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Category: Reflections

Re-learning things we already knew

Re-learning things we already knew

I recently found out about something called end-of-life doulas. Doulas are not healthcare professions, but a ‘trained companion’ who supports another person through a significant health-related experience. They seem to be part of a growing trend of doulas, life coaches, psychologists, and other similar emotional support caregivers. It’s fascinating that the secular world continues to find they need the same kind of support that people of faith have had for literally thousands of years.

In a recent Vox article, Rachel Friedman talks about what an end-of-life doula does. She walks readers through the process of loss that a person with a terminal illness goes through. She then talks about the re-focus of her daily life this created for herself, the value of active listening, and then focus on legacy projects you wish to leave behind.

What’s fascinating is that these exact topics and dealing with these realities are the lived Christian/Catholic experience that have been in countless writings and famous artworks for hundreds of years. Let’s take a look.

Memento Mori

“Memento mori” is the Latin phrase for “Remember, you must die”. This is not a morbid wallowing that many religious pundits love to use to discount Christianity. Instead, it is a statement of fact. In fact, many modern folks embody this idea in such phrases like YOLO (You Only Live Once) and ‘carpe diem’ (Seize the Day). Dead Poet’s Society has a great scene on this very notion from the 1648 poem by Robert Herrick:

Gather ye Rose-buds while ye may,
    Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to day,
    To morrow will be dying.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time – Robert Herrick 1648

Both the secular and religious world see this as a need to remember that our time is short so we do not waste our lives. Many people are driven to achieve great things in business, sports, and personal achievement. We should live our life knowing that our time is finite – so we must make the most of it.

So what is the Catholic view? For hundreds of years, many Catholic artists showed monks and saints with or contemplating a skull. Some orders would sometimes put the skull of a previous monk in each monk’s cell. By contemplating the skull of a predecessor, we are reminded that we too will die, be buried just like they were, and all our efforts will come to an end. Some new person in just a few decades will then look back on our skull the same way as we look at them now. Talk about putting things in perspective!

If that was all there was, it might lead one to despair, wonder at the point of it all, or even turn to looking at life as just what I can get out of it for for myself. For Christians there is much more than this. Contemplating our death reminds us not only of the urgency of our lives, but also Christ’s victory over death, a victory in which we are invited to share by uniting our lives with His, and finally that this world is not our permanent home (Heb. 13:14).

This hits upon 2 major themes Friedman mentions. First, is that we should have a healthy sense of our own mortality so we can focus our living and make the most of it. At the core of many of Jesus’ parables and teaching was the most profound urgency. Don’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today. Don’t wait for ‘some day’ to start changing and living as you ought. We only have so much time to address those things that need to be addressed. No one knows the day or hour of their own death or His returning. Learning to love is a difficult process and takes us much time. Learning how to fall in love and build a relationship with our creator is not something we do overnight. This is urgent because we only have this time on earth to become friends and lovers of Christ. When that time comes, Jesus tells us many will come, even those that preached in his name, and he will tell them to depart and that he never knew them at all.

Friedman’s second major point is that we need to realize that everything we love, achieve, and accumulate will be left behind. For the secular world, loss and death can bring about existential dread. In reality, Friedman says that even non-believers will go through these very same realizations that everything we have will be lost at our death. For the Christian, however, it can also be a motivating and freeing force that puts our lives in perspective – when it’s done in relationship with God who lives with us and awaits us on the other side of death.

Many of Jesus’ parables tell us that we are temporary stewards – but the quality of our stewardship is what carries over. Christians know we are all graced with some amount of life, money, career, family, and possessions. All of these temporal things are simply a means to find salvation by daily conversion to the teachings of Christ. At our death Jesus will appear to us and take accounting of our stewardship. Our temporal gifts are used to help us learn how to love our neighbor and God. This is why the poor are sometimes greater in love than the rich – since they often give all they have.

Active Listening and Confession

Active listening is a skill that any of us can develop and increasingly recognized as a key element of emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is recently recognized as a set of skills critical to a successful career and relationships. Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. The listener must holding back their own stories, comments, and feelings. They don’t tell a person what to do. They don’t try to fix the situation. They ask open-ended questions and seek to understand while letting the person go through the process themselves. The idea is that the person must find their own way through the experience and the listener simply helps them speak what they are experience to make their own choices.

Would you be surprised that Christians have a very similar practice since the earliest times of the Church? We call it confession. In confession, the penitent can speak their deepest self in complete acceptance and safety. Part of confession is spending time doing a solid examination of conscience in which we use Christ’s teachings to really take stock of ourselves. When done prayerfully with Christ, we see ourselves as Christ sees us. The priest, acting in persona Christi, listens quietly just as if one were sitting with Jesus himself. The priest only interrupts to ask clarifying questions to understand better. This alone, as Friedman says, is tremendously powerful. This is, however, where active listening ends. The best it can offer is to ask ‘What do you think that means?” or “What do you think you need to do?”. It does not offer any meaning or answers.

Confession, however, has an even more powerful element – forgiveness – if it is sought. A key element of Jesus’ ministry was speaking the Truth. Many of us know the Truth in our lives as many active listeners would agree. However, without any external guide, the Truth of ourselves often becomes simply our truth for today. It doesn’t hold nearly the meaning as something that has been proven true over millenium.

In confession, we can see that real Truth and then can be freed of failings, hurt, and guilt and hear the words of forgiveness that Jesus would speak to us. Even at the late hours of our life we can re-start and try loving rightly again. We still must go out in the world and deal with the temporal effects of our sins, but Christians believe in the promise that Jesus gave that he would use his ministers to give forgiveness if it is sought. It’s the first step towards healing. Something listening alone cannot do.

Legacy Projects

As mentioned earlier, embracing our mortality gives us the motivation and focus to really make a difference even after we are gone. This is something both secular and religious would agree with. In both cases, it means creating something that will live on beyond us. For many, this is setting up their children or families to be safe and cared for after we are gone. For others, it is setting up legacy foundations, trusts, and financial vehicles to affect the world after we are gone.

This is no different for believers – but with a few additions. One only needs to look at the huge cathedrals in Europe to see this in play. The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is a great example. Construction started in 1163 and was first completed in 1260. Over the next 800 years, it went through numerous expansions, revamping, destruction, re-building, and additions. The front towers were built separately over decades, the roof revamped numerous times, the windows added, etc. Many of these additions took well over a person’s lifetime. Expansions were started by one whole set of architects and workers only to be finished by completely different ones.

All the while it was funded by the contributions of money and work by believers. Churches should not be looked at as a one-time construction, but the work of generations of believers – rich and poor – over hundreds of years. Believers that contributed both in large and small ways. Even today, modern churches often have indications of which parts were contributed at different times and different people. It’s a reminder that we often start building things we never will see finished.

In more modern times, we do this kind of legacy building by setting up foundations, trusts, and groups that help particular societal needs. Religious orders have done this for centuries. Dominicans are dedicated to teaching, Franciscans and Carmelites are known for their work with the poor. If you look into the hundreds and hundreds of religious orders over the millennium, you’ll find that we owe modern free education and healthcare to countless generations of religious. That’s why many hospitals still hold Christian names. They were the original non-profit organizations of the world.

To wrap up

It’s interesting that the modern secular world is re-discovering the same things that Christians have known and practiced for thousands of years. That Jesus teachings are still as relevant and correct as ever. Perhaps we need to re-engage the modern world (which has become ever more disillusioned and discounting of religious knowledge) with these concepts – but in a way they can understand more clearly. And it turns out that we started that all the way back in the 1980’s under John Paul II. It’s a reminder of our mission.

Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems

Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems

Two of the the greatest intellectual achievements of modern times might surprise you. Both were developed by Austrian mathematician and logician Kurt Gödel in 1931. They are called simply Gödel’s incompleteness theorems and apply to all of mathematics, formal logic, and even philosophy (epistemology in particular). The implications turned out to be deeply profound and have thrown all of mathematics, logic, and even philosophy into disarray ever since. Despite almost a century of attempts, no one has been able to disprove them. In fact, almost all attempts end up supporting, and even reinforcing and expanding them. They now are accepted as almost certainly true.

The theorems sound simple enough at first blush. The first incompleteness theorem states that in any consistent formal system (mathematics, logic, physics, etc) in which a certain amount of arithmetic can be carried out, there are statements of the language of which can neither be proved nor disproved in that language. According to the second incompleteness theorem, such a formal system cannot prove that the system itself is consistent (assuming it is indeed consistent).

What is so shocking about these two simple theorem? They prove something devastating: that mathematics and logic is not complete. There will always be truths in reality that the system cannot prove. It means that some problems can NEVER be solved in some kinds of mathematics or logic. You can even try making new systems of math/logic (Algebra, Calculus, etc) but they ALL will have things they cannot prove. It meant that you might work on a mathematical, physics, or logic problem your whole life, and none of the systems we know about might be able to solve it – even though it might have a solution. There might even be some problems that if we make infinite numbers of logical or mathematical systems, we might STILL not be able to find a solution.

Veritasium did an absolutely fabulous video on the topic that’s worth a listen.

It blew my mind when I learned about Godel’s incompleteness theorems in college. Knowing that our tools are limited is frightening at first. It completely unseats our certainty that known mathematics or science as we have today is sufficient. In fact, we know it is NOT sufficient. In fact, we know that we’ll almost certainly have to make more logical systems for the rest of eternity. We can never have a grand unified theory of everything. There is no ‘bottom’ to reach.

Yet this opens the reality that there will ALWAYS be something new to learn and know. There will be countless other models that might work for problem we have but we haven’t found yet – even though each one will be flawed and incomplete in their own way.

Many purists find this knowledge to be disastrous. It rips the rug out from anyone that asserts we can know everything. Others were excited by the fact there will always be new developments. Others are left in awe that even our very universe/reality itself lacks the limits we have. Still others have taken this as proof of the infinite. I know at least one mathematician that believed it gave us proof of God.

I do believe in God – without question. Many people forget that the vast majority of modern science was developed by believers in God that saw no conflict with discovery of properties of the physical world. The idea that faith and science are incompatible is a very modern and absolutely incorrect train of thought.

Instead, I see this reality as much like ourselves. None of us are perfect, yet each of us has a uniqueness that might just express a great truth no one else in history has seen or could see. This is why life is so infinitely precious and a tragedy to all when even one life is lost. This is why it is a crime to all humanity when we decide suffering is reason to end a life or that a disadvantage life is a life not worth living when we have such contrary examples and saw exactly where that idea led too in the early 20th century during WW 2.

Community Fridges

Community Fridges

Portland is full of churches, food halls, and countless other services for the homeless and those that need assistance of any kind. Recently, free community fridges have became a bit of a thing in Portland. You can find them in a lot of places around Portland and they’re run by individuals who I absolutely believe have their heart in the right place, but I think have underestimated the difficulty and serious issues many on the streets are experiencing.

As the article points out, ordinary folks who are trying to do good things are very quickly being confronted by the serious mental health and safety issues homeless work can involve. This was a lesson I learned very early in my homeless work at the Downtown Chapel. The staff would give volunteers a minimal amount of training on safety. First names only, no personal info about yourself or where you live. All you can offer is what is provided, do not give out anything else (money, fliers, etc). The reality is that many times we had to deal with people who became violent, suffered serious mental health issues, or even serious criminal tendencies. Long-time volunteers knew how to spot trouble and defuse it – but that came from lots of experience and from professionals trained in handling these issues. These are issues the people in this article point out that they are not equipped to handle.

So who can handle it? Not well meaning people without training or coffee shop employees. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has long led and advocated for progressive policies. He was one of the first to denounce a bathroom incident after a black customer was refused access and opened bathrooms to all who come in. He pushed very hard for LGBTQ policies. Even he has changed his mind. In a recent interview about closing urban Starbucks stores due to worker safety issues this policy created he said (and I think rightly):

“I must say, in my view at the local, state and federal level, these governments across the country and leaders, mayors and governors, city councils have abdicated their responsibility in fighting crime and addressing mental health,” Schultz reportedly said at an internal meeting, according to a video posted on Twitter.

From my own work, you need people trained in how to deal with the serious issues that create homelessness. Drug addiction, mental health issues, and violence are real issues that lead many to the streets. Homeless services must set up boundaries and safety for both the workers (as Starbucks has learned) and those in need. This requires serious effort, education, proper environments, and leadership. It’s not something the average person should be doing if they do not have this kind of training. The assaults and dangers in the article are evidence of this.

Another issue is who is behind some community fridges. Started as a social justice initiative, there is definitely an anti-governmental/anarchist tone to one of the largest operators. PDX Free Fridge said they didn’t ‘consent’ to a story being written and thought that coverage could ‘jeopardize the safety’ of the project when contacted by a local news agency. This is a similar increasingly violent and disturbing reaction to any media coverage from extremist left-wing activist groups in Portland.

Democracy is founded on a free press and freedom of information – not on secrecy, threats, and non-transparent leadership and finances. Hundreds of other organizations are able to operate openly as non-profits – registered and adhere to audits and local law without issues. Any group that cannot identify it’s leaders, it’s principles, nor subject itself to audits of it’s finances is not an organization a Democracy wants to get behind. It’s definitely not a step forward in public policy. It’s also likely not to yield any fruits. Over the last 5-10 years, I’ve seen these kind of secretive Portland groups make lots of grandiose promises but very quickly disappear with little to show for it. They have a history of misappropriating funds and leaving the bulk of the fallout on volunteers/workers (who went unpaid) backs. Even BLM was blocked from fundraising in California in 2021 due to questionable use of it’s filings, real estate purchases, and payouts to closely related persons which lead to co-founder Patrisse Cullors resigning in May 2021. This demonstrates how critical financial and leadership transparency is to any movement.

Personally, I’ll continue to support the excellent work being done by the Blanchette House, St Francis Dining Hall, Downtown Chapel, and countless other public, accredited, and open groups that safely provide housing, meals, jobs, utility assistance, health care, education, and every other need. They also do this work with both financial and leadership transparency while keeping their volunteers and staff safe.

Bitcoin collapse observations

Bitcoin collapse observations

I’m not a crypto investor. I’ve been watching the developments of the last year with some amount of awe, and a lot of ‘told you so’ at the disaster. Cryptocurrencies went from a $3 trillion market cap to just under $1 trillion in the window of Nov 2021 to Jul 2022. That’s a 66% decline in 7 months. Most crypto and Bitcoin investors have seen at least a 50% collapse in value in the first 6 months of 2022. Many others have lost everything in Luna, Terra, and exchange collapsed and went bankrupt.

Some observations:

  1. The pain is real. The top pinned post on Reddit crypto forums quickly became the national suicide prevention line as exchanges went bankrupt and coins collapsed and even went to zero. People that needed their money back for cancer treatment have now lost it all. That’s as real as it gets folks.
  2. Crypto is going through it’s own 1929 market collapse – caused by the same insanely optimistic over-leveraging, over-extension, greed, and lack of regulatory oversight. It turns out a completely unregulated marketplace that can deliver astounding rises can encourage people to invest too much and lack of transparency and risk management can wipe their holdings out overnight. All of this was even predicted.
  3. A shocking number of crypto HODL’ers have a dangerous combination of poor financial illiteracy and fanatical belief. They often completely ignore risk, dangers, warning signs, and bad exchange policies. Many on their forums seem to lack the ability to do basic due diligence, and understanding of dangerous marketplace behaviors. Instead of informed discussions, forums viciously attack those that expressed any criticism or doubt. As an example during the collapse of Celsius, people were in complete denial that the company was going under even after the bankruptcy happened. Smart investors signaled people about all the warning signs. Yet were viciously attacked as liars, fiat currency fearmongers, and worse. Even after the bankruptcy filing happened the attacks kept coming – even when it was clear their money was gone.
  4. Unhealthy markets run for longer than you might expect, but the end always comes hard and fast.
  5. Many crypto promises were lies.
    1. Crypto/Bitcoin has clearly no turned out be a store of value like gold. When push comes to shove, it most closely follows high risk/reward investments like the NASDAQ more than any other market. Like many markets that only rely on promises and have no legal enforcement, it’s only when things turns bad do you learn if they are lying or not. Anyone that denies this needs to look at the fact coin markets went from $3 trillion valuation to $1 trillion in just a few months and stable coin collapses happened in just days.
    2. Stable coins were not stable nor safe. Terra went completely to zero and swallowed $60 billion dollars as it flashed to zero in just a few days. Many lied about having funds to back their stakes when the chips were down. Others just backed out of providing promised stakes when they saw the writing on the wall. Most used collateral that was just more crypto – a BASIC over-leveraging failure (much like happened in 1929).
    3. Miners are over-leveraged and facing possible large coin liquidations or bankruptcy. They also are facing huge headwinds with the value of coins dropping over 50%, rapidly increasing power costs, and outright bans (China and New York). It’s unclear how many recent and large mining operations are facing imminent liquidity collapses but it sure appears to be a shocking number.
    4. Small miners are dumping graphics cards because it’s now long longer profitable to mine. Each card they bought at top-dollar prices is selling for massive losses. A classic buy-high-sell-low failure. There is also growing evidence the dumping of these cards is seriously impacting sales of new cards and may cause vendors to delay release of next-gen cards.
    5. People didn’t read the fine print and learned exchanges owned their coins (Celsius) so they lost everything when they went under. Exchanges also froze withdrawals of coins and cash before they went under – maximizing customer losses.
    6. Most exchanges used depositor’s coins to make further high-risk loans on crypto. Without regulation, each exchange could decide their own risk profile. This is exactly what caused banking collapses and runs in the 1929 collapse. It’s why we have the FDIC now that ensures deposits up to $250k and regulates banks books to ensure they have proper safe collateral levels and risk profiles.
    7. Many exchanges put their thumbs on the scales and stop trading/withdrawals, freeze trading, stop trading (the list goes on!) when things got bad for them. Things that would land bankers in jail happened time and again. They threw their customers under the bus to eat losses and face margin calls without their money. This all follows the same bank run patterns we had for decades before regulation was put in place and FDIC ensured deposits.
    8. If banks are not your friends, then we’re learning crypto leaders are even worse.
  6. Naïve young investors are getting a rude awakening
    1. Charismatic coin founders that encouraged people to mortgage their homes, leverage any loan they could get their hands on, and put everything they had into crypto turned around and joked, disappeared, lied, went silent, and just shrugged when their investors and coins went to zero. It was sad watching naïve young investors freaking out that their investments were collapsing and foolishly expecting responses and plans via Twitter – even getting arrested showing up on founder’s doorsteps. The very ego-centric folks that gathered investors turned out to be powerless to stop the inevitable falls and even more sleazy than the ‘fiat’ markets they claim to stand against. Most are re-starting their coins and coin operations with the exact same methods.
    2. The promise of ‘community’ was lies. People following crypto leaders and companies are learning that a regulation-free market means there is nothing to keep people honest. It’s very hard to be honest and voluntarily lose millions in a bailout when you don’t have too. Terra still has claimed billions in backing that nobody has been able to find or verify. Either it was a lie, or someone walked away with it.
    3. Crypto companies are coming down hard on ‘woke’ culture that many young people who were attracted to crypto were raised in. Between publishing documents that reject being offended as a valid argument and encouraging employees that disagree to leave.
    4. Scams abound. NFTs and wallets are a prime target of hackers. Which brings us to this development: physical digital wallets.
A moment of grace – if you choose it

A moment of grace – if you choose it

With the recent Supreme Court decision, everyone is filling the internet with their opinions. Unfortunately, as has become the trend, “outrage journalism” is already started spinning divisions, anger, and fueling acts of violence.

I have already written on this topic before, so I doubt there is any confusion where I stand on the matters at hand, but it is worth the discussion and the challenge we face.

We have just been handed an unprecedented (and I believe short) opportunity to pull out all the stops and create the support systems for communities and people ravaged by the culture of death. Now, many local governments will be forced to provide actual support for the poor, marginalized, and at-risk communities. They will need those dedicated to providing those services to step up and help them. This is something Catholics have literally thousands of years of experience doing.

I wanted to share what I found in prayer time and reflections because what we receive from the Spirit should be shared so it can be tested and proven. But my road to this understand certainly didn’t start that way.

It only took 48 hours here in Portland for mobs to damage and firebomb services because of the Supreme Court decision. Most of them targeting pregnancy centers that provide clothing, support, care, and mental health aid for at risk mothers; but local Portland Reddit forums had people calling for ‘direct action’ against churches as well.

In the face of this kind of open and outright violence, what is a person to do? I went to Mass upset that people who claim to be for choice are attacking the very support systems that actually offer a choice to raise a child instead of just aborting it. I knelt down for a good long prayer in front of the blessed sacrament to listen to what Jesus had to teach me. If I could sum it up, it would be this line:

but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.

Romans 5:20

“Put your sword back in its place”

First off, I knew I was frustrated and upset. How could groups that claim to be for choice and justice want to attack the services when so many homeless, mothers, and fathers are in need? Especially minorities and at-risk communities. They were attacked because they didn’t offer abortions? The same sort of ‘direct action’ events in 2021 (a codeword in Portland for deliberate destruction and violence) saw attacks on the locally beloved Historical Center and institutions that had offered assistance to homeless for over 25 years. The Downtown Chapel is one in which I volunteered for years when nobody, including the city, would serve the homeless. We freely offered food every morning, a warm place to come in out of the elements, free clothes, blankets, a friendly face to talk too, and even free medical consults with volunteer nurses and doctors from OHSU. I saw lives saved and changed. Some of the volunteers were previously homeless served by the center themselves. Pregnancy centers focus on helping women and men that want to keep their children. We never proselytized nor required anything. All were free to take what was offered. Yet our local reddit forum, I saw people giving addresses and calling for ‘direct action’ against pregnancy centers and churches.

I was understandably upset and thought about how I could ‘fight back’. Maybe I should confront these people? Should I help organize groups to protect churches and pregnancy centers? Should I stand up to their intimidation and violence by making inflammatory postings in the places I knew they go in town and on local forums? These were obviously the thoughts of an angry person.

I knew that wasn’t the right response. Jesus never responded to the occupying Roman forces nor the temple leaders with violence. Nothing about this felt right – so it was time to be still and listen.

I settled into prayer and offered this state of myself up to God and sat quietly. Very quickly, the image of Jesus arrest in the garden of Gethsemane came.

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” 

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions
reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Matthew 26:47

One of the most amazing things about Jesus arrest, beating, trial, and crucifixion’s is that it didn’t need to happen. Jesus had the power and support to have become king. He could have easily used his power with his followers to overthrow the Jewish leaders. He could easily have raised an army and start the revolution against the Romans that many wanted. By divine intervention, he likely could even drive out the Romans and have maybe even ruled the world as an emperor. This was one of the very temptations that the devil presented to Jesus with in the desert. Instead, Jesus allowed himself to be crucified like a common criminal in front of his mother and followers – beaten, stripped naked, mocked, and humiliated in the most degrading possible way – right at the doorstep of ‘success’.

Evil loves to work under the cover of darkness (actual darkness or darkness created by lies). Evil wants to be anonymous. It doesn’t want to be identified by others and carries out its plans in secret. The way of Jesus is light and truth. All actions are done as a lamp set upon a table. When you feel compelled to do something in a way you don’t want the whole world to know it is you or what you did, you should immediately smell that evil is involved.

Prayer told me to be still. So I was still and let the anger wash away from me and sat in the stillness and light of God that drives away anger and darkness.

“Do not defend yourself, I shall defend you”

I continued and the following reminded me of what to do:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:38-48

And so before mass, I knew that I had to leave this burden and be reconciled. One of the hardest things to do is pray for someone that hurts you. Harder still to pray for someone that wishes and desires very much to hurt you or the people and things you care about.

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” 

Mark 11:25

So offer up prayers for those who were doing these things. For everyone and every day I feel this way.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!

Matthew 18:21

Which reminded me of this passage from the Diary of St Faustina:

And the Lord replied, “I have [always] been, I am, and will be your master; try to make your heart like unto My meek and humble Heart. Never insist on your rights. Bear everything that happens to you with calm and patience; do not defend yourself when you are unjustly put to shame; let others triumph. Don’t stop being good when you notice that they are abusing your goodness; I Myself will stand up for you when necessary. Be grateful for the slightest grace from Me, because your gratitude will oblige Me to grant you new graces…”

Diary of St Faustina 1701

With God all things are possible

One of the first texts to my friends after the Supreme Court decision came down was “I never thought I’d see this day”. After 51 years, who would have thought such a change could come about? Even Jane Roe herself, who later became a decades long anti-abortion activist, never saw this day as she died in 2017.

All along pro-life movements and annual marches have been organized and faced constant defeats and uphill battles. Abortion legal challenges were lost time and again – to the point that extremely late and even partial birth abortions became legal. It seemed that America had made it’s choice with an average of around 1 million abortions provided per year for a total of about 63 million aborted people (which is 20% of the current 329 million US population). I had prayed for conversion of our country, but I honestly never expected it.

To see such a dramatic change of course was astounding. I didn’t even know what to believe or think at first. I had to admit I didn’t have faith that such a turnaround was possible. Then, the enormity of it sat on me – just like the old phrase “Be careful what you wish for” – because there now an enormous amount of work to do.

When there is great challenge and sin, it is the time of greatest grace.

I was praying in St Mary’s Cathedral, and as of late, I have been having a strong connection with our Blessed Mother. I have been trying to say the rosary more diligently and regularly. I was feeling particularly close this day and pondering on how astounding this change was.

However, the words of both Fatima and Medjugorje came to mind – especially from the writings of the Ukrainian bishops that asked Roman to perform the long awaited Consecration of Russia to Mary. These apparitions said there would be great struggles and times of trial. Admonitions from God would come and scourge the world, but in the end, Mary’s immaculate heart would triumph. I believe we are very much experiencing some of those admonitions.

In feeling close to her, I expressed my surprise and shock. What should we do now? How should I act on this change and all this unrest it is creating? To this, it came to me:

but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more

Romans 5:20

It is a great mystery that our greatest growth often comes from our greatest struggles. Times of great strife generate magnificent saints. So, do not fear or wish not to be in such times – but instead embrace them and grace to grow will overflow more than ever. This is not a change of fear, but a moment to embrace Jesus with your full self and be immersed in the grace and growth this time brings.

The Challenge to all Catholics and who claim to be pro-life:

It has became clear that MORE THAN EVER we must live the faith we profess in action or we will be rightly branded as hypocrites. The heavy lifting starts now – it is urgent we do so as quickly as possible. Many of these options will change our lives forever. We have been given a brief window that we must seize to show that we are indeed light to the world – that we are not just sayers of the Word and but doers of the Word when it comes to supporting life from conception to natural death. We must help re-create the safety nets, structures, and support systems required at all levels from individuals, to families, to our states, to our country. Without condemnation – but acceptance of those in need for any reason. Services that support people who need help choosing the way of life:

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 9:12

I know I’ve put some of these here before, but you should think broadly as possible. This cannot be just about a few hours of volunteer clothing gathering, writing a check, or just giving out meals. Those are good for sure, but most of us have professional level jobs and skills. Offer those skills! Bring your whole self to the process, for whatever we bring will grow for others and ourselves. We must do the lifting that our government has decided not to do to support life. Now many will be forced to, and will now look to us to help them do it.

Some ideas:

  • Make a promise to do more.
  • Volunteer at a PRC: Pregnancy resource centers rely on community members for various tasks. Opportunities to help range from counseling and mentorship to grounds work and maintenance. Call your local PRC to find out how you can help.
  • Support financially, volunteer, and offer your professional services and skills to:
    • Pregnancy centers or other services that provide full support, homes, and education for single mothers that want to keep their children.
    • Old age homes where you can fight loneliness and despair that leads to assisted suicide. Many of us were locked down for 2 years and know how that loneliness affects mental health.
    • Volunteer teach or run activities for the most vulnerable high risk youth
  • Sponsor a child – from a reputable group that has a solid moral basis, publishes yearly independent audits, and achieve 90-100% of donations going to causes and not administration.
  • Adopt a child
  • Become a foster parent and Support people involved with foster care: Many organizations support children and parents in the foster care system. One organization we like is Every Child Oregon. They provide material support for kids in foster care and run programs like Foster Parent Night Out to support resource parents.
  • Write letters to your representatives.
  • Offer your professional services, skills, or labor to centers that support life from conception through natural death.
  • Begin petitions, start non-profits, foster business-community relationships to enhance services for the poor, marginalized, especially vulnerable minorities.
  • Reach out and form relationships with leaders of communities that have been scourged by tremendously high rates of abortion or assisted suicide.
  • Being new programs, new services, new cooperation with state and local governments to provide health care for pregnant mothers, education, and job skills.
  • Pray, pray, pray. Pray the Rosary.
  • Pray for those that persecute you and destroy services. Do not respond to hate with hate, violence, or the same behavior.
  • Offer sacrifices such as fasting on Fridays from meat or acts of kindness – especially to those that disagree with you.
A Political Party based on Catholic Social Teaching?

A Political Party based on Catholic Social Teaching?

In decades past, the Democratic party has often been largely aligned with Catholic social teaching. But since the 1970’s, that ideological parting of ways has grown dramatically problematic. So, what party can a Catholic get behind? Which parties and candidates can one support? It turns out, there is a growing new party that is based largely on Catholic social teaching.

The party is broadly characterized as conservative on social issues while supporting government intervention in economic matters. They support a universal healthcare system as well as an economy containing widespread distribution of productive property, in particular increased worker ownership and management of their production. The ASP is skeptical of free trade and free market trade policies.

David McPherson says that the American Solidarity Party “affirm[s] … the full spectrum of Catholic social teaching (namely, the teachings regarding the sanctity of human life, the common good, subsidiarity, religious freedom, solidarity, etc.),” as opposed to the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, each of which recognizes only some of these items.

What are the core principles of the Solidarity Party?

  1. The Sanctity of Life against a culture of disposable human life. They oppose the death penalty and other direct and intentional attacks on innocent human life from conception to natural death.
  2. Social Justice – Affirm a special responsibility to the most vulnerable members of society and call for structures that uphold the equal value and dignity of each person.
  3. Community-oriented Society – Humans are created to live in communities. Higher levels of government should exist to serve and support lower levels of authority rather than replace them.
  4. Centrality of the Family – Natural marriage and family are the central institutions of society and require support and strengthening. The state must advance the wellbeing of families as the primary nurturing environment of children.
  5. Economic Security – The state and organizations generate economic justice by creating conditions of widespread ownership of property and production. Personal, cooperative, and social ownership are all valid in a just society. Workers’ rights and family wage must be ensured.
  6. Care for environment – cultivation of good stewardship ought to characterize the relationship between humanity and creation. Government and civil society have a responsibility to protect natural resources now and for future generations.
  7. Peace and International Solidarity – Peace is the fruit of justice and requires solidarity among nations. Trade policies must advance justice, sustainability, and human flourishing. Diplomatic and non-violent means must be exhausted before violent means can be considered. Military must strictly adhere to just-war principles.

I would encourage everyone to be educated on authentic Catholic Social Teaching as it is distinctive in finding an equilibrium between respect for human liberty, including the right to private property and subsidiarity, and concern for the whole society, including the weakest and poorest. Catholic social teaching is distinctive in its consistent critiques of modern social and political ideologies both of the left and of the right: liberalism, communism, anarchism, feminism, atheism, socialism, fascism, capitalism, and Nazism have all been condemned, at least in their pure forms, by several popes since the late nineteenth century.

Please spend some time reading authentic Catholic social teaching as well as using those principles to evaluate the parties and candidates that come up for elections. Maybe the American Solidarity Party is a good match for you…

We all have a natural call

We all have a natural call

I found this quote by Sister Natalia to be a very powerful and spot on understanding of religious life.

Sister Natalia

“We all have a natural call to marriage, but some of us have a calling to celibacy. That calling doesn’t come instead of a desire for marriage – it transcends it. My desire for a spouse helps me lean into Christ as my bridegroom.”

Today’s society is full of confusing and contradictory stances on sexuality that seem to be constantly and often radically changing directions every few years. One has to stop and ask themselves what is the truth of our sexuality if there is no agreement that lasts more than a few years? This isn’t just academic, it has far-reaching impacts on how we form families, pair bond, and how we define the happiness of the most meaningful long-term relationships of our lives.

That’s why I love Sister Natalia’s quote. She understand rightly that we all have a natural desire and calling to find a deep, fulfilling relationship in which we can express ourselves fully (including our sexual energy). That expression, however, is above all else relationship. Deep, fulfilling, open, vulnerable, wild, crazy, and sometimes frightening relationship that fully expresses our being in all dimensions.

As a person that explored religious life for 4 years at a monastery, I can firmly say that kind of fulfilling relationships is what all of us really seek. To reduce religious life, or ourselves, to our sexuality is to really miss the mark. As sister Natalia says, it is all about relationship – the relationship you have with God and bringing our COMPLETE selves to that relationship.

Have you found your complete fulfillment in your relationship with God above all others? Does it appear you have the gift of finding that expression of your love with God and being with him every day through what you are called to do and be for Him? Do you find that every day, you ‘lean into’ Christ as the most important person in your life more and more? Hopefully all Christians can say that, but for a person with a religious vocation, they find that ‘leaning in’ day by day with Christ to be the most important relationship. To the point that to do otherwise would be to deny who they are. And isn’t that the kind of self-fulfillment and self-expression we all seek?

Better to not be born

Better to not be born

“Politicians argue for abortion largely because they do not want to spend the necessary money to feed, clothe and educate more people. Here arguments for inconvenience and economic savings take precedence over arguments for human value and human life… Psychiatrists, social workers and doctors often argue for abortion on the basis that the child will grow up mentally and emotionally scarred. But who of us is complete? If incompleteness were the criteri(on) for taking life, we would all be dead. If you can justify abortion on the basis of emotional incompleteness, then your logic could also lead you to killing for other forms of incompleteness — blindness, crippleness, old age.”

Jesse Jackson, January 1977

There still exists a great disproportionality of abortion of black children vs other races (even other minorities). Instead of providing the compassionate support we claim to want, we take the easy way out of death. To the point that some countries such as Iceland have no down syndrome children births, and more black children in New York are aborted than born.

We also miss out on great lives such as this Michel Petrucciani and other artists like him with a disability that would almost certainly be aborted today. Here’s some other famous celebrities that were almost aborted or advised to be aborted: Steve Jobs (unwanted pregnancy), Oprah WInfrey (teen mom), Tim Tebow (pregnancy complications), Pope John Paul II (mother advised to abort), Justin Bieber (teen mom), Jesse Jackson (pressured to abort), Jack Nicholson, Celine Dion, Cher, and many others.

Yet we have come to accept arguments that a disadvantaged life is a life not worth living – only to have that disproven time and again. I find it fascinating that we greatly applaud kind hearted people that rescue animals missing limbs, that are blind, have deformities, etc – yet if an unborn child has one of these same conditions the public largely attacks people that try to rescue them.

Moving forward, it only took 20 years from Jessie Jackson’s speech for Oregon to pass it’s assisted suicide law in 1997 – as he predicted. I wonder what the next generation, one that has grown up justifying the idea of disposable lives, will do in the next 20-50 years.

Words are meaningless without action. Consider donations to these charities that provide women with the resources they need to keep their children from conception to birth to raising them, education, and beyond:

Plausible Nuclear Escalation

Plausible Nuclear Escalation

In 1983, the movie “The Day After” was broadcast as a made for TV movie. 62% of Americans watched it. It became the highest rated television movie in history – a record it was still holding as of last check in 2009. The film postulates a fictional war between NATO forces and the Warsaw Pact countries that rapidly escalates into a full-scale nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.

I remember seeing that movie. I was only about 10 years old, and I remember how terrifying it was. I don’t think people born since the 90’s appreciate the fact that whole generations in the 70’s and 80’s grew up with the idea that at any time – even by accident – the whole world could be nuked to the stone age in about 90 minutes. This movie brought the reality of nuclear world war into shocking focus.

Fast forward to 2022, and we are again hearing direct threats of a nuclear war. This video, Plan A, was created by a Princeton team that simulated how easily a conventional NATO conflict could turn into a full-scale nuclear exchange.

What’s frightening is that this very scenario of a NATO-Soviet start of nuclear war was posited in 1982. Fast forward to 2020 when this video was made – long before the 2022 Ukrainian conflict. Yet, we are edging closer and closer to this very scenario today. Still, there are those who have hope for a different outcome while we make every political effort towards peace.

Les Mystères de la Passion, de la Résurrection et de l’Ascension du Christ

Les Mystères de la Passion, de la Résurrection et de l’Ascension du Christ

For Christians, we are about to enter the mysteries of Holy Week. Christ enters Jerusalem, is crucified by the temple leaders, and then rises from the dead – an act which opens the gates of eternal life for humanity. There is so much going on in such a few short days, one can barely keep up with it all. It’s no wonder the different events of Holy Week have been the subject of countless masterpieces over time.

On my first trip to Paris, I did the tourist things like visiting the Louvre and saw the Mona Lisa. But what’s much more interesting is that when I left the hall, I saw a painting that captivated me far more than fair Lisa. A painting by Antonio Campi called The Mystery of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ (1569).

What is fascinating about it is that the more you look at it, you see all the events of Holy Week until the Ascension of Christ in one picture. I spent a lot of time looking at it and finding all the different parts. There is so much detail in this one giant painting! Just some of the events are:

  • Meeting of the women while carrying the cross
  • Jesus is stripped and his garments nailed to the cross
  • Crucifixion with the 2 thieves at Gogatha
  • Removal of the body from the cross by Joseph
  • Wrapping in burial cloth
  • Burial in the tomb
  • The Harrowing of Hell
  • Resurrection and frightening of Roman guards
  • Apostles finding the tomb empty
  • Mary encounters Jesus in the garden
  • The appearance on the Road to Emmaus
  • Thomas places his hand in the wounds of Christ
  • Jesus meets the apostles fishing and Peter swims to shore
  • Cooking of the fish together
  • Jesus tells Peter to feed his sheep
  • Jesus’ final discourse and ascension into heaven.
  • The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles

Give this little video clip a watch to see what events you can see.

Links: