+ One of several rollout groups serving the homeless in the City of Indianapolis
My name is Rachel Worden. I’m a parishioner of St. John’s and so thankful to be involved in the young adult community here! When asked to write about my experience from last Friday evening, my mind went back to before the series began. Let’s just say, learning about the Corporal Works of Mercy didn’t hold as much appeal to me as learning about Christ in the Eucharist (the topic of last year’s series). As indifferent as I was going into the night, it ended up being a beautiful experience and I can’t wait for the next week! In several aspects of my life, God continues to show me that sometimes just showing up is enough for Him to light a fire in my heart.
I’m constantly amazed at how many young adults participate in events at St. John’s and this night was no different. About 100 people had come out on a Friday night to pray the Stations, be in community with one another, deepen their faith and serve the poor. After some catechesis by our ECHO apprentice and an intro to a local homeless ministry, Operation Leftover, we split into groups and hit the streets of downtown (granola bars and fruit snacks in tow). Having never done much inner-city ministry, I was nervous although my whole thought process had changed from when I’d set out that evening. I may be biased, but my group was absolutely amazing. [Insert shout-out, you know who you are] I’m sure the other groups had similar sentiments- when you do the work of Christ, with a spirit of charity, the joy is contagious!
Our group decided to walk/frolic over to the Wheeler Mission and give them some of our donations (which we named ‘reverse trick-or-treating’) while keeping an eye out for anyone else we could help. It was a cold night and we hadn’t found any homeless men or women to minister to until we were almost back to St. John’s. I found out later, some were praying for St. Anthony’s intercession to find people. [Insert saintly shout-out] We went an extra block or so out of the way and there, under a bridge, we finally found two new friends.
The first man we met was Tony. (It must have been a slow night in Heaven… What a sense of humor!) Tony appeared taken aback when we kind of converged on him from out of nowhere, but quickly relaxed and seemed glad to have the company and snacks. I was moved when he asked if we would pray with him. As we grabbed hands and huddled up, I understood what God was trying to tell me; this was family. It didn’t matter that I had met this man five minutes before or that I had met some of my group an hour before or that I wasn’t directly related to any of them. We are all His children and precious in His eyes.
+ Cecil, a homeless man we met, served, and prayed with on the street.
The next man we met was Cecil (see above picture). Again, by God’s grace, I looked past the stereotypes, past the cardboard boxes and worn clothing, to my brother in need. As we stood around Cecil, offering listening ears and words of encouragement, the Spirit was stirring in my heart. Over and over he said that he didn’t know what he had done to deserve this situation but he knew God could bring him out of it. He grew up Catholic but hadn’t been in a church for quite some time. After we encouraged him to return to the Sacraments, welcomed him to spend time at the church, said our goodbyes and exchanged promises of prayers, I waited. I felt like I needed to say something more to him so I took a knee and he took my hand as we searched each other’s eyes for a moment. I let him know that it’s not always something we’ve done that causes a particular burden. We all have crosses in this life and suffering is the best way to unite with Christ. He said he’d been thinking about that and he knew one thing for sure; he was not going to lose faith. After the moment, which seemed to be frozen in time, had passed, Cecil and I exchanged more promises of prayers and I rejoined my group for the walk back to church. For those who know me, this experience was not typical of my personality and it was very much out of my comfort zone but it was also one of the most grace-filled moments of my life. I saw the face of Christ, I touched His hand, I showed Him love, and He changed my heart. I finally realized that if I want my Father in Heaven to see me in the light of Christian charity, I need to show that same Love to everyone I meet, no matter the circumstances. “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…’ “. (Matthew 25:34-36)
Much love and many prayers for a fruitful Lent!