Encountering Christ Among the Disenfranchised (By Laura Litschi, Theology Department Chair

As part of their ongoing formation here at St. Michael's, our Junior class will attend a "Street Retreat," in keeping with our school's identity as a Christ-centered learning environment, as well as in response to Pope Francis' call for all of us to experience the presence of Christ in the poor and outcast. He reminds us that those on the margins of society, "We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them..." (Evangelii Gaudium 198, 199). For a reflection on how this retreat brings the concept of solidarity alive, read this excerpt from Senior Martina Rodriguez’s post-retreat evaluation:
In Freshman and Sophomore year, the Corporal Works of Mercy were introduced. They were a simple enough concept to understand. By doing these designated works, one hopes to achieve everlasting life in Heaven with Christ. Jesus taught that there was more to achieving the Christian end goal, salvation, than simply going to Mass and performing these works. There was more than just going down the Christian ‘How to Get Into Heaven’ checklist. There was this unnamed driving force, spirit, behind every action. In those first two years, that unnamed spirit was understood to be ever present, but was, as yet, unnamed. In Junior year, we are finally given a name: solidarity. Solidarity said that you do not help people because you want to achieve a goal, you help them because they’re your brothers and sisters, and they suffer. With this in mind, the most interesting line from our class lesson on solidarity explained that, while we should help our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are by no means better than they are. And we also should not close off our hearts or ears to them. Where we help them, they also help us understand. After all, “they know the suffering Christ.”  
After school on Thursday, September 14, half of our juniors will embark on our fall Street Retreat. Born out of the ministry of Mobile Loaves and Fishes, students, faculty, and parents will seek to encounter Christ in the people who live on the streets of Austin by engaging in conversation. On Friday morning, we will head to the Community First Village to participate in a volunteer event. Throughout the retreat we will consider the theme “how to start a homemaking revolution,” as well as the concepts of solidarity and encounter.