Friday, December 8, 2017

Radio Interview, Part II

Here is the second part of my interview with Patrick Ryan on The Thirsty Catholic Show.  Pat and I had an enjoyable lunch over soul food and bbq.  Pat's the kind of guy that Jesus set aside from the beginning of time to feed the faithful of today and to re-build the Church of tomorrow.  I am continually gratified when I meet faithful and zealous men like Pat Ryan.

Lately I've been doing a lot of meetings and outreach to the local church to seek advice and counsel on the future of the apostolate.  I've completed all of the paperwork to submit our 501c3 non-profit paperwork, though I won't file unless I hear from a certain local Catholic philanthropist.  It seemed God and Blessed Charles kept directing me to this good man, and so I reached out to him and him alone.  God's will be done.

Meagan and I are going to walk with Brian Willis of Global Health Promise on Monday.  Brian has dedicated his life to helping women and children who are victims (or potential victims) of the sex-trafficking trade.  Brian has done research and set up programs in places like Uganda and Cambodia, and has a local initiative as well, called Our Mother's House. Obviously we have met and befriended many prostitutes, and so we are happy to collaborate with Brian in any way we can.  Brian is seeking female volunteers to staff Our Mother's House.  Contact myself or Brian if you are potentially interested.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Celebrating the Feast Day of Blessed Charles de Foucauld

Today is the 101st anniversary of the day that Brother Charles of Jesus was murdered outside of his little monastery fort in the Sahara.  In commemoration of his feast day, we attended mass and then walked up NE Broadway, meeting some old friends and making some new ones as well.

I was on Mater Dei radio this evening giving an interview about the apostolate.  You can listen to the first part of the interview here, while the second part will air at 7:30pm PST next Friday.  I found it ironic that Blessed Charles is famous for imitating Jesus' "hidden life of Nazareth", and there I am on the radio in a penultimately public forum on his feast day. In fact, I have often wondered how we fit into the large and geographically diverse "spiritual family" of Blessed Charles. Brother Charles wanted the lowest and most hidden place, and yet we are a very visible presence in the city.  He wanted to imitate Jesus at Nazareth, and yet we sometimes seem closer to imitating Jesus in his public ministry.  Yet we don't preach and we certainly don't work miracles.  Although sometimes we beg for miracles!  In any event, we didn't choose Blessed Charles, but he chose us.  He must know what he's doing, and he's even reinforced that call in recent months.

Blessed Charles of Jesus, pray for us!
Beati Caroli a Iesu, ora pro nobis!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pray For Those We Meet

I've added a new link to the side bar of the blog.  It's a list of all the significant encounters that we've had since the apostolate began.  We try to keep a list of our memorable encounters so that we might remember to pray for them, offer little sacrifices and commend them to Jesus during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Now I've made the list public so that our readers might pray for them, too.  I strongly encourage you to offer them up to the Father of Mercies as you are able.

Just in the last week we've witnessed enough suffering and filth to stun the mind.  That kind of suffering brings a stark choice before the mind: either Jesus is the suffering messiah who redeemed our fallen state through his superabundant sacrifice or our lives are ultimately meaningless.  Nothing else makes sense: certainly not other religions or secularist attempts to "re-found" human meaning post-Christianity.  Only orthodox Christianity has a true and beautiful answer for the problem of suffering.  This was clear to me after Chris discovered an elderly homeless woman hiding under a shopping cart and blanket.  It didn't appear that a person could be under the cart and the flat, rumpled blanket, but Chris insisted he saw a hand.  I knelt down and saw the poor woman on the cold pavement.  Her face was swollen and her eyes were full of fear.  She wasn't afraid of me, but of the world outside her tiny encampment.  She wouldn't even give me her name, saying "What does it matter?"  She gladly accepted the warmest wool socks we had and just wanted to be left alone.  She shivered the whole time I spoke to her, wracked with physical and mental anguish.

"Jesus the Homeless" sculpture.  Notice the pierced feet.

I thought I was beyond being shocked, but I suppose it is a grace that I haven't become numb to miserable things.  Just the day before, Shawn and I met a twenty-year old prostitute named 'Rachel' at 7/11, and had to watch as a skeletal seventy year old man picked her up in his brand new SUV.  We watched them settle on a price and "services" in the parking lot of the Social Services building as we listened to a Hispanic man, Richard, tell us about his near death experiences. Rachel had dropped her sweatshirt in the parking lot, and I went and picked it up as a pretext for talking with them.  I gave the sweatshirt to Rachel and was surprised that the old man acknowledged me and spoke.  "What is that?" he asked, gesturing at the tunic.   "It's the Sacred Heart of Jesus."  "No, not that.  I mean what are you doing out there? Are you a pastor?"  I could tell by an inflection in his voice that he thought pastor-types were self-righteous and full of pride, so I offered, "No, I'm just a schmuck who walks around and talks to people."  At that point Rachel put her finger on the window control and gave me a look as if to say, "Okay, bye."  She rolled up the window and the car backed up fifteen yards.

Rachel emerged a couple minutes later from the car, and I studied her face as I sat with Shawn and Richard.  Her face was flushed, and fighting off an underlying sense of trauma and disgust.  Some of her young friends had just shown up, and she submerged her misery and waved the money in the air, shouting, "He paid good money!"  Her friend, an attractive young Hispanic girl, wondered if he had more, but the skeletal old man was done for the day.

Shawn had shot me darting glances after the SUV had backed up and wondered why we didn't break up the liaison.  It would have soothed our moral outrage for a moment, but then there would have been another "John" just as soon as we left.  God honors our freedom even when we are destroying ourselves, although I wish the police had shown up. Sometimes God sends us messengers to bring us back from the brink.  While Rachel was in the SUV, Richard told us of the time he tried to hang himself from a punching bag chain.  As he put the rope around his neck he began to see "little babies" flying past his feet, back and forth.  Shawn and I recognized them as angelic Cherubim.  The Cherubim were silent, but were a sign that God is ever-present.  God was also present to Richard when a car he was repairing fell on him at the age of sixteen.  God was present when Richard chose drugs and the convict lifestyle, when he went to prison, and now, as he struggles with alcoholism.  Richard has a deep faith, and he can talk about Jesus and the Holy Spirit until the sun sets.  I told him that God probably spared him twice because He wants him to be a messenger of the Gospel and care for people like Rachel.  Richard knows this.  Shawn and I also tried to be messengers to Rachel.  We doted on her, offering her wool socks, a rosary, Gatorade, etc.  When she dropped her wallet and the contents spilled everywhere, I hastened to gather them up.  We tried to show her that she matters, that she's known and deserving of care and respect.  We pray that she will understand that one day, and bask in the loving light of her Savior.

Please join us and pray for our friends on the streets.  Allow yourself to be wounded by their suffering, just as the Heart of Jesus is beaten and bruised by the misery of His poor children.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sad News

"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
                                                                                            Gospel of John, 15:13

This weekend we lost a friend of the apostolate, and a true son of Blessed Charles de Foucauld.  Deacon Patrick Logsdon was murdered by one of the ex-convicts he faithfully ministered to for over thirty-three years at Anthony House, a transitional home on Long Island, New York.  Deacon Pat took on the hardest cases, and invited men who served twenty years or more in the roughest prisons to come live with him.  I was not surprised to learn that the good deacon preferred to sleep on the floor, and had no real possessions to speak of.  His life was prayer and the men he loved with a wily love (no fool was he).

Anthony House, Long Island

I only spoke to him once over a two hour phone conversation.  He sought me out because Blessed Charles de Foucauld had sought us both out, and because I was an ex-con.  In that conversation I understood the immense need for good Catholic men to be out on the streets, and that only an army of such men could begin to meet the need that is out there. Deacon Pat certainly did his part, and I find it telling that he died at his home, among those whom he had set about to save, just like Blessed Charles de Foucauld.  I wish I could post a photo of Deacon Pat, but he wasn't the kind of guy who posted photos of himself online.  I do know that Deacon Pat would want us to pray for the soul of his killer, so please pray for Andre Patton. We don't want any of those Christ redeemed to be lost.

Matthew Manint, another friend of the apostolate and a close friend of Deacon Pat, just wrote a reflection on a traditional requiem mass a day before Deacon Pat's death.  It was a mass full of consolations and wonders from God, surely because God knew he was about take Matthew's friend.  I would encourage you to read Matthew's thoughts about our cry of "Kyrie Eleison", and Christ's response of giving Himself completely to us in the Eucharist.

Lord have mercy.  Lord have mercy.  Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.  Christ have mercy.  Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.  Lord have mercy.  Lord have mercy.

Monday, October 30, 2017

News of the Apostolate: Onward And Upward

We are nearing the close of the dry season in Portland, and in some sense, the season of evangelization.  Though we'll still walk from November through February, the "sweet spot" for evangelization is March through October.  I remember walking last Winter with Chris.  We shrugged off head colds and bad weather, and we tried to get out and pray in the muck.  I remember wondering what the coming Spring would be like for the apostolate, whether there would be a big harvest.

Well, the harvest exceeded our hopes, and it was a dizzying season of evangelization.  Just as the world is lulled into quiet in Winter, only to burst with life in Spring, so went the apostolate.  First we met Meagan and watched in wonder at her multi-fold talents in evangelization and organization.  Then Jeff joined us and pretty soon we were following him in chanting the rosary in Latin.  Next we spread out into many new parts of the city as Archbishop Sample had prompted. Our friend Shawn started walking with us, and yesterday we were joined for the first time by another young man, Justin. We also have several friends of the apostolate in retirement (Dave, Tom and Willie).  We like to share ideas with them and ask for their prayers for our friends on the streets.

I'm having three new tunics made (sizes XL, L and M) since it seems like we'll need them.  We've also begun to take a serious look at starting our Jesus Caritas House.  It would be a place of hospitality, fellowship and prayer for our group and our friends on the street.  Some of our group would live there and share a common life of prayer.  We would meet at the house for fraternity, BBQs, book discussions, and whatever builds us up as men of faith.  Our friends on the street would be welcome to drop by and share a meal, pray and hang out with us, and we would help them in whatever way we are able.  In sum, it would be a place of deep prayer and radical hospitality.  Perhaps we might even open such a house in 12 months...

The Men's Conference we attended had some disappointing moments, but it ended on a high note (at least for the apostolate). There was a lot of talk at the conference about prayer, but since one of the speakers kept running over his allotted time then the Angelus and Divine Mercy chaplet were dropped from the schedule.  That was a terrible idea, not least because one of the plagues of the Church today is talk, talk talk.  That's why Cardinal Sarah wrote a book called, The Power of Silence. Also, conference talks are quickly forgotten, but what is not forgotten is when hundreds of men kneel and pray and adore the Eucharist together for an hour or more.  That is powerful, and that is what we should have done.  The same speaker also kept mistaking his right wing American sensibilities for "the faith once handed down".  A great deal of his talk was on self-defense, but not against the world the flesh and the Devil, but against addicts and ex-cons who might molest one's property or family.  But those are the very people with whom we spend our precious free time!  Maybe more Catholics should push past their anxiety and actually minister to the homeless, addicts and ex-cons? Isn't that the life of Beatitude and the will of God?

One of the beautiful parts of the conference was that people recognized us and mentioned that they've seen us on the streets.  The director of Mater Dei radio, Patrick Ryan, said that he's seen us many times, and that we are appreciated, especially by Fr. Boyle OSM at The Grotto.  I'm delighted, especially since we'd like to start our Jesus Caritas House near The Grotto.  I'm also proud of the fact that our efforts are appreciated by a diverse group of priests and laypeople.  We try to show by example that there's no tension between loving beautiful liturgy, prayer and Catholic tradition as well as loving and serving the most neglected.  That is what the saints have always done, including St. Francis and Blessed Charles de Foucauld.  May we always be an edifying and thought-provoking example to all we meet.  In fact, just yesterday we met a Dutch Jesuit priest near The Grotto who was traveling and on sabbatical.  He gathered us together and gave us his priestly blessing right there on NE 82nd.  Maybe he'll start a group like ours back in Holland?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Upcoming Men's Conference

Once again we'll be hosting an information table at the Holy League Catholic Men's Conference this Friday and Saturday at Mt. Angel.  Chris won't be able to make it, but Jeff and Shawn will be there to help me man the table.  Hopefully Felix from St. Paul Street Evangelization will also join us.  Drop by and talk to us!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Two Paths To Hell: Part II, Path II

[For the first part of this series, click here.]

On the evening we met Mike Owen, there were four of us men walking together in tunics.  There was Chris, Jeff and myself, and we were joined for the first time by Shawn, the organizer of the Men's Group at St. Stephen's parish.  We stopped by the now-closed Clackamas Social Services office (torched by arson), and distributed cold Gatorade to the various street people who were gathered outside.  Then we walked the narrow stretch up SE 82nd past used car dealerships to a 7-11 and the surrounding seedy motels.  There we found Mike Owen laying on the pavement next to a shirtless young man with red hair who repeatedly picked at his scabs.  Both men were still high on meth, and each stayed glued to the pavement during our 45 minute conversation.

It seemed our exchange would be a brief one until I urged Mike to recite a chapter from the Gospel of John that he had memorized.  Mike recited it flawlessly, and once the Word was released into the air he couldn't stop talking about his life and how he got to be homeless at the age of 40.  Mike had plenty of advantages growing up: he was intelligent and good-looking, and his father was a master electrician who tried to bring him into the family business.  Unfortunately Mike had his father's temper, and Mike enjoyed letting his passions control his life.  Mike would work hard and then party harder, eventually quarreling his way out of the family business.  The same thing happened in the military where he was dishonorably discharged.  Mike then took up carpentry and married one of his sweethearts.  Mike liked women too much to be married to any one woman, and his wife felt the same way about men.  They each craved the intoxication that they could get from a new love interest: the romance and challenge of the chase, and then coveting and making another person's body their own.  Eventually they added new intoxications, and so turned to meth and other drugs.  Mike soon lost his job, and things went down and then down and then even further down.  He and his wife were constantly fighting, and they came to despise each other.  Then God intervened.  One day while driving Mike looked at his wife with disgust, and then by a supernatural feat his wife's face morphed into his own!  God was showing Mike that he was the same "lying, cheating, filthy, dishonest person" as his wife.  He was exactly what he hated in his wife.  Then his guardian angel clearly said to him, "Mike, if you continue on this way you will go to Hell."  Mike stopped the car in a panic, threw open the door and started running.  He never looked back.

Mike began to study the Bible and try to practice the faith, but his passions always got the better of him.  He suffered a back injury, and used it as a ready excuse to self-medicate himself.  Mike could never shake the reality of God and Hell, but he bowed to his weak and sinful ways and tried to strike a compromise.  He would do drugs, but he wouldn't lie or steal.  He would womanize, but only those women who were already "fallen" like him.  He said he was resigned to what he called "the upper level of Hell" or what we Catholics understand as Purgatory.  He believed that he would be in a state of punishment and purification in the next life, but that one day he would be released through God's mercy and his constant profession of Jesus as the Christ.  Mike was presuming on God's mercy, and we should never aim for Purgatory, but Mike also gave us reasons for hope.  While talking to Chris and Shawn, he relieved his conscience and admitted to beating his dog so that it eventually died of internal injuries.  It was clear that Mike didn't want to face this guilt at first, but he finally came clean amidst sorrow since nothing is hidden from the living God.

Romanticism and the Enlightenment

I found it curious that we had met two different men in such a short space of time who each had supernatural warnings of Hell.  After reflecting on this fact, I realized that these two men had each travelled a different road to Hell, and that the two roads corresponded to the two great errors of the previous three centuries.  In the first part of this series I described how David was a progeny of the Enlightenment in his deification of technology and reason.  By contrast, Mike was a progeny of the Romantic movement and so deified women and his sentiments.  While the Enlightenment was a disorder of reason and the life of the mind, the Romantic movement was a disorder of the heart and the affections.  These two corruptions have shaped culture and society in the West, and have led to the current apostasy and widespread alienation from one's self, the other and God.  They are among the Devil's greatest triumphs, along with the Protestant revolt and the schism between East and West. The philosopher Peter Kreeft and I once had a brief conversation to that effect.

A painting of the Romantic period by Girondet.  Notice the beauty and tragedy of the young lovers versus the grim visage of the monk.

If you would like a primer on Romanticism, read this little article on "How Romanticism Ruins Marriages" by the America Needs Fatima folks.

Speaking of Fatima, today is the one-hundred year anniversary of the Great Miracle of the Sun at Fatima.  May the Blessed Virgin Mary triumph though her Immaculate Heart.  May she intercede for us to her Beloved Son, so that we might possess clean hearts.  May she finally crush the head of Satan, that ancient serpent, as foretold in the Book of Revelation.