Let Nothing Disturb You

What’s the deal, Denver?!

Since March, we have repeatedly had days of beautiful sunshine and 75-degree weather followed closely by a blizzard and sub-freezing temps.

Many times, I’ve been surprised by the massive effect that weather can have on my mood. I can almost guarantee that I’ll be chipper on sunny days and dragging on cloudy ones. Digging deeper, I realized that it’s not only the weather that affects me dramatically and without warning. My emotional highs and lows are so often wrenched one way or another based on the things going on around me. A bad story on the news will wreck me for days. The tragic stories of some of my friends on the street can occupy my mind and trouble me for weeks.

Okay, fine. I’m empathetic. Highly affected, you might say. But the emotional ups and downs tend to affect so much more than just my emotional equilibrium. When I talk with my friends experiencing homelessness about the intense things happening in their lives or hear the latest news of the disturbing things happening in the world, I am tempted to allow them to get to my very core. I am tempted to doubt that God has a plan in all things. I am sometimes brought to a point of near despair feeling that goodness is not winning in the world.

Recently, one of these cloudy, “doomsday” emotional states came over me. Thankfully, I remembered a quote from my dear friend St. Teresa of Avila:

“Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.”

And it struck me that as a Christian, everything is different in light of these words. All things are passing away; God never changes. We’re currently in the tail end of the season of Easter and what an important time to remember this truth. It is because God doesn’t change that we can look at the Passion and see that it makes sense because of the Resurrection.

This has made me reevaluate my own faith and has tested my trust in God. When I am allowing myself to be thrown back and forth by the tough things in life and allowing them to make or break my day, I am not actually trusting that Jesus has my back. I’m not trusting that no matter what good or ill comes to me, the Lord is there holding my hand and directing the waves. I’m not seeing that the only thing that makes my suffering make sense is knowing that if I trust God through it all, I will reach the Resurrection.

God alone suffices. He’s enough. He’s all we need. He’s got my back and life with Him means that I don’t need to be affected by the highs and lows. He is holding it all together and there is nothing for us to be disturbed by or afraid of. My interior peace comes from knowing that Good has already conquered evil and nothing that I or anyone else does can change that. God is so good!

Sarah joined the CIC team as a Formator in 2017. She’s most content in the presence of good people, good wine, good music, and good mountain views. In August, she will be heading off to pursue a role as a Behavioral Health Specialist for the US Army!. 

The Beauty of Failure

“Success is going from failure to failure without a loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

If I’m bad at something, I usually do a pretty good job of avoiding it at all costs. I don’t want to show others my weaknesses and allow them to know I’m actually human. I’m scared to fail and even more scared to be humiliated.

For most of my life, ‘failure’ has been a bad word to be avoided at all costs. In sports, in school, and in life, all I told myself was, “Do not be a failure.” Sure, I’ve heard how great it is to learn from mistakes and failings, but even then I can’t tell you the last time I saw an unhappy customer give the waiter a high-five for getting the order wrong. I’ve also never received a, “Hey, nice chatting with you” after I butcher an interview.

This realization started seeping into my faith life and how I viewed my relationship with God. It became almost like a game I had to win or a test I had to pass. However, after reflecting on the Stations of the Cross this past Lent, I began to see the importance of failure.

At first, I was critical of the fact that Jesus didn’t throw the cross above His head and sprint up to Calvary to prove He is the Son of God. Instead, He showed us that He was actually human by falling down three times; failing three times. He wasn’t even strong enough to carry the cross by Himself the whole way, someone had to help Him.

Through His weakness He showed us His greatest strength.

This was something I learned very concretely in my time at Christ in the City. Whether it was in ministry on the streets or within the community, there was no hiding. I had to let others see me fail, and as hard as it was, allow them to help me carry my cross.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux sums up this lesson pretty well by saying, “A saint is not someone who never sins, but one who sins less and less frequently and gets up more and more quickly.”

Following this example of Jesus, I will continue to fail along the way, and that’s okay, as long as I get up and continue on my journey. Allowing the people around me to see my shortcomings and help me carry my crosses is not always an easy task, but an important one. I’m still not always eager to throw myself out there and be humiliated, and I definitely do not strive for failure, but I know that it is necessary. I have learned that failing doesn’t make me less worthy, it makes me more human.

Nick was a missionary with Christ in the City in Philadelphia, summer 2016 and is currently a FOCUS missionary at Drexel University. He only drinks coffee, beer, and Gatorade, and loves Nebraska. 

He’s Waiting for You in the Poor

I first met Jesus in a homeless person. No, like, really.

You might have read that and assumed I was speaking metaphorically. Or maybe you thought I was just being pious and self-congratulatory, trying to spiritualize a community service experience that any decent person could have done.

Three years ago, I would have thought all of those things. I would have thought the idea that talking to a homeless person was literally “talking to Jesus” was self-serving and cheesy at best, and threatening to actual social justice at worst.

But when Christ in the City says that they meet Jesus in the poor, they mean it. They’re not talking about a good feeling or an abstract idea, but a spiritual reality that Christ Himself taught.

When I first encountered Christ in the City on a visit to Denver, my faith was bottoming out. After throwing God to the wayside during my first year of college, I was trying – going to Mass, making Confessions, singing some Worship music – but in the midst of a tumultuous college career, something just wasn’t clicking. I needed a spark to ignite the fire of Love in me again.

I had always loved community service, though, so when some friends invited me to my first Lunch in the Park, I figured it couldn’t hurt. At least I’d get a chance to help someone, right?

I was right in a way, but I didn’t realize just whom I’d be helping. As I nervously handed out water, met missionaries, and eventually talked to some homeless friends, a sort of electricity filled me. My heart had felt a similar warmth before, but this was different; this wasn’t just the joy of helping out.

It set in when I met a smiling older woman who told me that she liked the song I was playing. The face of this woman was, in a mysterious way, the face of Jesus himself. And the glow I experienced was the deep, inexplicable soul-quenching peace that had to come from Him. It was the glow of community, of love, and – ironically enough – the glow I had felt once before, upon finally receiving the Eucharist after weeks without it.

My experience was undeniable – this was the fire of the Holy Spirit, alerting me of the presence of Christ in my midst and calling me to deeper communion with Him.

I had always been frustrated that I “couldn’t find” God in the experiences that others did, but He was never hiding from me. He simply chose to reveal Himself to me in the poor.

In Matthew 25:40 – Jesus says “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” – We as Catholics take Him literally here. We believe that because of this Scripture, we don’t just honor Him – we actually encounter Him when we serve our brothers and sisters on the street. In a special, mysterious way, He is present in them.

St. John Chrysostom even went so far as to say that “if you can’t find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will never find Him in the chalice.”

After that first experience with CIC, I moved to Denver, began praying every day, and started Spiritual Direction. My life took a radically different direction, and I eventually took ministry to the extreme by living as a missionary in a homeless shelter for six months. The impact of my encounter with Him was all too real.

If Christ is truly present in the poor like this, it’s life-changing. It means that, when we risk a little bit of vulnerability and are companions to the less fortunate, Jesus uses the poor to transform us. It means they become a unique way in which the Living God speaks into our hearts, just as He can do with charismatic prayer, praise-and-worship, theological study or any of the other unique spiritualities that He’s given us.

And, it means it’s entirely possible that you could have a story just like mine that hasn’t been fulfilled yet. And it is for that reason that I’m calling you to come experience Christ in the City, at a Lunch in the Park, on a mission trip, or even as a full-time missionary.

I’m calling you, good-hearted skeptic, I’m calling you, burnt-out ministry leader, and I’m calling you, who want to live in relationship with God but just can’t seem to make it work.

Maybe you don’t feel you’ve encountered the Lord in Praise and Worship. Maybe He doesn’t present Himself to you in all the theology. Maybe you’ve heard all the talks, been to all the retreats, tried all the devotions, but just can’t seem to find Him.

Maybe He’s waiting for you in the poor.

Daniel Lorenzo was a missionary with Christ in the City in the summer of 2017. He loves playing indie music and reading, and hopes to become the Patron Saint of Memes. He just finished a missionary experience at a homeless shelter in the Bronx, and now works as a freelance writer.

He Reverences YOU (yes, you!)

They all had an attitude.

I could see it in the gratitude they expressed for one another and the recognition of each community members’ unique and unrepeatable hearts and gifts.

I could see it in the way each missionary gave their mission trip visitors their complete attention.

I could see it in the intentionality of their conversations with their friends on the street.

I could see it in the dignity with which they treated every Lunch in the Park guest.

They gave every person they encountered the freedom and space necessary to be who they were, feel the emotions being triggered, express their experiences, and grow at whatever pace they needed.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until one of the Christ in the City missionaries shared Dietrich von Hildebrand’s definition of reverence on the first day of our spring break mission trip: “leaving a being the space it needs in order to unfold itself.”

An attitude of reverence. That’s what I witnessed every missionary living out in all aspects of their lives: with their friends on the street, with each other, and with God. This realization and its application to my life have yet to leave my heart.

During my time on the streets with Christ in the City, I recognized that I too had reverence. I was able to encounter, listen, and receive with patience and mercy the people on the streets with whom I came in contact as well as the missionaries and mission trip crew. I wasn’t expecting them to do more or be more. Just being present with who they were in the moment was enough. It was surprisingly easy to have reverence for them. To just allow them the space and time they needed to reveal themselves to me as they were.

However, as I reflected on my own life I realized how often I struggle to have reverence for myself, especially in context of my relationship with God. I often get frustrated at how my heart continues to struggle with the same things, and it seems like I should be “over them” by now. I get stuck in the lie that a less-than-perfect me isn’t lovable, and God is probably tired of hearing me ramble.

But the truth is, He is not. Just as it was my pleasure to receive the people I encountered at Christ in the City with gentleness, patience, and compassion, the Father delights to sit with me and hear all about both the joys and brokenness of my life.

In other words, the Father has perfect reverence towards me. The God of the Universe does not impose or force Himself or His will upon me. Rather, He gives me the space and time I need to unfold my heart to Him as it is.

The Father reverences us, so we must reverence one another. Just as He is so content to receive us in all our brokenness, imperfection, and weakness, we must also be willing to receive the people in our lives with that same receptivity. And when we do, just as our Father does for us, we will be able to give others the gift of being loved just as they are.

This may seem like a small act, but in a world that does nothing but set unrealizable expectations on us to earn our worth, it is actually one of the most priceless gifts we can give. On our own, we are not able to love in this way—so it will actually be the Father in us who allows us to see beyond what the world sees, love with His love, and open doors for people to meet Him.

Morgan is a FOCUS missionary at University of Nebraska Omaha. She has served with CIC in our Summer of Service Program as well as on Mission Trips. She enjoys playing card games, watching This is Us, and cheering for the Huskers!

“I’m So Happy You’re Here…”

I heard her put the phone to her ear and then the words, “Well hello, Abby!”

There it was, that raspy voice I knew so well. It was one of my last afternoons of street ministry and one of my fellow missionaries had found my dear friend on the street, Deb, whom I hadn’t seen or heard from in over 7 months. I was told she was back sitting in her usual spot.

Immediately, I dropped everything I was doing and went to go see her. Still in disbelief, all I could do was hold her hands and repeat the words, “Deb, I am so happy you’re here.”

That woman showed me how necessary it is to recognize our brokenness and our littleness, because it allows us to see that we are in need of a saviour.

There is a point that every missionary goes through during their time at Christ in the City, when you develop a true friendship with someone and grow to love them deeply. You then realize that no matter how hard you try, you can’t free your friends from their crosses. You cannot free someone from addiction, mental illness, or trauma. You probably can’t convince them to get into housing or at the very least go sleep in a shelter when it’s below freezing.

But that’s precisely the point.

I found myself constantly having to surrender Deb to the Lord. I realized that as much as I wanted or tried, that I am not the one who can free her, or the one who can make her know how deeply loved she is. I had to realize that I am not her saviour.

It was both heartbreaking and beautiful to see her recognize that she can’t do it by herself, can’t recover by herself, can’t become the person she was created to be by herself. She needed something and someone more; we all do.

We need the One who knows us, who adores us, who drops everything and runs to see us.

Even still, I find myself looking back and reflecting on this and needing to remind myself time and time again that the Lord is so patiently and eagerly waiting for me to surrender myself fully to Him. For me to stop saying, “I really think I can get this one on my own,” but instead to allow Him to help me carry my cross, and to humbly say yes to his abundant love, and to trust when He says to us “I’m so happy you’re here”.

Abby P. served with Christ in the City from 2016-2018. She enjoys a good cup of coffee, sunshine, and the adventure straps on her Crocs.