“Christ has no body now on earth but yours…”
-St. Teresa of Avila understood that Christ today speaks to us through his followers. That is why I collect so many quotes from saints like Teresa of Avila. But if we believe that Christ is still speaking today why limit ourselves to saints of the 16th century. Who are Christ’s hands and feet today? What do they have to teach us?
This post will be my third in a series of posts designed to spread the wisdom of a few “Everyday Austin Saints.” Non-celibate people living right here in the Hill Country, who I believe are walking examples of saintly living. If you know someone who meets this description you’d like me to write about please email me at Henrichson.Trenton@gmail.com. For this post I have chosen Beth Odom from St. Catherine of Siena Parish
He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ Mathew 9 12-13
Finding Jesus has become such a cringe-worthy cliché it has inspired its own brand of T-Shirts. One claims Jesus can be found behind the couch, while another pictures him hiding under a bush. The jokes may be absurd, but they don’t illicit near the reaction the real Jesus got when he was literally found with tax collectors and prostitutes. His critics demanded to know what a messiah could be doing there. Christ’s simple retort is still profound today, if you want to find Jesus look for the places where we need healing.
Today our culture needs plenty of healing. When 34% of our children are only living with a single parent our families need healing. When we fail to protect 1 in 4 women from sexual assault our sexuality needs healing. When our cultural dialogue becomes a cultural war, where we choose sides and not solutions our politics need healing. And when 1 in 4 women under 30 will have an abortion we all need healing. Wherever we need healing that is where the body of Christ must be present. And that is where you find Beth Odom.
Every Tuesday morning Beth stands witness in front of Austin’s moral tumor at 1902 South IH 35. Beth serves as an Sidewalk Counselor for The Austin Coalition for Life. Sidewalk Counselors bring Christ’s love and mercy to the entrance of Abortion Clinics. She doesn’t judge. She doesn’t shout. She doesn’t hold up graphic signs.
When no one is nearby Beth prays. When workers enter Beth gives them a warm friendly greeting. When people stop by to cuss Beth out, shoot her the finger, or make threats, she responds with patience and kindness. When women arrive looking for contraception Beth kindly recommends more loving facilities. When women leave the facility post abortion Beth provides contact information for support groups.
When women arrive seeking abortion Beth has a simple message. They do not have to turn to abortion. There are people who love them and want to help. God loves them and will always love them. Beth knows this message is effective because the women she has met have told her it is. She has been thanked by people who have started to go in and decided not to. She has been thanked by people who went in but soon left. She has been thanked by people just passing by. Beth has even been thanked by women who chose to undergo the procedure but had been moved by her concern. Each of these thank yous represents a heart that was healed and often a life that was saved.
When Beth is not on the sidewalk it is her vocation to immunize another ailing part of our culture our families. Beth is the brave Catholic mother of 9 children ages 3 to 23. Our culture has been infected with the assumption that these kids will inevitably have premarital sex and that the church will have no relevance in their lives. But Beth refuses to spread these assumptions. Beth teaches her kids that faith isn’t just a Sunday obligation it is an entire lifestyle of prayer, service, and alms giving. Faith is an overall attitude toward others and our world.
Beth’s most potent antibiotic for her family is her own example. Beth volunteers at the food bank, the Mary House, the Interfaith Hospitality ministry and the pro-life committee at Saint Catherine’s. She brings her kids along whenever possible. One of her Daughters has already become a lifesaving side walk counselor just like her mom. Hope and Healing is viral to. What one mother chooses will infect her kids, her kids will infect their communities, their communities will infect the world.
As the body of Christ we can not confine our prayers to the pews. We must take Christ to where the healing is needed. Beth made her first step onto the sidewalk when she heard a college friend promoting the 40 Days For Life campaign on the radio. The 40 Days For Life campaign is a twice annual effort to make sure there are Christians praying in front of the clinics 12 hours a day for 40 Days. Volunteers typically make a commitment of 1 hour a week for 6 weeks. The next campaign starts Sept. 26th. So Beth’s challenge to you is to join the campaign. Commit yourself for at least 40 Days [or 6 hours] to take your prayers where they are needed most.
Beth says her prayers on the sidewalk are so deeply profound she compares it to Adoration. That shouldn’t surprise you. Jesus is being present where he told us he would be. Wherever we need his healing our savior will be there seeking mercy. Thank God for keeping his promises. And thank God for saints like Beth who bring his body to where his spirit is waiting.
To respond to Beth’s challenge contact
Subject: Beth’s Challenge