Recently, I took part in a training course on ‘Listening to Understand’. The participants were mostly campus ministry staff, but not entirely, so the approach was not overtly faith-based. In an early group discussion about the concept of respect, I offered the truth of the inherent dignity of the human person which should afford all with a right to be heard and understood, even loved. A woman with no ministry background responded, “that’s… beautiful” with tears in her eyes, elaborating that she had never heard that before. She ached for that truth.
Last month I was with one of seven Alternative Spring Break trips from Virginia Tech’s Catholic Campus Ministry. My group spent time in DC with the Little Sisters of the Poor caring for the elderly poor, and in Alderson, WV with the Alderson Hospitality House ministering to the families of women incarcerated in the federal prison down the road. There was a common thread between each ministry- hospitality. Incidentally our group spent a lot of our evening reflection time diving into our faith and hospitality, into care for the other.
It was clear that the elderly we spent time with in DC knew the truth of their human dignity, thanks to the care of the Little Sisters. One of the sisters referred to a resident with the words, “She is God’s special one.” It was a privilege to offer our own care in our short time with them, and to see the college women on my trip offer this care generously and authentically in the form of conversation over lunch or ice cream or coffee, games, piano playing, wheelchair pushing and arts and crafts.
In Alderson at the Hospitality House, the families we spent time with knew this truth because they hold onto it for their loved ones which the world often forgets or condemns. But they also seemed to ache for affirmation of the truth they believed for their sisters, mothers and wives. It was a joy to look around at the tables at dinner to see my students spread out to sit with each family and the room was filled with laughter and life. This joy was a manifestation of the goodness of these family visits, too easily overshadowed by the hardship of the situation. One of the House’s directors, to a family member leaving for visitation at the prison for the first time, left his work to offer some final words of encouragement. “Enjoy your visit! Have fun!”
My prayer these past weeks has been for the Lord Jesus to show me this joy. I have prayed with such gratitude in my prayer for the hospitality and care others have shown me. I have also prayed that the Lord Jesus would show me the loneliness, vulnerability and fear in those around me and in my ministry; to show me where hearts ache for the truth of their worth, for love. And I have prayed that the Lord Jesus would use me to heal some of that, to provide care in a spirit of joy and hospitality, especially to young people in my ministry. I have prayed that the college women I served with on our ASB trip would desire the same and offer joyful service in their daily lives as they did on spring break.
I pray that in these remaining weeks of Lent that you ache for the joy of Easter, and that this ache would manifest itself in care for those around you who need it. I pray that we would all share this truth of our human dignity which is beautiful and good, especially with those who have never heard it or do not believe it. This is a truth which Jesus came to die for and redeem.
Sincerely in Christ,
Assistant Director, Women Youth Apostles