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.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Watching For The Harvest

A wise man told me that when something is of God it takes a long time for it to come to fruition.

                                                                          --Fr. Lawrence Carney, Walking The Road To God

Something has changed in the apostolate.  Something has changed in me, and there is movement in Chris, too.  We have entered a more fruitful time after years of sowing.  The hand of God has seemed more present, and even urgent at times.  Now when we go out, I feel like I could walk forever.  Fatigue and stress have faded away, except when the street tops 95 degrees (after all, we are wearing wool!).  We've been staying out on the streets about an hour longer than before because we talk to so many people and have formed so many relationships.   I was once glad to be "done" with the ministry for the day, but now I only turn back in sadness.  I once dreamed of doing the ministry all day, but I wasn't sure what that would look like or even if I could bear with it.  I no longer have such questions, and neither does Chris or Meagan.  We would simply cover a greater portion of the city, and would be glad to do it.

I always thought that the path to union with God was a long, slow, arduous ascent.  That's fundamentally true, but sometimes God just picks you up and tosses you higher up the mountain.  I was thrown up the mountain of God a couple months ago, and it was disorienting.

It was blissful to practice deep mental prayer throughout the day, often holding up those we've met on the streets to God's merciful gaze, but I didn't want to continue in such divine intimacy.  God was too close, and was giving me gifts that I felt unworthy of.  So I finally sabotaged them!  We poor sinners would rather have our comfort zone, our autonomy, than enjoy greater gifts from God.  Thankfully God is patient, and thankfully God put the gifts to some use in our apostolate. So on one occasion I warned Chris that God would be giving him similar gifts, and he shouldn't resist them as I had eventually done.  About two weeks later Chris was at work and the Holy Spirit came into his heart, filling it with consolations.  His person was rapt with the following words:

Share the good news!  People need to know how much I love them.  Announce to them the immensity of the Lord's love, and let them work out how they respond.  There are hearts that are so broken, so discouraged that the idea of a merciful God is unfathomable!

Chris said he was "pretty much worthless" after that at his desk.  He ignored his stack of work and turned the thoughts over and over in his mind, peeking at his co-workers whom Jesus redeemed on the Cross.  Perhaps he was now seeing them with fresh eyes.

I think the faithful--those "deep in Christ"--will see many wonders over the coming decades provided they go forward in apostolic fervor.  These won't be great public wonders, but little miracles in the fabric of life that will convert weary sinners, strengthen the weak and cause the faithful to rejoice.  Fr. Carney makes a similar prediction on the Camino to a devout Spanish woman who glumly declares, "The Catholic faith in Spain is dead."  Fr. Carney counters,

God does not abandon His Church.  He is raising up holy men and women who will receive graces the world has not seen for centuries.  You can become a part of it if you become a woman of deep prayer.

Amen.  May we all answer the call.

Waiting on the Harvest

There was a phrase that struck me from Chris's experience of the Holy Spirit: "let them work out how they respond."  God does not impose himself, but works through attraction, luring those who would be lured.  All we can do is offer an alternative way of seeing and living, one in tune with everything that lasts and has value.  Some of the wounded souls we have met have been deep in scripture at one time or another in their lives.  For example, Tim or "Tobit", who we met a month ago outside a McDonalds, can quote chapter and verse of St. Paul.  Perhaps he studied the Bible while in prison (like Jeff and Toby--two other ex-cons we've met).  Even though Tim has heard the Gospel, he's going south right now.  A month ago he was hale and hearty with a thumping barrel chest even though he was crashing hard from meth with his friend Janelle.  The other day I barely recognized him, as he looked 20 years older and was barely coherent.  We gave him a bottle of Gatorade, and he revived after some hydration, but he seems determined to "keep the party going".  What a miserable party.

Others have never heard the Gospel.  Julian flagged us down yesterday for a free, cold drink.  Though he was tall and muscular, Julian was weak and weary, muttering that he hoped he'd be re-incarnated to a better life.  I told him that God knew him before the world was ever made, that he loved him and sent an angel to guide him who is with us even now. Julian was listening, and with some emotion behind his sunglasses.  Then a tramp stole his bag of cans for recycling that he had put some distance away while he chased us down. Julian ran to retrieve his cans, and the encounter was over. We had similarly "lost" a prostitute, Becky, whom we had given a rosary to, when one of her regular customers pulled up in his car.  Satan was sweating to ruin our labors in the 105 degree heat.

Some of our friends on the street are emphatically weary of the hobo life or the life of an addict.  Some have homes and work and families, but the yearning for heroin rarely leaves them.  Yesterday we met Shane, who is a "functioning" addict who works as an arborist.  He's only been clean eleven days, and he's desperate for spiritual support and friendship.  His addict friends keep coming by the house looking to get "rigged up" because they can't do it themselves. Shane pleaded with us to stand by him and be available to him.  We plan on seeing him today.  It would be easier if we had a Jesus Caritas House where people like Shane, Jeff, Patrick (a former altar boy at St. Stephen's), Tiki and many others could drop by for friendship and support.  I believe we will have such a house one day, though it may be far off.  Our friends face a rough road to true freedom in Christ, but they have the sincere desire.  The other day Tiki had shot-up in the port-o-potty with Sed and wouldn't come out because she was too embarrassed to see us.  We love her and will stand by her, but shame is healthy sign of a person of good will.  Sed was a little sheepish, though not so penitent.  Nevertheless, he looked like a "soldier for Christ" as he was geared up wearing a rosary, a Miraculous Medal and a Sacred Heart badge.  A veritable St. Ignatius of Loyola!  His addiction is no joke, nor are the demons that prey on him, but he once came running after us after hearing that we give out free rosaries.  Our Lady is drawing his heart back to her son, Jesus, the wellspring of life.  Please remember all of our friends in your prayers, and especially during the elevation at Holy Mass.

Monday, June 12, 2017

God Has Made Us Dreamers

A few days ago I finished Fr. Carney's chronicle of his street evangelization apostolate, Walking the Road to God.  I didn't want to finish the book because then the "friendship" between author and reader would end, or at least fade away. Kind of like the bittersweet experience of dropping a friend off at the airport for their long flight home.

One thing that struck me about Fr. Carney is that he is full of beautiful dreams about the future of his apostolate.  Many of the best Christians I know are also dreamers.  Chris dreams of becoming ordained to minister in Iraq (in the Chaldean rite) or in other Middle Eastern lands where Christians suffer violent persecution.  The first Franciscans shared a similar dream, and some were even martyred.  Meagan dreams of opening a home for women on the streets, perhaps because such a home was the means for her returning to life in God.  And Felix is perhaps the greatest dreamer I have ever met!

It is appropriate that we should dream.  First, because we are exiles, and exiles always dream in hope of their homeland. For us, our homeland is the Kingdom of Heaven, and our dreamed-for apostolates are would-be pillars in that kingdom. Let me insist on this point.  Marino Restrepo once said that as he toured Catholic pilgrimage sites he had a mystical apprehension that each site was like a little piece of the City of God come down from Heaven.  In other words, Heaven begins now, and places like Lourdes and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe are little pillars of the Heavenly Jerusalem that bridge Heaven and earth.  So when we dream of our apostolates and the good they can do, we are praying in hope for the Kingdom of God to dwell on earth.

                                       Here is Marino Restrepo's conversion testimony--the best on youtube!

The other reason we dream is because dreaming is the mark of children, and if we aren't spiritual children then we haven't gotten very far in the spiritual life!  Children dream because they have innocence, hope, faith and wonder.  St. Bernadette Soubirous used to dream through her needlework, fashioning fantastic animals and flowers that no one had ever imagined before.  The sisters in her convent suspected that she was making things she had seen in the Kingdom of Heaven.

We know that the essence of our dreams will be fulfilled (and vastly surpassed!) when we reach the Kingdom of Heaven, but will our apostolates take on the form of our dreams?  Blessed Charles de Foucauld dreamed of living as a hermit on The Mount of Olives, and tried to purchase the land (this was still possible 150 years ago), but he was swindled out of his money by a man who held a counterfeit deed.  He also wrote a religious constitution and tried to form a new religious order, but no men came or at least stayed. His beloved Trappist abbot read his proposed constitutions and was "horrified" by their rigor.  The rule was more exacting than even the first Franciscan constitution.  So Blessed Charles's dreams were dashed, at least in his lifetime.

Fr. Carney's Dream: Canons Regular of St. Martin of Tours

Fr. Carney has also written a rule or religious constitution.  The rule envisions twenty-five or even fifty religious evangelizing from their monastery in the very heart of the city.  He calls them “city monks”.  They would evangelize, and then return “for Vespers, a meal with table reading, recreation with the monks and lay men, Compline and monastic silence.”  He writes elsewhere, “We could be canons regular at home and apostles abroad…we could learn to chant the Divine Office Roman style in the morning and evenings, and walk around spreading devotion to the Rosary in the afternoons.  We would need a monastery in the middle of the city where people could walk into church while the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated and Gregorian Chant is prayed from the Roman Breviary.”

It is a beautiful dream, and it might even convert a city.  Much like today's saint (from the old pre-1969 calendar) St. John of St. Facondo once brought divine life back to Salamanca.  There are many such examples since the time of Christ.  Fr. Carney likes to use the example of St. Francise de Sales in Calvinist Savoy: after three years he had no converts, but twenty-five years later he had 70,000!

Fr. Carney walking St Joseph.  Photo by Dougal Brownlie

Our Dream: A Jesus Caritas House, Evangelizing All Day

I share Fr. Carney's dream for my home of Portland, though my vision is one for laymen.  When I was given this apostolate several years back, I sketched out my dream in the giddy hope of the Holy Spirit.  I wrote about that here.  I dreamed of full time evangelists spreading out in groups of two or threes, some would do it for a year (like the FOCUS missionaries) and other's would be hooked for life.  Some would live with their families and other's would live in a Jesus Caritas ("Jesus Loves") House in a run-down part of the city.  We would gather at the house for prayer, Bible and book study, and BBQs.  Maybe it would have a food pantry stocked for the poor from the Oregon Food Bank (something I've been doing for 7-8 years with St. Vincent De Paul).  Those we met on the streets would always be welcome to share a meal in good conversation.  It would be a little structure of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  That's the dream anyway. Whatever happens, we have all been blessed beyond our hopes.  We have had long, heartfelt conversations with so many of the unchurched, especially amongst the poor and addicted.  We have done nothing to deserve such graces. Just today Meagan and I could see Christ hiding in the tiny person of Tiki, a mother of two who struggles with addiction. She felt remorseful, and that God must be far from her in displeasure, yet we could see the light of Christ in her eyes!  It was remarkable, such a humble soul.  Tiki could never dream that she might be favored in the eyes of Heaven, but some dreams come true.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Masterpiece on Contemporary Street Evangelization

Fr. Lawrence Carney has been written about many times as "the walking priest".  If you google his name you will find many edifying write-ups of his adventures evangelizing the streets of St. Joseph, Missouri.  He has just released a book, Walking the Road to Godand it exceeds all of my expectations.  Like Drunks and Monks and Cardinal Sarah's God or Nothing, I had to keep reading it.  As St. Augustine heard,  "Tolle, lege."  Take up and read!

Here is the review I wrote at Amazon:

Fr. Carney's adventures on the street are a testament to the work of the Holy Spirit in the world, provided we are faithful and persevere. In this book he details a hundred or so encounters with people from all walks of life. Fr. Carney shows us the hand of divine providence behind the encounters, and yet he emphasizes that conversions come about by "playing the long game". He's in it for life, and prays that God will send him brother priests to walk with him in a new religious order, The Canons of St. Martin of Tours.

Fr. Carney himself is a delightful soul, and the reader immediately takes to him, wondering at his rare combination of innocence, courage, kindness and dedication to the timeless truths of our ancient faith. He also has a holy boldness in taking people deeper into the supernatural realities of our faith. He trusts in grace, and gently tries to unveil a whole other way of seeing and living that many wounded souls have never considered. He tries to offer them a glimpse (or how ever much they can take) of heavenly realities, and then hopes and prays that they will follow the inspiration to go deeper.

Every Christian will enjoy and profit by this book, but especially those who are called to street evangelization. Fellow street evangelists might learn a few tips, but more importantly, the book functions like a mirror on your own efforts: what are you doing right? where have you stumbled for lack of faith? which virtues shine from you and where is there rust? Read the book and find out!

Monday, May 29, 2017

God's Misfits

About a month ago I told Chris about Meagan and her story, and her desire to join us.  Chris smiled and said, "God's misfits."  Josh in Louisville called us a "motley crew".  God has always favored the weak, the fallen, and the outcast.  The Franciscans once sent out little platoons of strange and awkward men.  In the ancient world God gave his favor to Israel, a troublesome and insignificant people.  He could have chosen the mighty Romans, the learned Greeks, the Persians or Egyptians or Babylonians, or even the distant Chinese empire.  But he chose Israel, whom he looked down upon and saw like a castaway infant "kicking and weltering in blood" (Ezekiel 16: 5-6).  God has always favored the unlikely, and often the most committed converts are those who lived in filth and never dreamed of becoming brothers and sisters of Jesus. That was certainly the case for Chris and Meagan and I.  Who ever dreamed of our conversions, except our mothers or Chris's sister?

St. Mariam Baouardy, the "little Arab", had a mystical vision as to why God often favors the most prodigal.  Though she lived a remarkably pure life, dying young in a Carmelite cloister, she wrote:
"In Heaven, the most beautiful souls are those that have sinned the most and repented.  But they made use of their miseries like manure around the base of the tree."  Those are scandalous words to so many good Christians, and yet we remember Jesus' words to Dismas, the Good Thief: "This day you will be with me in paradise."  St. Faustina Kowalska adds her own startling claim: "the more miserable the sinner, the greater claim they have to [His] mercy."  Roy Schoeman explored this idea when he hosted me on his radio show.  St. Paul alludes to this in Romans V: "Where sin has abounded, grace has abounded the more."

St. Mariam Baouardy, one of God's simple souls

On a recent episode of The Journey Home, Jeff Gardner describes the seminal moment of his conversion.  He was an arrogant academic living in Paris doing research with medieval manuscripts.  On his way to a Paris library early in the morning, he passed a homeless man slumped in a subway gutter.  He could tell the man wasn't merely asleep or drunk, but was in dire need of medical help.  But Jeff pressed on, convinced that his career and his manuscripts were more pressing than the person of the bum.  But God wasn't having it.  St. Francis appeared to him in a vision.  Francis was beaten, bloodied and poor.  He was wholly united with his crucified savior, the God who loves the poor.  St. Francis gave the academic a level gaze and warned,

"Remember, God created the world to protect the simple, and to torment the arrogant."

Needless to say, that got his attention.  I'm sure he has since burned to be among the simple.  But some of us are burdened with arrogance, our "thorn in the flesh".

Thanksgiving for Chris

I can't overestimate my gratitude for the gifts of Chris and Meagan to this apostolate.  Whereas God used me to break up the soil, plodding along in prayer and recollection, I was still too ensconced in my interior garden.  Then Chris came along with the idea of bearing gifts as a way to initiate conversations.  We handed out gatorade and prayer cards, then hand and foot warmers for the Winter, and finally rosaries and miraculous medals.  Chris and Meagan have the zeal of new converts which refreshens my spirit, the new wine mixed with the old.  We have become bold in starting conversations, though always friendly and cheerful, respectful of the openings God gives us (and doesn't).  Chris's words to me have often originated in the Holy Spirit, whether as suggestions for the apostolate or in leading me out of bad habits of thought. I believe God can easily speak through Chris because he has a simple heart.  I have been gratified to witness him ascend the "mountain of the Lord" at a deft pace.

About six months ago Chris had a remarkable experience which echoes some of the central themes I have written about on this blog.  It was a "waking vision" in the twilight of morning.  Chris arose in the half- fog of sleep, and knelt on some pillows on the floor to pray.  As he prostrated his forehead to the floor, his mind was narrowed to an interior vision.  He saw before him a clearing in a mountain pass.  He saw a woman seated on a bench with her head bowed.  He knew it was Mary, the mother of our savior, and he saw that tears were falling down her face.  Blessed Mary's posture and dress were the same as her appearance to the shepherd children at La Salette in the French Alps.

Our Lady of La Salette

Chris tentatively approached and gently asked, "How can I help you?"  Mary looked up at him and asked, "Will you drink the chalice of suffering?"  Chris instinctively withdrew, protesting, "I'm too little."  Then the vision ended.

Poor Chris.  He was disappointed by his response, but it was the honest response.  It was the response of one of God's little ones, who feels the bite of his weakness.  That's why he was given the grace of the vision to begin with.  Mary and her son know that Chris's response is "Yes", a thousand times "Yes", even if his lips betray him.  There are so many who are lost, so many who need the prayers and sacrifices of the faithful, and Chris will drink his share of the chalice.