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