“What you missionaries do is amazing. How do you do it?”
This is a question I hear often and one I’ve asked myself a few times as well.
Not only do I walk the streets of Denver on a daily basis, talking to the homeless, but I’ve also watched my friends on the street carry their crosses. Tom, who wants to get off the streets and start working, but still struggles with his addictions. Mark, who almost died after his kidney failed due to the drugs he took in the past. Tracy, Stephanie, and Jess, all victims of abusive relationships, trapped between violence and being lone women on the streets. David, my closest friend on the street, who lost his daughter in a car crash last October and has since turned to alcohol, violence, and despair to the point of suicide.
I’ve seen how dark the streets can be, how much suffering there is, and my heart has broken time and time again. How do I do it? What is my life right now?
Christ in the City missionaries are fond of the image of Our Lady and St. John at the foot of the Cross. It reminds us that it’s not our job to “fix” our friends, to carry their crosses; rather, that sometimes all we can do is to be there for them. But what do we say when they ask us: “how can God let me suffer like this? What is the point?”
This Easter season reminds us of the answer to these questions. I had to see my friends, people I have come to care about, suffer before I could truly grasp its meaning: Christ’s ministry did not end with the suffering at the Cross, but continued with the hope and promise of Easter. It is up to us (not just the missionaries, but you too, dear reader) to remind others that we can have faith in each other despite our past mistakes, that there is hope beyond suffering, that we can love and be loved despite our brokenness. Christ willingly suffered and so united our suffering with His. It is up to us to spread the Gospel, to let everyone know, “Lent is over. We are an Easter people. He is risen! Alleluia!”
Joe Lugue is a first-year missionary from Rancho Cordova, CA. He likes puppies, babies, Oxford commas and irony.
“Miss Marie, I was telling my friend on my baseball team about Purgatory like we learned last week in CCD and he told me I was making it all up. Can you help me answer his questions?”
Elijah, one of my 3rd grade CCD kiddos, ran up to me yesterday at the beginning of class and was so excited to start answering his friend’s questions about the Catholic faith. With an hour and fifteen minutes of catechism a week, this nine year old was spreading the faith. The same boy who five minutes later asked me how to spell the word “Catholic” and then proceeded to trip on his shoelace and spill his juice box on a clean carpet was an authentic missionary.
I want to have a heart for mission like him.
Someday, I want to travel the world. Someday, I want to be a missionary. I want to convert souls. I want to go to extremes. I want to take bucket showers and drink coconut water. I want serve the homeless. I want to love the unloved. One day, I want to serve in a visible way. Eventually, I want to be like my sister and some of my best friends who have answered their vocations to the missions. I want to be radical… Someday.
But why can’t someday be today? Why am I waiting? Why do we wait until we have graduated? Why do we wait until mission work looks “fun and adventurous”? Why do we wait until we “know enough”? Why do we postpone God’s plan? I’ve been so focused on my desire to serve in crazy and radical ways… that I have forgotten to simply serve the people I see every day. The people who surround me on campus daily have a physical home, will eat dinner tonight, and wear designer jeans, but their hearts might be homeless. The people who surround me might look the part, but are spiritually wounded. Who am I to say that my classmates don’t deserve authentic joy, genuine friendship, and honest truth… everything that a “missionary” can offer?
I want to be a missionary. And I choose to start now.
Someday I hope that God calls me to foreign lands or a liberal campus or a radical vocation of loving the homeless. But today He is calling me to loving those who sit next to me in the lecture hall. To love those who wait with me at the bus stop. To love my roommates and my best friends. To love the rowdy 3rd graders who run into my classroom. To love those who walk into the Newman Center searching for a true home.
And that… that is just as radical.
“Anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.” – Pope Francis
Marie Foley is currently a student at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, pursuing a degree in secondary education for mathematics. She enjoys running marathons, drinking coffee and driving minivans.