What the Homeless Need Most Is You

What the Homeless Need Most Is You

RM8_9651By Makena Clawson

I felt the Holy Spirit push me forward, through the tables where women were eating tonight’s chili and canned green beans, past the regular women I talk to at the local homeless shelter. The Spirit’s nudge pushed me to a woman I’d never met before, standing in the corner glancing around.

I walked past, checking out the situation. Is she homeless or just a volunteer? I wondered, not wanting to make an embarrassing assumption. I knew I had to talk to her.

Lucy was young, in her mid-20s, and had been homeless for only a week. She and her boyfriend were traveling through Denver and got stranded. She was dressed nicer than I was and had more energy and joy, despite her situation. As we got to talking, I realized Lucy might not be as happy as she was putting on.

“You know, Lucy, you don’t have to pretend everything is fine. What you’re going through is really difficult,” I said. “It probably sucks.”

“Yeah, it kind of does,” she said as she let out a sigh of relief.

“Would you want to hang out this week?” I said. “Maybe get coffee or even go to a movie together, just get out of here?”

She smiled, amazed and relieved that there could be normal life outside of the shelter where she had been staying.

Lucy and I spent time together the next week, hanging out at a coffee shop. She got off the street a few weeks after we hung out, and she and her boyfriend now have jobs.

As a Christ in the City missionary, I’m spending a year in Denver getting to know the homeless. I go out to the city streets every day to meet the homeless and spend time with those the missionaries have already gotten to know, like my friend Lucy.

When I’m walking the streets, I often feel nudges of the Holy Spirit, like the one that led me to meeting her.

For example, I felt his nudge when I first encountered Daisy. She was sitting in the park drawing in a sketchpad. After walking by and feeling like I had to go back and say hello, I asked what she was drawing. This began a deeper conversation than I ever expected where she opened up about childhood wounds, abuse and despair. Daisy and I kept in touch, and I was able to connect her with help to heal these wounds.

When it comes to helping the poor, we’re tempted to shy away because we feel powerless in the face of problems bigger than we can tackle. Maybe you avoid eye contact with a man or woman asking for spare change at the stoplight because you don’t feel like you have anything to give or don’t want to give money.

But what the poor really need is you. They need your smile. They need a handshake. They need you to ask how their day is going and mean it. They need you to ask their name and remember it.

I’ve gotten to know a young woman, Megan, who is pregnant and homeless. I take her to her prenatal checkups and ultrasounds every month at the local Catholic women’s clinic. As she approaches her due date, she’s found a larger support system to help with government assistance and a place to stay. At first, I felt almost replaced.

But one day over lunch, Megan casually said to me, “You know, you’re my best friend.” I was a little surprised and didn’t know how to respond. It isn’t what I’m able to provide for her that matters, but our friendship.

Simple actions make a difference. Saying hello to a man or woman at a stoplight is important. More often than not, the man or woman you encounter will be surprised that you care and will be truly grateful.

Like my simple coffee date with my friend Lucy, small actions make a difference. Sitting and talking with someone, reminding them of their dignity is what the poor really need. I’ve learned this year that I am powerless. I can’t fix people’s lives. I can’t end poverty. But I can love others in small ways. I can make a difference in their day and their lives and give them hope.

Even as a Christ in the City missionary, it can be difficult for me to roll down my car window when I’m off duty. About four months ago, after struggling and hesitating one day, I rolled down the window to meet the man with a sign on the corner. I asked his name and introduced myself. Jesse and I shook hands and he seemed excited to meet me and know someone cared.

Ever since then, I greet Jesse by name. He’s always ready for me and says, “There she is!”

Next time you encounter the homeless, do not be afraid that you have nothing to give! What they need most is you.

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.


Easter Morning

Easter Morning

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 10.58.02 AMBy Catriona Kerwin

The only barrier between him and the sky
is the bridge
under which he sleeps.
He can sense
the dark storm clouds
above him.

Yet he knows that at 6:38
the sun will rise
despite the hopeless scrawls that cover the bridge
despite the needle marks that scar his arms
despite the sharp chill that penetrates his sleeping bag
because it is Easter Sunday.

6:38—kneeling on the ground his arms outstretched
his shadow forms a cross.


Catriona is a first year missionary from Lakewood, Colorado who was studying English before she came to Christ in the City.


I Thirst

I Thirst

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 11.30.53 AMBy Cecilia Nguyen

(Based off of John 19:28 “Knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said “I Thirst.” And Revelations 3:20 “Behold I stand at the door and knock…”)

I work with the chronically homeless and because I’m a Christ in the City Missionary, some of the biggest problems I see is them feeling lonely, unwanted, and unloved. This was especially true for one of my friends on the street named James. It’s been awhile since I read this meditation by Mother Teresa, but when it was brought up again a few months ago, I was wondering why I haven’t printed off this meditation for our friends on the street. It’s something they needed to hear, not just them, but all of us.

Let me tell you more about James. The first time my street partner and I met him, he poured out his life to us and started crying. He has an adopted mom who gave him a place to stay. He ended up being kicked out because he had some friends over, they were drinking and anger also played a part of him being kicked out. He knew that he wasn’t making the best choices. So I asked him one day, “What makes you happy?” He said that he didn’t know, but that he didn’t want to live out on the streets anymore. That would change depending on the day. Other days he would say he likes the freedom of living outside. We continued to see him for the next two weeks. I knew that this would be a good meditation for him. I was wondering if I should read it to him or have him read it. I asked him, and he told me to read it. When I started reading it, one part that I read was:

“I come- longing to console you and give you strength, to give you life and heal all your wounds. I bring you my light, to dispel your darkness and all your doubts. I come with My Power, that I might carry you and all of your burdens; with my grace, to touch your heart and transform your life,” and “My peace I give to calm your soul.”

He would interrupt me a few times throughout the meditation and would just say wow. It really struck him and made him tear up. Let me tell you more about his “adopted mom”, The next time we saw him, he said that he told her about us and showed her the meditation. He wanted her to meet us as well.

He asked her one day, “Why do you continue to care for me?” At some part of the conversation, she replied: “What am I going to do with you? I give you a place and it gets taken away, I give you this and another thing happens.” And eventually, she said, “I guess I have to love you anyway.”

What I admire about his adopted mom even though I haven’t met her is that she reminds me of God the Father. She would do anything for James. He would turn off his phone to avoid her calls whenever he would make a bad decision. Whenever we talk to him, we sense this guilt that he holds inside him.

In Luke 5:31, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” God the Father continues to thirst for us, to seek us, but He won’t give up on us, no matter how many times we fail Him, just as his adopted mom never gave up on James. That is self-giving love. We can all relate to James in a way that whenever we are guilty, we want to hide.

Because we are in the Year of Mercy, I wanted him to know God’s mercy and that God is waiting for James to come to Him, as he is, broken and a sinner, just like we all are at some point in our life. I wanted him to know God’s love for him and how He thirsts for him, not just him, but all of us and that he wants to heal us of anything that is hurting us.

He wants to console You, and He knows EVERYTHING about You. Jesus’ deepest thirst is for You! He thirsted for you so much that that He loved us until death, as we celebrated his Passion earlier. I wanted this meditation to give him hope. I believe James cried because he felt that we loved him, in turn that that was God loving him, and that God longed to be with him. St. Augustine says, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” I don’t know what happened to James, maybe he went back to his adopted mom and had the motivation to get his life together, wherever he is, I’m glad that he has heard Mother Teresa’s meditation on God’s thirst for him.

A final quote that I saw that fits well with this meditation is “When you approach the tabernacle, remember that he has been waiting for you for twenty centuries.” Because Mother Teresa knew Jesus’ thirst for her, she wanted to let the sisters know that Jesus thirsts for them. And for you! That’s why the two words, “I thirst” are placed next to the crucifix in every Missionary of Charity Chapel around the whole world. And with that, don’t be afraid to come to Jesus as you are, through your brokenness, your past, your sins, and your loneliness. He can take it and make it new. Come as you are.


Cecilia graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She enjoys quality time with friends, adventuring and exploring, ice cream, and is a big Despicable Me fan.


Am I the Older Brother?

Am I the Older Brother?

A Reflection on the Parable of the Prodigal Son

RM8_9651By Makena Clawson

When we consider the parable of the Prodigal Son, we often ponder just that: the Prodigal Son. But what about the two other characters, the good Father and the older brother?

I am the older brother. Not having had a radical conversion, I identify with the older brother who stayed on his Father’s land his whole life, but maybe never appreciated it. The older brother is bitter and angry when the younger son returns after his life of debauchery away from the Father’s house. How come he is welcomed back so quickly? I’ve put in so much effort and received no reward!

The older brother wanted to leave the house many times, but didn’t. We may not have physically left the Father’s house, but what about in our hearts? I left through pride, bitterness, and grumbling about the benefits I’d have if I did leave. And now the younger son who has done what I always wanted to do, returns. How could I welcome him back? He, who got a taste of the outside world and returned without consequences?

As a Christ in the City missionary, I work with the homeless everyday. I go out to the street to meet and talk with people who are normally ignored. I meet people who are broken, ashamed, and want so badly to return to the Father’s house. They have left and now “feel the pinch” as the Gospel says. How do I welcome them back? Am I the older brother who refuses to welcome them? Have I realized the gift that it is to be in the Father’s house?

Dear Lord, You call all of us back to Your house. I have strayed in big ways and in small ways. Please welcome me back. I know Your mercy is bigger than my pride. Help me to not be afraid to run back to you every time I stray.

Lord, help me to welcome back those who have left your house. Help me to not hold any bitterness against them or You. Please give me a humble heart to realize I have left You many times, too. Please forgive me. I love You, Lord. Amen.


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.


Why Do You Call Me Good?

Why Do You Call Me Good?


Screen shot 2016-01-14 at 10.50.48 AMBy Marie Dukart

Are we good? A common phrase I hear out on the streets is “I’m a good person,” or “I don’t hurt anyone by my choices.” What kills me is that’s my inner monologue as well.

It doesn’t help that people come up to me and other missionaries and tell us: “You are doing such good work.” “I could never do what you guys do.” And even, “thank you for your sacrifice.” And in a way those people are right. Serving the poor is good work. Most people won’t be a Christ in the City missionary and “give up” a year (or two) of their lives.

But the question I keep coming back to: does this work make me good? No. God created me good, but how do I cooperate with his goodness?

Frankly, I became a missionary with mixed motives, and when I came I thought I was a decent Catholic/Christian. But, boy, was I wrong. “Doing” good things doesn’t make anyone good. As Scripture says, “ Man sees the appearance and God sees the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)

My heart was and is proud and selfish, and I do things because I want to look good, not because I actually want to be good. Being good means letting go of your own ideas about life, letting God take the reins, and asking Him to show me how self-centered my intentions are.

Just this past week I was running alone on Cherry Creek trail and I saw a man lying unconscious alongside the running path. He appeared to be homeless and I don’t ever interact with people when I’m running by myself. I ran right past him; then I stopped. I can’t explain the interior conflict in my heart and mind. Fear and self-preservation vs. an overwhelming sense that I had to help: the good Samaritan story happening in my own life.

I struggled to stay calm as he was turning blue, his eyes half-open, and his gasping breath freaking me out that he was going to die right then and there. It wasn’t because I was a good person that I called the ambulance and stayed by him until the paramedics came. No, I stayed because the Holy Spirit compelled me to take a risk and, perhaps, save a life.

“Why do you call me good?” You call Christ in the City missionaries good because every once while in a while we let the Holy Spirit take the reins.

Marie Dukart is a second-year missionary and an alumnus of the University of Mary in North Dakota. She’s passionate about Beauty, Truth and Goodness and naps..