The Common Good
January-February 2000

It Was the City that Healed Me

by Theresa (a religious sister in Detroit) | January-February 2000

To be a woman of faith in the midst of the city, I was forced to develop a
contemplative stance. I am naturally pulled toward God in the midst of nature.

To be a woman of faith in the midst of the city, I was forced to develop a contemplative stance. I am naturally pulled toward God in the midst of nature. The wonder of a sunrise, silent stars filling the night, trees dancing to the wind’s rhythm, majestic mountains—all these seem to sing my soul toward God. The city—with its rush and fury, noisy clamor, rage and anger, violence and tragic poverty—seems to thwart God’s pull upon me.

Yet it is in the midst of all this I most deeply experience Jesus’ words, "It is not the healthy who need a physician but those who are sick." In the broken faces and bodies that I pass on the streets, I see again and again the image of the suffering Christ.

I was born and raised in the city. I came back to the city as a minister with illusions of making it better. Rather it was the city that healed me. I discovered the wounds of the city reflected in myself. African-American women, who had so little materially but were rich and powerful in faith, in their prayer, taught me how little I knew about prayer or God. They revealed to me the God of the Beatitudes.

I came to understand it is the little, humble, hidden people—not the efforts of the powerful and educated—whose prayer holds the city together, holds the world together. I knew that to have any positive effect, I had to become as little, as humble, as hidden as these.

I have stayed in the city because the city keeps me real. It is so seductive, so tempting to believe that I am what I wear or what I own, I am my education or my intelligence. The people of the city taught me ‘My life is hidden with Christ in God.’ I stay in the city because I yearn to be among those women who through the ages have stood faithfully at the foot of his cross.

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