Open Your Ears

“Sorry, I don’t carry any cash or change on me,” I said as I walked by a friend on the street, trying to hurry to my Holy Hour.

“You need to open your ears! I asked if you had any good words from the Bible you’re holding,” David said.

Stunned at my misunderstanding of what I thought David said, I fumbled over my words and can’t even remember what I shared with him. Whatever it was, it sparked a conversation. I tried my best to get out of this conversation at first because I was so focused on the Holy Hour we were going to have, and I didn’t want David to “steal” any of my time in prayer. As I was trying to hurry the conversation along, I realized how stupid this thought process was, and it dawned on me how stuck in my own plan I was, even with something as good as Adoration and prayer. I realized God was trying to speak to me, but I was only wanting to hear it when and where I wanted.

David and I continued to talk, but I began to invest myself in this conversation and be truly present. He was really interested in prayer, so I asked him if he wanted to come in and pray a rosary with me. David tried to make some excuses, but in the end he said he had nothing else going on and he would give it a try. I was frantically looking for a guide to praying the rosary so he could follow along, but the words were too small for him to read. I asked if he would like to just listen to me pray the rosary out loud, and instead he suggested I say a sentence and he would repeat the words I said. Right as we were beginning the rosary, he stopped me and asked if we could hold the rosary together and join our prayer. For the next half hour, David and I prayed the rosary together. I would say a line, and he would repeat. He offered the rosary for the repose of the soul of his relative and that God would have mercy on their soul. He begged God to forgive him and reign down His mercy on him. After David prayed a rosary with me, he stayed for Mass. His tears fell at the foot of the Eucharist, shining on the seat of the pew in front of us.

David got it. It wasn’t about him, it wasn’t about his decision to pray, it was about the Father’s mercy for him. Something David didn’t deserve, something none of us deserve. This mercy is a gift. As we were sitting there, he didn’t understand what the Eucharist was and had no clue what was going on during Mass, but none of that mattered. David understood God’s love for him, a gift that brought a grown, tough man to tears.

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-2-01-40-pmBlake Brouillette is a second-year missionary from Hastings, NE. He enjoys spike ball, giving pep talks, talking about Nebraska, and savoring all 23 flavors in a Dr. Pepper.


Yellow roses and ice cream

Yellow Roses and Ice Cream

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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.


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.