Mercy Has Eyes To See: Franciscan University's Steubenville Mission Trip

Franciscan Sisters TOR Samaritan House

This year's mission shirts say, "Discover the Beauty," printed boldly under a silhouette of the skyline of Steubenville. Looking back at the week I spent with Franciscan University students spending their spring break in prayer and service for Steubenville, I think the choice of motto was prophetic. I, for one, feel I learned a lot about vision and beauty. As I worked alongside the students and introduced them to the town and people I love, I came to a clearer understanding of what Jesus meant when he told his disciples, "Blessed are your eyes because they see."

The fact of the matter is that our eyes don't always see the truth or the full reality of a situation. A few days into our mission this year, a student came to me. "Sister," he said, "can I ask you something? Isn't it like totally depressing seeing this stuff every day? Doesn't it get heavy?"

I had to think about that for a minute before answering. How do I feel about seeing so much suffering every day? Does it get "heavy"? Of course, there are moments that are just plain sad, like when you learn that a young woman has chosen to abort her child, or when you hear that a job opportunity fell through, or when the volunteer you've spent hours with doesn't come in to work because he's drunk again. But that's not what I see when I look at my life.

"No," I answered the student, "It's not totally depressing." And I went on to explain about the beauty I have discovered in my life living and serving in downtown Steubenville. Actually, we who live at our mission house downtown like to say we are "living the dream" because we are blessed to spend our days with the same sort of people that Jesus chose as his friends. If you read the Gospels, you will notice that most of the time Jesus was completely surrounded by people in need. He was followed by crowds of the sick, he sought out a tax collector of ill repute to be his apostle, and he did not shrink from inviting beggars to follow him or the demon-possessed to be his missionaries.

In other words, Jesus did not flinch from any aspect of human reality, no matter how raw, and in every person he saw something beautiful, something precious, and something worth saving.

Our relationship with Christ begins when we allow him to look at our particular human reality and discover the beauty there, hidden though it may be under sin and suffering. And as we learn what love is from Love Incarnate, we, too, begin to have eyes to see the beauty hidden in others. That is why any life involving contact with the "poor and marginalized" is far from depressing and heavy. Such a life is a privileged encounter with hidden beauty. When I listen to people's sorrows and share their pain, it is like I am receiving a precious artifact covered in dust and grime. My listening and sharing are a kind of dusting and polishing, whereby the beauty of the person is revealed once more. This is living the dream.

In this year of mercy, may we all have eyes to see the beauty of our neighbors, near and far. May be all discover the beauty stamped on each heart and be willing to give of ourselves to reveal that beauty to others.

Sr. Agnes Thérèse Davis, T.O.R.

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  1. Just what I needed to hear today; thank you Sister! <3

  2. Sister Agnes Therese, what a beautiful encouragement to continue to follow God's gentle call to me. I didn't realize that the homeless and wheelchair bound man I felt God leading me to would keep enriching me. That brief encounter in which he responded to my asking him if I could pray for him by telling me "I want to be holy. I want to feast at the heavenly banquet," continues to bless me at every Mass when I join my my prayer to his. I told him I knew we would share that banquet together. I shook his hand and then I walked to my office. It was grimy and rough but felt so holy in mine. His name is Marion Earl Nelson. He looks ancient. He said he's in a lot of pain but he didn't ask prayers for that. I'm blessed to have met him and to have shook his hand. I haven't seen him again but I look for him.


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