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.