Sunrise over city

Sunrise over city

Friday, August 18, 2017

News And Notes: Meagan Has A Blog!

I am continually surprised and gratified by Meagan's resilience and whole-hearted devotion to the faith.  She has planted herself firmly and tenderly at the side of our Lord in the Eucharist, and is healed and renewed each day at mass and adoration.  When she's not in church, or street evangelizing, or taking college courses, or taking care of her two year-old son, she is creating a website and blog.  It's now up and running, and I encourage you to check it out.  She's posted her conversion story and will write about her street evangelization adventures and life in the faith.  Her life story is so compelling, and so many need hope for their own children lost in addiction and crime, that we'll try to get her on The Journey Home television program.

Meagan taking a selfie (ha ha) before the image we wear

The image of the Sacred Heart that we wear was popularized by the Vendees in their revolt against the demonic French Revolution.  Blessed Charles de Foucauld embraced the image as his own, and he was very proud of France's history as the "eldest daughter of the Church".  He desired nothing more than for France to rise up and reclaim her faith, the faith of Sts. Joan of Arc and King Louis, and he would even invoke Charlemagne.  Or so he wrote in a private letter that I read that was up for auction last year.  In that same manly spirit, Cardinal Sarah has issued his own summons for France to rise from her filth, and become "spiritual Vendeans" against "the lie of atheistic ideology."  It is a rousing homily to say the least.  If you've somehow missed it, please read it now!

Our own St. Stephen's parish is hoping to bring in Fr. Lawrence Carney for a parish mission.  I've written about Fr. Carney on several occasions, and I even sent his street evangelization book to Archbishop Sample.  It should be arriving today, along with a note asking for His Excellency's blessing for the mission.  Our pastor thinks his blessing is important, and upon reflection, I believe it will guarantee the mission's success.  After all, this apostolate only took off after I knelt before Archbishop Sample and received his blessing for myself and the apostolate.

A couple of days ago I celebrated the 100th anniversary of the death of military chaplain Fr. Willie Doyle SJ at the Ypres front during World War I.  Here is a wonderful website dedicated to him, and you can read a quick article about him here by K. V. Turley.  It boggles the mind that he has not been beatified.  Here is a short anecdote by his brother (also a Jesuit) who recalls how Fr. Doyle's holiness shown out from his face, intriguing those who passed by.  I can't think of a better way to evangelize than by simply radiating the divine life of Christ.

"Willie and I were dining at Melrose one evening.  I arrived first, and I was looking out of the drawing room. when I saw Willie coming up the drive.  I can still see his face as he came towards the house.  It had an expression of sweetness, brightness and holiness that was quite astonishing.  During the last time that he was on leave from the Front, he came down to Limerick where I was stationed.  We went for a walk together.  Coming home, we met a number of people walking...As each couple or party came near us, I noticed all eyes became fixed on Willie with a curiously interested and reverential expression.  I stole a glance at him.  His eyes were cast down, and upon his face was the same unearthly look of sweetness and radiance I had seen on it that evening years before at Melrose."

Fr. Willie Doyle.  I love you my brother.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

God Is Strange And Funny

At the inaugural mass of the Sacred Liturgy Conference, I was overcome with a sweet zeal to evangelize the streets, especially amongst the most neglected.  I felt I had to begin as soon as possible, starting with the streets of Medford in the downtown park.  The desire was so pure and otherworldly, that it was a taste of the Holy Charity that St. Francis reverently spoke of.  Or perhaps it was like the call of the priests who joined the foreign missions.  Yet I never did walk the streets of Medford, nor was it God's plan that I do so.  Then when I returned from the conference I brought back bed bugs with me. Then I vomited a galloon of water and bile from my bad stomach.  For the next three weeks I hardly evangelized as I battled acid reflux (made worse by two GI surgeries from ten years ago) and various family commitments.

What a strange series of events.  Jesus had incited me with a holy invitation to walk after him, and then took it away. What a tease!  I suppose he did the same to the Little Flower and many other saints, kindling a passion for the missions and then inviting them to find His peace at home.  Perhaps that's why the Little Flower is always smiling, a jokester like her Heavenly Father.  Whenever I see her statue in The Grotto chapel I have to suppress laughs, and the thought of her always makes me smile.

St. Therese was not syrupy and sentimental, but very funny.

The unpredictability of God, and the myriad ways in which he humbles us and reworks us should elicit our humor.  From our perspective--with our limited knowledge--God is often bizarre.  He has unlimited power, and yet stays out of sight letting our mad world run it's course.  He lets the "good and the great" (politicians, academics, scientists, artists, celebrities, financiers, tech tycoons) defame Him and his holy ways, and yet He preserves His silence.  He prefers to work through nobodies, and even the most wretched.  The Twelve Apostles were essentially regular guys except John, whose brilliance was obscured by his youth.  Only the Apostle to the Gentiles, St. Paul, was the greatest student of the greatest rabbi (Gamaliel).  I have written here and here how God used an ex-con drug dealer and a drunk to "school me" in my spiritual life.  God is strange like that.

The saints are strange because they are conformed to Christ.  Recently there has been a movement to emphasize the ordinariness of the saints.  That is to be expected in a democratic age where all distinctions are leveled out.  But the saints are not ordinary, and in Heaven they will be glorified far beyond us, and yet they will be our intimate brothers and sisters.  The saints were extraordinary because they felt naked without their cross, because they recoiled from praise, because they were gratified by criticism and trials.  That is about the furthest thing from ordinary!  St. Crispin of Viterbo, a holy Capuchin brother, thanked God for a cranky nun who always abused him with words.  Everyone else in Orvieto and beyond revered him, including popes and bishops, but he wanted none of that.  He would say of the nun, "Praise God that there is one woman in Orvieto who knows me and treats me as I deserve."

The saints didn't mind being humiliated, and the first Franciscans even sought out opportunities to be humiliated.  Saints are mindful of their faults and often play them up and keep their weakness ever before them.  By contrast, we go through life like it is a job interview.  We hide and downplay our weaknesses, and perhaps even lie about them.  Meanwhile, we exaggerate our strengths and talents and present ourselves as competent and in-charge.  But that's no way to get anywhere in the spiritual life, and it's a farce to our God who sees right through us.  It is better to be forthright and laugh about our child-like dependence on God.  We are dependent, whether we know it or not!

My favorite Jesuit, Fr. Hugh Thwaites SJ was once crossing the Channel on a boat with priests to lead a retreat.  It was time to turn in for the night, and Fr. Thwaites went one way and the priests went another.  Two of the priests took to joking about Fr. Thwaites in their cabin, and the ribbing went on for over an hour.  They mimicked his lilting voice, and joked about his mannerisms and the way he'd spent large sums of money to give out rosaries in grungy Brixton.  Unbeknownst to the priests, Father Thwaites lay in his own cabin just to the back of their cabin, serenely listening to every word.  The following morning Fr. Thwaites's cabin-mate tore into the two priests and they went shame-faced to confession with the one they had mocked (though they mostly mocked in good humor).  Fr. Thwaites listened to the confessions with perfect disinterest and remarked, "Well, I suppose I am a bit silly."

Fr. Thwaites SJ, a silly soldier for Christ

Recently someone whom I respect but have never met characterized me in conversation as "The guy who made his own habit".  Ouch!  It was a wry remark, and who knows if it was intended as a criticism.  My immediate reaction was to defend the tunic we wear because it is not a habit and it is indispensable to the ministry.  We only mix in the worst places and can talk to prostitutes any hour of the day because we are obviously not participants in whatever criminal activity is around us. It is not a habit, but a uniform solely for evangelization.  It simply announces who we are: a public sign of the Church and an apostle of Christ's love. Once my zeal cooled I came to see the remark as funny and useful.  It is ridiculous to make a tunic and wear it about town.  Once at Drinks With Dominicans (Theology On Tap), I gave a short speech about the apostolate, hoping to recruit other men. When I held up my tunic Fr. Stephen Maria Lopez OP jumped in his seat with his eyes in dismay.  The tunic seemed longer than it actually is since it wasn't worn across my large frame, and Fr. Lopez saw it as an imitation "habit".  Fr. Kelber, the prior at Holy Rosary, immediately placed his hand on Fr. Lopez's hand and gave a quick shake of the head for him not to interfere.  I've since wondered at the immediate conviction of Fr. Kelber, especially since he would be the first priest to stop laymen from confusing clerical roles.  It had to be a work of grace.  In any event, I now joke about myself as "the guy who made his own habit."

We have fun on the streets in our ridiculous way.  I recently pulled a prank on some "beautiful people" who were being a bit too cute about our rolling cooler with the "Free Drinks" sign.  They sat in their car waiting for the light to turn, and kept interrupting my conversation with Sheila, an emaciated meth addict.  Sheila was telling me about the Morning Offering prayer that she and her friend Joe make, while the "beautiful people" mock-pleaded, "Can I have a free drink?  Can I have a free drink?" Finally I said, "You don't need any of our drinks, you're all dressed up and in an air-conditioned car."  They whined, "Oh c'mon, c'mon" clearly feeling superior to us fools in tunics.  Then I flatly declared "Are you going to The Grotto for a wedding." They turned white in shock, stammering, "How did you know that?  How could you know that?"  I triumphantly bellowed, "Because I'm a PROPHET brother!"  Then they sped off, still in dismay.  God had shaken them up and given them something to think about. He was having a bit of fun with them.  Obviously I'm not a prophet, but I only made an educated guess based on seeing other "beautiful people" at The Grotto setting up for a wedding.

Later in the day we walked into Burgerville to get some food for us and our homeless friends.  A young cashier stood at the back counter with her manager, and gave us an icky look of disapproval.  She said, "I'll let YOU, wait on THEM."  The middle-aged female manager came up to the counter, weathered beyond her years, probably once homeless or an addict.  I cheerfully stepped forward and asked, "Do you serve freaks here?"  She laughed, and replied, "I hope so.  Half my employees are freaks."  The young cashier looked non-plussed with her pink hair and skin covered in tattoos.

Perhaps my favorite moment at the Sacred Liturgy Conference was sitting at a table with Meagan and Marie Barzen shortly before it was time to drive back to Portland.  We all surrendered to infectious laughter, marveling at what pathetic lives God has given us, yet He has left us so greatly blessed.  We each spend our precious free time amongst the most miserable people around: women going into Planned Parenthood, amidst homeless and prostitutes, sometimes in abandoned drug houses.  Yet we are exactly where we should be.  It is bizarre, and the bizarre often makes us laugh, especially when it is accompanied by a deep realization that we stand on solid ground.  We have joy because we are in Christ, and nothing else matters save our own cooperation with the Father's plan.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Something To Die For Is Something To Live For

There was a recent article in the Philadelphia Enquirer (one of a series of articles) about a closed Catholic Church that has become a "shooting gallery" for heroin addicts.  We are given the image of a once majestic church full of self-drugging drop-outs from life.  It is a sign from God about the inevitable ruin of a society when it builds apart from God. Aside from this stark contrast, there were two things about the articles that were remarkable.  Firstly, the fifty or so addicts spanned all classes, and many described themselves as coming from good, loving homes.  Secondly, social service workers recently visited the church, and not a single addict came out to accept their offer of help.  Not one.  By contrast, if we had gone in there with our little tunics, we would have talked to at least half the addicts, given out forty or so rosaries and miraculous medals, and heard many life stories and pleas for liberation.

Why would we be welcomed while those who offer social services are not (in Portland we are happily received week after week)?  Why are young people from stable, loving homes and communities (like our own Meagan) choosing drugs as a means of escape?  The answer to both questions is the same.  The West does a good job of meeting the needs of the body and providing every form of entertainment and distraction, but it does a poor job of meeting the deepest needs of the soul.  Put another way, there is a crisis of meaning in the West, something Max Weber predicted a century and a half ago (I wrote about that here).  That is why so many young families at my daughter's school have already disintegrated, or are starting the process of divorce.  That is why so many young people have gravitated toward the great aching need and brief fulfillment that comes with heroin addiction.  They have a great aching desire in their soul--union with their Creator, whom they are hard-wired to desire--and don't know how to fill it,  So they turn to heroin.  And yet they have the sacred sense not to shoot-up in the main body of the church...though there are hypodermics in an old holy water fount.  Lord have mercy.

Unfortunately the Catholic Church deserves a healthy portion of the blame as the Holy Mass has often been celebrated in a mundane, ho-hum manner in the past decades, and there was a crisis of poor teaching in most places.  I was reminded of this yesterday when Meagan and I went to daily mass before walking the streets.  The celebrant was a visiting priest from an distinguished religious order that has precious few vocations.  From the first moment of mass I wondered whether the priest believed the faith.  There was no sense that something stupendous and transcendent was occurring amongst us, the re-presentation of the greatest act in the history of the universe.  The poor priest's homily re-hashed the typical revisionist "scholarship" that God did not send plagues on the Egyptians and drown their charioteers because a loving God wouldn't commit mass murder.  Well, that priest and thousands of priests like him have been complicit in the mass murder of souls by offering a false, de-sacralized and ultimately shallow gospel.  It would be better if he piled hot coals on his head in penance than continue on his present way.  His eyes were so dull, so bereft of supernatural light.  Very sad.

Two Young Men

God is faithful even if his minister's are not.  He is always calling young men and women out of the world, like Sts. Francis and Clare 800 years before.  Oftentimes he calls great sinners (please go read this convert's blog now!).  St. Francis of Assisi always insisted he was a great sinner, but at the very least he was a great dreamer.  God gave him the grace to sense that there had to be some grander reason to life, some great calling, and so he dreamed of becoming a knight and going on a dangerous crusade.  In fact, he went off to do battle in a local dispute and was promptly captured.  We can laugh about that now, but many of us are hard-wired to need something worth fighting for.  It is a paradox that when we have a cause worth dying for it gives us a reason to live.

Last month I met a young man named 'Troy' who was dressed in business casual and mixing with some young addicts.  After distributing our usual Gatorade, rosaries and prayer cards I turned to Troy and asked, "So what's your story?"
"I just decided to come live out here."
"Yeah, I quit my job and packed some clothes.  I'm just done with it all."
"So you're homeless by choice?"
When I warned him that living homeless in the Winter is more miserable than he could imagine, he quickly changed the subject, and pointed to our tunics, saying, "I used to teach Bible study, mostly to children."  Troy was raised as a non-Catholic Christian.  Suddenly lights of understanding began to go off in my mind.  "Have you heard of St. Francis of Assisi?"
"Yes" he quickly replied.  "'Preach the Gospel always, sometimes use words'".
I blinked in shock.  I knew God had given me a rare bird here.  I ventured, "Well, there have always been Christians who have left everything behind to live a more radical Gospel.  It's always happened.  You have St. Benedict fifteen hundred years ago--he was the founder of Western monasticism, St. Francis 800 years ago, men and women from five hundred years ago, and even today.  It goes back to the time of Christ."  He was devouring all of my words, hearing something he had needed to hear.  I spoke more of St. Francis and then launched into a description of the life of St. Benedict Joseph Labre.  Now Troy was really hooked.  Perhaps because Benedict Joseph chose to live homeless in the city rather than a hermitage, or perhaps because he was more proximate in time.  Troy nodded vigorously when I described how St. Benedict Joseph would give away whatever alms he had been given to those who were even poorer than him.  "Yes, that's what I'd like to do!" Troy exclaimed.  I was gratified that he was discovering the allure of the saints, our little models of Christ.  Troy assured me that his faith was strong, and that he didn't suffer from any addictions.  One of his street friends, Jessica, later told me in amusement that Troy would rather shiver through the night then share her body heat by sleeping next to her.  I wasn't surprised.  Troy valued charity and chastity.

St. Benedict Joseph Labre, Pray for us!

At one point I said to Troy, "I like what you're doing.  You've chosen the better part.  When I was young and felt like you did, I robbed banks."  What was unspoken between us was that Troy was in a crisis of meaning and purpose.  God has stirred him up to leave everything behind.  This was a grace, not madness.  He didn't leave a child or wife behind, and he wasn't running away into addiction.  I hope we become good friends and he joins us.

A few days ago Chris and I met another inspired young man while we were walking SE 122nd.  We had ventured into a field to talk with a homeless Asian man named 'Andrew' when the young man snuck up on us.  Andrew was happy to accept a rosary and three bottles of Gatorade since the homeless and addicts often live in a perpetual state of dehydration (some go a whole day without urinating).  When we turned to go we were surprised to see the young man just behind us.  He fumbled into his pocket for money and said, "I know what you guys do out here--why you're out here.   I'd like to help."  He handed me $30 while keeping a few dollars for himself.  I said, "Are you sure?"  He strongly nodded. Though we didn't need the money, I knew that it is gracious to accept a gift, and so I didn't push the matter any further.  I told him we'd buy more Gatorade with it.  Then I invited him to join us.  He laughed and said he had plans tonight.  I shouted after him, "I meant you should join us some time in the future!"  He smiled and drove away in an old beat-up Saab.  He didn't have much money, but the young man had zeal, compassion and a deep sense of purpose to life.

I am gratified and hopeful because God is stirring up good young men like these.  What a blessing to meet them!

Monday, July 17, 2017

More Thoughts On The Conference

There are those who build up the City of God, and there are those who build up the City of Man.  The conference was crowded with those whose passion is to build up the City of God.  In fact, I became so accustomed to seeing supernatural hope and joy in others, that when I stopped for dinner on the drive home I was shocked at the people I saw.  It was at a Subway in Salem, and everyone was weary and withdrawn (save one old lady--bless her!).  Where was the supernatural hope and charity, where were the people who had been regenerated through life in Christ?  Well, many of them were at the conference...

When Cardinal Burke processed in at the first mass in simple attire, everyone turned in expectation, and there were audible gasps and muffled sobs.  The Body of Christ present in the Church, heaved and sighed as one at an honorable prelate who has been chased out of two jobs for living the faith "once handed down".  Later in the conference, Cardinal Burke had to fight back tears whenever his speech briefly touched on the devastation in the Church.  That was my impression as I sat ten feet away.  Later when he visited our parish (St. Stephen's) to offer mass and sit with us for lunch, I noted the joyful twinkle in his eye.  He loves as Jesus loves, and he is loved in return.  Some long time parishioners at Holy Rosary received communion from Cardinal Burke alongside their son with muscular dystrophy (I believe that's the affliction), and afterward the tired and grateful husband leaned his sobbing head against his wife's shoulder.  A rare display of emotion from a very stoic man.

While Cardinal Burke was the headliner, Fr. Gerard Saguto FSSP nearly stole the show.  As I've repeatedly said, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) have the best priests and men around.  They are like the Jesuits of Ignatius's time, or God's Dogs for our time.  When Fr. Saguto took the podium, he looked lean and boney in a worn cassock, and looked every bit the Sicilian.  I leaned over to Tom and said, "He looks like St. Charles Borromeo."  About halfway through his impassioned and luminescent speech, I turned back to Tom and said, "That IS Charles Borromeo!"  Afterwards many conference attendees rushed to place an order for the conference's talks and homilies.  Not bad for a speech on the Offertory of the mass!

Fr. Saguto is in the center

Since we live in darkening times, let me urge everyone to find out which saints God has given you for your care, because we need their strength.  The saints are united to Christ in His Body, and just as Christ imparts his life to the soul, so do the saints "live" in us--especially saints who are our special friends.  When I went up to receive communion from Cardinal Burke, I was conscious of the presence of Blessed Charles within me as I kneeled.  I found it embarrassing, and was worried that Cardinal Burke would discern it and think, "What is this?"  Thankfully he passed along without a pause. Another time I showed Meagan and Dave our brochure, which features a popular image of Blessed Charles.  Afterwards they remarked, "That's neat you put your photo there."  I was taken aback, "What?  That's not me, that's a photo of Blessed Charles de Foucauld!"  Now it was their turn to be taken aback.  I think God briefly clouded their vision so that we could all understand that we should be mistaken for another Blessed Charles, for we are walking in his steps, the footsteps of Christ.

This is NOT me.

Our Spiritual Battle

All of my friends at the conference had trouble sleeping.  One night I simply began my day at 3 am after turning in at midnight.  It was hard to welcome sleep given the graces at work in the conference (gifts of friendship, beauty and understanding), but much of it was from spiritual attack.  The Devil knows his enemies, and the Devil knows his "friends" (or unknowing dupes).  At the conference, both Archbishop Sample and Mother Miriam lamented to me that they discern a palpable demonic gloom over Portland.  Apparently Fr. Michael Gaitley MIC said the same thing when he flew in for a "Morning Glory" conference.  Obviously I've chronicled this phenomenon on the blog when I first began walking the streets.  But I no longer feel under siege.  We are an advancing army breaking through enemy lines.  We have seen the work of God in the most wretched places, and in the most unlikely faces.  We have stood so close to the work of the Holy Spirit, that Chris and I have recoiled in awe, lest we touch the Ark of the Covenant and become obliterated like Uzzah (obviously our sweet Lord wouldn't do that!).

Yes, we live in troubled times.  Pope Emeritus Benedict just implied that the Church seems "to be on the verge of capsizing".  Cardinal Burke seconded his remarks at the St. Stephen's luncheon.  But God is raising up new saints who will invigorate the Church with their zeal and with their transcendent vision, grounded in tradition.  I have chronicled many of these young men on this blog over the years.  There are also young women like Mother Marie of Lourdes or even our own Meagan Montanari.  The Church will regain her beauty and spiritual power even as the world around us slips into a genteel barbarism.  God has known this before the inception of the world.  We live in interesting times, but they are times of great grace.  God has even given us an anointed in our midst.  He foreordained that a little boy in rural Guinea, Africa would one day become pope, and restore the supernatural vision of Christ's Bride.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Conversations From The Sacred Liturgy Conference

The conference is in full swing, and I think I've talked more in the last two days than I normally do in an entire week!  So many conversations with old and new friends.  I haven't seen so many priests and bishops in one place since I was in Rome on my honeymoon.  While I didn't come down here to talk about the apostolate, that's what I've been doing.  I talked to Todd Cooper from the archdiocese about developments since we last talked and he invited me to the annual meetings on both prison and homeless ministry.  Meagan should also probably join me given her background.

I also briefed Archbishop Sample on our efforts as well as the revival of St. Paul Street Evangelization.  I was happy to pass on the news that street evangelization in Portland has more than doubled in the last year, in terms of people doing it as well as hours spent on the street.  Thanks be to God!  When he pressed me on why I don't evangelize downtown, I explained that we largely evangelize where we live (NE and SE).  Then I joked that I'll be evangelizing for thirty more years and I will eventually get to downtown.  He laughed and said that he'll be bishop here even longer, "Thirty two years till retirement age!"  I assured him "No, you'll get kicked upstairs."  He rolled his eyes and replied, "Not with what's going on in the Vatican."  I countered, "Pope Sarah will promote you."  He gave me a weary look as if to say, "We won't be so blessed."  Needless to say I didn't tell him that I had a prophetic experience of that fact a couple years ago.  If I told him that he would have marked me out as a loon!  Well, God bless the loons!

Then I gently lobbied Archbishop Sample (with the help of a wonderful Catholic psychiatrist) for him to extend an invitation to Mother Miriam (the former Rosalind Moss) and her sisters to re-locate to Portland.  Mother Miriam had e-mailed me a day or two before the conference to say that she was coming to the conference and that Portland was her "first choice" to re-locate her Daughters of Mary.  My friends and I were thrilled at the prospect, and we quietly sent word out for everyone to storm heaven with prayers for a favorable resolution.  The charism of Mother Miriam's community would be perfect for Portland.  They work to strengthen the Christian family, and they are active on the streets in their long flowing Benedictine habits.  We know many prostitutes and others who would be delighted to spend time with the sisters. I've been incessantly bugging their patron, St. Francis de Sales, to tickle Archbishop Sample's ear.  Mother Miriam is hopeful, and the signs are favorable.  Actually, she took an e-mail from me was a sign, because out of the blue I notified them that a reliquary of St. Francis de Sales would be arriving from Belgium.  I sent the e-mail right before she was slated to come here to Portland.  She thought, "Wow, that can't be a coincidence".  Well, I hope God is using me without my knowledge!

Mother Miriam holding her vows

The Daughters of Mary have promised to pray for all those we meet on the streets, and so have the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa.  I first met them five years ago in San Rafael, and now again at the conference.  I'm sure they will remember to pray for our friends on the streets, because I gave their Mother Superior a relic and the postulator general's document of her namesake: Marie of Lourdes, that is, St. Bernadette Soubirous (Bernadette's religious name was Sr. Marie Bernard).  Only providence could have made me bring the items to the conference, and only the Holy Spirit could have convinced me to surrender it.  It's all in a good cause.  Relics freely given away are twice as powerful as relics kept for one's own devotion.  Mother Marie of Lourdes did urge us to commend our most difficult cases (the heroin addicts) to Mary, our Mother in Heaven.  I think Chris and Meagan have been doing that all along, zealously handing out Miraculous Medals and rosaries.  I was too dull-minded to fully grasp that until Mother Marie mentioned it.  Thanks be to God.  I featured the Marian Sisters in a photo in this old blogpost.

I enlisted yet more help in prayer by talking to Tom, a spiritual "son" of Blessed Charles de Foucauld.  I first met Tom at the Catholic Men's Conference last December.  I wrote in this blogpost how divine love gently burst from the relic on my chest when I saw Tom kneeling after communion.  Tom is drawn to the apostolate, and I practically begged him to offer prayers for our friends as he attends daily mass.  Tom also shared a heartfelt story of finding reconciliation with his parents before they passed on.  They had been estranged from each other for some time, and by God's grace the wounds were able to be bound up.  There's a lesson there for all of us.  Division is always of the Devil, and we must ruin the Devil's work.  It doesn't matter where the fault lies in a split.  The Christian must always be the peacemaker, even if they absorb more blows while making peace.  For my part, I regret the times in the past when I've been distant from my own father.  My three siblings have distanced themselves from Dad since Mom's death last year.  I'd sooner jump in a pot of boiling oil than join them in that split.  I love my siblings and we get along great, but Mom is not pleased with their separation as she rests in Christ.

Finally, we have some manly bishops at this conference.  Both Archbishop's Vasa and Cordileone communicate real strength and solidity by their very presence.  You can't fake that and you can't manufacture it.  They are simply men "who will not be moved", as the old Baptist hymn has it.  I expect both Archbishop Sample and Archbishop Cordileone will be cardinals in the next ten years.  Deo Gratias!  When I saw Cardinal Burke process into mass the other day, I was worried that age and work had caught up to him.  But he was merely jet-lagged and regained his vigor as the conference wore on. He is such a humble man, and one who is completely misunderstood by a hostile press.  As I watched him walk far behind the train of priests and bishops, as if a man forgotten, I was reminded of a passage from St. Paul:

"For it seems that God has put us apostles at the end of the line.  We have been made a spectacle to the entire world, both angels and men."  I Corinthians 4:9

Meagan and the great Marie B. from 40 Days for Life with their hero, Cardinal Burke.

Monday, July 10, 2017

On The Road Again & An Ave Maria

This week is the Sacred Liturgy Conference in rural Medford, Oregon.  I'm delighted that Archbishop Sample chose beautiful southern Oregon for the conference site.  I'll be in attendance, and I urge anyone who reads this blog to flag me down if they see me there.  Meagan will also make her way down there, perhaps with Marie B. from 40 Days For Life. The conference has sold out twice (the second time after they secured more conference space), and Chris wasn't able to get a ticket.  Aside from such headliners as Cardinal Burke, Archbishop Vasa, and our own ordinary, Archbishop Sample, I've heard that other luminaries will be present (Archbishop Cordileone, Mother Miriam OSB and the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel's Hope).  I have a feeling it will be a tremendous crowd of faithful Catholics.  Prepare to be blown away!

I'll be a little late to the conference because I'm stopping in Eugene (the home of the University of Oregon) to do a little street evangelization with Dave.  Eugene is Oregon's least-churched city, so it should be interesting...

A photo of Meagan talking to Dave. Felix is in the background.

We will be manning a display table again at the upcoming Catholic Men's Conference in Mt. Angel in October. Thanks again to the organizer, James Thurman.

For those who wonder how traditional liturgy intersects with street evangelization, let me share a brief anecdote.  The other day Chris and I wanted to walk a quiet area so we could pray for all of the people we've met, and so we could replenish our souls with prayer.  In truth, we were hoping to avoid running into anyone, but God had other plans of course. As we walked a backstreet praying the rosary in Latin (yes, we are funny), we stopped to chant the last Ave of the decade.  Somehow we didn't see a woman walking her dog across the street.  After we finished she surprised us by remarking how beautiful our harmony was.  She talked of how her late mother loved Latin, and learned the language to aid in her study of botany (plant names are codified in Latin).  She recalled how sad her mother was, when in her 90s, her Latin began to fail.  Then she told us of how her Catholic husband (she is Episcopalian) had died of liver cancer four months before at the age of 52.  The priest from Christ the King parish (just down the street) had visited the home to anoint him.  She happily accepted a rosary, and shared with us her beautiful, strong reflections on sorrow and coping with death.  She described how her husband had taught her what real Christian love is.  She has a deep faith, and a Catholic one in all the little details.  Unfortunately, her deceased husband's children (from his wayward youth) descended on the house in his last days and stole many things--including his ashes!  Please pray for her, her name is Heather.  Also, please pray for the adult children, one of whom is a heroin addict (very common nowadays).

It is doubtful that we ever would have met Heather if we had not been singing in Latin.  It was also evident that Mary had sent us as a little gift of consolation to Heather.  Heather really needed someone to talk to that day.  This is what we were chanting:

Finally, please pray for Chris who is discerning changes to his occupation and housing situation.  He needs the peace that comes from being lifted up in prayer.

Also, you might offer a quick prayer that I find my relic of Blessed Charles de Foucauld.  It has gone missing, and I haven't a clue.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Why I Prefer The Poor

I used to be a snob.  In high school I ceaselessly engineered my rise as a "Somebody", or at least as someone every one knew.  I relished walking down the halls and overhearing: "Woltze's having a kegger on Friday" or "Woltze's looking to fight so and so."  You get the idea.  I wanted all eyes on me, but I also wanted to be above the crowd.  I was also a snob in prison, running with the "solid cons", but I was wise enough to know I'd never be a big shot in the Big House.  After my release, I yearned to be among the intellectual elites, writing books, op-eds and maybe even appearing on Fox News (I was a secular conservative at the time, now I'm just a tradition-loving Catholic).  It seemed like it all might happen as my academic laurels multiplied.  I even tried to dress the part of an "Important Person", wearing Armani, Zegna and Prada (Prada was usually too small for my frame, but I liked tight shirts), and I was a runner and gym rat.  I drank $80 bottles of small batch bourbon and often went out for sushi and fine cuisine (usually with a pretty girl).  I wanted to be one of the "beautiful people".  But it was an illusion in many ways, not least because it was purchased on credit cards!

Here's a photo of me in St. Peter's Square in 2008 wearing designer everything.  How times have changed.  That outfit cost over $1,000 (including the shoes), but you can't buy the peace that Jesus has given me.

That used to be me

So what changed?  Maybe it was slowly understanding that our "elites" (on both right and left) had gotten most things wrong.  After all, if you don't really believe that Jesus and His Kingdom are the "one thing necessary", then you will get most things wrong because "His ways are not our ways".  Maybe it was seeing a vision of a deceased Ted Kennedy on the day of his funeral in horrific shock and melting pain upon receiving his particular judgment.  His giant celebration of a funeral mass (crowded with elites) stood in stark contrast to the truth of his situation.  Maybe it was witnessing a "false sun" moving across the sky, and knowing that nearly all of our mover and shakers were complicit in that false kingdom of God, a lying kingdom of individualism, hedonism, sexual liberation, materialism, scientism, and a shabby peace without the Cross.  Maybe it was noticing that some bishops and cardinals were complicit in that false kingdom, whether through silence, a wink and a nod or even through advocacy.

Maybe it was noticing how my own arrogance and skepticism were the greatest stumbling blocks to divine charity and supernatural hope.

Let me confess that I used to loathe those heterodox priests who proclaimed that the poor were "my people", and always made a show of it even as they sought to liberalize some of the very things that have destroyed the poor (divorce, cohabitation, abortion, narcotics).  Now I pity them as fallen soldiers in the field of spiritual warfare.  They didn't seem to believe in sin--especially the sexual kind--though they definitely believed in their own righteousness and progressivism. Many Jesuits and Paulists (and other dying orders) specialize in this particularly sterile gospel.  May God have mercy on them because we all deserve the true Gospel, especially the poor.  If it weren't for God's overflowing grace into my formerly tight little heart, I would have been an insufferable neocon Catholic.  That's not the Gospel either, as God is so much more interesting than our compromised world views.  I would have greatly wept one day at my particular judgment. I'm sure I will still weep.

If I love the poor it is because Christ has put that love into my heart, but there is a good reason that Jesus loves them.  He loves them because many of them have true contrition and regret even as they fall again and again.  He loves them because they are painfully aware of their weakness, and so often forgive the faults of others.  Jesus loves them because they are real.  They don't put on airs or consider themselves of some account.  We meet them, and ten minutes later we've heard the whole ugly truth of their life story: the tragedies they endured and the sins they have committed.  "Respectable" people wouldn't dream of showing complete strangers their wounds.  In fact, they often go to great lengths to hide or justify their vices.

Some of the poor have given in to hardness of heart, but they are not the poor I am speaking of.  They are fewer than most people imagine, as many poor initially offer a tough exterior.  But the rough facade smoothes out and you realize that the poor "in spirit" are many.  I am not interested in canonizing them.  We often watch in veiled amusement as the "poor in spirit" will occasionally offer a half-hearted lie, but what is that compared to the searing truths they have just offered up?  I confess that I now prefer the poor, something that would be a shock to those who knew me in past decades.

Plenty of those who are not poor are also easy to love, and have a spirit of humility and forgiveness.  But they are not the object of neglect and even derision.  Lately we've gotten plenty of ugly and skeptical looks for literally "eating with poor sinners".  But maybe God is more welcome in an abandoned house in a field, full of heroin "zombies" than he is amidst the hardened hearts of some of their respectable neighbors.  Maybe some of the addicts hate their addiction and yearn for God and his freedom in a way that would make us blush.  Maybe their abandoned house is surrounded by wild flowers, and they are mothered by a warm, ex-biker chick named 'Cindy' who keeps a ready dose of Narcan.  Maybe angels watch over them, and know how the addicts were serially abused, and how they got high for the first time when they were eleven at their mother's prompting.  Maybe that angel looks on in compassion at their charge who was given much less than a talent of silver according to the Most High's Gospel story.  Maybe the angel also looks at Chris and I with compassion because we have been given a vault's worth of talents and Jesus will make a full accounting of us.

These aren't speculations but well-grounded truths.  We know that the "first shall be last, and the last shall be first". Jesus said so, and you can bank on that.