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.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Line

By 7:00am the line was a half a block long.

It's become a kind of Thanksgiving tradition for me the last few years to get up early Thursday morning and drive downtown to the Union Gospel Mission to help set up these large event tents that serve as a makeshift cafeteria in the middle of Third Avenue between Burnside and Couch (pronounced "cooch") Street. For one day of the year, this street belongs to the least of our brothers. They are the homeless; the mentally ill; the addicts; and those whose hearts were broken so severely by life that they simply gave up and lost hope. Each year, several hundred venture to Third Street for a good hot meal, and a respite from their lives of living on the margins.

It was very cold this Thanksgiving morning, and as typical for Portland Oregon in the fall, very wet. I parked my car a few blocks down from the event site. It started to sprinkle rain as I arrived and as I was shaking hands with my fellow workers and exchanging "Happy Thanksgiving" the heavens opened up and pea-sized hail began to pelt us. There was no dampening of spirits. We laughed, shook our heads, and someone yelled out "Let's get 'er done."

Typically it takes about two hours with about 25 guys working to set up the series of 20x40 tents. It is a marvelous exhibition of team work. While we do have a project leader, pretty much everyone just gets to work like a colony of ants. If you see a task that needs to be done, you don't ask "who's doing it?" The job belongs to you. With the motivation of the hail, which turned to a sheet of rain, we had the tents up within an hour and a half.

The project leader handed out $5 Starbucks gift cards to all the volunteers as a token of his appreciation, but the real reward for all of us was the event itself. When we were done and heading back to our cars to drive home to our families, we saw the line of people who would be dining in our temporary restaurant already starting to form. Dinner is served between 10am and 7pm. By 7:00am the line was a half a block long.

The news didn't cover this event. Some years they do, but it wasn't interesting enough for them this year. I did see this morning coverage of another line. This one in front of a Best Buy electronics store. A line, about a half a block long, had formed there the night before. People in this line weren't hoping for a good meal. They had camped out all night so they could be the first to storm the store when it opened at 7:00am. How apropos that today is called "Black Friday." There is indeed somewhat of a dark element in the juxtaposition of Thanksgiving and gluttonous combat consumerism that follows the very next day.

As to the diners of the Union Gospel Mission tents, yesterday, today the struggle resumes. It's cold, it's raining, and the next meal is still uncertain. They will watch the shoppers from the alleys as they try to figure out where they will spend another night without a home. Soon they will decide if getting in line in the rain in front of the homeless shelter which poses its own dangers is worth it, or if they will find a doorway where the police won't bother them as long as they leave before it gets light.

Christ wonders the streets still looking for a room in the inn.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

In Thanksgiving

As this year's Thanksgiving holiday roles around, I do have so much to be genuinely thankful for. God has been merciful and kind to me over the last year. And while He knows my heart, I wanted to share just a few things that cause me to feel grateful.

First and foremost is my thanksgiving for God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is my creator, my savior, my inspiration, my friend, my Heavenly Father, my benevolent task master, my reason for living, my hope after death, my comforter, my companion, my just judge, my best advocate, my guide, my ever present reminder of how beautiful life really is. God is love.

Second, I am thankful for my wife, my family. This last year has been a struggle for us, but through my pain and frustration, she has stood with me, supported me, loved me, encouraged me, kicked me in the butt when needed, held me, listened to me, made me laugh, and been my best friend in all weathers.

Next I am thankful for my immediate family. I'm thankful for my Mom who constantly prays for me, and for my Dad who has taught me the value of patience. I'm thankful for my eldest sister whose wisdom I value, and I'm thankful for my middle sister who is always ready to listen.

I am thankful for my Catholic family here in Oregon. I never knew how many dear friends my wife and I could be blessed with until we came home to this faith. To list them all would be a form of bragging, and I would likely leave someone out accidentally so I won't take that risk. There are so many from so many different walks of life. More specific, I am thankful for Teams of Our Lady. What a blessing this group has been to us.

I'm also thankful for my friends outside the faith. I see Christ in them, too.

I'm thankful for Pope Benedict XVI. What a gift. And I am thankful for the The Church Christ has entrusted him to shepherd.

I'm grateful for all the material things the Lord has given me. They are temporary pleasures in the grand scheme of things. How many people have little to call their own? I have to constantly remind myself that none of what I have follows me to Heaven. Everything belongs to God...I'm just borrowing the stuff while I'm here.

I could spend the better part of the day listing all of the people, things, and events in my life that I am thankful for. I encourage everyone to take a few minutes and step back from the turkey, the family drama, the insane shopping, and yes, even the football, and spend a few quality moments with God to give Him a simple, "Thank you."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Where To Stick That Warning Label

In July of 2005, US District Judge Laurie Smith Camp, ruled that Union Pacific Railroad had discriminated against its female employees by not covering contraception in its health plan. While this judge did not order the company to cover contraceptives, she did say that Union Pacific's policy ran afoul of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discrimination based on gender or pregnancy. It's intersting to note that the lawsuit was funded largely by Planned Parenthood. Part of their argument included that the Union Pacific plan covered men who had erectile dysfunction so women would be getting the short end of the stick (sorry, couldn't resist) if they too didn't get some kind of coverage for thier own sex needs.

Union Pacific, no doubt feeling railroaded, appealed the decision and presented their case this week before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. I was struck by the plaintiff's lead attorney's statement that described that men received coverage that protected them from health risks; so why shouldn't women receive the same coverage?

Pregnancy is a health risk?

So my first question is where do we put the warning labels? We have warning labels on cigarette packs warning that smoking is a health risk especially for pregant women. Similar warning labels are on bottles of booze. Should we afix labels now on men's underwear warning women that removing and using its contents could seriously put their health at risk?

Clearly this is just another sad attempt by Planned Parenthood to reinforce their position that a baby in the womb is a parasite to its host mother. By getting said baby classified as a health risk then it makes it far easier to make the case that such a risk should be allowed to be aborted at will.

Appeals Court Judge Pasco Bowman didn't seem to buy the argument that pregnancy was a health risk in and of itself. Union Pacific's attorney made the case that the policy didn’t discriminate against women at all since all employees were denied contraception coverage. Apparently the plan doesn't cover the men's purchase of codoms either. What is more, the railroad's health-care plan does offer contraceptive coverage for women who face higher health risks from pregnancy, such as those with high blood pressure or other conditions.

It will be very telling for our culture to see if this Appeals Court rules that fertility itself is a health risk. A ruling for the plaintiff could open the door for many other more grave activities. For example, if fertility is considered a health risk, then shouldn't the government fund contraceptive programs and even sterilization for the poor? Talk about potential for social engineering.

And the feminists howled when Pope Paul VI warned about the dangers the pill would bring to humanity. Pray for a sensible ruling from this court.

Monday, November 06, 2006

More Than an Honor

Today my wife and I received a very unexpected blessing. A young couple who we came to know as they journeyed through the RCIA process asked us to be the godparents of their child who is due to be born in early December. I can think of no higher honor that someone could bestow upon us. To entrust us with the responsibility of looking after the spiritual well being of their child is indeed awesome and beautiful.

This is my first opportunity to be a godfather since coming back to the faith. I'm reasonably certain that I failed miserably as godfather to the two nephews my sister entrusted me with, though I try to impart wisdom where I can. Mostly I try to remind them to do as I say...not as I did. But when my sister asked me to be a godparent, my faith was no where near where it should have been. I was a fallen away Catholic with no real concept of what it means to take on this responsibility. And it didn't help that my sister and I have rarely even lived in the same time zone so I've always been the distant uncle to them. Thanks be to God, she is a great mom and has been blessed that, so far, (both are in college, now) they seem to be living their faith.

Hindsight is painfully 20/20 at certain moments of our lives. My prayer is that twenty years from now, this child will have fond memories of her godfather and godmother, and that we won't be just names on a baptismal certificate. I look forward to her baptism, confirmation, first communion, and her becoming a bride if she so chooses. I pray she always sees me as a pillar of faith that she can lean on whenever this human experience gives her doubt. I pray she will look at my wife and see the saint I see. And I hope her parents will understand if my wife and I take a bigger interest in her well being than the typical godparent.

I am deeply humbled by this news and ever amazed at the love of God.