Our streets are often populated by lonely and homeless people. They are often passed by and not noticed. Christ on the Street is a small attempt to bring a Christian touch to the lives of lonely people on our streets. It hopes to facilitate a sharing of humanity, an encounter with a human person. It involves looking into someone’s eyes and saying, “I see you, and I’m listening to you”, to try to show the love of Christ to those the volunteers meet.
Christ on the Street operates on the basis of four pillars of formation:
- SPIRITUAL: To bring the love of Christ to others, we must first experience Him ourselves. Volunteers are asked to deepen their relationship with Christ through personal prayer, Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, and spiritual direction and confession.
- INTELLECTUAL: Education in the Catholic faith and its teachings equip us to apply faith and reason to our daily work and lives.
- HUMAN: Working together as a group as a little community serves as the overall context to live the mystery of Divine love. A person learns how to be a missionary through loving and giving oneself, sincerely forgiving each other, and holding each other accountable in becoming saints.
- APOSTOLIC: In teams of 2, we walk the same street routes regularly, befriending the homeless, the lonely, etc. As trust is built, we are able to accompany our friends on the street to medical, housing, or other such appointments, or to enjoy healthy friendships over coffee and chat. Sometimes, this friendship becomes a turning point toward restoring their sense of self-worth. This friendship is never forced or over-bearing. It is not condescension. It is not given from a position of power or pride but from a realization that we are all weak, we are all in need and but for the grace of God any one of us could be living on the street.
Life for the Christ on the Street Missionaries:
- Spiritual Formation: A Life of Prayer: Missionaries fill up on daily prayer and sacraments, and receive courses in Catholic Social Teaching in order to come to better know Christ and His heart for the poor.
- Leadership Development: A Life of Apostolate: Missionaries split into teams for street ministry routes, learning to encounter others. They may also be assigned a role within the group as it develops. The group will need to learn about the state benefits and services available to the homeless, etc.
- Authentic Friendship: A Life of Intentional Community: Even though missionaries do not share a life of community, nonetheless they form a bond, through prayer, service, and simplicity. The more unified the group is the greater the effectiveness of the group.
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Open our eyes, Lord, to recognize you in the distressing disguise of the poor,
Open our ears, Lord, to hear you in the cries of the exploited and the oppressed,
Open our mouths, Lord, to serve as a voice for the victimized and the voiceless,
Open our hearts, Lord, and fill them with the love of your Eucharistic heart,
That we too may become truly present to those who are least among us,
That we too may be broken and given out to those in need,
That we too may be poured out so that others may live,
So that together with them, as members of the one Body that is yours,
We may experience more and more the joy of a life and a love wholly shared
And celebrated in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ.
Parishes as an “Oasis of Mercy”:
Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has encouraged parishes to be an “oasis of mercy,” and to be missionary: looking out to all sorts of suffering people both in the local community as well as in the wider world, as both are linked. We are challenged to reach out to people with the message of Christ, listening to the suffering, from our conviction that the message we deliver is the mercy of God.
This is the outreach of the Trinity to the world. The mercy of God hears the needs of millions for food and shelter, and the cries of the refugees on seas far away and in houses up the road. Can we also feel compassion, looking on others with love? For the Holy Trinity looks upon humanity with love and compassion! Like God, can we hear the suffering of others? Our prayer should open our hearts to the suffering and to be merciful to them, for mercy, according to Pope Francis, is the “heartbeat of the Gospel.”
– Fr. Donal Neary, SJ Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Ireland)