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, August 27, 2006

Five Person Meme

Catholic Mom tagged me with this. I'm supposed to tag five others, but candidly, I don't know five other Catholic bloggers to tag. So my apologies if I break the rules here a little.

"If you could meet and have a deep conversation with any five people on earth, living or dead, from any time period, who would they be?" (Explaining why is optional.)

Name five people from each of the following categories: Saints, Those in the Process of Being Canonized, Heroes from your native country, Authors/Writers, celebrities.

Five Saints:

1. St. Maximilian Kolbe
2. St. John
3. St. Peter
4. St. Anthony
5. St. Teresa of Avila

Those in the Process of Being Canonized:

1. Pope John Paul II
2. Blessed Ann Cathrine Emerick
3. Blessed Yvette
4. Bishop Fulton Sheen (okay, I don't think he's in the process, but count this as my vote that he should be.)
5. Blessed Mother Teresa

Five U.S. Heroes:

1. Easy Company from WWII (Band of Brothers)
2. Robert E. Lee
3. Chuck Yeager
4. Lewis & Clark
5. Herbert Hoover (I always thought he got a bum rap on the Depression, and he fed 20 Million starving Russians despite it being political suicide)

Five Authors/Writers:

1. Pope Benedict XVI
2. John Grisham
3. Tom Clancy
4. Stephen King
5. St. Thomas Aquinas ( I need help with the Suma)

Five Celebrities:

1. Robin Williams (drug free)
2. Faith Hill (the hottest mom on the planet)
3. Mel Gibson (sober)
4. Jonny Depp (What were you thinking making The Libertine?)
5. Tom Hanks & Ron Howard(They are in dire need of evangelization)

Tag Five People:
1. Sister Millie
2 - 5. Catholic Answers Forums

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Reason Cradle Catholics Stray

I have a theory as to why cradle Catholics often leave the faith. I found a hint in Mathew 13:57-58.

[57] And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house."
[58] And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

I grew up in this Catholic faith very familiar with Christ. I learned about Him in CCD classes and my parents certainly taught us to believe in Him. I thought I knew Him. But the Christ I grew up with was always this far off distant character in the family. As I got older, He became just another element of the environment; part of one of those things I had to endure growing up, but not really a part of me. Worship was routine, maybe even habit.

So when I left the faith as a young adult, it was very easy to come home and give Our Lord and the Church lip service for the parent's sake, but not really believe. He became very much the prophet without honor in our home for me, and consequently no mighty works were performed. Familiarity seemed to breed indifference. I took Christ of granted. And the Church, well, the attitude was "yeah, yeah, but this what I think," which not surprising was a line of thought based in the emotion that felt right at the moment. Moral relativism at its best.

Yet even here, the Lord demonstrated His infinite divine mercy. He let me leave. Gave me my space. Watched me fail Him time and time again. He listened to the prayers of my family that prayed for my return for so many years. And then, rather unexpectedly, He showed up back in my life and reintroduced Himself, not as the prophet, but as my savior. The same Christ I knew as a child now was not only familiar, He was beautiful. And as I welcomed Him into my heart, His grace flooded in, and the mighty work that has been this seemingly perpetual conversion began.

For whatever reason, I had to make Christ a stranger before I could get to really know Him. I feel blessed I responded to His call when I did.

Parents, I urge you to welcome Christ in your home, not as His kinsfolk did, but keep Him extraodinary in the lives of your children. Give Him a place of high honor in your lives, and your kids will see that, and hopefully will keep that image of Christ in their hearts as they make their own way into this fallen world.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

What We Really Fear

What do we really fear?

One day we will be judged. There’s no getting around that fact. Our whole lives will be laid out for all of creation to see, and God will make a judgment. The result of that judgment will mean either eternal life with Him in Heaven or infinite misery with Satan in Hell.

Oh there is a Hell. Make no mistake about that. It exists as does the devil. We kid ourselves sometimes into rationalizing that surly such a place doesn’t really exist. Such a dark and dreadful place must be strictly a metaphor, right? Any intellectual being with half a wit can’t really believe in Hell where there is a fire that burns but does not consume; where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth; where unimaginable cruelty is the order of the day.

And yet it’s there. It waits for us to choose it or choose God. More accurately it waits for us to choose ourselves or God.

It must be God’s judgment that we fear, right? That’s what makes the most sense. I want to do what God tells me to do because I sure as heck don’t want to wind up in Hell. God’s judgment is something I can have some control over. I’ll follow His rules to the letter. If I simply discipline myself to follow His way I shouldn’t have to worry. Ten Commandments? How hard is that to keep track of? Whew. I’m feeling better already.

But wait a minute. If all I have to do is follow the rules, why did God send me Jesus? I mean if all I have to do is not worship other gods; keep the Sabbath holy; avoid taking God’s name in vain; honor Mom and Dad; don’t kill anyone; don’t steal from anyone; don’t cheat on my wife; and don’t covet my neighbors goods…why do I even need a savior? If I did all of those things, I would be a pretty good person in the eyes of my fellow man.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I submit to you that it is not God’s judgment that we fear the most but rather His love.

God doesn’t want a bunch of people who know how to follow the law. He wants souls that are so full of His love that even the thought of breaking one of the Ten Commandment is a foreign concept. Imagine living a life where it made you ill to even conceive the notion of breaking one of God’s laws, not because you feared the consequences, but rather because the thought of turning away from God hurt you to your core.

Christ came to give us the path to love God, not with just our intellect, but with our will. He came to give us the grace we need to conform our hearts to His. This is how it was in the beginning with Adam and Eve before the fall. Their hearts were aligned with God’s will. Then they did what seems to be so terribly easy for all of us to do. They chose themselves above God. Oh yes, they had a little help from the devil, but ultimately instead of saying “yes” to God as Mary did; Eve said “no.” And don’t think Adam gets off the hook easy here. After all, he did what a lot of guys do at a crucial moment of decision. He did nothing. He just sat back chewing on a fig and watched it happen. In his inaction he also said “no” to God.

Why do we fear God’s love?

To submit ourselves with great confidence to His holy will requires us to let go of ourselves. And we like ourselves. At least we think we do. We like all of the earthly pleasures; the comforts; the niceties. We like being the only one in charge of our destiny. So to accept all of the love God has to give; all of his infinite mercy; we have to die to ourselves. That’s hard. That’s even a little scary.

“Be not afraid.”

That was John Paul II’s battle cry. It has been resonating in my heart these last few weeks as I wonder about so many things. What will happen with my job; my parish; my friends in dire straights; even at times my marriage? And yet if I simply do my best, and turn the rest over to Christ, I experience that sense of peace and any fear I have melts away.

Eucharist is our saving sacrament. It has been said that if Christ revealed himself as He truly is; in all His glory; in all His pure love; we would never feel able or worthy to approach Him. So He humbles Himself for our benefit and comes to us in the ever simple bread and wine just so we can partake of His sacrificial meal He made on our behalf.

If it is God’s judgment you fear. If that’s what keeps you going to mass; well, that’s a start. I challenge you to set aside that fear and open your hearts to the love Christ offers each and every day, especially in the mass.

Deus caritas est.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Porridge and Worms

Last night I was thunderstruck.

I was watching ABC's 20/20 news magazine and they ran a story about how the AIDS crisis in Africa has left so many children orpahans, having to raise themselves. One of the scenes they showed was a seventeen year-old girl cooking dinner for her three younger siblings. She dished each one them a serving of porridge made from the little bit of wheat they grew behind their disheveled hut. As a source of protein, she mixed in worms gathered from a tree.

Before they ate. These children made the sign of the cross and prayed grace. How many of us would thank God for a gift like this? I instantly felt ashamed, almost embarassed by all the times I have sat down to meal and not given Our Lord a second thought.

If I want to eat something, I simply go to my pantry or fridge and make my selection. If I'm low on food, I can drive down to the local market and select from a multitude of foods. If that's not to my liking, there are a bevy of fast food joints around where I live, or I can opt for finer dining and be served. What is more, should my world collapse and I find myself homeless, there are a large number of shelters around the city that would make sure I had something to eat; something far more appetizing than porridge and worms.

I'm 40 pounds overweight. I didn't really notice the gluttony and sloth as it was happening, but the evidence is in the spare tire before me. Over the years I've watched my pant size increase by twos. From 32 to 34 to a slightly snug 36. I've kind of drawn a line in the sand here. Capitulating to a size 38 is to admit defeat.

God has blessed me with the ability to be fat. I've never known real hunger, even in my "starving" college years. I've never been in a place in my life where a dish of porridge and worms would be something I would thank my Lord for. Yes, I can give money to charities that help the kids in Africa, but what I want more than anything is to bring that parentless little family into my small living space and cook for them a good meal. Right now, that is beyond my reach, but I am hopeful someday it might not be.

Give thanks for every meal God gives you; and if you are up for it, fast once in awhile and ask Christ to give that meal you could have to someone else who is far less fortunate.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In Thanksgiving for Prayers Answered

Yesterday I had a small prayer answered.

I was driving to meet my wife at her doctor's appointment when I got a call on my cell phone. The caller ID showed that the call orginated from our parish office. I was expecting it to be any number of people from our church, but who it turned out to be was a surprise. It was my pastor. He was calling to ask if my wife and I could stop by and see him for few moments and talk about our concerns surrounding the mass where had removed the precious blood and cantor. I graciously accepted the invitation, and God forgive me, I spent the rest of the day wondering what he was up to. I was suspicious.

We met the pastor along with another couple who are stalwart participants in the mass in question. He humbled himself and one thing he said that touched me was, "I was wrong in the head but not the heart when I made these changes." We talked for a good half hour before we had to go as it was the Feast of the Assumption and my wife and I had not yet made it to mass. We laid out a plan to make some improvements, and I left the meeting with some new found respect for our pastor.

I will continue to pray for him, and I will pray for me. There is a reason pride is one of the seven deadly sins. My pride served as a roadblock to confronting my pastor on these issues. Instead I grumbled in the pew, to my wife, on this blog. I believe if I had initiated the meeting after his decision, I might have found a man more willing to consider a different response to what his head was telling him.

Christ in his mercy answered my prayer to find a way to deal with my pastor. It was the way of humility. Knowing how Christ lived, why am I not surprised?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Would He Step Up

Yesterday was the feast day of a saint I've recently discovered, St. Maximilian Kolbe. The short version of his story was that the he was a Franciscan priest during World War II who was thrown into the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Nazis. During his time in the camp he ministered to Christians and Jews alike.

When a prisoner escaped, the Nazi in charge of the camp chose at random ten men to die. Father Kolbe offered himself in place of a father of five children. Death was administered by starvation, and Father Kolbe ministered to each of the other nine who were thrown into the starvation chamber with him. They prayed the rosary. Sang Marion songs. All of this to the dismay of the Nazis. Slowly, men began to die. Father Kolbe was the last one left after about two weeks of starvation, and the Nazis frustrated by his endurance executed him.

As I reflected upon his story, I wondered how many priests I know would step up and give their lives in a similar circumstance? What heartens me is that I can think of at least three that I am acquianted. Good men, who if the situation arose, would step up like Father Kolbe. And this is not to disparage anyone who didn't have the courage to rise to the challenge. I would hope I would, but one doesn't really know until one is faced with the situation. After all, St. Peter ran away like a little girl during Christ's passion and by all accounts he was a very strong man.

Another interesting thing about St. Kolbe is that he lived at around the same time as St. Faustina and Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II), and all of these great souls came from the same area of Poland. On my next trip to Europe, I believe I will have to visit this area and see the ground where such devout souls once stood.

Don't forget today is a holy day of obligation as we celebrate Our Lady's Assumption into Heaven. Franciscans believe that Mary was 72 years old, which is why there are 72 beads on a Franciscan rosary. Just a little fact to share at your next cocktail party.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Petite Epiphany

I have a friend, Tony, who is a tree surgeon. Living in Portland, which is basically a big city plopped down in the middle of a rain forest, fellows who know trees are in high demand. Tony is very devout and he told me one day that sometimes as he is dangling high above the ground he gets what he calls "petite epiphanies." These are just little "aha" moments that lead to even deeper thought.

Yesterday at mass, I experienced my own petite ephiphany. As you may have read in previous entries, I struggle with our pastor, and I have considered leaving our parish for another where the mass is treated with the respect it deserves. So as our pastor was saying mass yesterday, I tried to set aside all of the peccadillos that get under my skin and make the best of it.

We got to the part of the mass where the priest elevates the host, and there it hit me. Christ is present...eventhough. It struck me just how merciful Our Lord is that he still comes to us in his body, blood, soul, and divinity eventhough the priest may not appreciate just what he is holding in his hands. No matter how haphazardly the priest treats the Eucharist, Christ comes to be with us anyway.

It has given me a new perspective on my dilema of should I stay or should I go from this parish. While I wish, dearly wish, all priests would cherish the Eucharist; as long as they are using the proper matter and form, Christ still becomes present. If in mass I concentrate too hard on all the little things and perhaps even some major items that are just not reverent, I might miss the whole point of my being there which is to be in communion with Our Lord.

Certainly I will continue to advocate a more orthodox approach to the mass; however, I have come to realize that if I experience an irreverent mass, I am simply watching Christ get scourged at the pillar, and the fact that he continues to want to be with us in this most intimate sacrament is a miraculous sign of His divine mercy.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hannah's Legacy

77 minutes.

That's how long it took Hannah to leave her mark on the world.

Last Thursday night our Respect Life Committee was pleased to welcome back one of our members who had been gone for the last few of our monthly meetings. He brought with him pictures of Hannah, who is as he describes his "Divine Mercy Baby."

Seventeen weeks into Hannah's mom's pregnancy doctors discovered that Hannah had a severe birth defect similar to Downs Syndrome, but more lethal. Doctors told mother and father that their child would not live long after birth, and encouraged them to get an abortion. They resisted the doctors' urgings. They put up with the side looks that the medical community gave them for daring to bring this child into the world intact. But Mom and Dad gave no thought to early termination.

The couple belongs to the Marionite Catholic Church, and I have to say from what I have read about their Rite, I deeply admire their orthodoxy. They are in full communion with Rome.

Not long after the diagnosis, Dad was praying for a miracle. During the 3:00 hour he began praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and it was at that time Our Lord gave him the news he didn't want to hear. He would be burying his own child. He told our group that he cried the most at that time, but was consoled by his two young daughters.

On March 22nd, about 37 weeks into the pregnancy, Mom went into labor. It was midnight. They knew the child would not live long after birth and frantic calls went out to family to meet them at the hospital along with a call to their parish priest. At exactly 3 a.m., the hour of Divine Mercy, Hannah was born.

The priest had not yet arrived and as they knew death was imminent, Dad baptised his child. Each of the family members took turns holding her. The pictures that Dad shared at our meeting Thursday night showed a room full of joyous people celebrating the birth of this latest of God's creations. There were not tears in the eyes of the family, but smiles on the faces.

Seventy-seven minutes later, Hannah went home to be with Our Lord. The priest arrived shortly thereafter and baptised the child again. It probably wasn't necessary as Dad's actions were perfectly valid, but it certainly didn't hurt. Plus, who knows how long after physical death the soul leaves the body?

So this little life who doctors wanted to destroy in the womb out of convenience and their own judgement of what a quality of life should be has forever changed the lives of her parents, her brothers and sisters, and even folks like me who are inspired by this story. In a view of existence through the eyes of eternity, one's life on Earth is but a blink of the eye, and difference between living 77 minutes or 77 years is negligible.

This is why every life matters. Thank you Hannah for reminding us of that fact.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Pondering a Change

I stayed home from work today. I had a doctor's appointment this morning and one the procedures performed was a cytoscopy. If you know what that it is, then you might appreciate my feeling a bit violated. If you don't know what that is, then don't ask. The good news is that results were normal.

I'm using this time off from work to ponder whether to stay at my current parish or not. It's a tough decision as I am involved with so many ministries at the parish, and while I shy away from such terms as "pillar of the church," I do consider myself a go-to person on a lot of things. The problem is, what to do when you lose faith in your shepherd to lead the flock? Such is the case here.

Our pastor is a baby boomer who has lost his faith. He has no reverence towards the Eucharist and has tried on several occasions to eliminate our adoration chapel. He removed offering the precious blood out of convenience from two of our Sunday masses and eliminated the cantor from one. He directs couples wanting to get married, but waiting for an annulment to just get married by a justice of the peace until the anulment comes through. His entire focus is on building a new church to replace our stately old one under the guise that we need more room.

What has been our saving grace these last few years has been that we had a strong associate pastor and a pastoral council that had some backbone. Now we have lost both. The strong members of the council got fed up with the pastor's backdoor maneuvers and left.

I pray for my pastor's conversion. And I pray that I make a wise decision in this regard. Part of me is telling me to run like the wind from this fallen leadership...the other part seems to be urging me to stay and try to provide support for the faithful until we get a new pastor in who knows how many years. I'm leaning towards the former.

Your prayers are appreciated.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My Least Brother

Where do we see Christ?

Many would say in the eyes of our loved ones. Others in the kind acts of charity one does for another. Catholics would certainly say we see Him in Eucharist.

How often do we look at a homeless person or a drug addict and say, "Yes, Christ is right there." It's a side of our Lord that is difficult to look at. The broken Christ. The lonely Christ. The abandoned Christ. And yet He is there. He tells us in scripture that whatever you do for the least of my brothers you do for me.

Yesterday at daily mass, a homeless fellow came into the Church. He was skinny, unshaven, and wore a pair of jeans that were two sizes too big that he constantly had to hitch up. After watching his mannerisms, I concluded that he was probably a heroine of meth addict. He was fidgety, and couldn't sit in one place for very long. He hopped from one pew to the next. At one point he pulled out a small notebook and furiously scribbled something on a piece of paper. I prayed to Christ, "give him peace."

When the gentleman finally landed somewhere he felt suitable, it was right behind me. As mass started, his demeanor changed. In back of me I heard this soft, gentle voice participating in the mass. His uneasiness subsided and he seemed to be at peace. After the Lord's Prayer as we exchanged the sign of peace, I looked into his eyes, and yes, Christ was there.

I wanted to offer him a meal after mass, but he left right after communion. I pray he finds help for his addiction, and I hope I see him again at mass. He is one of God's ideas, and though life has beat him down, he deserves the dignity that all people should be afforded precisely because they are a thought of God.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Yesterday was First Friday, and as has become my ritual, I went to the sacrament of reconciliation (aka confession.) I try to visit this awesome sacrament twice a month, but with my busy schedule this last month I only went to confession once in July. So when it came time to go to church yesterday, I was more than ready to get to it.

St. Michael's, my second home church as it close to where I work, offers the sacrament every day from 11:30 - Noon. I got to the church early, and decided to pray the rosary as I examined my conscience. As is was a Friday, my focus was on the Sorrowful Mysteries. It was humbling to examine each of my sins in the light of Christ's passion; to know that He had agonized over them; been scourged for them; humiliated for them; and ultimately crucified. I gazed up at the beautiful life-sized crucifix that hangs over the alter and saw both the results of my handiwork and a perfect expression of love.

When Father walked into the confessional, a good number of people sprang from the pews to get in line. St. Michaels has the old-style confessionals kind of like you see in the movies, though I do believe the priest knows my voice by now, and we very much have a dialogue. He heard my sins, counseled me, and then as he gave me absolution, I felt a huge sense of peace wash over me. As I stepped out of the confessional, the world had a new look to it. I liken it to updating the prescription on your glasses. You didn't realize how fuzzy your sight had become until you put on the new pair. In a similar sense I didn't realize how dingy my soul had become until I came clean with the Lord.

The mass that followed continued this peaceful feeling. I found myself hanging on every word and at the consecration my whole body felt as if a million needles were lightly pricking my skin. I get this feeling often at this moment in the mass. I believe it's my own internal reminder that Christ is physically present in the Eucharist as I also get this sensation during adoration.

So if you're a Catholic who hasn't been to confession in awhile my advice to you is simple. Go. Remember Christ didn't come to condemn, but rather to save. Treat yourself to some saving grace. You've earned it, and He wants you to have it. Set aside your pride, embarrassment, fear, whatever, and just go to this sacrament.