It is official, I have been accepted to attend Christendom College in the fall as a theology major! I just recently got the news from the admissions director. Who would have thought that I would be attending one of the most prestigious Catholic colleges in the nation, when only three years ago I was literally living on skid row. See, this is what God can do if we let Him take control of our lives. He really can make us new, transform us into who we were always meant to be. Front Royal Virginia, here we come! This is going to be such an exciting and challenging chapter in my life. I am so eager to study theology and immerse myself in the Catholic culture there. I am so looking forward to getting to know all the staff and professors. I think about how many wonderful, solid, faithful friends I will make while I am there. Being exposed to the old latin mass and all the beauty of the authentic faith. Studying philosophy and classic Christian literature. Going to the walk for life in D.C and doing volunteer work with the Missionaries of Charity, sisters so dear to my heart. Raising my son in a truly Catholic culture, surrounded by people serious about their faith. How wonderful and challenging all of this will be!
If there is one thing I will say I am good at, it's adapting and rising to a challenge. And now, with God by my side, I know that He will be my strength. I will walk and not grow weary, run and not grow faint.
Yes, this is meant to be.
Now, preparing myself to leave Portland and all my wonderful friends that I have come to love so much will be hard. I would like to say that I am coming back for sure, but the truth is, God will direct my life. He will guide me where I am to go and I don't know where that will be. I do know one thing, the next place that He wants me is at Christendom. I pray that He will stay close to me and I will remain faithful.
Yes, Lord Jesus, stay close. Be my helper and my strength. For I am surely going to need it. Without You, I can do nothing.
Please keep Me and Judah in your prayers.
Nothing can really compare to the evil and horror of abortion. We are witnesses to the pain and suffering this grave moral evil causes all the people involved, not to mention the lives of all the little babies that are lost each day all across our nation. A group of us faithfully congregate at multiple clinics here in Portland to pray and witness to life in a very important way. We try to give the women going in to the clinic help if they will accept it. We tell them that there ARE other choices for them to make. That we can help them with whatever they may need so that they don't have to kill their baby. We say, "Please, have pity on your baby!" ...Sometimes they stop and listen to us, often they do not and go inside to their appointment. We are there for them when they come out, if they want support then. Most importantly, I always ask for God to baptize these poor babies as they go in to their deaths, ripped apart in the one place where they thought they were safe. Their mother's womb. I think of it as a baptism of desire on my part and I pray that God will listen to my request. I am sure He does. As my good friend Therese put it, "We stand with the unborn babies as they die." Spiritually, we send ourselves inside the clinic, hoping that at least, the child knows there is one person who mourns for them. For the loss of the only earthly life they will ever get.
Yes, it is sad stuff, and often I wonder how I am not burned out completely from going to the clinics so often. Only by God's grace can I go there, day after day, and witness the devastation caused by the abortion industry.
Just when I think I am reaching my limit, God gives sends me a consolation. Something to keep me going for a while longer. Spiritual food for the long journey. And this time, the consolation came in the form of His devoted priest who came to help us laity fight the evil one. We are so very blessed at Holy Rosary Parish in Portland, as we have many good, holy, fearless priests. One of them is Father Gabriel who graciously answered my request to come to the clinic and say an exorcism prayer. He is known among the laity of being a priest that makes himself available to us. He is always ready to show up to do battle with the culture of death and all its evil cohorts. Among us, he is highly esteemed and respected. We so look forward to his homilies at daily mass, and treasure his boldness in teaching the authentic faith. Even when the teachings are hard. As our shepard, he loves us enough to tell us the truth. For this, we are grateful.
As we all stood around in front of the clinic waiting on Father and Brother Joseph to arrive, you could almost feel the heaviness of evil in the air. Looking at the building, one is taken with a sense of how massive and powerful the forces of evil we face are and how in comparison, we are so small. This is why Our Blessed Lord founded a Church, with a hierarchy. He put the authority into place that He knew we would need. He foresaw this battle long ago, and out of love, gave us the means by which to fight it. Our priests have an authority which comes from Him. They stand in "persona Christi", acting in the person of Christ. Jesus comes to us through His priests, and when He does, the diabolical tremble in fear.
I always think of the gospel passage about legion. How when Jesus comes upon the man with an unclean sprit who lived in the tombs, they cried out to Him, " Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!" Yes, the demons pleaded with Our Blessed Lord, they begged Him to let them go out into a herd of pigs. They were truly terrified, for they knew EXACTLY who it is they were up against. Their time of reckoning had come and they would have to answer to Him who was and is and is to come.
There is a whole reality that we do not see. An invisible realm where good and evil are caught up in a tremendous battle. As Saint Paul so wisely put it, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.”
The evil one seeks to snatch souls from the hands of God, all the while, God in His Mercy is offering us the way to salvation. What may seem like just a building, a clinic where abortions are performed, is actually a battlefield. The diabolical seek to destroy the infant in the womb, to profane this sacred space of femininity. After all, it was from the womb of a women that their Vanquisher came forth. I am convinced that this is the reason behind the crime of abortion committed against humanity. It's almost like the devil is trying to get even with the Women, who he knows will ultimately destroy him and crush his head.
Thanks be to God for the Church and all Her ministers! The fact that we can call on our priests to aid us in this fight is a source of great consolation to me. I have to admit, that when I saw Father Gabriel and Brother Joseph walking up to the clinic that day, dressed in the habit of Saint Dominic, I was filled with awe and wonder. Awe at what God has done for us and wonder at His mighty power. I was struck by the knowledge that God is in control, no matter what it seems like. As the sun radiated down on us that day , I could feel the loving presence of the Holy Spirit moving through us as we prayed the rosary, invoking the aid of Our Blessed Mother.
After Father had finished his prayer in Latin, he walked around the perimeter and sprinkled holy water on the blood-soaked ground. Even though it may look like regular dirt and concrete, we knew the reality of all the lives lost that stained its surface. All the dreams that would never be realized, birthdays that would never be celebrated.
How much longer, Oh Lord, will You hold back Your wrath from us! For how much time can we hope to keep Your justice at bay?
For now, we continue, day after day, grateful for the consolation given to us by the Church’s ministers. That truly, without them, without our priests, the laity would be lost. We thank God for their service to the faithful and pray that He will reward them greatly for all their tireless service.
God bless you all. Please keep us in your prayers, and all the people injured by the abortion industry.
Saint Catherine Laboure and the Virgin Mary. The Miraculous Medals I hand out.
"My child, I am going to give you a mission." These were the first words spoken by the Blessed Virgin to a novice of the Daughter's of Charity by the name of Catherine Laboure. The year was 1830 and Catherine was awakened by her guardian angel and told to go to the chapel where she received a vision of the Virgin. Later, during a second vision, she saw Mary standing on a globe with rays of light coming from rings on her fingers. Mary explained that the rays of light were the graces she obtains from God for those who ask for them. When Catherine asked her why some of the gems on the rings were dark and emitting no light, Mary answered, "The graces are available but did not come because no one asked for them."
Then, during the third vision, Catherine saw our Lady standing on a globe with her hands outstretched, the rays of light radiating down. Framing the figure was the inscription: O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Then the vision turned to show the reverse side of the medal. Shown were twelve stars encircling a large "M" from which rose a cross. Thorns encircled one heart and a sword pierces the other. The twelve stars represent the twelve apostles and the M stands for Mary. The cross coming out of the M shows the close relationship that she has with her Divine son. We must never forget how important this relationship is and how much Our Lord wants us to love and honor His mother.
Mary then spoke to Catherine: "Have a medal struck upon this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck."
With the approval of the Church, the first medals were made in 1832 in Paris and were quickly distributed to the people. Immediately, the blessings that Mary had promised began to shower down on those who wore the medal and word spread about this Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin. The Miraculous Medal is not a good luck charm or anything related to superstition. It is, in fact, a great testimony to the power of trusting prayer and our faith. God uses the medal, not as a sacrament, but as an agent to transmit grace to us. "The weak things of this Earth hath God chosen to confound the strong."
When Our Blessed Mother gave the medal to Saint Catherine she said, "Now it must be given to the whole world and to every person."
I have made a habit of carrying around miraculous medals, that have been blessed by my priest, to hand out to people in my day to day encounters. I make sure I keep them in the outer pocket of my backpack so I can grab them quickly if need be. I have handed them out in drive thrus, at grocery stores, at stop lights, gas stations, malls and in every place in between.
I have so many stories in the short time I have been doing this, of people being so moved by the Miraculous Medal and the grace that God gives through this little object. I have had people burst into tears when I handed them one, I have had people hug me and people literally light up with joy. Most people allow me to put them around their necks, and while I am reaching around them, I am silently praying to Our Blessed Mother. I ask her to bring the person to her son. To give them the graces they need the most right now in their lives. I ask for those graces that are available and that no one has asked for...
I have had the great joy of seeing people wearing these medals around town that I have given them in the past. This always makes me smile. I hope that this very small gesture makes Our Lady happy and brings her some consolation. I know how greatly offended she is.
I pray that all the people I have given these medals to will allow God to change their hearts and to draw them closer to Himself. I pray also that through this small act of kindness on my part, God will continue to convert me to love Him more and more. That He will help me to be better, closer and more like Him. Often I feel so very far away, but when I can get outside of myself and reach out to someone else, this is when I really get the sense of the divine life. This divine life that overflows with love towards the other, whoever they may be. The person in the check out line, the clerk at the McDonalds or even the person next to you in the DMV waiting room.
Very rarely I will have someone refuse the medal. This is also a good thing, because then I know to pray for that person especially. We can resist God's grace when He offers it. Every time we sin, this is what we are doing. He is constantly offering more and more grace to us. Every day that we wake up and are alive, we have a new opportunity to receive this incredible gift of God's love.
May we all choose the good instead of the evil that we are so inclined to want. I hope to always remember that there is no such thing as something "small" in the eyes of God. These little medals make a difference. They touch people's hearts as I have witnessed countless times.
*I purchase these medals from the Saint Paul Street Evangelization store @ streetevangelization.com
The chains they sell are also very good quality and do not rust. The medals are beautiful and people really love them. *
The saints are our friends, they are our family. They watch out for us, always attentive to our prayers. Interceeding for us to God in all our trials while we fight this great battle.
We are the Church millitant and the battle we fight is for souls. Our own and also the souls of others that the evil one tries to steal from God. The last thing that the enemy wants is for us here on earth to ask our heavenly friends for help. The saints are a great source of assistance in everything we face. Just on a day to day basis, even with little things, I am convinved that they have great care and concern for us.
I have come to know and love the martyred nuns of Nowogrodek. Their story of heroic virtue and self sacrifice fills me with joy. Blessed Mary Stella was the mother superior of her community of Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in Nowogrodek, Poland. They arrived there in 1929 by the invitation of the Bishop to found a school and care for the local Church. At first, the people did not want the nuns there and made this fact well known. There were many jews and protestants there at the time, so people were sceptical of the little nuns in black. The people would soon come to appreciate these nuns when the darkness of Nazi occupation overshadowed them in 1942.
The murderous rampage of the Nazis began with the arrest and execution is 60 persons in the town. Two of which were priests. A similar situation occurred in July a year later where 120 persons were arrested and detained. They were destined to be executed. When the sisters became aware of their plight they expressed a desire to sacrifice themselves in the place of the 120 family members. Sister Stella shared the desire of the community with their chaplain saying, "My God, if sacrifice is needed, accept it from us and spare those who have families. We are even praying for this intention."
In almost immediate answer to the sisters wishes, the plans for the prisoners was suddenly changed. They were deported to work camps and some were even released! Then, the life of their rector was threatened and the sisters of course renewed their offering by saying, "There is greater need for a priest on this earth than there is for us, we pray that God will take us in his place if sacrifice of life is needed."
God accepted their sacrifice. The people that were still imprisoned and the chaplain were spared. They attested to the holiness of the nuns and their powerful intercession before God.
The sisters were arrested, all but one. The one that was spared would stay behind and care for the common grave that would be the resting place of the martyrs. They were lead out into the woods and made to kneel in front of a giant hole in the ground. The Nazis had dug them a mass grave and allowed the mother superior, Blessed Stella, to bless her sisters before one by one they were shot in the head.
And there they lay, together, a sacrifice of love.
Let us ask the intercession of the Blessed Martyrs of Nowogrodek, that they may teach us what it truly means to be united with Christ in perfect love.
God continues to bless me in many surprising ways. At times I find myself so humbled by the fact that He would choose me for something so important. Just when I was in need of some serious spiritual direction in my life, along came Father Duffner. What a special gift he has been to me!
I remember noticing Father when he was on his way to mass in his wheelchair. I always wondered who he was and wanted to one day get to meet him. Then, one day, one of our priests asked me if I would consider helping care for Father Duffner who is 102 years old. I of course right away said yes! Honestly I was honored that they would think of me as an option. At our parish, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary in Portland, our priests are greatly admired. They are wonderful examples for all of us of holiness and faithfulness. When Father asked me if I would help, I felt that it was Jesus asking me. Of course, with a gladdened heart I accepted.
During the time I have known Father Duffner, he has helped me spiritually more than I can put into words. At first, he seemed a little weary of me. Not ever talking to me and keeping himself immersed in his work at the Rosary Center. Our schedule consists of me taking him to co-celebrate mass three days a week and then taking him to the Rosary Center across the street from the Church to work until the afternoon. I am with him 5 days a week and it's something I look forward to every day. He founded the Rosary Center to be a headquarters for spreading devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout the world and in the missions. They sell many different kinds of books in their online book store and send out countless free rosaries to the missions worldwide. Father Duffner, for many years, wrote articles in a newsletter that went out to many people. All his writings were published in two books called "To know Him". The way that he can take very complex theological concepts and explain them in layman's terms is an apparent gift of his. I recommend anyone to read his writings and to let his wisdom guide you.
As some time went on, I noticed Father opening up a little with me and talking to me briefly. I started to ask him questions about his writings as I read his books. Slowly, we developed a friendship. Day after day spent working together and talking about the faith. We especially like to talk about the saints and their relics. I tear up when I think about taking Father Duffner to the Church and getting him ready for mass. I dress him in his vestments and comb his hair. In his quiet, peaceful way, he shows me how to be patient. His biggest lesson to me has been to accept the daily crosses that God sends us without complaining. He calls it, "Anything that goes against the grain." Our little daily crosses that we are asked to carry. He tells me that if I complain I lose the merit! How we could all attain to sanctity quickly if we stopped complaining! I surely need to take in this lesson.
Father Duffner NEVER COMPLAINS. He just doesn't. He is so inspiring to me, he makes me want to be better, more holy and more like Our Lord. I see in Father Duffner what I hope to one day be. A soul who truly says, Lord Your will and not mine be done.
We recently celebrated Father's anniversary of his ordination, on December 21st 1940. He has been a priest for 77 years! What a gift he has been to the Church and to all the faithful that have come to know him.
One afternoon after Father heard my confession, I asked him is he would pray for me when he gets to heaven. He simply looked at me and said, "If I make it there...."
I knew at that moment what a holy priest he was. That is the perfect answer. May we all work out our salvation in fear and trembling.
In the words of Father Duffner, "May God give you the grace you need most and may our Blessed Mother keep you under her protection. This we ask in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit." Amen.
Forty days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion is the slogan for 40 days for Life. All over the world, people are mobilizing at abortion mills to peacefully pray and be witnesses for life. What a special honor it was when my dear friend Therese (seen in the picture above) asked me to be one of the local leaders for this campaign. It has been so spiritually intense so far. I will tell you two stories from the campaign.
The first Friday of our vigil at the LoveJoy Surgicenter (a notorious late-term abortion mill in Portland), we witnessed a women leaving the clinic in a hurry, still pregnant! As I stood praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy with one of my faithful comrades, a women came storming out of the back door of the abortion clinic. She was walking so quickly, her boyfriend was having a hard time keeping up. Dressed in her pink sweat suit, she lit a cigarette and mumbled something to us that we couldn't hear. Then she said loudly, "I didn't do it! I didn't do it!" I, of course, was so excited and wanted to talk to her! I said, "Oh, thats so wonderful! We can give you a baby shower!"...She was so upset she just told me she couldn't talk right now and kept speed walking down the street. I shouted out to her, "I want you to know that you're my hero! God will reward you for your choice today, I promise!" I shouted out that we would be there every day if she wanted to come back to talk to us. What a special day! I was so grateful to God that this little baby's life was spared the horror of the abortion that awaited it. May God bless that young women for her courageous choice that day.
The other encounter that stands out in my mind was with a young man I'll call "Tony". Tony had come to the clinic with his girlfriend who was pregnant with their first child. When he walked out the back door, I started a conversation with him, asking him why he was there. He told me that his girlfriend was inside at her appointment for her abortion. He was holding her purse and looked like he wanted to talk. I explained to him that he had just as much a right to the life of his baby as anyone else! Tony admitted that he felt sort of bullied into the whole thing. He said that they weren't financially able to care for the baby at this time. I told Tony that I understood how he felt and once I had found myself in the same situation, when I put my first son up for adoption at birth. I said that it may seem like the more difficult choice now, but in the long run, I don't have to live with the guilt that I killed my son. He patiently listened to me and agreed with everything I said.
I handed him a little fetal model of a 12 week old fetus and gave him some other literature about human development. I also gave him two miraculous medals and a couple rosaries. He told me that he was a Christian and I asked him how he thought Jesus would feel about his decision. Tony looked down and I could tell the reality of the abortion was starting to sink in. He said, "Well, let me go see if I can call her and try to talk to her!" He went off with cell phone in hand and I didn't see him for a while. As I walked around, praying, I ended up on the other side of LoveJoy.
About 20 minutes later, I see Tony come to the end of the driveway, looking around for me. As I approach him, I can see the sadness in his eyes. He told me that he couldn't get to her, they had separated them, which is their normal practice, and had her turn her cell phone off. We both knew that possibly at that very moment, his baby's life was being extinguished. I stood there with him as my friend, as my brother in Christ and just let him talk to me. Tony started thanking me, he said, "I want to thank you, for making me feel that I could really live my faith, that I could really be the man God intended me to be. I wanted to ask you....would you pray for me? Would you pray to Jesus that He would forgive me?" (He had tears welling up in his eyes at this point and so did I. There's something about a man crying that always gets to me). I said, "Oh, of course I will! Would you like me to pray with you right now?" His face lit up and he said, "Yes, please!"
So....there on the sidewalk, outside the abortion clinic where a baby was losing its life as we spoke, I took Tony's hands in mine and I began to pray to Jesus. I asked Him to have mercy. I asked him to forgive Tony and his girlfriend for what they had done that day, I begged Him to give them another chance at parenthood one day, if that was His will. Then, I gave Tony a little prayer book of Catholic prayers which he joyfully took from me and said he would go read right away. I gave him a big, genuine hug and told him that he had a friend in me. I told him that no matter what he's done, Jesus still loves him...that he loves him so much He died on the cross for his sins. All he needed was true contrition for them, and they would be forgiven. I could see the grief of this man for his sins that day...it truly was a beautiful sight to behold.
I had made a friend that day, and even if I never see Tony again, I'll always remember him walking out with his girlfriend, with a huge beaming smile on his face, waving to me to the bemusement of his partner...all I could do was smile back at him and wave goodbye. A genuine, warm, familiar smile. The kind you give to someone who you've known and loved.
God bless you all and may He keep these souls close to Him forever....
It's amazing what can happen when we make ourselves available for God. He uses our weak and broken vessels to show forth His glory. I've always said, and truly believe, that it is the most willing souls that are given the most graces. It's not about how "special" or "holy" we are (trust me), it's about how WILLING we are to show up. I really think its that simple. Show up, make yourself available, and God will use you! Oh how He delights in it! I can feel it when we are out there talking to people about Him. I sense His loving gaze on us as when speak of Him and His mother. When I silently pray to the Blessed Virgin when I put a miraculous medal around someone neck, It's almost as if I can hear her say "Yes, daughter...I will bring them to my Son..."
The other day Scott and I walked from Holy Rosary over the Burnside Bridge to downtown. We had our usual supplies, cooler full of cold drinks, chocolate, rosaries and my bag of miraculous medals. The first people we met were a couple who had been homeless for 8 months and their friend, a marine vet. At 10 in the morning, the marine had already gotten drunk and was holding a beer in his hand. The couple were high on meth and yet seemed so coherent and friendly. We stopped and offered them a cold drink and some candy to strike up a conversation with them. They gladly consented and seemed to want to talk to us. Scott started talking to the Marine while I spoke to the couple. This made me realize why it is so good to go out in pairs. A real "tag team" of evangelization, if you will. Plus, this way I can listen to Scott's responses and learn from his wisdom. He really helps me know how to engage people in conversation about the faith and the advice he gives me I hold in high esteem.
The women I spoke to accepted a rosary from me gladly and let me put a miraculous medal around her neck. She started to tell me about her problems with meth addiction and how it had taken everything from her. She has three children who, for obvious reasons, were removed from her care. Mostly listening to her story, I chimed in to let her know I had experienced the same heartaches in my life at times. I was struck by her smile and her apparent lack of sadness. Her skin was smooth and glowing. It took some effort for me to notice the telltale signs that she was homeless. Her clothes were dirty and she had healing MRSA sores on her arms. Despite all this, before I left her, I hugged her. I like to touch the people we meet whenever I sense they want me to. I see Jesus in them, wanting to be touched and loved. I hope they see that not everyone is repulsed by their filthiness and that Jesus desires to embrace them as a loving Father. As this women was talking to me, I gazed into her eyes. They were clear and bright...a beautiful shade of light blue. This was another instance when I felt like I could see right into someone's soul and it was so beautiful I could see why Jesus wanted to claim it back for His own.
Some people make it much easier to see Jesus in them for they are more transparent. Some people seem to have a more clear soul, there is more goodness in them. Other people, when I look in their eyes, I see only darkness. The disturbing reality that some souls have chosen against God and have been consumed with evil. Its always those people who are the first to say that the devil has "no power" over them that they "aren't afraid of evil spirits". Scott and I shudder whenever we hear someone say those words, for we know what a formidable enemy the devil really is. I always say that the devil doesn't care if you know you're in his army or not, he doesn't need any kudos. He'll take anybody he can get to do his bidding. In fact, I think he prefers to lead his slaves of darkness in secret. That way, he can betray them at the last moment and they won't even know what hit them. Every time I think of it, I feel an icy chill wash over my soul.
As we said our goodbyes and kept walking, we started to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as is our custom when we are walking, waiting to see who God will send our way next. Walking over the bridge, looking out at the waters, along side my very best friend, I had a sense of real peace. I felt like Jesus was saying to me, "Yes, this is what I made you for... I had the real sense that Scott and I were very special to Jesus because we were wiling to let Him use us. We both share an unshakable conviction that Jesus and His Church are everything. There really is nothing else! We are not saints...but we want to be and thats what matters. Every day, we try, sometimes we fail. As Father Gabriel said in a homily once, "If you fall, pick yourself up and walk the way of the Cross with Our Lord!"
As we came to the end of the bridge, the first person we met was "John". John was leaning forward with his eyes closed, lost in a heroin nod. We woke him from his chemical coma by asking if he wanted a cold drink. He gladly took it and I put a miraculous medal around his neck. John then did something that is rare, but when it happens is so special. He asked us to pray for him right there. He looked so saddened as he told us that he experienced the soul of his diseased mother coming to ask for his help. He said he felt that her soul was in unrest and this greatly disturbed him. I instantly wondered if this meant her soul was crying out to her son from purgatory, because the souls of the damned have no such recourse. Scott put his hand on one of his shoulders and I on the other. I let Scott take the lead in prayer and I added my own petitions silently. We asked God to heal this young man and to help the souls of his mother find eternal rest. It is so wonderful when these types of encounters happen. It's amazing how certain souls recognize their need for intercessory prayer. This is the type of example I use to defend the pious practice of praying to the saints for their help, especially the Mother of God. As we left John, he thanked us sincerely for our prayers and seemed a little more at peace. I knew that after we left him he would fall forward, back into the abyss of the devils "rest".
We walked around some more and emptied our cooler, having brief conversations with the "poor in spirit." Each time I go out, I am keenly aware of two things. One, I understand why Jesus loves the poor so much and Two, that He expresses such great delight in us as we work for Him, being such wretched sinners who have turned in repentance.
Walking back over the bridge to our cars, Scott stopped to teach me some of his wisdom. I stood next to him as he pointed to a swimming pool in an apartment complex. It was a perfect shade of blue and sterile with chlorine. He said, "See that pool? That is what the devil offers. So "pristine" and "perfect". Now look over at the river and compare the sheer size of it to the pool. The river is what God offers. Notice the rushing, life giving waters of the river. All the fish that swim and the animals that drink from its source. Compare that life giving power to the swimming pool, where nothing can live as it is a chemical soup." Then he pointed to the river as a boat rushed by causing many large waves. He said, "See that boat? That boat is like one of the saints. Its one great missionary causing so many ripples in their wake, affecting a great multitude of souls." As I listened to him, I allowed the words he spoke to lull me into a place of serenity within me. He told me the giant trees on either side of the street were like giant angels in heaven and painted the whole scene so that I could really see it. I told him I could just imagine the two of us sitting with our favorite saints, no longer needing their relics because we had them right in front of us! Oh the stories they will tell us! Oh how we will reunite with them in the loving embrace of a long lost friend when we run up to them for the first time in heaven! We will sit at their feet and ask them all the questions we've been longing to ask. Ask them to tell us all their stories from their lives of such virtue and beauty...what a glorious day it will be. I am so grateful for my friendship with Scott who takes the time to impart his wisdom to me. He truly is so special to God.
As we move forward into the winter months in Portland, we are anticipating the rain and cold. We will fondly remember the bright shining sun and glittering waters of the river as we tread through the snow and bitterness of cold. This is the glory of our faith, that even in the suffering of penance, there is real beauty to behold united to the Cross of Christ. Soon, the summer will seem like just a dream as we walk in the spirit of penance, offering up all our little sufferings for the conversions of all the poor sinners we meet.
The weather has started to turn and rain is coming this next week. As I put my sweater on for the first time, I feel the sweetness of gratitude for all the graces God has given me this summer. In May I started walking the streets with Scott and my whole spiritual life changed. I've gained life-long friends and the knowledge of what God created me to do.
What more could I ask for?
Yesterday we went out fishing for men. Guided by the Holy Sprit, we try to let Him guide our words and actions. With a cooler full of ice cold gatorade in tow, Lisa and I took our handfuls of rosaries out to the streets. The encounters we would have this day are some I will never forget.
We started the day by going to mass together at Holy Rosary. On the way to mass, Lisa and I had a deep conversation during the car ride about the nature of the Christian mission. We blessed ourselves with my Saint Jude Oil from the National Shrine in San Francisco and I gave Lisa an adorable antique crocheted "nuns work" relic of an obscure blessed from South America. Lisa said that she smelled the sweet fragrance of roses in my car and asked me if I had sprayed something earlier. I said "No! It must be the fragrance of the Saints!" I wear around my neck relics of my patrons. Saint Gemma Galgani, Saint Paul of the Cross, Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, Saint Margarete Mary Alacoque, Saint Francis De Sales and St. Francis De Chantel. I am in constant need of their help and I ask them throughout the day to increase my charity. On the way, I was telling Lisa that I had an intense interior experience the night before where Jesus impressed on me what I felt was a panic for the state of the lost souls in Portland. I had this feeling that there were so many souls out on the streets who had never heard about Jesus and His Church and because of their lifestyles, were in danger of losing their souls to hell. I had the feeling of "If you won't go, who will?" Suddenly I felt this intense urgency and sorrow that I wasn't doing enough. I had only been walking the streets once week, sometimes once very two weeks. I always try to go with someone else and because of my two year old, I am only available during normal working hours when most people are at their jobs. I had felt fine with this arrangement until the night before, when Jesus rebuked me and made me feel the desolation of these poor souls. They are wandering in the darkness of this sinful world with no one to show them the way. The Catholic presence on the streets in non existent it seems. I felt true sorrow for this and I was compelled to do more.
I had the feeling that as Catholics, we were shuttered in our Churches, having the joy of the Truth with us, and hoarding it for ourselves! I felt that I was not doing enough to help bring Jesus to people who don't know Him. I know, that as Catholics, if we are in a state of grace, we bring Jesus in the PHYSICAL sense too with us because of the Most Holy Eucharist! I've witnessed people crying when they see us coming, their souls recognizing the reality of Jesus. Possibly they cry from an afflicted conscious. They cry because the reality hits them that there is a loving God who sees them...loves them...who understands their pain. A God who wants to console their inmost hearts, to take them to Himself and conform them to His Glory.
As we started walking one of the first people we met was a man named "Ray". Ray had a joyful smile full of childlike trust and began to tell us how he used to hold a cardboard sign at the corner we were on. He said he asked Jesus to help him find work and quickly Our Lord answered his prayer. He had a modest job and no longer had to hold a sign and beg. Ray beamed with pride in the most beautiful way. He was so proud of Jesus, and kept telling us stories of times when He had saved his life. Once from alcohol poisoning in a doorway when Ray was all alone, late at night. Another time when he had major heart surgery and wasn't expected to live due to complications. He showed us his very large scar down the front of his chest which made quite the impression on us. With his face beaming with the biggest smile of gratitude, he told us how he knew Jesus had saved him. He thanked us repeatedly for bringing our cold drinks and sacramentals out to the streets. I gave Ray a rosary and put a miraculous medal around his neck. He happily took my Catholic Answers booklet about the Church as well and I told him about Holy Rosary being so close. As we walked away, Ray would do something that I think I will never forget. He held out his hand to offer me a twenty dollar bill, saying that he wanted to help me with the cost of my ministry. My heart was instantly made twice its size and tears swelled in my eyes. I could not believe that this homeless man would offer me twenty dollars out of love for our mission. Twenty dollars is A LOT of money to a homeless person! It would be like a "normal housed person" offering me $500!
I looked Ray in his eyes, putting my hand over my heart and said "Oh no, please keep it, but I am so grateful that you offered that to me. That just touched my heart!" He reluctantly looked down at the bill and then put it back in his pocket, beaming back at me with that ear to ear smile of his. I hugged him and we were on our way.
The next person we would meet will be burned into my memory as well. God had put a young man named "Ben" in our path. As he walked by, I offered him a cold gatorade, which he took gladly. Then, I tried to offer him a rosary which he refused to take, walking away saying rudely, "I'm not Catholic!." I told him you don't have to be Catholic to take a rosary. He angrily walked away and quickly turned the corner. He stopped to talk to two of his friends who were sitting on the ground. A man and a women who had 5 kids together, I'm assuming who were in the midst of some kind of child protective services crisis. As Lisa and I walked over to offer them rosaries and drinks, I took the opportunity to talk to Ben again. He stood there, skinny and covered in meth sores, his piercing blue eyes shining out through all the filth. The beauty I saw in his eyes made me realize the state of his wounded soul. Clutching his cardboard sign under his arm, he swayed back and forth, angrily telling me that he had been homeless for 10 years and was only 28! He told me that he hadn't prayed for anyone in many years. He was angry and he admitted he was taking out his anger on me. I smiled at him and told him that "I don't mind Ben, you can take out your anger on me." As I said this, his face smoothed out and softened, he relaxed his shoulders and stood still on both feet.
He opened up to me about his desolation, how he really felt terrible burden of his drug addiction and homelessness. He told me, "I just want to give up, I kind of want you to tell me that God is not real, but I know thats not true." I said, "God is real, and He sees you Ben and He loves you desperately." I told him about how I used to be homeless and how coming into the Church had saved me. He listened to me, admitting that he thought I was beautiful and thats why he gave me a second chance at a conversation. I thanked him for the compliment which came across as very innocent and non threatening. Then, he looked at me and said, "You know, no one takes me seriously....but YOU ARE, you really take me seriously don't you?!" I said, "Yes, I do. And other people should as well! You have just as much dignity as the richest person in this city! In fact, YOU, my friend, are much closer to the kingdom of heaven than the rich man is!...(I asked him) "What does Jesus say about a rich man entering heaven?" Bet answered, "Like a camel though the eye of needle...." I was delighted! He knew the scriptures! I said, "I would rather hang out with homeless people ANY DAY then rich people, the rich people are so ugly to us, they make fun of us and mock us. They don't usually want our rosaries or our company. I much prefer the poor! And so does Jesus!"
Ben graced me with a smile and I could see a little twinkle in his eye as I said this to him. Looking over at Lisa, crouched on the ground holding hands with the couple, I noticed she was praying with them. The man was crying as she prayed...clutching the rosary she had given him. I was blown away by the beauty of the moment and I was so grateful for my wonderful friends charism of intercessory prayer.
Before I walked away, I smiled and asked, "Ben, are you sure you don't want a rosary?" He said with a smile, "Ok, I'll take one." As I handed it to him, I asked if I could put a miraculous medal around his neck...He said yes! Smiling at him, seeing past all the sores and the dirt, I leaned toward him and lovingly, like a mother for her son, fastening the medal around his neck. I silently asked the Blessed Virgin to help Ben come to her Son. Patting the medal, I leaned back and said, "Maybe you could pray for me later, and I could pray for you...I could be that person that starts you praying for other people again!" He smiled and said, "Ok, I will." I told him how nice it was to spend time with him and I hoped to see him again. Lisa and I kept walking......
We crossed the bridge and handed out the rest of our cold water and gatorade to the homeless gathered around the rescue mission. People holding out their hands, begging to receive one of our rosaries, one man wanting an extra to give to his friend. He said he had a plastic rosary that he treasured but had lost. I was struck by longing for God these people have. They are so beautiful to me, their souls shining through the filth like a glowing diamond. The humility they exude, thanking us over and over again for the rosaries and medals.
I told them that I used to be homeless and addicted to IV herion, and they were shocked! I pulled up my sleeves to show them the scars I had from injecting and their jaws flew open! They said that by looking at me, they NEVER would have guessed I used to be a junkie! I laughed, saying to myself "Oh, if you only knew...." They asked me how I got clean, and I said I became Catholic and after receiving the Eucharist, Jesus came to dwell inside me. I told then Jesus healed me from the inside through the sacraments. That I was coming up on 3 years clean and sober." One of the young men exclaimed as he clutched his rosary, "WOW, thank you! You give me so much hope! Thank you!" I said, "Jesus is a real person, He saved me through His Catholic Church, He is God and He is just waiting to save you too!"
If all I did was give them some hope and encouragement that day, then it was a job well done. I am here to tell them about the Church. The saving power of the sacraments. The Eucharist, with the power to defeat the forces of hell inside us. Without it, I can see, not only in my life but in the life of others, the battle is one easily lost. We are simply not strong enough to fight the demon of addiction, we are small and weak. Alone we can do nothing, but with the Eucharist, and Jesus dwelling inside us, in the physical reality of our being, we will be victorious!
For it is He who has conquered sin and death. He payed the price with His blood, and now He desires to raise us to new life in Him.
As Catholics we have the answer to this crisis of addiction....let us spread the word that Christ has overcome the grave! Let us plant the seeds in people about the sacraments. May our lives serve as proof that miracles really do happen! That you, too, can be pulled out of the pit...you, too, can be healed, mind body and soul.
This is not a fairy tale...this is real life. Miracles really do happen!
May God bless you.
Early this year I started really committing myself to Eucharistic adoration. At first, it was really difficult for me to sit still and quiet. This struck me as interesting since I certainly did not have any issues with belief in the real presence. My soul was not able to sit quietly with Jesus yet, but what I found was that the more I "practiced" this devotion to adoration, the more natural it became.
It all started when I was leaving Holy Rosary Parish one day and noticed a flyer pinned to the board. It said that an adorer was needed for a certain hour and if I were interested to call. I thought, "This is my chance! I've been saying I wanted to pray a holy hour and now I can sign up for one!" So, I called and started going to my one scheduled hour each week.
At first, my mind would wander, and my thoughts would be scattered. I knew Jesus was there with me, literally in the same room, and I just kept asking Him to help me focus on adoring Him. I kept going, week after week, and during this process of being distracted and asking Him to help me, I arrived at a place where I wasn't asking Him anymore. I'm not sure how long it took for this to happen, but eventually, I realized that I was forgetting to look down at my watch and when I finally did, I had five minutes left! I noticed that I would be gazing up at the beautiful monstrance, knowing that I was looking at Jesus and everything else in the room would become blurry. Everything and everyone else would fade away until all I could see was Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist. It was the most beautiful sight to me! There were times when I wold start to cry and it would hit me that here I was, sitting in front of God Himself, spending this hour adoring Him, instead of some other selfish activity I would have been doing only a year ago.
I started to want to spend more time with Him and soon I was going to adoration once a day. Oh, how I treasure that hour with Jesus every day, when I can just sit and gaze at Him in the monstrance, telling Him with my presence how much I love Him. Telling Him each time I enter the Church, "I'll stay awake with you Lord, I'm here with You, You don't have to be alone....I am here, My Love....."
My soul would whisper these things to Jesus, and I could feel Him loving me back in the most profound way. I could feel how happy it made Him that I would come and sit with Him for an hour. That what I was telling him by me being there was, "I'm not too busy for you, Lord. You are a priority to me. You are always on my mind."
I often will sit and read spiritual books as well, like the Diary of Saint Faustina or the Diary of St. Gemma Galgani. Through their writings I am really able to feel the Communion of Saints and I know I am part of a much larger family than I even realize. I keep a relic of St. Gemma and St. Margarete Mary Alacoque close to my heart all throughout my day. I ask them to help me to be holy, I ask them to show me how to love Jesus.
Each holy hour, each day...I fall deeper in love with Him. He is my love, my life, He is everything to me.
If you have been thinking about Eucharistic Adoration and haven't taken the plunge, I urge you to make time. Start small with one hour a week, then see where your heart leads you....Go and see what Jesus has to say to you in the quiet of your soul.
Someone once told me, "You can't love someone you don't know, and you can't know someone you don't spend time with!" This was such simple, yet profound, advice! The more time you spend with Jesus, the more you will get to know who He is, and the more you will love Him.
Father Vincent Kelber, O.P. baptizing my daughter Mackenna into the Church. Queen on the Most Holy Rosary Parish, Portland Oregon, 2017.
When I see this picture, I always look first to Father Vincent's face. The expression contained there is all that needs to be said. As he pours the life giving water over my seven year old daughters head, what goes through his mind? Is he thinking that in that moment, he is forever joining this little child to Christ's body, that this is a mark that will carry her to eternity? Is he thinking that he is washing away all stain of original sin, that he is literally Jesus' hands taking this little girl for Himself...claiming her soul for His Divine Love?
While I can imagine what goes through his mind as I look at this picture, I know one thing for sure. That I will be forever grateful to this most holy man for what he has done in my life.
He was the priest to hear my general confession, going back over the last 20 years of my life, he made me feel so loved in the sacrament of reconciliation. I truly felt the mercy of Jesus, not once even an inkling of condemnation. The compassion he showed to me was great, however he did not downplay what I had done and he allowed me to grieve the loss of my innocence. He permitted me to feel the shame and regret over my sins....By his reaction to the words I spoke, I fully grasped the severity of what I had done and at the same time, became aware that I was forgiven and deeply loved. Those words he spoke were powerful....
"God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit....."
Something supernatural had taken place. I felt the weight of the grievous sins of my past leave me. There was a sense, a real physical sense that my very existence had changed. God had used His priest to take my sins away from me. To absolve means to "set or declare someone free from blame, guilt, or responsibility." Yes, I truly felt that reality on this day.
Jesus knew that we would need to hear those words, actually said, by an ACTUAL human voice. That's why He, in His wisdom, instituted the sacrament of reconciliation. I'm telling you, if you're not Catholic, and have never confessed to a priest, you don't know what you're missing! To HEAR those words, from an audible voice, knowing that this man stands in 'Persona Christi', in the very person of Christ, it is powerful. When protestants ask me "Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest?", I can usually detect some pride in the tone of voice used, my answer is simple! "Because Jesus wants us to!, Because Jesus knows we need to HEAR THE WORDS." If you can humble yourself enough to confess your sins to a priest, and do it thoroughly and with contrition, I promise you, you will be on the road to heaven. You will be on your way to becoming a saint.
Only through the Catholic Church do we have the supernatural benefits of the absolution from sins. Does Jesus forgive you if you ask Him and really mean it? Of course He does, but He doesn't just leave us there! He takes it a step further and allows us the comfort of hearing....THE...WORDS. Jesus absolves through this sacrament. It is His divine prerogative to do so. He wills it for our good and we should be obedient.
Whatever you've done, however grievous or horrendous the sins you've committed.....BE NOT AFRAID! Come to Jesus in the sacrament of reconciliation! No matter what you've done, no matter how long you've been away, Come to Him! You will find in Him, through his priests, the loving embrace of the father who has waited so long for the return of His son.
If you're not Catholic, and this sounds like something you want, go to your local Catholic parish and ask about joining the Church. Don't wait any longer. Come find the peace you so desperately seek.
Looking again at that picture of Father Vincent with my daughter, I'm struck by so many emotions. So much gratitude for the sacrifice our priests make with their lives. They give everything to God and to His people. For this reason, we Catholics love and cherish our priests.
It is through their hands that the Bread of Life transforms us, it is through their voices that God takes away our sins and it is through their example that we can know the way to heaven.
May God bless you and His Mother protect you.