Help the homeless during Ride the Rockies

Larry Smith

For the fifth consecutive year, Team Samaritan House will be part of Ride the Rockies, which this year starts in Grand Junction on June 13 and ends June 20 in Westcliffe.

We have 19 riders registered on the team—16 men and three women—with a goal of raising $5,000 a piece for Catholic Charities homeless shelters in northern Colorado. That includes Samaritan House and Father Ed Judy House in Denver, The Mission in Fort Collins and the Guadalupe Community Center in Greeley.

When you get on a bike to ride 465 miles to raise money for the poor, every pedal that you push reminds you of a plight much worse than your own. It puts you in a position to really appreciate how hard it must be to live as a homeless person, without income, without a place to live.

I encourage you to become part of the team. Here’s how. Go to to see the route and pick a rider to support. We’ll be posting updates there, and on social media sites throughout the week of the race. Please consider a donation of $465, one dollar for every mile. Any amount donated is appreciated and 100 percent of the money donated goes to provide shelter and to help homeless people regain their sense of dignity and self-reliance.

This is one of our major fundraising efforts for our homeless shelters and the money raised goes far. Every $1.60 raised allows us to provide a meal to a person in need. Last year, about 430,000 meals were served through Catholic Charities shelters.

It’s humbling for the Team Samaritan House riders to know that while we’re experiencing God’s beauty and creation—albeit from a very sore saddle and aching legs—we’re doing it for people living a life on the streets that many of us can’t comprehend. Ride the Rockies allows us to put 100 percent of our mental and physical effort to raising money for our homeless shelters and to provide food for our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

Because we wear the Team Samaritan House jerseys, with the Catholic Charities emblem, whenever we come across a rider who has a flat tire, or a broken bike, or is struggling on the roadside, we always slow down and ask what kind of help we can offer. And if anything is needed, we stop. It may be giving them a protein bar or a bottle of water or changing a tire.

That service is a small reminder to us that we’re here to help one another, however we can. And there’s nothing more important than helping Catholic Charities show the kindness, mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ through our shelter services. You can help. You can join us in saying that homeless people matter. Go to and become part of the team.

COMING UP: Strong temptations? Defeat them like the Desert Fathers

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The fact that we don’t do what we want but instead do what we hate is a problem as old as our first parents. Yet, we can interpret temptation either as that which is always keeping us away from God or as the very vehicle to grow closer to him.

The Desert Fathers believed it to be a necessary vehicle: “Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” St. Anthony of the Desert used to say. They saw the fight against these evil enticements as a step to love God in a deeper way.

Here’s how these radical followers of Christ – who fled to the Egyptian desert during the 3rd to 5th centuries to live a form of daily martyrdom in a land where being a Christian was no longer a risk – survived the strongest enticements of the flesh and the devil, as they sought to live out the Gospel and grow in perfection.

The sayings, teachings, maxims and stories they left behind, compiled and known as the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, show that a combination of three things: self-awareness, prayer and practicality, are key to battling the strongest disordered passions.

Alertness and action

“The early monks understood that temptations often come in the form of thoughts. We become attracted and have fantasies, whether that be in petty things, bodily appetites or social interactions,” explained Father Columba Stewart, O.S.B., expert on early monasticism, scholar and director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.

The first disposition they considered to be key, was self-awareness, “knowing what happens in our minds and hearts… how to recognize [bad thoughts] before we actually do a sinful action,” he said.

After this base, which requires continuous self-examination and attention to the inner impulses of the heart, the importance of prayer and practicality follow.

A hermit of the desert said to a young monk suffering from strong temptations, “This is the way to be strong: when temptations start to speak in your mind do not answer them but get up, pray, do penance, and say, ‘Son of God, have mercy upon me.’”

Prayer is not isolated from action. The hermit tells him to “get up,” “do penance” and “pray.”

Practicality can take on different forms, such as going in the opposite direction of the temptation or seeking help from another, Father Stewart pointed out.

“For example, when you’re angry with someone… thoughts of anger start emerging, and you replay in your imagination what made you angry. Then that turns into a mental video of how you’re going to get revenge. This is when self-awareness comes in and you realize that the thoughts you’re having are inappropriate,” Father Stewart said.

A first practical action would be to step away instead of going to find that person, he continued. “Then to use your mind and imagination to instead remember the times when your relationship [with that person] was better or think about the future and how great it will be when this passes.”

Light overcomes darkness

Also, this “get up” practicality consists in bringing to light one’s sins or temptations to someone else and not fighting alone.

“A common exhortation, attributed to many different monks, was that the Enemy, the devil, rejoices in nothing so much as unmanifested thoughts… A sin which is hidden begins to multiply,” Father Stewart wrote in an article.

He then explained that “If the devil was delighted by a monk’s self-imposed isolation, surely this was because the opposite of isolation, encounter with another, was the way to salvation.”

According to Father Stewart, this understanding led the Fathers to break from “the illusion of self-sufficiency, a pose which encourages self-absorption,” and find spiritual fathers.

“The desert tradition is universally insistent upon the young monk’s need for a discerning elder,” he explained. “The basic insight of the desert… was that one cannot grow towards perfection through isolated, solitary effort: grace is mediated through one’s neighbor, especially one’s abba [spiritual father].”

The way these early hermits fought temptations is one of many treasures that Father Stewart says they left behind. In fact, he encourages readers to look at the Sayings of the Desert Fathers as a source that is still “amazingly relevant.”

“[The Sayings of the Desert Fathers] have been very popular sources of wisdom and inspiration throughout history,” he said. “What sets [them] apart… is that they speak from and to experience rather than text or theory.”

“The tradition of Christian wisdom is great,” he concluded. “People only need to know where to find it.”