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.

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