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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Evangelium Lux

Machines surround him. Some of them beep, some gurgle, and still others whoosh. An array of digital monitors display a color-coded graphic representation of his most vital functions. A bright light heats the area where he rests in a cloud of white fluffy fabric. He wears a blindfold with cleverly drawn on sunglasses to protect his sensitive eyes from the intense light. Tubes about the size of angel hair pasta run in and around his little pink body. There are people watching over him every minute of every day. There are people, dozens of people, maybe even hundreds, praying for him.

His name is Luke. He was born a couple of days ago at about 26 weeks of age. At two pounds and change, he has risen to the status of giant in the heart of this author, and he may well very likely be the most beautiful baby that God has blessed this lowly writer to ever encounter. How incredible to experience pure love for someone who simply is. These last two days have been as if a small little tear in the veil that divides Heaven and Earth has been allowed to remain open, and the light of creation has illuminated areas of the heart previously hidden and waiting for discovery.

Young Luke has demonstrated the power of God in the most frail of conditions, and he has come to serve as an icon of sorts to why so many find this Catholic faith a place to call home. His parents are two of the most lovely people one can know. When word of mom's pregnancy being in distress got out, a literal army of support began a host of prayers. It simply is what a people who live in communion do for one another. Suddenly this family became a rallying point for faith in the love and mercy of Christ. Priests, deacons, and the laity all joined hearts to submit their petition for this family. Countless saints were called upon to intercede, and logistical support was provided to care for the couple's tw0-year-old. It was an orchestra of love.

He lies in an incubator and one can see God continuing to knit together His latest idea. What an honor to observe this work in progress, to see that which normally takes place within the sanctity of a mother's womb. Taped to his incubator are several items; a picture of his family; a miraculous medal once touched by Mother Theresa; a Divine Mercy prayer card blessed by John Paul II; and medal of St. Luke, blessed by the priest who performed his baptism on the day of his birth. He has a lot of people working on his behalf, and even though he is not out of the woods yet, hope remains. It is a hope born from faith and nurtured by belief.

May God's blessings rain down upon the doctors and nurses who have chosen their vocation to care for these little ones. In their own way, they are keepers of clear tabernacles of incarnate messengers of Christ. These precious little lives who occupy the NIC-U proclaim their words of God's glory not in sermons or writings or works, but rather in their simple existence and determination to be.

They are a living gospel of light.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Second Chance

How could a loving God allow so much suffering?

That's a question that has plagued humanity from its earliest understanding of his Divine Father. In Western culture, suffering gets equated to bad under all circumstances. Scientists have been experimenting with a drug called propranolol to erase painful memories from war veterans, car accident patients, and rape victims. The idea being that eliminating these memories in the early stages of recovery will prevent post traumatic stress disorder down the road.

It's an ethical dilemma to be sure. To what extent should one eliminate the painful past? Is one's life to be defined by only the sum total of the good experiences? Does not wisdom also come from learning from those more difficult, even traumatic events that shape and mold one's character? What if such a drug had been administered to the Christians and Jews who survived the Nazi concentration camps? Without testimony from the victims, would the horror of such human atrocities survive their initial discovery?

What if the apostles and disciples of Christ had taken propranolol post crucifixion? Without the memory of His passion and death, what meaning does the resurrection take?

And yet suffering is a part of the fallen human experience. While the intent seem laudable, such research into completely wiping out the undesired times of one's life from memory is an act of playing God, and really not a very good one at that. The answer to why such a loving God would allow suffering to occur is not that complicated.

In the beginning God created a world free of suffering. Adam and Eve had no knowledge of it prior to the fall. After the fall, man's reality changed. The simple answer to why suffering exists does not lie in the whimsies of a Creator who is trying to teach one a lesson. God does not punish man by giving him suffering. New Orleans wasn't flooded as some kind of biblical trip to the proverbial woodshed. Death, pain, distress are a chosen reality. By the human race's first parent's free will this fallen reality was selected over the paradise in which they were created into. Humanity serves as the inheritors of the consequences of that decision.

Hindsight being 20/20, the temptation to proclaim that one would have done better if given that same situation today seems logical. Yet how many less than holy temptations does one give into on a daily basis? Is it not arrogance to presume such ability for doing better than Adam and Eve?

God in His mercy assessed the situation. He, too, had a choice. He could either leave man to forever live in his fallen state away from Him, or he could offer humanity another way, a second chance. Enter the New Adam.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
John 3:16-18

Suffering is a quality, a characteristic, of the world that Christ came to save. It could no more be eliminated from reality than the air which man breaths. The question is not why suffering exists, but how does one use suffering for the glory of God? The simple act of respiration provides a wonderful allegory. The Lord gives man this gift of air to inhale; however, if he keeps it in by holding his breath, within a minute he becomes distressed. The air he a moment ago drew life from now becomes toxic. He must give this gift of air back to the Lord by the simple act of exhalation. How interesting that the air he drew in that sustains his life provides the carbon dioxide plant life needs to live. Simply breathing provides a natural exchange of gifts between man and creation.

In a like way, man encounters suffering. Like the air, he doesn't seek it out. It's simply there waiting for him, though praise be to God, it's not as all encompassing as air. If he takes in the suffering and holds it in, then the suffering becomes toxic to his spirit. He despairs. He loses faith. He doubts his Lord. Yet if he releases this suffering back to Christ, then relief is found, and purpose gets restored. While oxygen is the good that gets retained from breathing, a closer union with Christ is the good that comes from the taking in of suffering. The question is, how does one exhale suffering to complete the exchange?

"Love is the first ingredient in the relief of suffering."
St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

Love provides the strength and courage to release the suffering internalized. To give one's burden to Our Lord perhaps becomes the most liberating act one does. Christ takes on our suffering and redeems it in the eternal sacrifice. How joyful when one can take suffering and pray that it be used for the benefit of another who is in need or even a soul in purgatory. In a sense, suffering becomes almost a sacramental by which the grace of dying to one's ego is achieved.

There is no tragedy too big for the consolation of Christ. Perhaps instead of seeking to create a false world where nothing bad ever happened, the scientists tinkering with propranolol should seek to discover the true purpose of suffering in the natural order.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Surviving the Fall

In the study of Adam and Eve, so often one has the tendency to focus on the negative that was their experience. They had such a great start and it ended so terribly bad for them. First, a review of the good they were given by The Lord.

In one account God breathes life into man at his creation.

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.
Genesis 2:7

The Creator did not just deposit a spirit within a biological organism; rather He created the incarnate soul. A being unique to His creation. This was new. Unlike the angels, archangels, cherubum, and seraphim, this created being was physical and spiritual in nature. So powerful was this act that scripture reveals that The Lord does not breathe on humanity again until His own incarnate nature, Christ, breaths on the Apostles to impart the Holy Spirit upon them and gives them, His Church, the authority to forgive and retain sins. The physical Church imbued with its spiritual character. No other church or religion on Earth was given such a gift.

And God provided for man all that he needed. In such a perfect state of grace, the concept of want must have been foreign to him; yet in his solitude he knew he was not complete. In His mercy The Lord created from the center of man, his rib, woman to be his compliment and he to be hers. There exists no physical description of Eve; however, free from sin and in a state of perfect grace she must have been extraordinarily beautiful, though Adam would not have been stirred by concupiscence. His exclamation that she was "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" was the highest superlative. And seeing the good within each other, they were married by God first, and then they made love.

Too often the phrase "both were naked and not ashamed" gets assigned a Western thought. The idea that Adam and Eve were able to look at each other's naked bodies and think nothing of it. In Hebrew, the language in which Genesis is written, being naked in the context used here is a euphemism for the sexual act. The fact that they had intercourse with no shame indicates that it was righteous act. Notice, too, that the purpose of sex as a strictly pro creative exercise never gets inferred here. Adam and Eve made love because it was in their very ontology to freely give themselves to each other. Humanity's fallen nature tainted by lust likely prevents one from truly visualizing how beautiful this union must have been.

Further evidence of this use of the word naked in the context of a sexual act can be found in the Leviticus. Chapter 18 serves a laundry list of various people The Lord commands one not to engage in sexual relations.

Married in the light of paradise, they had the world at their feet and the fate of humanity in their hands. Enter Satan and Adam's gravest action which was not the partaking of the fruit, but rather the failure to protect his wife. Scripture reveals that Adam was with Eve when she was tempted by the serpent. Did he try to stop her? He knew the consequences revealed by God for even touching the Tree of Knowledge, but nowhere in scripture do we read the words of Adam,

"No, Eve! Don't!"

Did all the other beings in Heaven gasp? Was there an eerie silence as all of God's creation witnessed the fall of these most beautiful creatures who were made in the very image and likeness of The Most High? Did the choir of angels who continuously sing their praise to God miss a beat? One can only speculate.

What is known is that suddenly the second context of the Hebrew word for naked gets introduced. This one, again goes far beyond the Western context of modesty, for it was reserved for describing the hopelessness of the slave, the criminal, the condemned. This was a loss of honor and dignity. In Middle Eastern thought, to claim one's dignity, one dressed in the finest most extravagant clothes. The longer the train the better. Notice the Pharisees with their lengthened fringes or the jealousy inspired by Joseph's coat in the latter chapters of Genesis. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves in an attempt reclaim the dignity they lost.

And yet despite the tragedy that befell our first parents, one amazing thing survived. They lost paradise. They lost their dignity. They gained pain, and toil, and death. But the one thing that even falling from grace could not take away...was their marriage. Adam and Eve saw the epitome of for better and for worse, and the marriage that God authored survived even their own fall from grace.

"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."
Mark 10:7-9

This is why marriage has been elevated to the dignity of a sacrament in the Catholic Church. And this is why divorce is not an option for those whose marriage is sacramental. Marriage is not just a contract between two people. Marriage is not just a social construct to be redefined to meet the whims of the culture. Marriage is not a pawn to be played by the gay community in their vision of equal rights. It is a sacrament so beautiful and powerful that it can take a direct hit brought on by the fall of man and survive. Why? Because its author is God.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Up in Smoke

It's been a bad week for Al Gore. The self-designated savior of the planet and inventor of the Internet now must face the fact that his son, Al the Third, has the judgment of Paris Hilton. No doubt global warming played a part in number three's lapse in common sense. The stress of inheriting a planet on the brink of destruction would drive any millionaire's kid to smoke weed, pop anti-depressants and prescription pain medication, and drive his Prius at 100 miles-per-hour down an Orange County California freeway in the wee hours of the morning. On the eve of his Live Earth concert, a druggie son is it's own inconvenient truth.

One item that the media has not picked up on is the growing number of scientists who have discovered an increasing number of errors in Gore's Oscar-winning documentary, which is looking more and more like a good work of fiction akin to Orson Welles' War of the Worlds. On June 30th, the Chicago Sun Times published the following facts that should give even the most ardent global warming disciple pause:

Al Gore’s Fantasy

The Convenient Truth

Gore claims that Himalayan glaciers are shrinking and global warming is to blame.

The September 2006 issue of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate reported, "Glaciers are growing in the Himalayan Mountains, confounding global warming alarmists who recently claimed the glaciers were shrinking and that global warming was to blame."

Gore claims the snowcap atop Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro is shrinking and that global warming is to blame.

According to the November 23, 2003, issue of Nature magazine, "Although it's tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain's foothills is the more likely culprit. Without the forests' humidity, previously moisture-laden winds blew dry. No longer replenished with water, the ice is evaporating in the strong equatorial sunshine."

Gore claims global warming is causing more tornadoes.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in February that there has been no scientific link established between global warming and tornadoes.

Gore claims global warming is causing more frequent and severe hurricanes.

Hurricane expert Chris Landsea published a study on May 1 documenting that hurricane activity is no higher now than in decades past. Hurricane expert William Gray reported just a few days earlier, on April 27, that the number of major hurricanes making landfall on the U.S. Atlantic coast has declined in the past 40 years. Hurricane scientists reported in the April 18 Geophysical Research Letters that global warming enhances wind shear, which will prevent a significant increase in future hurricane activity.

Gore claims global warming is causing an expansion of African deserts.

The Sept. 16, 2002, issue of New Scientist reports, "Africa's deserts are in 'spectacular' retreat . . . making farming viable again in what were some of the most arid parts of Africa."

Gore argues Greenland is in rapid meltdown, and that this threatens to raise sea levels by 20 feet.

According to a 2005 study in the Journal of Glaciology, "the Greenland ice sheet is thinning at the margins and growing inland, with a small overall mass gain." In late 2006, researchers at the Danish Meteorological Institute reported that the past two decades were the coldest for Greenland since the 1910s.

Gore claims the Antarctic ice sheet is melting because of global warming.

The Jan. 14, 2002, issue of Nature magazine reported Antarctica as a whole has been dramatically cooling for decades. More recently, scientists reported in the September 2006 issue of the British journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series A: Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences, that satellite measurements of the Antarctic ice sheet showed significant growth between 1992 and 2003. And the U.N. Climate Change panel reported in February 2007 that Antarctica is unlikely to lose any ice mass during the remainder of the century.

There was a time when the best and brightest of society professed that the world was flat. There was a time when the cultural elite championed the notion that the sun orbited the earth. Pliny the Elder (A.D. 50) was respected for his time and proposed that poisonous mushrooms were the result of snake's breath. The good news is that as more and more evidence brings to light the farce that is the global warming panic, hope remains that mankind will turn its attention to saving its soul versus the arrogant belief that it can control that which has been fashioned and governed by the Divine since the beginning.

Like the smoke from Al Gore III's torpedo, his father's misguided mission will up and drift away.