Friday, December 8, 2017

Radio Interview, Part II

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

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

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Celebrating the Feast Day of Blessed Charles de Foucauld

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

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

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pray For Those We Meet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sad News

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

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

Anthony House, Long Island

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

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

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

News of the Apostolate: Onward And Upward

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Upcoming Men's Conference

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Two Paths To Hell: Part II, Path II

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

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

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

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

Romanticism and the Enlightenment

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

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

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

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

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.”

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Born For This

Meagan has the unique set of gifts to be a great one-on-one evangelist.  God just configured her that way.  I was only given a small serving of those gifts, and yet God pushed me out the door to evangelize anyway.  When Meagan and I go out together, I let her take the lead in conversations. To see why, enjoy the following encounters from her street journal:

               As we started walking one of the first people we met was a man named "Ray". Ray had a joyful smile full of childlike trust and began to tell us how he used to hold a cardboard sign at the corner we were on. He said he asked Jesus to help him find work and quickly Our Lord answered his prayer. He had a modest job and no longer had to hold a sign and beg. Ray beamed with pride in the most beautiful way. He was so proud of Jesus, and kept telling us stories of times when He had saved his life. Once from alcohol poisoning in a doorway when Ray was all alone, late at night. Another time when he had major heart surgery and wasn't expected to live due to complications. He showed us his very large scar down the front of his chest which made quite the impression on us. With his face beaming with the biggest smile of gratitude, he told us how he knew Jesus had saved him. He thanked us repeatedly for bringing our cold drinks and sacramentals out to the streets. I gave Ray a rosary and put a miraculous medal around his neck. He happily took my Catholic Answers booklet about the Church as well and I told him about Holy Rosary being so close. As we walked away, Ray would do something that I think I will never forget. He held out his hand to offer me a twenty dollar bill, saying that he wanted to help me with the cost of my ministry. My heart was instantly made twice its size and tears swelled in my eyes. I could not believe that this homeless man would offer me twenty dollars out of love for our mission. Twenty dollars is A LOT of money to a homeless person! It would be like a "normal housed person" offering me $500! 
I looked Ray in his eyes, putting my hand over my heart and said "Oh no, please keep it, but I am so grateful that you offered that to me. That just touched my heart!" He reluctantly looked down at the bill and then put it back in his pocket, beaming back at me with that ear to ear smile of his. I hugged him and we were on our way. 

         The next person we would  meet will be burned into my memory as well. God had put a young man named "Ben" in our path. As he walked by, I offered him a cold gatorade, which he took gladly. Then, I tried to offer him a rosary which he refused to take, walking away saying rudely, "I'm not Catholic!." I told him you don't have to be Catholic to take a rosary. He angrily walked away and quickly turned the corner. He stopped to talk to two of his friends who were sitting on the ground. A man and a women who had 5 kids together, I'm assuming who were in the midst of some kind of child protective services crisis. As Lisa and I walked over to offer them rosaries and drinks, I took the opportunity to talk to Ben again. He stood there, skinny and covered in meth sores, his piercing blue eyes shining out through all the filth. The beauty I saw in his eyes made me realize the state of his wounded soul. Clutching his cardboard sign under his arm, he swayed back and forth, angrily telling me that he had been homeless for 10 years and was only 28! He told me that he hadn't prayed for anyone in many years. He was angry and he admitted he was taking out his anger on me. I smiled at him and told him that "I don't mind Ben, you can take out your anger on me." As I said this, his face smoothed out and softened, he relaxed his shoulders and stood still on both feet.

​          He opened up to me about his desolation, how he really felt terrible burden of his drug addiction and homelessness. He told me, "I just want to give up, I kind of want you to tell me that God is not real, but I know thats not true." I said, "God is real, and He sees you Ben and He loves you desperately." I told him about how I used to be homeless and how coming into the Church had saved me. He listened to me, admitting that he thought I was beautiful and thats why he gave me a second chance at a conversation. I thanked him for the compliment which came across as very innocent and non threatening. Then, he looked at me and said, "You know, no one takes me seriously....but YOU ARE, you really take me seriously don't you?!" I said, "Yes, I do. And other people should as well! You have just as much dignity as the richest person in this city! In fact, YOU, my friend, are much closer to the kingdom of heaven than the rich man is!...(I asked him) "What does Jesus say about a rich man entering heaven?" Bet answered, "Like a camel though the eye of needle...." I was delighted! He knew the scriptures! I said, "I would rather hang out with homeless people ANY DAY then rich people, the rich people are so ugly to us, they make fun of us and mock us. They don't usually want our rosaries or our company. I much prefer the poor! And so does Jesus!" 

           Ben graced me with a smile and I could see a little twinkle in his eye as I said this to him. Looking over at Lisa, crouched on the ground holding hands with the couple, I noticed she was praying with them. The man was crying as she prayed...clutching the rosary she had given him. I was blown away by the beauty of the moment and I was so grateful for my wonderful friends charism of intercessory prayer. 

            Before I walked away, I smiled and asked, "Ben, are you sure you don't want a rosary?" He said with a smile, "Ok, I'll take one." As I handed it to him, I asked if I could put a miraculous medal around his neck...He said yes! Smiling at him, seeing past all the sores and the dirt, I leaned toward him and lovingly, like a mother for her son, fastening the medal around his neck. I silently asked the Blessed Virgin to help Ben come to her Son. Patting the medal, I leaned back and said, "Maybe you could pray for me later, and I could pray for you...I could be that person that starts you praying for other people again!" He smiled and said, "Ok, I will." I told him how nice it was to spend time with him and I hoped to see him again. Lisa and I kept walking......

Meagan and Lisa cross the Burnside Bridge

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hold Fast To The Cross

Whenever someone decides to join us for the first time I try to ease them into it by choosing a quieter walk.  Thus, when Chris, Jeff and I walked together for the first time we decided to walk SE 122nd since it would give us an opportunity for deep prayer.  Or so I had hoped.  Instead, it was an assault on the senses and it took us nearly two hours to complete our rosary in Latin.  I never did slip into a spirit of prayer, and Jeff was a little stunned, and said, "I can't believe this is Portland.  It's like we're in some alternative universe.  There is just so much pain out here."  Jeff was able to digest the madness (including the motorist who stopped and asked us if priests were still raping altar boys), and joined us again last weekend.

Amidst the dysfunction was a transcendent moment of beauty and even holiness.  As we walked by a little field between two multi-story buildings, our friend Andrew emerged running to greet us.  We had met Andrew a few weeks before in the same spot, and I was relieved that the police had not rousted him from his little hide-away.  I immediately noticed there was something child-like in the way he ran and welcomed us.  Then as he stood before us I couldn't take my eyes off the rosary he wore around his neck.  I had given him the sturdy, full-size rosary the last time we met, complete with large wooden beads and a thick plastic crucifix.  Here is a photo of the rosary.

Only now the crucifix had changed.  The cross had become worn down in the shape of a hand.  I stared at the crucifix struggling for understanding.  Andrew had gripped the cross with such constancy over the last few weeks that he had worn the color off the plastic!  I gathered my thoughts as he showed us some novelty currency he was given: old bills of Ho Chi Minh and other Asian despots.  Then I asked, "Andrew, you're Korean, right?"  He happily nodded.  "And Catholic?"  He smiled and nodded again.  Then I asked if he ever thought about going to mass at the nearby Korean parish.  He gave a gentle shrug with a hint of embarrassment.  I didn't press the issue.  As we took our leave, I left with a sense of awe and even shame.  Andrew leaned heavily on our Lord, holding fast to the cross amidst homelessness and a touch of mental illness.

I have never gripped the crucifix in such a way, and Andrew's dedication blew us all away.  God has often chosen his prophets and saints from men like Andrew.  I joked to Jeff and Chris that I better stay right with the Lord, or God will give Andrew words for me the next time we meet.  I couldn't bear the thought of that correction.  Poor Jesus!

I'm sorry that Andrew is either too embarrassed or uncomfortable to attend mass, but the truth is that the parish needs him more than he needs them.  I pray that he'll find a home at the nearby Church of the Korean Martyrs.  In the meantime, I'm going to have Meagan give him one of the large crucifixes she gets free from this apostolate in Naples, Florida.  Bless the men from Families for Christ for making and giving away these strong, wooden crucifixes.

In the second part of this post, I'll relate the story of Melvin, a homeless man we met on the same walk who could rhapsodize and quote scripture like a revivalist preacher.

In the meantime, enjoy the collage that Jeff made:

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Busy Weekend

This weekend I had the pleasure of walking the streets for three days in a row.  It's given me another taste of what this apostolate would be like if I were able to pursue it full time.  On Saturday, Chris and I walked a a bike and pedestrian path near SE 92nd where there are lots of homeless tents.  We distributed all of our water and Gatorade within 150 yards of entering the path, and many people drank them in sixty seconds or less.  They were truly famished for drink which is typical for people on the streets.  One of the tent sites resembled a bacchanal as an attractive young woman in a tiny bikini frolicked playfully among friends who were mostly drunk or high.  I told Chris. "I'm grateful she's not my type, otherwise I'd be done for."  Later down the path was a giant mural across the back of a Boys and Girls Club.  The mural is shockingly pagan, featuring pre-Christian deities, pagan priests and the Buddha.  In some ways Chris and I felt like St. Boniface or St. Patrick, bringing Christ to the pagan tribes.  Such is Portland, Oregon.  On a happy note, we did give away more rosaries and prayer cards then we ever have before.

Jesus is Lord!  Jesus is everything.  He is the desire of the everlasting hills. By contrast, Psalm 95 tells us, "All the gods of the gentiles are demons."

On Sunday, Jeff, Chris and I did our usual walk from The Grotto along NE 82nd.  A kind woman named 'Virginia' who completed RCIA a few years ago was anxious to talk to us, and snapped the photo below in The Grotto parking lot.  She asked for our prayers to warm her son's heart, so that he might come back to her and share the joys of his tiny children. The son's name is Peter Joseph, and he prefers to focus on his work and his little family while more or less ignoring his mother.  Please pray that he re-unites with his mother, Virginia.  We then had the usual walk along 82nd, though it was 95 degrees and the street people were all hiding at Montavilla park under trees or in their sweltering tents.  Some asked where we had been, since we have been away walking other parts of the city.

Today I walked with Meagan up Burnside past the archdiocesan chancellory office.  We walked by the archdiocesan headquarters as a kind of lark since Archbishop Sample had asked why we don't walk closer to the city center.  Well, here we are, just like you asked!

I have several compelling stories to share from our time on the streets, and I hope to write about them in the coming weeks...

Yours truly, Scott Woltze, with Jeff and Chris at The Grotto

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 gallon 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!