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, 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.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Every Catholic Would Evangelize...

...if they knew the unfathomable love that God has for each poor sinner.

Yesterday Jeff and I walked what is supposedly enemy territory.  For the first time we evangelized the hipster/alternative neighborhoods of Division and Hawthorne.  People intentionally move to the neighborhood so that they can be as far away as possible from whitebread Mormon families or evangelicals asking, "Are you saved?"  There is every kind of ethnic or vegan restaurant and food cart available, hipster barber shops, high-end coffee and even a witchcraft store. There are also the usual "Black Lives Matter" signs along with the post-election sign, "In Our America..."

These signs sprouted up right after the election as a kind of self-righteous protest.  I toyed with the idea of slightly tweaking the sign so as to make a Catholic version since many of the statements can be read in a Christian sense.  It would start out, "LOVE WINS BECAUSE JESUS WON".  In any event, many progressives are yearning for the beauty and goodness of God and His creation, but they are currently in thrall to distortions of His Kingdom.  Sometimes the distortion is cruel or crass enough to reveal the face of the demonic.  Thus, amidst the airy celebration of diversity and "love" and equality is the cruel fact of abortion, like a giant brick smashing their lovely pretenses.  Or the crass fact that the signs are made by a group called, "Nasty Women Get Sh*t Done".  No thank you, count me out!  I prefer the Blessed Virgin Mary, Little Therese and the Little Arab.

Despite all of these obstacles, Jeff and I had a number of significant conversations deep behind enemy lines.  This surprised me, but it shouldn't have.  The enemy lines are artificial, a construct along culture war lines, and a lie perpetuated by the Devil.  Satan has artificially drawn the lines of his kingdom versus God's Kingdom, and many of us fall for the trap.  I am guilty of this, often saying or thinking, "It's impossible to evangelize these neighborhoods.  People move there to get away from religion."  But there's no getting away from God in this life.  He is the Hound of Heaven and He goes where He wills.  Moreover, the hipster and alternative types don't know they are behind "enemy lines" because they are blind to the spiritual combat we are all born into.

Jeff and I had a wide range of encounters.  We were hailed by a patron of a French bistro, had our photo taken with a friendly man outside a bar, and spoke to the usual addicts and homeless.  Our most in-depth encounter was with Sarah and her husband on the sidewalk patio of a bar.  Sarah was covered in tattoos and wore tights decorated with skulls.  Her head was shaved on the sides and back, and was long and dyed green on top.  She looked every bit Irish, and she confirmed she was of Irish descent. Nevertheless, she had been raised without religion and described herself as an agnostic.  She wanted to know why I was no longer an agnostic.  How had I come to faith?  I gave her a short version of my conversion, emphasized that people do have supernatural experiences, and maybe she will have one too.  Her husband became drawn into the conversation.  We bounced around different topics, but things were cut short when an unfriendly waitress asked us to leave.  The waitress's t-shirt had the word "TESTICLES" written prominently across the back.  The enemy certainly thought this was his territory, and he kept sabotaging our conversations that day.

When I got home I thought of Sarah as I hand-washed the dishes.  While I scrubbed, God twice made me feel the unfathomable love he has for Sarah.  The first time I wept in shame.  It is so easy for me to just give up on people who look like Sarah, and think, "Well, they made their choice.  Hopefully she''ll convert when she's old."  After almost four years of walking the streets I have so little hope and charity.  When will I ever learn?  Why don't we see them and love them as Jesus sees them?  Why don't we really trust in his grace, knowing with holy hope that He can do all things?  If we even had the faith of a mustard seed, so many would come to Jesus through us.  Instead we judge by appearances and live our little narrow lives.  I think I've finally learned my lesson.  We will evangelize ALL of Portland.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Why We Walk, Redux

Before I tell the story of Mike Owen and the angelic warning of Hell, I'd like to introduce our readers to a forgotten saint, Blessed Peter of Mogliano OFM (Pietro Corradini).  Blessed Peter lived during the 1400s which was one of the most corrupt periods in Church history.  When he was only thirteen years old he was graced with a vision.  God showed Peter the whole world in ruins.   Then God showed him that the world would be rescued by a single monk.  The vision is reminiscent of Christ's request to St. Francis: "Francis, rebuild my Church."  How can a single man or a small group of men and women have such an impact?  It defies common sense and the ways of the world.

Perhaps Blessed Peter was mindful of this, or perhaps his well-off family pushed him into university, but in either event Peter's life took a more practical turn and he achieved his doctorate in law.  He seemed poised to become a successful man of the world until he experienced a deep conversion upon listening to the sermon of a visiting Franciscan.  He immediately joined the Friars Minor, and walked about Italy converting or gratifying whomever he met.

That's what we'd like to do.  We'd like to walk all over Portland and wherever God invites us (I'm looking at you, San Francisco), always serving as a blessing to everyone we meet.  We'd offer a little sustenance to those on the streets, free quality sacramentals, friendship to whomever wants it, fervent prayer and a little penance, a listening ear and a reliable good word.  That's what we're doing now.  I hope we are an edifying example to all.  We also walk with the conviction that just a handful of dedicated, generous and courageous Christians can restore hundreds of lives that are now in ruins.  If we do this over the coming years, it is because God is asking us to do it, and He is the power and the glory.

The image below is of Blessed Peter at the Holy House of Loreto, communing with the Blessed Virgin and the Christ Child.  The image was imprinted on a church document from 1791 issuing a relic from Blessed Peter's tunic.  I recently bought the document and relic, because these kind of treasures are now available at fire sale prices as churches, convents and monasteries close across Europe.  Blessed Peter of Mogliano, pray for us.  Pray that we have your fortitude, gentleness and never-tiring zeal for re-building the Church!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Two Paths To Hell: Part I, Path I

In the last few weeks we've met two men who have had credible, supernatural warnings about traveling the wide road to eternal damnation.  The first man, David, was a computer programmer and lover of all things "tech", until God disrupted his life two years ago with a series of supernatural visions.  The second man, Mike Owen, was an electrician and ex-military man (dishonorably discharged) who was warned of his current path to damnation in the midst of an ugly divorce. That was five or six years ago, and his life has deteriorated since, with homelessness, addiction and perpetual womanizing.

I met David at Union Station while I was propped up against a brick wall praying over a female addict who had plunged all the way into demonic oppression or even possession.  The woman's noises and contortions were animalistic and lewd. She spoke no language.  She was so scabbed and natty that it appeared that she'd been living in the woods for the past ten years.  David watched us for a while, and then approached just as the woman calmed down.  I was gratified by his intelligent and sensitive face.  He appeared to be in his late twenties.  He asked about the Sacred Heart symbol we wear, and wanted to know what I as all about.  I gave him the joyous five minute version of my story from high school drop-out and convict, to secular academic and then to earnest follower of Jesus.  He asked why I was Catholic, and I reached back into my academic background, and explained that the history of ideas and institutions show that the Catholic church was the early church from the time of Christ.  David said he was raised Catholic and over the next 45 minutes he shared his faith journey with us (Jeff and Chris eventually joined in).

Some years before David had begun the journey to Christ, but he had become wrecked on the shores of revisionist Biblical "scholarship".  These scholars disputed the Word handed down to us, and replaced the Word Incarnate with a tamer Jesus more suited to the vices and errors of the age.  This form of "scholarship" was a characteristic fruit of the "Enlightenment" with its rationalist assault on traditional claims of authority under the pretext of "reason".  Liberal protestantism is the most common form of this error, though it also infected the Church over a century ago with Modernism, and then demonically erupted fifty years ago under the guise of "the Spirit of Vatican II".

Before his conversion, David was a perfect pupil of the Enlightenment.  He immersed himself in the latest technological innovations, and he gloried in the incredibly diverse (and error strewn) world of ideas and debate that was opened up with the eclipse of Christendom.  He spent hours upon hours before his computer screens: programming, reading techie sites and devouring message boards.  But God wanted David for His own, and intervened with a series of supernatural interventions.  These experiences gave David a glimpse of the glory and truth of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. They also included witnessing demons, and an angel denouncing the lies of theological liberalism (including revisionist Biblical scholarship).  In one experience, David watched in awe as God forcibly withdrew a demon from David's computer screen.  For a moment, David was face to face with the wicked spirit that he had been serving through countless hours online. Then God cast the formidable demon away, back into the abyss.  The demon will remain there until some other poor sucker invites the creature in to be the master of his life.

In another supernatural experience, David was on an escalator with a crowd of his peers.  They all had smart phones, were enthralled with the gadgets of modern life, and though polite and tolerant, everyone was essentially ensconced in his own life.  In a word, everyone was alienated: separated from God, separated from each other, and separated from the person whom God made them to be.  While David had the impression that the crowd on the escalator was ascending, he realized at the last moment that they had actually been descending, and that the elevator ended like a cliff--dumping the passengers into the torments of Hell.  David was about to plunge over the edge as the others had down before him when the vision mercifully ended.

After David finished his conversion story, I told him that God had rescued him not just for his own sake, but so that he might witness to others.  God would one day give him a mission or an apostolate, because countless young people are on the wide escalator down to Hell.  It is becoming the norm for young people to live in a cocoon of narcissism and self-gratification, and yet they are self-righteous and believe things are trending up.  In God's mercy, many will be saved, but He desires to save them through faithful Christians like us.  I invited David to join us and put on a tunic if that was God's plan for him (though David is currently an evangelical).  We gave him our brochure and our prayer card, and I urged him to stay in touch.  I doubt that he will contact us because he has sworn off smartphones and computers.  He is still fresh from his conversion experience, and as God continues to strengthen him, we pray that he will reach out and send us an e-mail. Maybe God will even give David an internet apostolate one day.  God is funny like that.

It just so happens that the National Catholic Register has just published a piece on the perils of the "iPhone culture" that complements David's vision.  Go read Jason Craig's article here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Trying To Catch Up

God moves slowly in our lives until He doesn't.  Then He moves with great rapidity.  We have spent a great deal of time on the streets lately: SE 122nd, SE 92nd, NE and SE 82nd, Broadway and Burnside and finally downtown.  It looked like I would walk three days each week for three weeks in a row but I was felled by violent acid reflux.  Walking the streets is quite a time commitment: three hours at a minimum including driving time, and sometimes even five hours if we hear daily mass first and talk to lots of people.  Then there's the time we spend buying and storing Gatorade, sacramentals and prayer cards.  Lately I've had to shop for wool for a permanent tunic for Jeff, and then double-check the pattern and give it to my seamstress.  I've also been trying to update the website to reflect the little changes in the apostolate, especially what typically happens when we walk the streets.  God has obviously directed us to the most neglected in the city, and He has us open hearts by offering cold drinks and sacramentals.  The "regular" or "normal" denizens of Portland (those who don't live on the streets) see us, and many are moved and intrigued, and some even talk to us.

The other day at adoration, God gave Chris some strong words for me about the apostolate.  As always, I am certain that the words came from God and not Chris.  The first thing Chris heard was, "Tell Scott that it's My apostolate and not his.  If he doesn't do as I will, I will take it away and give this work to someone else."

OUCH!!!  Those are tough words, but Jesus was very tough on the Twelve Apostles.  Still, it was a welcome message since I have had the sub-conscious understanding that it was my show, and was even keen to limit the apostolate to whatever my time and energy would allow.  But God's message was that he was giving me wonderful human helpers and also the grace to stretch my time and energy.  The other day I was pleased to watch Meagan's little boy alongside my own children at home while Meagan, Jeff and Chris walked the familiar route from The Grotto.  What a delight to have them walk without me!  I have also been very proud at daily mass at Holy Rosary (our new base of operations for walking downtown) to see Meagan, Jeff and even Chris there.  There we are, fools and soldiers for Christ, "urban missionaries", scattered throughout the pews.

God also intimated to Chris that the apostolate was a significant work (hence, for the need to get me out of the way), and that if a person desires to give us money then we should accept.  Chris had the impression that God was talking about a largish donation rather than "crowd-funding".  We don't need donations at this point as we can adequately fund our apostolate through our own means, but God must have something different, something bigger in mind.  Only He knows.

Some Protestants We've Met 

We've met many intriguing people this Summer, and I wish I had more time to share their stories with our readers.  I was going to write about Melvyn, a homeless ex-con and protestant who claimed to have the entire Book of Proverbs memorized, but I fear I would have been too hard on him by contrasting him with Andrew.  Nevertheless, there is something very Catholic about Andrew's simple and humble and almost silent spirituality, and something very Protestant about Melvyn's wizardry with words and ability to memorize the Bible.  Melvyn was adept at conjuring images from Revelations about the Heavenly Jerusalem descending, and casting his sins into the river of life to be cleansed, but so much of it was just words.  His companions groaned as Melvyn took evident glee in his sermonizing, and I found myself more interested in Melvyn's "solid con" friend, Kevin.  Kevin was a man after my own heart.  He had done ten years in prison, and like me, he didn't find Jesus in "the joint".  Unlike Melvyn, he was too strong in the convict way to take refuge in religion behind bars, but he turned to Jesus once he got out.  Now I could see Jesus beckoning behind Kevin's tired blue eyes, "Come to me, all you who labor and are weary, and I will give you rest."  Please pray for Kevin and Melvyn.

I can't wait to see the Heavenly Jerusalem, the City of God.

Protestants come in a variety of flavors, though lately we keep hearing, "You know Jesus isn't still nailed to the cross?" Well, yes and no.  In a mystical sense, Jesus is still undergoing His Passion for our sins, and that's why He turns to us to share in His Passion.  We've also been hearing a lot of questions about whether we are knights templars.  Ha ha!  One protestant who knows what we are about is Pastor Colin Brown, a Lutheran minister originally from England.  He flagged us down and asked us if we happened to be affiliated with a certain monk from North Africa.  We beamed with smiles. Here was another friend of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, and on SE 82nd no less!  We exchanged stories, and I showed him my relic (still missing) of Blessed Charles de Foucauld.  Pastor Brown bowed his head in veneration of the relic, and touched it while praying silently.  I marveled at the sight of a Lutheran minister venerating our patron saint.  Pastor Brown talked of his Catholic sympathies and I told him of the "pastoral provision" whereby protestant ministers might become Catholic priests.  Pastor Brown was a good man and a delight to talk to.  Pray that he'll "swim the Tiber".

Another person who could use your prayers is Joanie, whose home was just foreclosed and sold at auction yesterday. Chris and I met Joanie while handing out cold drinks in the sweltering heat.  Joanie was also walking the back pathways looking to give out cold water to those on the streets.  We struck up an instant rapport, and she told me her life story.  Last year at the age of 39, she had tried meth for the first time, and had quickly became hooked.  Her daughter had already been addicted for some time as had her boyfriend, Tim.  Joanie soon lost her job and everything fell apart.  Now she has been clean for a month, and has found some support in a local Baptist church.  She has a big heart and a warm smile, and wants to help those who are hurting.  I wanted to encourage her in her sense of mission and charity, and so I dropped off $50 worth of Gatorade at her house for her to distribute during the heat wave.  Please pray for Joanie and her family.  She really needs the sacraments of the Church to help her stay clean (as Meagan rightly insists).  I also fear she will soon find herself homeless.

Fr. Carney on EWTN

Fr. Lawrence Carney, the "walking priest", was on Jim and Joy Pinto's show the other day.  Fr. Carney's simplicity and humility, his quiet soul bursting with holy hope, is a gentle chastisement for all of us with noisy souls.   That goes for me and for so many in the Church, especially in her halls of influence and power.  Treat yourself to a cleansing spiritual shower, and watch Fr. Carney, one of God's chosen.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"Do You Want To Be Right, Or Do You Want To Make Money?"

The title of this post comes from a common expression on Wall Street, and in investing circles more generally.  It's a maxim about knowing when to swallow your pride and abandon your cherished, failed projects in favor of something else that might work.  It's about the bias we have toward our own precious opinions and preferences even though we've obviously bet on the wrong horse (or the wrong stocks or bonds or real estate).  It is a crass maxim, but one worth remembering.

There are many in the Church today, especially older lay folk and clergy of all ranks, who need to admit their projects have largely been a failure in the past five decades, and they need to honestly ask themselves,

"Do you want to be right, or do you want to see souls re-born in Jesus Christ?"

God is posing that question because the evidence is there for all to see, and they will have to answer to Jesus if they persist in their pride.

Chris and I have walked the streets again for the last three days (joined twice by Jeff and once by Meagan), and we ran into numerous fallen-away Catholics.  These were men and women who were fifty or older, and we know the numbers are even worse among the young.  We are not passing along the faith to the next generations.  Period.  End of story.

Meanwhile God is pulling men and women out of the rubble of our post-Christian civilization, healing them, and then guiding them to robustly orthodox parishes where there is beautiful, serious liturgy (worship), and where the faith is lived and taught in all it's divine glory among passionate friends.  This apostolate is entirely comprised of men and women like that, and such men and women are the Church of tomorrow.  They are deep in prayer, they relish listening and speaking of the things of Jesus Christ and His Bride the Church, and they go to confession every 7-10 days.  They have no time for squishiness or novelty, but desire to walk in the brilliant and bloody footsteps of the saints who have walked before them.

Yesterday I spoke on the streets for over an hour to David, a young man who was raised a Catholic.  He now attends an evangelical presbyterian church, and is orthodox in Christology, Biblical hermeneutics, etc.  In other words, he is a devout, committed Christian.  God pulled him from the world (specifically, from slavery to his computer--more on that in a future post) through a stunning series of supernatural experiences.  In these experiences, David was explicitly warned about the lies of theological liberalism (or Modernism more generally).  This is the disease--in all it's manifestations--that has emptied our churches.  That is why Blessed John Henry Newman famously declared in his Biglietto speech (upon receiving his cardinal's hat),

"For thirty, forty, and fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion."

I encourage you to check out a brilliant and brief "manifesto" on these matters by a spiritual son of Cardinal Newman, Fr. Ed Tomlinson of the Anglican Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.  Here is a taste:

We reap what we sow. And the current harvest – spiritually meagre- has been sown since the late 20th Century; I speak of that modernist trend which stripped altars, turned focus from God to man, ripped out communion rails, ended devotional practices, threw away sacred images and embraced the groove of the world. Those who watered down doctrine to appease the world promised us relevance and growth. What bitter irony! God, it seems, will not be mocked. Thus, wherever modernism prevailed, witness decay. The closure of seminaries and parishes, the abandonment of faith in the culture.

What does this say? Why do so many prelates continue with the model that is failing? Is anyone in the hierarchy considering why growth is linked to orthodox witness? Or do they ignore it because this growth is ‘the wrong sort’ and linked to a robust Christian witness which they themselves fear as being too rigid and uncompromising to the Spirit of this world?
Yet despite little encouragement from on high the little shoots of growth continue to sprout. It is like the end of Winter in Narnia. Witness the hunger in younger Christians for a fulsome faith. Be that Extraordinary Rite or Ordinariate or just a more orthodox and faithful interpretation of the Novus Ordo. Such things give me hope. Surely Pope Benedict XVI was right when he recently stated, “God wins in the end.”