The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Well, that explains it

Thus far our experience working that the Oregon Right to Life booth at the fair has been a delight. People from all walks of life have stopped by and voiced their support; asked questions; and many have thanked us for being there to counter the Planned Parenthood booth which is at the opposite side of the exhibition all from us, but ironically, right next door to the Republican Party booth.

We did have one of the Planned Parenthood workers come down to our booth and try to raise a fuss. I wasn't working at the time, but two people that were relayed the story to me. It seems this twenty-something young lady felt she was armed with the best argument as to why women should get abortions. Her theory is that our prisons are full of men who were once unwanted babies. Had their mothers had the good sense to abort them before they were born, our society would be far better off. So by telling women to not get abortions, we are in fact increasing our prison population.

Now our policy at the booth is not to get into debates with people. There are kids around and getting into heated discussions detracts from the positive atmosphere we're trying to maintain; so our volunteers politely listened to this person. When she had finished her monologue our folks in the booth were silent for a pregnant pause then they burst out in laughter at such a rediculous proposition, which only made this woman angry and she stomped away. It probably wasn't the most polite response for our side to make, but I find it hard to fault them.

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, would have been proud of this person's logic which fits very neatly into Sanger's own view of eugenics. In 1932 Sanger wrote that what was needed was "A stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring." Small wonder that some have suggested a link between Sanger and Adolf Hitler, whose own eugenics program seemed to model ones advocated by her.

This mindset continues today in our country more subtle ways. Over half of the children with Downs Syndrom who are diagnosed in utero are aborted. Equally tragic and perhaps even more evil are the couples who abort the child for no other reason than it is the wrong sex.

If anyone wants to see what a healthy baby really looks like from 7 to 12 weeks, the age when most abortions happen, you can click here, and go to the website sponsored by Priests for Life. Today, Planned Parenthood still counsels women that a child in the first trimester is little more than a blob of cells and likens the child to a parasite. These photos tell a far different story.

(Please be advised that the webpage I refer here also has a link to more graphic, horrific, photos of what an abortion looks like. )

Saturday, July 29, 2006

I survived

Well, I've made it through the first round of our corporate restructure. At 8:15 am, my department huddled in a conference room around a speakerphone as the CEO of the company gave his speech as to why the company was taking the steps it was. Since our operations are far flung across several counties and two states, this scene was repeated all over the company.

The good news is that the cutbacks were going to be achieved, if possible, by attrition. Those aged 60 and older were told to expect a retirement package. The median age of people in our company is about 45 so there's a number of those early boomers who will go. If you work in construction, your job is going to outsourced, but since you belong to the union and our contract guarantees you a job, expect to be trained to do something else or you can leave on your own. Everything is being centralized to the home office where people know better (did I say that out loud?).

My department, marketing, got an interesting message. We're combining you with the remnants of what was construction and you must reapply for your job. So while I still have a job, I do have to submit my resume and even interview for my position. Yes, my friends, I work in a Dilbert cartoon.

The bright side of yesterday was working in the Oregon Right to Life booth at the county fair. For about five hours last evening I helped spread the message of life. We have a very tasteful display of how a person develops from about 7 weeks to 7 1/2 months. In Oregon, and in all 50 states, a woman can get an abortion through the 9th month of pregnancy. In Oregon, a girl needs a permission slip to get her ears pierced, but she can have an abortion without parental notification.

What I get a kick out of is when teenage boys come up to our booth, and they see the models of the babies, and the light of truth turns on. Last night three boys in their mid-teens came over and were totally blown away at how much a baby looks like a baby at only 7 weeks after conception. "How can woman just go and have that cut up?" one boy asked. "Man, that's just wrong," his friend agreed. Mission accomplished.

An elderly caucasion gentleman came to us and said, "I support everything you guys are doing. I saved my grandaughter's life. Her mom wanted to get an abortion, but I talked her out of it. Come over here, honey," he called to a little girl looking at toys at an adjacent booth. "Her daddy is black. I think she looks like Halle Barrie. Isn't she beautiful?"

To teenage girls we gave business card with links to, one of the best websites for girls to learn about their options and talk to their peers about abortion.

All and all, it was perfect end to a silly day at work. A nice juxtaposition between what is necessary to pay the bills, and what really matters.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

9 Hours...Then I'll Know

I'll be busy saying a lot of prayers, tonight. In about nine hours I will walk into a conference room at my job along with about thirty or forty coworkers and we will learn our fate. Some of us will leave the room still gainfully employed...some won't.

I'm really not all that stressed for myself. I've bounced around this corporate world enough to know that I'll land somewhere. The Lord has always taken care of me, and as a marketing and sales guy, there's always something that needs selling. Mostly I worry for the folks who have never been through a layoff. It can be pretty scary, especially if you've never known any other job. Most of my coworkers in that boat.

My prayers this evening won't be that I keep my job, but rather that The Lord give me the wisdom to make good decisions.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Where Were You?

"Where's a good (cop, doctor, lawyer, etc) when you need one?"

How often have you asked or heard someone ask that question? We have a need, and the expert who could help us solve that problem is no where to be seen.

Not too long ago I was in the adoration chapel at our church praying before the Blessed Sacrament. I was thanking Our Lord for all the blessings He has given me these last five years as I have come home to the faith, and I asked, "Where were you when I was living that sinful life?"

The response I received was immediate. An interior voice told me, "I've always been here. Where were you?"

That is the right question isn't it? Where was I all those years? The answer is abundently clear to me. I was with me. I had no room for Christ as everything in my life was about serving me. It wasn't that I was a narcissist or even that egotistical. I simply was centered on the "me" instead of the "thee."

I tell people that Satan really hates me because I was the fish that got away. He had me in the bag and then Christ, with His mercy, plucked me out in my unclean state and gave me a new start. My work is far from over. Free will. I can still choose my destiny. But having seen what it looks like on the other side, I have hope that I will choose God.

So if you're wondering where Christ is in your life, maybe the question you should ask yourself is "where are you?" Are you with the lowly or the exhalted? Are you serving or waiting to be served? Are you walking the path of least resistence or the path or rightousness? Before Christ can pour fourth His grace into your heart you have to make room for Him.

As a man of experience, trust me when I tell you He doesn't need that big of an opening to work wonderous things in your life. For me it took being open to the truth and setting aside my prejudices brought on by too many years of poor catechism and my own personal preferences. Eventually the truth that God is not an opinion, but simply "is" dawned on me, and the light of that truth seems to shine brighter with each ounce of me I give to Him and others.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

My Place in the World

I'm in an all too familiar place these days. I'm facing a potential layoff from my job. Our company is in the process of trying to go from good to great; to right size; to make itself built to last. All of these things are impossible for two reasons. One, over half of the employees at the company belong to the union which pretty well dictates what their working conditions will be. Want a pardigm shift? Take it up at the next collective bargaining session. Second, the people trying to fix the problem are the same ones who got the company into its pickle in the first place. Oh, yeah, we're a utility, which by definition means we're just not all that sexy when it comes to high performance. We move at glacial speed. It is our nature.

It's been awhile since I've been staring at the prospect of losing my job against my will. The last couple of jobs I left on my own accord. This time around, I have an advantage. I have faith that God has me exactly where He wants me to be. So while the VPs may have a say in my cash flow, they don't hold a candle to impacting God's will. I need only surrender myself to His will, which is love an mercy. I have great confidence that come what may I'll be okay.

This view of the world through eternal eyes probably precludes me from ever rising to the level of CEO. Having worked with a number of Presidents and CEOs I know the breed. I admire their commitment; their work ethic; and their drive, but I've yet to meet one that had a sincere faith life. I'm sure there are a few out there, but the job of being the head of a billion dollar company doesn't leave much room for things outside one's own ego. Money being the root of all evil; they are swimming in it. I don't begrudge them for it, and I'm as interested in a buck as the next guy, but I also have come to realize that money is man made, and the true riches of life are found in something far more ethereal.

Bill Gates recently gave over $30 million dollars to Planned Parenthood. I'm sure they sold him on the notion that their organization helps women in crisis. Getting rid of an unwanted pregnancy with the ease of a Ctrl-Alt-Delete probably made tremendous sense to him. Why struggle with the consequences of a bad choice when one can simply start over; reboot their lives as it were? Her will be done. The pragmatism of that must have been irresistable.

Friday I will learn my fate or at least have a better understanding of the direction the company is going. Over the last six months, senior managers, and middle managers who really want to be senior managers have been meeting to craft this new strategy. I wonder if they ever prayed before any of their strategy sessions? Did they ever ask the Holy Spirit to guide them? I ask that rhetorically as ours is a company that views God as mere opinion of a diverse culture. So with God pushed to the sidelines we are left with the folly of man.

God help us.

Monday, July 24, 2006

What it Means to Be a Human Being

Normally I don't do a lot of quoting of other people's writing in my blog, but I read a short essay by Cardinal Pierre d Berulle, who lived in the 17th Century, that was so beautiful, that I just had to share it with anyone who might come across this.

The ancients used all their eloquence to the full in extolling the grandeur and perfection of humanity, and rightly, since the human being is really a great miracle. For in its substance we see two very different natures united in an admirable fashion. One of these nautures is entirely spiritual, which sets many things in motion without itself moving. It can ascend to heaven and decend into the abyss without changing its place. It has room for the whole world in its memory, without the physical presence of the world. It can unite the whole of the past into one, without succession in time. It is entirely enclosed in this body, and in every part of it, as in its own universe. It is an image of God, and the divine sovereignty and the working of God on earth.
The other nature is material, animal, and sensitive, by which the human being lives, feels, and imagines; and in its structure and composition it is an epitome of this universe. And the uniting of these two natures together results in an excellent compoud, which has existence like the elements, life like plants, feeling like animals, and intelligence like the angels.
It is the most perfect and admirable mixture existing in nature. It seems that God wanted to make it an epitome of his works and to reporduce in it the grandeur of his universe in miniature, or rather to create a new universe and small world. It is a small world enclosing all the perfection of the great universe with added wonders; a small world in the midst of the universe, bearing within itself a kind of epitome of God in the human spirit, an epitome of the world in the composition and admirable structure of the human body. And in this mixture, perfect though it is, there is no confusion of natures; for each remains different in its essence, its powers, and its working; but they are admirabley united in substance, and in the unity of the same person composed of two such different natures.
In light of these thoughts it seems to me that humanity in the image of God, by whom we are created, is also an image of the God-man, by whom we are recreated, and that in creating humanity God foreshadowed the mystery of the incarnation.

I do not believe I have a read a better treatment describing humanity. After reading that, can you not better see how each and every one of us is as Pope Benedict XVI says, "a thought of God?" We think so little of ourselves. We search for proof of God in our world, and yet He is all around us in the people we meet and that person looking back at you in the mirror. Build on that and you can not come to any other conclusion than the reality that God is love.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Communion of Saints

Today I had the privledge of lectoring at our 12:15pm mass. It was celebrated by Monsignor Campbell, who has become an inspiring person in my life. Monsignor is eighty years old; a World War II vet who saw action in the South Pacific with the Marines; and he is an excellent homilist. He also suffers from debilitating back pain. No longer can he process into the church, and most days he distributes communion from a chair one of the alter servers places at the front of the sactuary before communion. He could retire, but you can tell that he simply loves being a priest and celebrating the mass.

Normally his homilies run a little on the long side, but he is such a good speaker that few of the congregation mind. Today, was different. It went something like this:

"You heard the first reading. You heard the Gospel. It's pretty clear that Christ is the good shepherd. That's something we all would be wise to keep in mind when we depart this life. End of homily."

He blamed his short homily on the heat inside the church. Our air conditioner is under-sized and it was already 100 degrees outside at the start of mass. That made it a stuffy 82 degrees inside, but that hasn't shortened his sermons in the past. Being up in the sancturary as the lector, I saw up close the pain he was in. He was suffering, but when it came time to consecrate the bread and wine, you could see the passion was still there. Here was man not about to come down from the cross, but rather a holy person uniting himself with Christ's suffering. He is a saint.

Later in the day, my wife and I went to our Teams of Our Lady group and shared a meal with three other couples, all saints in their own right. All of these couples had their own Agony in the Garden they were facing with various issues in their respective families; yet all drew on Christ for strength to get through their travails. How extraordinary it seems to me that the closer I get to Christ, the more holy people He seems to place in my life.

People have described me as very religious. My friends at work joke that I am a benevolent, Catholic, Taliban, but my piety is merely mainstream with the circle of friends I have made since returning to the Church. I can not boast of my own conversion as some kind of achievement as my peers continuously humble me with their own faith.

What I can do is celebrate this communion of saints, both those in Heaven and those who grace me with the gift of their lived experience, support, friendship, and fellowship, and unity in Christ in this Catholic faith.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Respecting Life

My wife and I are coordinating a trade show booth at the County Fair to distribute literature promoting life. Seems like a no-brainer. Who could be against life? Is not the most basic, fundmental right afforded to every human being the simple right to exist?

Well, the hard reality is that we live in a nation that has legally killed an average of 1,000 babies per day since Roe V. Wade because they were too small and the prospect of them coming into this world was too (inconvenient, scary, burdonsome, embarassing, whatever) for their mothers and fathers. That' about 41 abortions per hour in a 24 hour day...every day.

In Oregon we have kicked it up a notch and now kill our most vulnerable adults, the terminally ill, by advocating euthanasia as a viable option to end their lives. So whether you are coming into this world or getting ready to leave it, your life is at risk here.

The more I research the topic, the more I am totally convinced that the advent of the birth control pill in the 1960's marked the decline of civilization in America as we know it. Pope Paul VI tried to warn the planet that this tampering with the intent of God's plan for sexuality would have dire consequences, and he has proved to be a prophet. Divorce is way up. Abortions are way up. Women are more objectified today than ever before. Men shirk their familial responsibilities. Women put career and self-advancement on even par as family. All of this because we established pregnancy as a problem to be solved versus a gift from God.

We have struggled to get volunteers to work in our booth. Most people, even Catholics, don't like the prospect of defending a position that the culture is so firmly set against. In Oregon a child has to get a permission slip to get her ears pierced, but she can have an abortion without telling Mom and Dad. And the fact remains that many Catholic women struggle with the Church's teachings on these life issues and fall victim what Pope Benedict XVI describes as the "dictatorship of relativism."

Mother Theresa once described America as the most impoverished place she had ever been. This from a saint who served the poorest of the poor, the very least of our brothers in India. The poverty she saw in our country was the lack of moral certitude, and our willingness to neglect and even kill the most vulnerable of our society.

My favorite quote from her on this matter is what I will close with on this hot, Portland evening:

"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you can live as you wish."

Friday, July 21, 2006

108 Degrees

It was 108, today. 108!

For most folks that's hot. For Portlanders, well, it's Hell. A good number of folks here don't have air conditioning. In a normal summer, one doesn't need it but a few days; so when the mercury rises past the century mark people get down right cranky. No doubt our vast majority of liberals here are going to be singing the global warming song. I think this might have been the only market where Al Gore's movie actually made money.

I'm feeling a tad guilty as I didn't go to mass at lunch time. I try to make it to daily mass a few times a week, but especially on Friday. My excuse? It was too hot to walk the few blocks I have to walk to get to St. Michaels. Oh, at the time it was easy to rationalize. I mean, who wants to go back to work all sweaty. Yet a part of me feels like Peter falling asleep on the job in the garden. It's not something that I'll spend a great deal of time agonizing over, but it does give me good cause to pause and reflect on how easy it is to choose the wide road and avoid the difficulties of the narrow gate.

The heat is also a good reminder of how blessed I am. We have air conditioning. It's 10:00pm and still 95 degrees. Across the city there are thousands who are suffering, tonight. There are elderly who are alone, perspiring profusely, and pondering if this will be the event that takes them from this life. Out there, a mom in a cheap apartment tries to comfort her new born who has grown cranky from the oppressive temperature. A young couple is fighting somewhere; the ever present hot exaserbating their troubled relationship. A homeless man stuggles to push his overloaded shopping cart to a safe place already dehydrated from the alcohol.

My prayers tonight are for those who are less fortunate. I wish I could invite them all into our little two-bedroom aparment and give them all a cool drink of water and a kind word. Instead, I offer my prayers for their well being, and I offer the Lord my own shame for taking the easy road today by avoiding my opportunity to accept His invitation to have a meal with Him in the Eucharist because it was too hot. It seem like such a poor excuse, now.

It will be cooler tomorrow. Our high temperature is expected to be 104.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

My First Night as a Knight

Tonight, I was knighted in the First Degree of the Knights of Columbus. As a good Catholic gentleman, I am sworn to secrecy as to the particulars of the event; however I do feel safe in telling every other good Catholic gentleman who is not part of this fraternal organization dedicated to charity and good works to consider looking into this group.

This is yet another milestone in my journey home, and I believe it will help me discern whether to go into a formal discernment of the Deaconate. I know Christ is calling me to serve His Church. What I do not know is if that service will be from the laity or ordained ministry. Yes, the Catholic Church does have clergy that are married. They're called Deacons.

I help out with the RCIA program at our parish. This is the discernment process for those who wish to enter into the Catholic Church. In most parishes it takes nine months to a year. This last Tuesday we were discussing the first letter St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and the gift of God's grace became abundently clear.

Five years ago when I first began my return home to the Church, I couldn't appreciate the words that were in the Bible. Oh, I could read it, but it was like reading a letter written for someone else. Then as I began the process of letting myself go and giving myself to Christ sacred scripture became very meaningful...even personal. This Bible was now a letter from God to me. That only happened because I allowed room in my heart for God's grace through my return to the sacraments of my youth.

The truth has set me free, and I find myself in a near constant state of prayer. Not the kind of prayer where one is kneeling with bent back, but rather the kind where one is in a continuous awareness of the presence of Christ in his life. Oh, that I could give my gift of faith to everyone I meet. Yet, all I can do is live my faith, and hope that others will see the joy it has brought me, and perhaps one day dare to let themselves go, and let Christ into their hearts.

I have an aquaintance that could use this faith. She is a few years younger than me and sadly bought into the same lies and deceptions about human sexuality and its purpose that my Baby Boom generation inflicted upon the culture. From one damaging relationship to another she has drifted searching for happiness and finding only a loss of dignity. I considered writing her an annonymous letter telling her that there was a better response to her feelings, but then I read in my Magnificat yesterday morning about the perils of playing God. My words of wisdom cannot change her, only God's grace. So I am left with prayer for her conversion and letting God be God.

This blog has rambled on a bit as kind of stream of consciousness. I tend to do that when I am excited about something, and my experience with the Knights of Columbus has me pumped. May God's blessing touch each person who reads these words.

Deus Caritas Est

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Women Sort of Bug Me

“Women. What do they want?”

I believe Freud wrote that in his diary, and in at least one regard I understand what he means.

First let me mention that I live in Portland, Oregon which has one of the best mass transit systems on the West Coast. You literally can take public transportation anywhere in the city and for the most part the crowd you ride with are just every day folks. In the morning I take our light rail called MAX into work. This is where my problem with the opposite sex lies.

I grew up in the South with the manners that go along with that. My dad never sat me down and read me a code of conduct, but it was always simply understood that a gentleman gives up his seat for a lady on busses, trains, restaurant waiting areas, or at any other like occasion. This giving up of the seat is a sign of respect. A woman is considered to be a lady until proven otherwise, and even then the offer is still made.

Well this isn’t the South. Every morning as I ride MAX into work, I’m reminded of that fact. You see, I board the train at the far end of the line when open seats are plentiful. As we travel closer to downtown the train gets more and more crowded until all the seats are gone and people are left standing. If there is a lady standing near me, I offer her my seat. This is where the battle begins.

“That’s alright, I can stand,” is the most common answer I get, and often it is delivered with an air of indignation. How dare I challenge her equality by daring to imply that she is incapable of standing on the train like the rest of the men? Candidly, if a woman is wearing pinstriped anything, there are pretty good odds this is the reaction I will get.

“Are you sure?” is my second least favorite response upon offering my seat. Do they really believe that I might have a change of heart and take back the offer?

Then there is the righteous silence; my least favorite response. I stand up, gesture to the now open seat, and say, “please,” and she says nothing. Now we are in that awkward space of two people staring at an open seat on a crowded train. It’s not like I can just sit back down. I should, but my manners don’t allow. No one else will take the seat as technically the seat still belongs to me, and it has already been offered. So it remains empty until we get to the next stop when a new passenger, oblivious to the mini-drama that just happened, boards the overly-crowded train and is amazed to find one, lone, empty seat in this compact sea of commuters. Often they do a double take just to make sure gum or worse isn't on the seat. With a shrug of the shoulders the lucky travelor sits down no doubt thinking that this is going to be a very good day while I'm stuck standing next to the ice queen of the train.

So I humbly request to the female segment of the species to do me a simple favor. If I offer you a seat on the train, please simply say “thank you,” and sit down. I’m not trying to prove my superiority over you. I’m not flirting with you. I’m not questioning your ability to balance yourself on a swaying train. I’m not saying that you’re too fat to support that kind of weight for however long you have to ride.

I simply want to show you the respect you deserve for being somebody’s mother, daughter, sister, or wife. I’m treating you as I would like someone to treat my own mother, sisters, or wife. Stow your feminism for the trip and embrace just being feminine. God didn't create you to be one of the guys. He had something way better and far more meaningful in mind.

If nothing else the ride into town should be a lot more pleasant.