Yellow roses and ice cream

Yellow Roses and Ice Cream


By Makena Clawson

I can’t do much. And realizing this actually brings me peace.

I worry, wring my hands, pace around the room and eat ice cream when I’m stressed. (Mostly the ice cream one – I have my spoon in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s peanut butter cup right now.)

Working with our friends experiencing homelessness can be stressful. Their burdens become our burdens, their pain becomes our pain. How do I sleep comfortably at night when so many of my friends are freezing on cold pavement or stuck on a mat at a shelter with someone an inch away on both sides?

Recently, I’ve been getting to know a young homeless woman who is pregnant. We work with multiple pregnant women, but this one is close to me in age and we’ve formed a close friendship ever since she trusted me enough to tell me she’s expecting.

I was working with this woman to get her into a temporary shelter while she looked for more permanent housing. She agreed, there was a place in the shelter and everything was lining up. But one small problem. She wanted to spend one last night on the street. I tried to convince her, but her mind was made.

This wasn’t any normal night, but happened to be the night the first big snow of the year was set to come in. My fellow missionaries were excited about the first snow and the office buzzed with talk of the airport canceling flights, all as my heart sank lower and lower.

Could I have tried harder to convince her to go inside tonight? Should we go downtown and look for her? What if it gets so cold and she loses the baby? What more could I have done?

These questions all swirled through my head like the first snowflakes hitting the ground. I was preoccupied all evening. Sure, I gave it over to God (or at least thought I did) and prayed for him to take care of her. But I still felt like I wasn’t doing enough.

As we filed into the chapel for night prayer, I looked up towards the altar and saw a large vase full of yellow roses. Yellow roses are significant because three years ago, someone told me about how they asked God for a sign their prayers for unborn children were effective and saw yellow roses as reassurance that their prayers were heard. Yellow roses had become a special sign for me too after praying for the unborn.

I fell to my knees and realized how selfish I’d been. This homeless friend and her unborn child belong to God, not me. She is his daughter and not mine. He loves her more than I ever could. Why had I been worried, anxious and stress eating instead of handing her over to him with trust and peace?

The yellow roses reminded me that he is taking care of her and her child. That she is in his hands and not mine. Maybe he’ll use me as an instrument in helping her occasionally, but she belongs to him.

I saw my friend the next day doing well. She is now in the shelter and there’s a yellow rose bush outside with blossoms still alive even after several snows.

Makena Clawson is a first-year missionary and recent graduate of Benedictine College. She wishes the whole world loved Jesus, speaking in Spanish, and Nancy Drew as much as she does.

The Greatest Gift We Can Give

Screen shot 2016-01-14 at 10.56.23 AMBy Mary Sullivan

“So…what is it that you do exactly?”

My family, friends, strangers and the men and women experiencing homelessness ask me this question often. It’s a valid question.

I decided to spend a year of my life living in Denver as a missionary after graduating college instead of getting a job and using my degree.

So, why did I choose this life? What do I do every day? My street team and I go out to the streets everyday and talk to homeless people. We go with nothing more than a backpack with some snacks, socks, gloves, rosaries, and other various things to give to our friends who are hungry and cold. We go knowing we can’t solve all their problems.

We go to become friends with them, to get to know them, to pray with them, to be a shoulder to cry on or an ear to hear their good news. We go to be a consistent, encouraging presence in the lives of people who lack this. We go to accompany people.

The idea of accompaniment is crucial in the life of a Christ in the City missionary. It’s what we came to do. It’s what we offer our friends on the street.

In a world that measures success by what we do and how much we accomplish, accompaniment may seem trivial. It certainly did to me at first. These people are hungry and cold and tired and homeless. What am I doing for them by just going around and talking to them?

A quote by one of the patrons of Christ in the City may help to shed some light on this question: “Material poverty you can always satisfy with material. The unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for, the forgotten, the lonely – this is much greater poverty,” said Mother Teresa.

Yes, our friends on the street are hungry and cold, but these are not the biggest problems they face. Often times, these problems are nothing more than symptoms of the brokenness in their lives. There are a number of shelters and agencies out there employing caseworkers to help people with their material needs.

We go out to address the loneliness. By accompanying people, by walking with them through whatever is going on in their lives, we can bring them hope and show them love. We can’t solve everyone’s problems, but we can always be there for them.

Recently, we have been walking with a friend through yet another relapse into alcoholism. He is facing eviction, which means he might end up back on the streets. I frantically went through all of the options and asked a friend what we’re going to do.

“We will continue accompanying him,” he said. It’s all we can do for him. In fact, it’s all we can do for any of our friends.

Mary Sullivan is a recent graduate of Wright State University with a degree in chemistry. She loves deep conversations, good movies, and Cincinnati chili.

4 Reflections from Pope Francis’ Visit

Four Reflections from Pope Francis’ Visit

By Makena Clawson

I wouldn’t travel across the country, sleep on the floor for five nights and wait seven hours in line to see just anyone.

But Pope Francis has this effect on you.

Being present at Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families moved me to a deeper encounter with the Lord and to reflect on the beauty of the family. Here are a few brief moments that surprised me.

The beauty of the family
Pope Francis spoke of the beauty of the family in a way that was appealing to everyone at the Saturday night Festival of Families. Leaving his prepared remarks, he spoke to the crowd with enthusiasm and joy about truth, beauty and goodness, and how all of these are most visible in the family.

“But the most beautiful thing that God did, says the Bible, was the family,” Francis said.

Francis, taking a tip from himself in Evangelii Gaudium, presented the heart of the Gospel message with love and captivated his audience. He proclaimed that God’s love for the world is so great, that even after the first man and woman made a mistake, he didn’t abandon them. He sent his son, and he sent him to a family.

Preaching the Gospel isn’t something to be ashamed of. Defending traditional family isn’t something embarrassing. Pope Francis gave us all an example of how to be joyful witnesses of Christ’s love and the beauty of the family. And his message was met by thundering applause from hundreds of thousands in the crowd. Fear of rejection is not an excuse.

The privileged place of children and grandparents
During Francis’ visit to the United States he visited elementary school children, inmates and the homeless, showing that he is a Pope for all. He also reminded us of the special need to love our own families.

As a Christ in the City missionary, I see serving the homeless as one of the main ways I can participate in Francis’ mission. But he told all families to love especially the children and the grandparents.

How easy it is to love strangers and forget to love our own families! Loving the children and elderly in our families is not glamorous like going on a mission trip to a far-away country. There is no praise and affirmation. And there is no break.

The opportunity to love our families, especially the children and elders, is widely applicable. There is no excuse to refuse this challenge to love those closest to us even when it is difficult. And the reward is great.
“The family is a factory of hope. A factory of resurrection,” Francis said.

Francis’ humble plea for prayers
After being present at the Festival of Families, and the Papal Mass, something more than just the content of Francis’ words struck me.

The Holy Father asked me, a humble sinner, to pray for him, and he reiterated the message both days.

“Pray for me. Don’t forget,” he said after Mass on Sunday.

His humility in asking for prayers from the entire crowd impressed me. He doesn’t consider himself above the need for prayers. He put himself on the same level as each individual in the crowd, recognizing that we can all communicate with God as he does.

How often we are nervous to ask for prayers or accept prayers from others! Then they might know I’m a sinner! They might know I don’t have my life together! I often think to myself. So I stick with the safe answer of asking for prayers for others I know who are sick or need prayers.

Pope Francis humbly acknowledged his need for God and asked us to intercede for him. We would be wise to follow his example.

Excitement for the Pope, awe for the Lord
After waiting in line for hours and cheering until we lost our voices, it struck me how human Pope Francis is. He is just a man. A very holy man, but a man.

Am I willing to wait seven hours to see Jesus in the Eucharist? Do I wait in such eager anticipation to receive the Lord?

I would have fainted if Francis had stopped to shake my hand, but Jesus is constantly seeking me and loving me, and he comes to dwell with me physically.

After the excitement and anticipation of waiting to see the Holy Father at Mass, the crowd’s reverence during Communion was impressive. As Catholics, we recognize and rejoice in our spiritual father on earth, and he points us with love and tenderness toward the Lord.

Makena Clawson is a first-year missionary and recent graduate of Benedictine College. She wishes the whole world loved Jesus, speaking in Spanish, and Nancy Drew as much as she does.

Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

By Blake Brouillette

Comfort. No, I’m not talking about your favorite recliner or a perfect fall Saturday. I’m talking about the thing that prevents you from being the best version of yourself, from taking risks. I’m talking about what prevents you from achieving your dreams, goals and improving your quality of life.

How could a word that carries so many warm and fuzzy feelings be so harmful? But life isn’t about feelings. I’ve realized this many times during the past few months as a Christ in the City missionary in Denver.

Comfort sneaks up on us. It’s enjoyable and satisfies us with our current situations in life. It isn’t risky, and is a cushion to our problems and obstacles. We know what to expect with life on a daily basis, and we get into a routine where we feel productive and fulfilled.

In my first 22 years of life, I had built up an incredibly comfortable life and community in Nebraska. Realistically I had no reason to leave. I had job offers, a strong support group, friends, family, a life that I had worked hard to build up and a state I love filled with people I love even more. Little did I know, God placed all this comfort in my life with the next step in mind.

“The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness,” said Pope Benedict XVI.

Before Christ in the City, I never actually thought about what this meant. A life of comfort will never completely fulfill us. I thought I understood this.

What I was completely blowing off was my understanding of what it would take to progress to greatness. I didn’t realize many of the decisions I was making in life were based on comfort. Comfort subtly became my motivation.

We like to be able to control and predict the outcome of our choices. The less risky and safe decisions are appealing. I’m not talking about life and death situations here, I’m talking about the things we face daily and are easy to take the comfortable way out. Perhaps it’s inviting a new friend to come hang out, saying hi to a stranger on an elevator, smiling at someone as you cross paths, going out of your way to help someone who is struggling, talking to a homeless person on the street, confronting someone who needs help or has been bothering you, going the extra mile or taking on a project that will challenge you – these are just a few of the examples we encounter that require a decision from us.

Magnanimity: the beast of a word that is going to be the answer to the issue of comfort. Get familiar with this word, love this word and let this word guide your decisions on a daily basis. Magnanimity is one of the core values at Christ in the City and a core value I have adopted for my life. It is the virtue of seeking excellence in all things, challenging ourselves to do things when we don’t know if we can, taking that extra step in life and making the decision to go above and beyond.

Living by this virtue is not easy. However through the challenges and difficulties you find a full life knowing you gave everything you had and discovered who you are.

It’s time we started living magnanimously.

Begin small and progress one step at a time. We all have those things that we place in the “someday” category, and that someday is now. Chase your dreams, take risks, set your goals high, and make the decision to improve your life. With every failure and uncomfortable situation, you are one step closer to the best version of yourself.