Ten Minutes with Mary

“You look like Mother Mary,” Rob told me as my long hair peeked out from my hood. I didn’t feel at all like Mary. I had only gone on this street walk because I was forced to. My “yes” was cold and begrudging, unlike Mary’s.

We were visiting San Antonio for the SEEK conference and doing street ministry while there. I had been cold all day, and it was now five o’clock, freezing, and getting dark. I reluctantly headed out with my street partner, Trey, and two volunteers; we found Rob, who I had met earlier that day. We started talking to Rob and the conversation turned to our Blessed Mother.

I never had a close relationship with Mary. Maybe it was feminine competition, but I thought she probably judged me and disliked me because I am so imperfect. If she had never sinned, how could she relate to me? Why would she like me?

Several months ago after a friend’s recommendation, I began to spend ten minutes each day speaking with her. These ten minutes usually seemed to drag on. But gradually I started to speak to her spontaneously throughout the day. I started going to her when things happened in my life even before I went to my earthly mother. She was becoming someone I knew.

“Why do Catholics like Mary so much?” Rob asked. We explained that just like a mother knows their child best, so Jesus’ mom knew Him best. Wheels started turning in Rob’s head. “So it was really Mary who defeated the devil,” Rob said in a moment of realization. “I want to know her better!”

We prayed together and Rob humbly begged God for the opportunity to get to know his heavenly mother better. I asked him before we left if he’d ever had a rosary. “No,” he replied, “What is a rosary?” As we fumbled through our pockets, Trey pulled out his old, worn wooden rosary.

This wasn’t just any rosary. Every missionary gets one at the start of their year, and it’s made from a special rose-colored Brazilian wood that slowly darkens with each use as the oils from skin stain the wood. He had also attached his own crucifix that had been touched to the Jordan river and other holy places in Israel. The beads glistened a dark mahogany after three years of prayers.

I wanted to cry out, “No, don’t do it Trey!” I knew how special this rosary was for him. But he carefully placed it in Rob’s hands and explained gently the significance of the cross and all of the holy places it had been. Our fingers barely worked due to the cold, but we wrote down the words to the Hail Mary and practiced it with him, preparing him for this special encounter with his long-lost mom.

We left the city the day after, so I don’t know how Rob’s new friendship with our mother is going. But I’m grateful for Mary reaching out to me so that I feel more confident leading others to her.

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Makena is a second-year missionary from Denver, CO. This Denver native enjoys wiener dogs, kombucha tea, painting, and rolling down hills.

The Power of Invitation

This past week, I got the chance to attend SEEK, a conference put on by FOCUS in San Antonio, Texas. Having gone to the last SEEK in 2015 and experiencing a powerful reversion to the Catholic faith, I knew I wanted to attend again. This time I would be going as a Christ in the City missionary to share our mission with college students from all over and invite them to serve with us. None of this would have been possible without the grace of God working in the heart of my cousin who was involved with FOCUS at the University of Kansas. It was her simple invitation for me to attend SEEK 2015 that lead me to understand the richness and truth of the Catholic Church. More importantly, I realized the lifelong mission we are all called to live as Christians, to serve others by inviting them into a relationship with God.

The SEEK conference reminds me of the first chapter of the Gospel of John when Jesus calls his first disciples. John was with two of his disciples when they saw Jesus walk by and John said “Behold the Lamb of God.” When the disciples heard this they followed Jesus and asked Him where He was going. Jesus invites both disciples to come with Him and because of that, Andrew, one of the disciples, goes and finds his brother, Simon Peter, to tell him that the Messiah had been found. Our life should replicate Andrew’s, who when invited to be in relationship with Jesus, was so struck with joy that he wanted others to experience the joy of knowing and being in relationship with Jesus. Our faith requires action; it isn’t something we should keep to ourselves, it should be shared with everyone around us, which is what my cousin did for me.

As I was at the conference this past week, I recognized the same desire in the students that I had. It was a desire to know more deeply what it means to be Catholic and how it offers us everything we need. Sometimes we do not know what our hearts desire until somebody lovingly reaches out to us through invitation. My cousin’s invitation awoke a desire in me to yearn for truth; Truth that I knew I could only find in the Catholic church. I didn’t know what I was longing for, but I knew I would not be satisfied until I found it. By God’s grace, I said “yes” to go to SEEK, which gave me the opportunity to fully understand the desires I was longing for.

It was during my first SEEK that I realized the importance of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. I never fully understood that Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist. Realizing this brought me to tears during Adoration. As the priests were processing around the room, my heart jumped as I saw and felt the presence of Christ for the first time in my life. I truly opened my heart to the Lord and all the Church had to offer.

This past week when I went to Adoration at SEEK 2017, these lyrics moved my heart, “May we never lose our wonder. Wide eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child staring at the beauty of our King.” I cried for a different reason, being reminded of God’s grace leading me back to the church and for the past years of entrusting my desires in Him so I could better live in obedience to Him. I felt fulfilled and happy knowing that God placed me at Christ in the City because it was part of His plan. I never want to lose my wonder so I keep my heart open to whatever God has in store for me. Through a simple invitation back into the church, I was able to enrich my faith by making it my own. At SEEK, students have a chance to understand the desires they are longing for and leave transformed. I was able to take what I learned at my first SEEK so I could be courageous in my “yes” two years later to become a missionary and invite others in, just as I was invited.

Gian is a first-year missionary from Kansas City, MO. He enjoys wearing Hawaiian shirts, snapchatting, spikeball, and consuming the Eucharist.