from lunch in the park into Marian groups. While there were many graces that came from this, what happens in Marian group, stays in Marian group.
Later in the evening, I got to go to a women’s shelter that houses around 200 women. When we got there, we quickly jumped in to help serve dinner. It was so wonderful to experience the excitement of the women as we were preparing their food. Many of them had short little conversations with us as they walked through the line and it was cool to see their faces light up when asking simple questions like “What is your name?” and “How has your day been?” It was very easy to see Christ in these women through their joyful attitudes and smiles as well as in their suffering. When we were done serving food, the Christ in the City team led a Bible study with about 6 women from the shelter. These women were on fire for the Lord and they knew their identity in Christ. Getting to listen to their prayers, perspective on the beautiful story of the Prodigal Son, and their witty banter was amazing. These women have such an intense faith in the Lord and are so confident in the Father’s love for them, it is truly inspiring. One friend started talking about how much the Lord has blessed her and protected her. Regardless of whatever situation led her to the shelter, she still trusts in the Lord’s plan and chooses to focus on all of the blessings in her life. Reading and meditating on the Prodigal Son from the Gospel of Luke, the women were eager to share about their life experiences and their love for God with us. Getting to relate to one another through this story proved, once again, that we aren’t very different from one another. In the mist of these struggles, the women living in this shelter are desiring a relationship with God and others, similarly to each of us.
This week so far has shown me, in a deeper way, the human dignity in each person, especially those on the streets, and how important it is to restore and protect it. Each person that I have encountered has taught me something different like how to more deeply trust in the Lord, how to better receive love, and how to embrace the cross in the midst of suffering in order to find joy with Christ. The Lord works in beautiful but mysterious ways and I am excited to see how He continues to bless this trip!
Hi friends! This morning we were up and at’em bright and early, starting off our day as every day starts here at Christ in the City with praying the liturgy of the hours and then spending a holy hour in adoration. This morning was extra special as between the two we celebrated Mass. While a whole lot of Jesus in the morning is the best way to start the day, I’ll be the first to admit it was a challenge trying not to fall asleep during adoration, as it was still pretty early in the morning and this girl had not had her coffee yet. Next on the schedule was breakfast, and I was absolutely blessed to be able to spend mine talking with Rachel, one of the first year missionaries here at Christ in the City. I was graced with our beautiful conversation about the healing power of tears, brokenness and how we approach ours, and how our wounds are healed, but remain open like Our Lord’s do.
After breakfast it was go time, and quickly the house was abuzz with everyone doing their part to prepare for our Lunch in the Park (or as it’s known here at Christ in the City L.I.P). I was part of the kitchen team, heating up casseroles as well as corn and baked beans that were then made into meals and packed up to bring to our friends. It was such a beautiful, yet humbling experience to bring these warm meals to our friends in the snow. To see the joy on their faces at simply receiving a warm meal and drink, or a pair of hand warmers while also knowing that after a few hours I would be returning to a warm building to spend the rest of my day, while our friends would be returning to our attempting to find their shelter for the night brought up such conflicting feelings in my heart. To know we brightening their day and bringing joy to their lives by providing a meal and sitting to encounter them in conversation while they ate was so encouraging, but my heart broke to think that I would be safe and warm in a building tonight while they would be struggling to find all those aspects, and there was nothing I could say or do that would change that reality. It was such a gift to encounter more of our friends during L.I.P though, and to be able to provide for them in our small ways.
After L.I.P. wrapped up, we returned to the house to eat some lunch (if we hadn’t while at the park) and to spend some time together as a community before breaking out into our Marian groups. Marian groups are a smaller community within the community here made up of only men or women where conversations are able to go deeper and feelings can be discussed in a small and safe space. They are something the missionaries here at Christ in the City participate in every week, and I was so grateful for where our discussion led us and how willing we all were to be vulnerable as our smaller community of Carroll girls here on this trip.
After a little more free time, where I got to say a rosary with some of the awesome girls here with the Pittsburgh crew as well as their leader, Fr. Peter, those of us assigned to Wednesday headed out for night ministry. Night ministries occur on Wednesday and Friday nights and encompass everything from leading youth groups, encountering friends at different indoor locations, and accompanying friends (taking them out for a meal or coffee). My group of women headed to a nearby women’s shelter to sit and encounter friends and to lead a bible study, as well as play games with them. It was such a beautiful gift to have these women recieve me and the conversations I sought with them, when they had no reason to.They didn’t know me or need to share with me about their life, joys, and struggles but they shared so willingly and freely, and it was such a gift to receive that from them. While some of the other women in our group got some games going, Maddie and I led a bible study with six friends in a separate room. We discussed the story of the Prodigal son and how we could relate to the story and the sons in it. Once again I was taken aback by the way these women poured out their hearts, feelings, and stories to Maddie and I, sharing how they’ve experienced God in their lives and how they continue to keep faith, no matter their situations. I felt so unworthy, yet so incredibly honored to be sitting there and receiving all this, as well as their love for what Maddie and I were doing, it was incredibly humbling.
Our friends, both in shelters and on the streets, have some of the strongest faiths and deepest insights I have ever encountered in my life. This week I have constantly been learning from the ways they walk with Our Lord, and I have encountered Christ in so many different faces.
We headed back to the house for a quick dinner before heading to wrap our day up with night prayer, consisting of a thankfulness rosary and liturgy of the hours. The thankfulness rosary is one of my favorite parts of our day, where on each bead that would normally be a Hail Mary someone thanks God for a gift in their life that day, and we say Glory Be’s on what would normally be the Our Father beads. I love getting to hear all the ways our community is encountering Christ and experiencing His love, whether it be through each other, our friends, something as simply as the sunshine, or even things we wouldn’t think to be thankful for, like how He allows us to be wounded or opens our eyes to the ways we desperately need Him. This week has stirred up so many things in my heart, but one of the biggest themes has been this idea of receptivity, what it means to be received and to be received and how we through love are able to do both. I cannot wait to dive deeper into this theme the rest of the week here at what is so fittingly called a “school of love” by the missionaries here.