Saturday, August 6, 2016

Going Where The Pain Is

Apologies for the sparse postings.  The unexpected death of my mother sucked some of the wind out of my sails. Nevertheless, the street apostolate is still going strong even if I don't find the time to write about it.

Last week I walked for the first time with Chris Huling, a recent revert to the faith who has a military background and love for the traditional practices and expressions of the faith.  Like myself and many other men (often younger than us), he has dived head-first into the new oasis that is St. Stephen's parish.  When I asked him why he wanted to walk the streets, Chris said that he didn't want to be rejected by Jesus at the Last Judgment for ignoring Christ in the "poor, imprisoned, widowed and orphaned".  I was mildly shocked:  "Wow!  Someone who actually takes the words of Christ at face value!" Then Chris told me of an an inspiration from the Holy Spirit: that he should walk the streets on hot days with a rolling ice chest and distribute cold drinks and a prayer meditation.  The meditation is extraordinary.  It's the "I Thirst" meditation attributed to Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, and it is really the Gospel in miniature.  In the meditation, Jesus is speaking directly to his lost children (that is, all of us at one time or another).  Here is how it ends:

"Now matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake.  Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and your needs, and with all your longing to be loved.  I stand at the door of your heart and knock...  Open to me, for I THIRST FOR YOU..."

For the people we typically meet on the streets, this message is probably the most shocking words they could ever hear. They would be less shocked if we cursed them or berated them.  But to hear that God intimately knows and loves them and yearns for them?  Unthinkable.  That has never occurred to them, and yet it's at the heart of the Gospel.  You can hear the full meditation by clicking on the video below.  The meditation is read by Fr. John Riccardo, an ascetic priest who always reminded me of Christ Crucified when I attended his parish in Michigan.

Since St. Stephen's parish is located in a trendy neighborhood full of hipsters and the "resolutely unchurched", I was considering going "uptown" and walking amongst the "children of this age".  Perhaps I could be the "Apostle to the Hipsters" since I already live in "FoPo", the hipster neighborhood of Portland.  Then I realized I'd be awful at that, and am better suited to meaner streets, to something more "real".

A cross-section of PDX (Portland) hipsters.  This is not real life, though the pain they try to hide is very real.

If you're looking for real life, watch this movie about the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal living amongst the most wretched among us.  Kyle Turley, my favorite Catholic journalist, has a great write-up of the movie at Catholic World Report.  Apparently one of the friars who ministers to a Honduras HELLHOLE prison is himself an ex-convict.  Hurrah for him!  These men are living the faith that we try to walk.

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