Written by Br. Kenneth Apuzzo, Catholic Students United
Pope Francis dedicated this year as a “year of Mercy” for the Catholic people all over the world. A year to receive mercy and then generously offer mercy. He especially urged Catholics to be more active and committed to serving the needs of the poor. He has proclaimed many times that the Church should be one that is always for the poor! Pope Francis is not a leader of empty words and slogans. In His first days as the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church he invited homeless to the Vatican for a Christmas celebration. He also visited a prison in Rome and washed the feet of prisoners during the traditional Holy Thursday foot washing service that many Christians celebrate during Holy Week each year.
Inspired by Pope Francis, Catholic Students United at the U have dedicated this year to putting mercy in action in our local area. The students have taken up the identity of being missionaries of Mercy! Our students have begun a mission of bringing hope to the homeless in the Twin Cities. Every two weeks a bunch of CSU students meet to pray on Saturday mornings and then they head out onto the streets of Dinkytown and Minneapolis in search of those who do not have homes or shelter.
Pope Francis has said “We have to put mercy before judgment, God’s judgement will always be in the light of his mercy.” Through reaching out to the homeless, CSU students have come to recognize that many times when they see homeless on the streets they quickly rush to judgments about them, completely based upon externals. A homeless person might have dirty clothes, or smell, or be a bit gruff. Surprisingly, many times as our students engage in a conversation and really take an interest in the circumstances of the person, they often discover that their initial judgement was not accurate at all. Every Homeless man or woman has a story to tell. This story quite often reveals sad or tragic events that were beyond their control.
Remarkably, the person that is helped the most by these encounters is not the homeless person, but our students. They walk away being changed by the power of mercy. “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy!”