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.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Unexpected Guest

Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.
Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est

Through the glass doors of the reception hall he viewed the feast. The party was not his. Like most things this was another event where he was not invited. Living life on the margins and in the shadows had excluded him from most special occasions. Dressed in baggy sweats and a well-worn teeshirt he certainly was not attired for this austere reception of the newlyweds. But when one is homeless vanity and pride seem to wane with the repeated assaults on dignity. His presentation meant little.

His focus was on the buffet, and in particular a small mountain of dinner roles toward the end of the line. The guests had long made their way through, and now only a straggler to the reception or a bored guest visited the bounty of food that remained. All eyes were on the people dancing or engaged in dozens of private conversations. No one would notice. He made his move and quickly entered the noisy reception hall and made a beeline to the bread. With little deliberation he snatched a roll and exited the room as quickly as he had entered.

He sat on a concrete bench just outside the hall and consumed the roll. When he was done, it was time for seconds. He made his way to the door and his eyes darted from one end of the room to the other checking to see if he would remain invisible as he so often seemed to be. Again he entered and made his way to the buffet, but this time he encountered a man dressed in a tuxedo. He paused, but then the man motioned him to come forward.

"Wait here, I'll get you a plate." was all he said.

Was it a trap? Was the man really going to call the police? He must have thought of bolting, but then he may have thought what did he really have to lose. A minute later, the man in the rented tux reappeared with two large paper plates.

"Please help yourself. You're welcomed here."

The homeless man never said a word. He took one of the plates and piled it high with a variety of selections from the spread before him. Chicken, ribs, potatoes, even some salad, and of course more rolls. The groom came over, assessed the situation, and then simply smiled and nodded his approval to his best man/groomsman who kept a respectful, watchful distance from this unexpected guest. The man unaccustomed to such friendliness from strangers did not stay long. He made his meal in a to-go fashion using the spare plate he had been given as a cover and again exited the reception hall and returned to his bench outside where he dined.

One of the wedding guests who witnessed the event indignantly remarked,

"Can you believe it? He just came in here and helped himself."

The groomsman calmly defended his helping the man,

"We're Catholic. It's just what we do."

The uninvited guest vanished into the night a short time later. In his encounter with this event, with this group of people, he experienced the love of Christ. In his world there is no use for lofty ideas. In his state of existence survival governs his ethical choices. And yet, one could reasonably propose that his encounters with Christ are just as genuine as his witness to the cruelty of man.

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst."
John 6:35

What became of this wedding guest no one knows. The hope remains that he will continue to have more encounters with Christ though the people of this mystical body of Our Lord, and one day he have no need for stealth as he participates in the wedding feast of the Lamb.

And on a deeper level, how many Catholics approach this same feast that Christ has laid out in the same way as the unexpected wedding guest? They dash in, pick and choose the teachings of their liking, and then scurry back outside of full communion. Christ welcomes them and encourages them to stay, but their pride or fear or righteous indignation, or perhaps their laziness does not allow it. They feel out of place in the full body of Christ so they stay on the margins of faith and approach Christ with the same hit and run mentality as the homeless visitor. They hunger for Him, but cannot bring themselves to sit at His table.

All are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Let all hear the invitation; come to the banquet; and remain as welcomed members of Christ's family.

(The above is a true story. It happened at a wedding my wife and I attended a couple of weeks ago.)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Theology of King Crab

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
Ecclesiastes 11:9

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen stated in one of his television programs that each person is really three people. The first is the person one portrays to the world. This is the person our friends and enemies, family and strangers see. The second person is the one the individual perceives of himself. Finally, the third person is who the individual really is; not as the world sees one; not as one sees oneself, but rather the reality of one's existence. It is this person that God studies with a great deal of interest. It is this person who stands before Our Lord in the moment after death when one experiences one's particular judgment.

God judges us for who we really are.

It is easy to fall into the belief that when one meets God face to face that there will be time to prepare and present a case before The Almighty in defense of one's actions. There exists a notion that God's justice can be reckoned with through persuasive argument. Many hope that when at last they meet Our Lord face to face they will finally have the opportunity to sit down and explain a few things with Him about their lives and sinful actions.

Yet the Catholic Church teaches that the particular judgment is really more of a sorting process than a trial. God looks at one's interior being and appropriately sends one to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. This is instantaneous with no time to bargain for a better deal. No continuance of the sentence exists. One second one is alive, the next one is dead, and a second more and one finds out one's destiny.

There is a popular television program, today, called "Deadliest Catch" which chronicles life aboard the fishing boats in the Bearing Sea that harvest Alaskan King Crab. It is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world as the men are subjected to unpredictable weather; wrestling with 900 pound crab pots; and rogue waves that could easily wash one into the icy waters where death by exposure happens in minutes.

As each crab pot gets pulled from the ocean floor, the crab are dumped onto a sorting table and a deckhand uses a measuring stick to determine if the crab is big enough to keep or has to be tossed out of the boat back into the ocean. In an instant, these giant crabs are judged good enough or rejected based on their condition alone. Even if the crab were able to speak there would be no time for them to make their case for life or death.

This is particular judgment.

So what does God look for when a soul, like the crab, gets dumped onto His sorting table? Is He looking for good deeds? Is He looking for the number of sins? Does He look for how wealthy one was or how much time one devoted to a career? Is He searching for how remorseful one was over sins? Just what is God's measuring stick that determines whether eternity is with Him or one gets tossed out of the boat and into Hell?

Perhaps the answer is not what God looks for, but who. As one comes before Him, God searches the being looking for His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. If the grace of Christ is found, it's a keeper. Otherwise, the soul is tossed out of the boat. This is where the allegory ends with the crab; for at the same time God seeks His Son, the soul sees the unfathomable beauty and perfection of the Creator for the first time juxtaposed to the reality of its own condition, and the soul confers judgment upon itself. Seen in the light of the beatific vision, the blemishes on the soul become so obvious, so illuminated by the light of love that is God, that the opportunity to go to Purgatory versus being presented before the Lord in such an unclean state not only makes sense but seems preferable. The state of those in Purgatory must be that just a glimpse of God in all of His glory is so beautiful that one gladly suffers whatever that cleansing process is in order to be presentable to Him.

This is why it matters while one walks the Earth that one becomes as much like Christ as possible. Not that one puts on a show for others with seemingly Christ-like deeds. Not that one deludes oneself with pride over piety. But that one conforms the very interior, the very core to perfect communion with Our Lord.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

Let all people pray that when they meet the Heavenly Father for the first time in Heaven, He will smile and exclaim,

"You look like me. You're a keeper."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Rudy's Fantasy

What is missing from these two statements?

"The Kingdom of God comes in the degree in which it comes to specific men, finds an opening into the soul and is accepted by them. The Kingdom of God is the 'lordship' of God, that is to say, the dominion of the Holy God in each different heart." - liberal theologian Adolf von Harnack c. 1930

"Issues like that for me are between me and my confessor. ... I'm a Catholic and that's the way I resolve those issues, personally and privately," he said. "That's what religion is all about -- it's something that's between you and your conscience and God and then whoever your spiritual advisers are." - Former New York City Mayor and Presidential Candidate Rudolph Giuliani speaking about his pro-choice position.

What is missing? The entire concept of communion. Both the wayward theologian and politician have attempted to put mortal limits on the infinite Divine by reducing God to a personal choice. The Almighty becomes no greater than what one can accommodate in one's conscience. Feelings become the overriding influencer in decision making since in essence one has equated one's logic as the defining will of God. Nothing is absolute. All things are plausible. Relativism reigns.

Communion is one of those terms that many sort of understand, but do not fully grasp. They might define communion as simply that host and sip of wine one receives on Sunday. In simplest terms communion is the full participation in something that one realizes is part of something that goes beyond oneself. Far from a loss of individuality, communion is a total contribution of self to the benefit of the whole while the whole reciprocates and gives back to the individual. The Mystical Body of Christ describes this continuous relationship between Christ and His Bride the Church. Obviously this is not a relationship of equal gifts as one could never give back to Him the salvation he offers; however, one can strive to give all of oneself to Our Lord in the way that He has given all of Himself to humanity.

Marx and Engles perverted this concept with their philosophy of communism. In their model, the individual mattered only as far as the individual was contributing to the benefit of the state. The state did not give back to the individual a full share of itself, only what was subjectively deemed necessary. Small wonder the system failed to stand the test of time.

In contrast many Protestant faiths who have separated themselves from being in communion with the The Bride in favor of an individual experience. The individualist Jesus is their Lord and personal savior. There is not room for communion with others in that intimate relationship. Christ becomes a kind of polygamist having many brides who share a common husband. Mr. Giulini's own words quoted above confirm his being counted in their ranks.

Yet Christ did not call for each person to establish a relationship with Him that was seperate from His Bride, the Church. He did not design a relationship intended to be outside of His Mystical Body. Pope Benedict XVI described in his March 15th, 2006 Wednesday address that Christ's entire mission of coming to man in the flesh as one of communitarian finality. As the Holy Father stated in his address: "He came precisely to gather together a scattered humanity. He came precisely to gather together the People of God."

Continuing Pope Benedict's remarks:

In a certain sense, we could say that the Last Supper is precisely the act of founding his Church, because he gives himself and in this way creates a new community, a community united in the communion with himself. From this perspective, it is understood that the Risen One grants them, with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the power to forgive sins (John 20:23). The Twelve Apostles are in this way the most evident sign of Jesus' will over the existence and mission of his Church, the guarantee that between Christ and the Church there is no opposition: They are inseparable, despite the sins of the people who make up the Church.

Therefore, there is no way to reconcile Christ's intentions with the slogan that was fashionable a few years ago, "Christ yes, the Church no." The individualist Jesus is a fantasy. We cannot find Jesus without the reality that he created and through which he communicates himself. Between the Son of God, made man and his Church, there is a profound, inseparable continuity, in virtue of which Christ is present today in his people.

He is always our contemporary -- our contemporary in the Church built upon the foundation of the Apostles. He is alive in the succession of the Apostles. And his presence in the community, in which he himself always gives himself, is the reason for our joy. Yes, Christ is with us, the Kingdom of God is coming.

With this in mind, there really cannot be such thing as a liberal or conservative Catholic. One is either in communion with Christ or one is not. Church teachings, precisely because they are of His Church, are not open to debate regarding their correctness in the light of the culture of the day or their political viability. They simply are, and one has the free will to choose to be in communion with Him or to step outside of that communion and be on one's own.

When pressed on how reconciled his beliefs with the Pope and the Church, the former New York City mayor simply stated,

"I don't get into debates with the Pope."

Perhaps somewhere in Rudy's heart, he knows where the truth lies instead of falling for the fantasy of lies that have become the mammon he and many other Catholic political leaders have chosen to serve.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Frozen in Time


That is the conservative estimate for the number of frozen embryos that exist in the United States. In laboratories across the country these tiny little souls are stored in a deep freeze awaiting their chance to win the lottery and be successfully implanted into the womb of a mother who cannot conceive a child under the natural law. Through in vitro fertilization (IVF,) multiple embryos are introduced into the womb in the hope that one successfully finds a place to continue its life journey. All the ones that fail this trial simply die an unceremonious death and pass out of this world completely unnoticed. All of these lives had been deemed expendable from the start. The only thing necessary was the $20,000 to $30, 000 fee to play this game of chance. It costs so much not because human life is precious, but rather because that is what the market will bear.

The market supports another interesting twist on this practice that has peaked the interest of a growing number of couples who choose to participate in IVF. About 40% of the time, IVF actually results in a pregnancy. Couples often still have many embryos left in cold storage. The solution, embryo adoption. Much like traditional adoption, the couple gives away their children that they cannot or simply do not want to care for to another couple looking to use IVF. The moral position is that these embryos would just go to waste so why not make them at the disposal of other couples struggling with fertility? After all, they're just sitting there in frozen in time.

Across the country there are literally thousands of people who live in skilled nursing facilities and exist in states of irreversible coma. For whatever reasons their brains have largely shut down except for the part of the brain that keeps the heart beating and the lungs breathing. These people are just lying there taking up space. Should man not kill them to harvest their organs to use in organ transplant so another could live?

The answer is of course, no. These are people. They matter. They are not commodities to be traded for their material value. We have hope that one day we might have the medical technology to bring them back from their distant unreachable world. Until then we care for them as best we can.

Likewise, despite how heartbreaking infertility can be, it does not give couples the license to gamble with the lives of these embryos that man created outside of the natural law. They are people. They matter. They are not commodities to be traded for their material value. Hope must be maintained that one day these lives can be brought out of their state of suspended animation. Humanity created this mess. It has the moral obligation to take responsibility for the lives who have been conceived by man's arrogance and cavalier attitude towards reproductive technology.

These embryos have few if any rights. They are too small, too dependent, too misunderstood. They have no voice nor capacity for man to know their souls. But God knows them. He willed them. He loves them. He finds their lives necessary. They belong to him, but He entrusted their earthly care to humanity. That care does not include using these embryos like bingo balls and the womb like a bingo ball machine in the hope that one of these soul's lucky number will come up.

An even more sinister use of these lives is found in medical research. The dark little secret that the media never talks about and scientists certainly do not promote is that one of the compelling, driving forces in further use of embryonic stem cell research is the simple fact that a supply of embryos is stacking up in fertility clinics. If those clinics could sell those embryos for research they could reduce their operating costs and increase their profits by having another revenue stream in the marketing of these souls for their use by medical researchers.

Were an even more lax use of embryonic research allowed, imagine how that exploitation would extend itself. Marketers would solicit women to donate their eggs for money, and likely the poor would be most impacted.

Life begins at conception. Man's responsibility for that life begins the second after that happens, and his culpability for the death of the most innocent does not diminish one iota simply because that life was created by extraordinary means.

"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish" - Mother Theresa.

Those words by this saintly woman were spoken as she reflected on abortion. Americans have killed 40,000,000 babies, largely for convenience. Over 400,000 have been created for much the same reason. Let man rise out of this poverty, step up, and do what is for the moral good.