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 ccdenver.org/rtr 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 ccdenver.org/rtr and become part of the team.

COMING UP: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.