By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Strumming his well-worn guitar, Father Brian Miclot led a group in the song “How Great Thou Art.”
Fr. Miclot, a philosophy professor at St. Ambrose University, led his third annual retreat for patrons of Father Conroy’s Vineyard of Hope on Oct. 20. He sang and talked with people who are homeless, people making limited wages. His theme this year: The Cry of the Poor. Sister Ludmilla Benda, RSM, who leads the meal site, organized the retreat. The Vineyard serves patrons on Sundays and holidays when other organizations do not.
This year’s retreat reflected on Fr. Miclot’s time in South Bend, Indiana, when he was doing advanced studies. The retreat’s Gospel reflection came from Matthew. “If you believe in Jesus — this is it,” Fr. Miclot said.
He asked the crowd: “Just what are the Beatitudes?” They are the centerpiece of Jesus’ ministry, he observed. “It’s not about angels and winning Jericho. It’s blessed are the peacemakers.” Fr. Miclot believes children should learn the Beatitudes. “The 10 Commandments are nice, but we should learn the Beatitudes.”
Then he asked, “Who are the poor in spirit? What do the poor look like here in the United States?” The answers included having nothing, lacking material items, worshipping what they have, homelessness and suffering.
Fr. Miclot said when he was in South Bend he wanted to be with the poor. So one place he hung out was the Victory Bar. “I met the neatest guy there – Tom. I got to know Tom. He didn’t have much. Yet when his friend Donna, who was pregnant, needed a place to stay, Tom gave up his bed for her and he slept on the floor. The poor in spirit doesn’t mean the haves and have nots. The kingdom to him was to move over and share. The kingdom belongs to people like Tom.”
After leading the song “The Cry of the Poor,” he read again from Matthew’s Gospel. Returning to his memories of the Victory Bar, Fr. Miclot talked about a Hungarian named Tony whose friend Alice said Tony “always brought roses.” Alice, not having family, would bring Christmas presents to her friends at the Victory Bar. She told Fr. Miclot that Tony was stubborn and wanted to work to earn pay. Tony refused to receive a handout. Shortly before Christmas, Tony died.
Fr. Miclot was curious about finding the rose garden where Tony picked the roses. “I went to search for it the following spring and found it.” The blooms came up through cracks in the pavement along an alley. Across from the alley were mansions falling apart. Tony picked roses for his friends. “He didn’t have much to give his friends, like Alice, but he did have something to share.”
Following the song “Amazing Grace,” Fr. Miclot offered a prayer and blessing to all before pizza was served. He sent the microphone around to allow patrons to offer their thoughts. “God bless everyone, no matter what you are going through,” one said. “Pray for me and my family,” one lady cried. “We will,” Fr. Miclot replied. “Thank God for waking me up this morning,” another lady said. “I saw the tent set up and knew there was something about God,” she continued. “We are all equal. No one is better than another whether they are at Kings Harvest or city hall. Keep loving one another,” she said.