Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

As we celebrate of the birth of our Lord and Saviour, let us always remember the poorest of the poor were the first to to hear the Good News of Jesus' birth. Let us not get caught up with the affluence and chaos of the holidays, but find the peace that stilled the hearts of poor shepherds who understood they were going to see the greatest gift ever given to humanity.


Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them,

"Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

"Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."

So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.

When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

Lk 2:9-19


From our family to yours,

We wish you a peaceful, blessed and joyous Christmas season!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Real Story Behind "It's A Wonderful Life"

Every Christmas Eve our family watches the Jimmy Stewart movie "It's A Wonderful Life." And every Christmas Eve I embarrass my two teenage sons by crying when people gather in George Bailey's home to bail him out of trouble. It's a beautiful scene about the lives we touch when we live our own life the right way: compassionate about the plight of others, giving and not taking advantage of our brothers and sisters, loving one another, etc.

But "It's A Wonderful Life" was not a commercial success when released in 1946. In fact, many critics hated it. Still, the movie stirs something in the hearts of us all.

Below is an excerpt from the story of "It's A Wonderful Life" as told by Jimmy Stewart himself. You will clearly see the hand of God present in all aspects of the telling of this story. It's an amazing read.

Merry Christmas! I pray you're living a "wonderful life."

By Jimmy Stewart

"'Now, listen,' Frank (Capra) began hesitantly. He seemed a little embarrassed about what he was going to say. 'The story starts in heaven, and it's sort of the Lord telling somebody to go down to earth because there's a fellow who is in trouble, and this heavenly being goes to a small town, and...'

Frank swallowed and took a deep breath. 'Well, what it boils down to is, this fellow who thinks he's a failure in life jumps off a bridge. The Lord sends down an angel named Clarence, who hasn't earned his wings yet, and Clarence jumps into the water to save the guy. But the angel can't swim, so the guy has to save him, and then...'

Frank stopped and wiped his brow. 'This doesn't tell very well, does it?'

I jumped up. 'Frank, if you want to do a picture about a guy who jumps off a bridge and an angel named Clarence who hasn't won his wings yet coming down to save him, well, I'm your man!'"

To see the entire story by Jimmy Stewart, click on the blog post TITLE above.


Permission sought and granted for this posting

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Voice Of An Angel

Having a hard time finding that Christmas spirit? This will help you find it.

Rhema Marvanne is a rising star in the Gospel music world. Click on "The Voice Of Angel" title (above) to see her amazing personal story. It is so beautiful to see a human soul transcend tragedy. And to see God's love and grace shine through our lives.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


It started out as a beautiful late spring morning. Our second child had been born a few weeks earlier and we were headed to Portland’s Saturday market as a new family to enjoy a sunny day together.

As we rounded a corner on a back-road a few miles from our house a car appeared out of nowhere flipping out of control straight at us.

I had no time to react. Everything was moving in slow motion. At that moment, I had this strangely peaceful thought: Mary and I would be killed. But the kids in the back seat would survive the crash and be in good hands being raised by my in-laws.

I glanced at Mary and she at me in what may have been our last earthly look into each other’s eyes. I remember thinking, “I love you.”

Then, as the car was feet away from rolling up into the front window of our minivan it veered wildly and flipped into a ditch, turning upside down. All this happened in about three seconds. We slammed on the brakes and stopped our car. I jumped out with my cell phone and ran to the other car. A young man in his early 20s was inside the crumpled wreckage, but other than a few cuts and bruises, he was OK. Dazed and confused, he told me he had nodded off just for a moment as he was driving home from the overnight shift and awoke to his car flipping out of control. I called 911. When the paramedics arrived, they tended to the young man’s wounds.

Thankfully we all had angels on our shoulders that day and were saved. We rejoiced as we resumed our trip into Portland.

Perhaps you have your own personal story of a moment in your life where you were spared certain death and given new life.

In today’s Gospel, John The Baptist wanted to know if Jesus was the “one who is to come” to save all humanity from the finality of death and offer us new life, a new salvation. Jesus allows the truth of his ministry to speak for itself, giving John the answer he needed to hear prior to his own certain death.

Jesus quoted from our first reading today by the Prophet Isaiah, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared, then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.”

John The Baptist knew the time of the Messiah was fulfilled. Jesus’ cousin John provides a positive role model for us all today. John got it. He knew the messiah was coming to save humanity from the clutches of the devil.

But do we clearly hear John’s message to the world today? John The Baptist spoke out for the poor and the needy of the world, reminding us that this is our path to salvation. This is how we will be saved from the finality of death… by showing mercy, love and compassion. We need to shake our prideful, self-righteous ways through baptism to new life, then role up our sleeves and help the poor among us. The rich did not like the message. John was true to his convictions even to the point of imprisonment and death.

“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.”

John cleared the path for the good news to be heard – he plowed the roads, so to speak, so Jesus could arrive in his full glory.

How can we emulate John’s model in our own world today?

My brothers and sisters, our parish experienced a moment recently when we were called to love and serve a poor, homeless man. And we responded beautifully.

Perhaps you heard about the man who rolled his wheelchair into our Saturday Evening Mass just as Father was beginning his homily a few months ago. His name was Michael and he was in deep, deep pain. As he approached the altar, he cried out for all in the pews to hear, “I’m dying. I need help.”

Father interrupted his homily and bent down to quietly talk to Michael. Several parishioners jumped up to help. As they approached Father and Michael, they heard Father say, “I’ll come talk to you after Mass.” As Michael wheeled his way to the vestibule, Father continued his homily without missing a beat.

Michael stayed through the entire Mass.

“And the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.”

Eventually, Michael told me his story. He was a Vietnam War veteran who lost his foot in the war. He’d been living on the streets for years. Michael was at the end of his rope. He had been beaten and robbed a few days earlier. He lost everything he had in a backpack. His face bore a black eye and cuts from the scuffle. He was crying. He was desperate. He needed someone to treat him as a human being.

When it came time for the sign of peace, a number of parishioners came up to Michael to shake his hand. During communion, Father came out to give Michael a special blessing. When Mass was over, Father came out as promised and talked to Michael for a long while. Several people came over to offer Michael money, a new winter coat and a motel stay for a couple of nights so he could heal his body. Michael even got a backpack with warm winter gloves, a stocking cap, food and food gift cards. Michael was so thankful shedding tears of joy and humbled by the gestures of compassion.

This was the message John The Baptist prepared the world for. Christ is coming. For our salvation, we must show God we love Him by loving our neighbor as ourselves. Today’s Gospel encourages us to extend dignity to every living person we encounter. It’s what Christ did as the sign of new salvation being opened up to the world. This is what it means for us to be followers of Christ.

There is much sadness and misery all around us. If we are blind to it, we cannot see it. If we are deaf to it, we cannot hear it.

John The Baptist was probably no better dressed than our homeless friend Michael. His disheveled looks are a reminder that we need to look beyond the outward appearance of the person to see the truth of Christ’s love being heralded for all of humanity.

Michael was our messenger.

“And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

For our own salvation, we answered Christ’s call. We did not complain, we did not judge, as we were warned in today’s second reading from the Letter of James.

It was a beautiful moment in which the Kingdom of Heaven broke open here on earth for all to see.

On this Gaudete Sunday, let us REJOICE for the coming of our Lord and Messiah Jesus Christ is almost upon us. Rejoice and be glad!

Monday, November 29, 2010


My dear friends:

Leadership is a tricky business. We’ve all experienced someone put in charge who abuses power and takes advantage of his or her special position.

It takes an extraordinary person to lead people well.

‘You shall shepherd my people Israel.’ God’s words to David were a divine promise, but also a call to be a merciful, loving servant to the people of God.

As we have seen time and time again throughout history, absolute power corrupts absolutely. But God’s WILL can be accomplished even through weak, sinful human beings.

God did not give up on the House of David for God knew from the roots of Jesse’s tree his most perfect being would spring forth onto the human stage and change the world.

In Christ, we see both the Good Shepherd and the supreme leader of the universe. In Christ, we have an icon, an image of the invisible God, God’s own presence in human form. In Christ, we understand true kingship through his actions of love, healing and forgiveness and his humility.

As St. Paul put it so beautifully, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” This portion of St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians is considered “one of the most important theological statements about the person of Christ in the New Testament.”

But Christ knew what the apostles could not understand until they could see His ministry in hindsight.

In order to inherit His kingship, Christ knew He had to be killed on the cross and raised up to new life. Through His death and resurrection, Christ would open a new door to our eternal salvation.

If we believe in Christ, follow His example in life, and ask for forgiveness for our sins, through the mercy of Christ, we can walk through the door. As some have written, “The gates of paradise have been reopened by the obedience and faith,” of Christ our King.

Funny that the first to truly understand was a remorseful criminal hanging on the cross next to Christ. Through the taunts of his fellow criminal, the “good” criminal asks Jesus, by name… by name… “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In Luke’s Gospel, the “good” criminal recognizes his own need for conversion and puts all his trust in Jesus.

Don’t we all get that? I think that’s what brings us back here every week.

When we fully dedicate our lives to Christ amazing things can happen.

The most magnificent example in our lifetime is the ministry of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

As a teacher in India for 20 years, she could never shake the poverty she experienced everyday. Surely, something could be done for these poor souls? On a train to a spiritual retreat, Mother Teresa had an encounter with Christ that changed her life forever.

She started the Missionaries of Charity with the sole intent: to save soul’s through mercy and compassionate service. Be the very model of Christ in the slums of one of the poorest cities on the planet.

Her servant leadership was legendary and through the good works of her many followers, the Missionaries of Charity spread around the globe to help the poorest of the poor.

But, all the while, Mother Teresa quietly struggled with her faith. She felt abandoned by the very Christ who guided her decision to start the Missionaries of Charity. She took this abandonment as the Cross she was destined to bear and trudged forward with her work. In her words, “The darkness is so dark - - - and I am alone. The loneliness of the heart is unbearable. Where is my faith? If there be a God, please forgive me. Trust that all will end in Heaven with Jesus.”

Like the “good” criminal, Mother Teresa put all of her trust in Jesus Christ always. And miracles happened.

That’s leadership, my brothers and sisters. That’s what God intended to show us when he sent Jesus Christ into our earthly experience, to show us the way and lead us home by His example.

But leadership comes in all different forms.

I can think of no better example of leading others to Christ than the suffering of a hospice patient named Michael. Michael has a disease that robs the body of the ability to fully control movement or speech. It’s his cross to bear and he does so with dignity and grace and with great joy. It is his joy in the face of such a struggle that shows people the way to Christ.

Michael is Catholic and prays often by himself and with his family. His favorite thing to do with people he encounters is to share a joyous hug. His hugs leave a lasting impression on all who receive them. But they also enliven Michael because it’s his only way of communicating love now. I felt especially honored after visiting with Michael recently because I was graced with not one, but four hugs on that day. We shared Eucharist and prayer. Easy to see how Michael helps us all see Christ more clearly.

Michael is in the hospice because his earthly life is coming to an end, but Michael has put his trust in Jesus to lead him to new life. Where his spirit will be unrestricted by disease. Where he will dance again.

Yes, leadership is a tricky business. And guess what, my brothers and sisters? We are all called to lead others to Christ in our own special way. We are all leaders. We're not asked to be Mother Teresa or Michael. Just ourselves and lead by our own example. So one day we all can stand in the presence of the Lord in paradise and be embraced by Christ Our King himself and be told “Welcome Home.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My First Homily

Delivered after the reading at Saturday evening's Vespers during last weekend's deacon formation weekend...

My Brothers & Sisters:

When I was a boy, I was afraid of my own shadow. Bullies seemed to gravitate to me like moths to a flame. One bully in particular stalked me for several years when I was in my early teens. His name was Damien (name changed to protect the innocent and the guilty). Damien was an oversized kid who loved to taunt anyone who he considered wimpy. I was just that kid. I had red hair. As many of you’ve seen from pictures of that era, I looked like a girl.

One day, I was fishing at a local lake when I heard Damien was coming to beat me up. My dad heard the threat at a brother’s baseball game and came to my rescue. He placed a can of mace in my hands and told me to spray it in Damien’s eyes when he started to pound on me. I was scared to death.

Then came Damien. There was screaming. There was punching. Then out came the mace and with all of the fury, hate and rage in my heart, I let him have it. It was an ugly seen. One I’m not proud of now.

Damien and I encountered each other numerous times after that. The hate in my heart never faded.

Fast-forward 35 years. I’m on Facebook and I see Damien make a thoughtful comment on a friend’s Facebook page. Fear swelled up inside my heart. Then came the hate and the rage. I was 13 again and there was my nemesis glaring back at me in the light of a computer screen.

"O Lord, Do not turn my heart to things that are wrong, to evil deeds with men who are sinners" (Ps 141:4). My trust is in you and your example.

I’ve always felt that sin is like a broken record stuck in a groove it cannot get out of. There are moments in our lives, or things in our past that chain us down and won’t let us go. There are feelings, unresolved issues; the old selfish you that still haunts the you striving to be humble and selfless. Only by the grace of God are we able to get unstuck from this often times sinful behavior: anger, hate, fear, lust, greed, pride… the list goes on.

We believers in Christ know there is a Judgment Day, a day when we will be called to account for all of our sins.

But that day is not today. We hope.

We believers also know how to interpret the delay of this judgment. It’s called forbearance, and it is the gift of time to repent and be saved.

We all sin. We all need to repent. We all can be graced with forgiveness.

"I pour out my troubles before him; I tell him all my distress while my sprit faints within me" (Psalm 142:3).

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. Forgiveness is a gift we not only give others, but we give to ourselves.

After seeing Damien’s Facebook post, I took a bold leap of faith. I ignored old feelings and wrote him a message requesting his friendship and forgiveness for the terrible things we did to each other oh so many years ago. He responded almost immediately, admitted it was time to let go of the past and be friends.

A giant weight lifted off my shoulders. I had been bearing this hatred, this grudge for over a quarter of a century. And just like that, it vanished.

God works in beautiful and mysterious ways… "How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!" (Romans 11:33).

As many of you know, I love the musical group U2. There’s a song that I’m reminded of called “Stuck In A Moment That You Can’t Get Out Of.”

It opens with a line that can be taken as a motto for life to all followers of Christ, “I am not afraid of anything in this world. There’s nothing you can throw at me that I haven’t already heard. I’m just trying to find a decent melody. A song that I can sing. My own company.”

Judgment Day will come. For those unprepared for the day due to human hubris, Judgment Day will INDEED be Judgment Day. But rejoice. The gift of time allows for us to ask God for his loving and healing grace to wash away all of our sins. Then every knee will bend in the presence of our Lord and Savior.

On that day, Judgment Day will become a day of rejoicing as we sing songs of praise and celebrate as a community of believers with the Lamb who saved us from the pit of destruction. And proclaim, “Jesus Christ is Lord!” (Phillipians 2:11)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Deacon Named Phoebe

Reprinted from Deacon Greg Kandra's blog Deacon's Bench...

She pops up in one of Paul's epistles, and now an Anglican priest has blogged about her.

While debate continues about female deacons (or deaconesses), here's some interesting context:

As is often the case with these first century saints, we do not know much about them, outside of their names being mentioned in Paul's epistles or their names appearing ion the martyrologies of that time. Phoebe is mentioned in the letter to the Romans, and different translations list her as either a deacon, a deaconess, a minister, or a helper, from Cenchreae, a city near Corinth, in Greece. The actual Greek text uses the word diakonon; there is no distinction between masculine or feminine forms in that word. Some have tried to say that a woman deacon was not a member of an actual holy order, unlike a male deacon, but I don't agree, because Paul's list of qualifications for deacons in 1 Timothy chapter 3 mentions both men and women: Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. Women, likewise, must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. I read that as applying to both male and female deacons, but I know that the Roman Catholic church still thinks that the term deacon in this context means co-worker in the missionary enterprise. Phoebe is also described as a helper of Paul and many others, and it is quite possible that she was a Patroness of the house-church in Cenchreae; she may have owned the house in which the Christians of Cenchreae met, and that she took legal responsibility for the activities there. Some scholars believe that Paul's mention of her in the epistle to the Christians in Rome was a letter of recommendation to the Christians in Ephesus; perhaps Phoebe was moving from Cenchreae to Ephesus.

The office of Deaconess was mentioned by St. Paul in the letters to the Romans and to Timothy, but we also have evidence of the office in a letter from Pliny, a Roman governor who was writing to the Emperor Trajan for advice on dealing with Christians. He mentions two women ministers among the Christians in Bithynia. The office of Deaconess is also mentioned in the Apostolic Constitutions of Hippolytus, and the office developed greatly during the third and fourth centuries, although it is quite different from the office Phoebe held. The Council of Chalcedon, held in the year 451, legislated that women could become deaconesses at the age of 40. A deaconess was to devote herself to the care of sick and poor women; she was present at the interviews of women with bishops, priests, or male deacons (so that the clergy wouldn't be alone with strange women) and kept order in the women's part of the church. Her most important function was the assistance at the baptism of women. For the first five centuries of the Church, people were baptized naked, and so, for the sake of propriety, male deacons couldn't baptize women. When adult baptism became rare and was eventually replaced by infant baptism, he office of deaconess declined in importance. The office was actually abolished by the Council of Epaon in the year 517, but in the Nestorian Christian communities in Syria, and later in India and China, deaconesses administered Holy Communion to women and read the scriptures in public.
You can check out more at the link, though it's worth noting that his approach is from an Anglican point of view. But the history he expounds is compelling.

It's worth remembering that, while the Church has closed the door on ordaining women as priests, that door remains ajar on the possibility of women deacons.

Read more:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Media: "Pope sheds ’Vatican Rottweiler’ image on Britain trip"

Reprinted from the Vancouver Sun - September 19, 2010

LONDON, (AFP) - British media Monday hailed Pope Benedict XVI for shedding his distant and authoritarian image on his historic state visit, but cautioned the Catholic Church still faced challenges in the nation.

The pontiff succeeded in presenting himself as a lovable, elderly figure — a far cry from the "Rottweiler" image, they said.

"What the visit accomplished above all was to unify Catholics and humanise a pope who has so often been perceived as cold, aloof and authoritarian," wrote Catherine Pepinster, editor of The Tablet newspaper, a British Catholic weekly.

"The fabled Vatican ’Rottweiler’ turned out to be a shy, warm and frail 83-year-old who perked up every time his security detail allowed him to greet people, especially youngsters and his own generation."

Before the first ever state papal visit to Britain, Benedict had been viewed as a "remote Teutonic hardliner," said the Times daily.

But he appeared in a different light entirely on the trip and remarks aimed at easing tensions between Anglicans and Catholics, such as on shared traditions and culture, played a great part in this transformation, it said.

"Ratzinger the rottweiler transformed into Benny the bunny," enthused the paper, using the name of Benedict before he became pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

"We all want to cuddle up to him and get him to bless our babies."

His four-day tour of mainly Anglican Britain, which took in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Birmingham, defied fears that it would be overshadowed by enormous protests or gaffes and the press in general regarded it as a success.

"This was a much more successful visit than the Roman Catholic hierarchy had dared to hope," said the Daily Mail newspaper.

"The crowds were larger than had been forecast, if not as big as they were when the charismatic Pope John Paul II came to this country 28 years ago."

The Sun added: "The pontiff’s visit proved much more substantial than anticipated."

Despite the widespread praise for the trip — and astonishment that the pope had pulled off a visit here so smoothly — some looked at the Catholic Church’s long-term relationship with Britain and saw problems ahead.

Pepinster fretted that the institution was not making conciliatory moves towards Catholics on the liberal wing of the Church.

"Gay Catholics and women will still be asking: ’How does the Vatican and Pope Benedict see us and our role, not in society, but in the Church?’," she wrote.

The Guardian daily said that Benedict had not managed to bring believers and atheists any closer together in a country that was increasingly secular.

"The rapprochement required today is not so much between Protestant and Catholic as between the religious and the rest, and Benedict leaves without denting that divide," it said.

For most in Britain, the visit merely amounted to "an anachronistic curiosity."

"To connect his spiritual kingdom with the United Kingdom, the pope would have had to engage with modern realities, and the country would have had to listen," it said.

The Independent was more positive, suggesting that the visit may have at least brought Catholicism to the attention of a country that is for the large part uninterested in religion.

"He may have left Britain just a little more broad-minded than he found it," said the paper.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Archbishop-Elect Peter Sartain Speaks

September 16, 2010

The following is the text of Bishop Sartain’s statement during a press conference held at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Seattle this morning.

+ + +

Last Tuesday, September 7, 2010, I received a telephone call from Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, who informed me that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, had appointed me Archbishop of Seattle. As I wrote to Pope Benedict in my letter of acceptance, I am honored and humbled by the appointment, and I give myself to God and to the good people of western Washington with all my heart.

I am a native Tennessean, as were both my parents. I was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Memphis in 1978 and served that diocese until 2000, when I was appointed Bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas. In 2006, I was appointed Bishop of Joliet, Illinois, and have served there since that time. The dioceses of Memphis and Little Rock, considered “home mission” dioceses because of their small Catholic populations, are very different from the Diocese of Joliet, which is located in northern Illinois and encompasses a good portion of suburban Chicago in a part of our country with a substantial Catholic population. The Archdiocese of Seattle is different still, and I am excited at the prospect of getting to know all of you and enjoying the extraordinary natural beauty of this place. The last time I was in western Washington was to go salmon fishing with a group of friends about 18 years ago – and no doubt those same friends will be eager to visit me often. Since the Diocese of Little Rock encompasses the entire state of Arkansas, traveling vast distances in ministry is very familiar to me, and I will consider it a joy to travel this beautiful state.

This archdiocese will be new to me, and I will have much to learn. By God’s design, however, the Gospel I am sent to proclaim and the sacraments I am sent to celebrate are the same in Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois, and Washington. That is because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever – and in every place. And all of you are beloved to God – and therefore beloved to me. Ten years ago I took as my episcopal motto the phrase “Of You My Heart Has Spoken,” from Psalm 27, verse 8. For many years that verse has been a constant refrain in my prayer, because it has been a simple way to express my longing for God. But it has taken on added meaning in my priestly and episcopal ministry, because my heart also speaks to me constantly of the people I am sent to love and serve in the name of Jesus. And so I can say to all of you: Of you my heart has spoken.

I love being pastor, and I look forward to my ministry as shepherd of the Church in the Archdiocese of Seattle. I especially welcome the opportunity to get to know the priests, deacons, religious women and men, and the dedicated laity of the archdiocese, because I know you will teach me about the countless accomplishments of the Church and the opportunities now before us. This archdiocese traces its roots back to 1850, and I have much to learn about its history, its faith, its growth, and its heroes and heroines.

I have already mentioned my gratitude to the Holy Father for appointing me Archbishop of Seattle. Today I would also like to express my deep thanks to Archbishop Alexander Brunett, who has extended a warm hand in welcome. Archbishop Brunett, today I want to particularly say to you that as you grieve the death of your brother, Bill, less than a week ago, all of us are with you, your sister-in-law Joan, and your entire family in loving support. May God fill you all with his peace, which surpasses all understanding. I consider it a privilege to follow in your footsteps and build on the marvelous growth you have overseen in the past 13 years. We will be both brothers and friends.

In the near future we will determine the date for my installation as Archbishop of Seattle. I know from fond experience that many people will be involved in planning that liturgy and other activities surrounding my installation, and I would like to thank you in advance. Likewise, I would like to thank the members of the media who joined us this morning. Since September 7, I have prayed daily for the people of the Archdiocese of Seattle, and I ask that you remember me in your prayers as well.

Bishop J. Peter Sartain
Archbishop-Elect of Seattle

BREAKING NEWS: Western Washington Catholics Have A New Spiritual Leader

Catholic News Service is reporting Archbishop Alex J. Brunett of Seattle officially retires; Bishop J. Peter Sartain of Joliet, Ill., named as his successor.


Bishop Sartain was born on June 6, 1952 in Memphis, Tennessee.

On July 15, 1978 he was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Memphis.
He was appointed as Bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock on January 4, 2000 and was ordained on March 6, 2000.

Bishop Sartain attended St. Meinrad College in Indiana, studied at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome, and earned a licentiate of sacred theology from the Pontifical Athenaeum San Anselmo in Rome in 1979.

In addition to his pastoral experience as a parochial vicar and as a pastor, Bishop Sartain also has considerable administrative experience, having served as Director of Vocations, Chancellor, Moderator of the Curia, Vicar for Clergy, and Vicar General. He has also been a chaplain, academic dean for the permanent diaconate formation program, and a member of the Advisory Council for the Institute for Priestly Formation.

He currently is a member of the Administrative Committee of the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Welcome Home!"

I had a dream job. No doubt about it. But after eight years, the dream job was spiraling into a nightmare.

In September of 2008, as the economy went on a roller coaster ride, my position managing two Seattle radio stations became even more demanding. I was asked to take on the role of another manager whose position had just been eliminated. The situation would be remedied in 2010.

The new corporate reality was unveiled the exact same week we began our deacon formation journey in earnest with the beginning of intellectual formation weekends at Palisades Retreat Center.

How could I keep up with the increasing demands of a job I loved and demands of the deacon formation program? The deacon couple who interviewed us for the program six months earlier asked the exact same question about my job prior to the role change.

Somehow the grace of God intervened and I held it together for the year.

But help would not arrive in 2010. A continuing challenged economy brought no relief. The job began to take a toll on my physical, emotional and spiritual well–being. A storm raged in my soul. Why had my dream job become such a place of desolation? I prayed for guidance.

Guidance came threefold (in true Trinitarian fashion): 1) a question asked by one of our deacon formation educators 2) terrific guidance from a gifted spiritual director 3) a pastoral internship at the L’Arche Community on Capitol Hill.

The rhetorical question asked in the classroom during a deacon formation weekend was about Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee, “Do you think the calming of the storm was an actual physical event (or did Jesus just still the worry in the hearts of the disciples)?” As I prayed for a solution to the turmoil in my heart, the comment washed over me like a flood and a personal storm was silenced. Peace was restored.

Six weeks later, as I was about to meet with my spiritual director, I learned of the senseless slayings of four police officers in Parkland, Washington. As I called our radio station’s newsroom to hear about our coverage plans, it hit me. My heart was no longer in my job. My time at the radio station was over. A change had come over me and this was not where I was supposed to be. I shared this with my spiritual director exactly one week before I became a deacon candidate.

Two days later, on a day that started with a 3 a.m. wake up call that the cop killer had been shot and killed, I dreaded my weekly visit to the L’Arche Community that evening. I was physically and emotionally exhausted from a busy couple of days of intense news coverage.

L’Arche is a beautiful community built around “core members” with mental disabilities. It is the embodiment of the Kingdom of God here on earth. The internship had been a Godsend on many levels. For months it had been my shelter from the storm, but on that day the most extraordinary thing happened.

As I rushed to L’Arche after a 14-hour workday and sat down for dinner, “core member” Nancy turned to me and said, “Welcome home!” I felt the most overwhelming sense of peace and serenity as I battled back tears. I was finally “home.” L’Arche taught me so much about what a life-giving experience from God feels like.

Two days after going through the Rite of Candidacy at St. James Cathedral, I received an email from the General Manager of an all news radio station in Canada asking about my availability to consult his radio station.

I was running a successful consulting business when my company was hired to design the radio programming format for what became my current job in November of 2002.

In January of this year, I officially stepped down as manager of the stations to focus on my consulting business… and my ministry. The radio stations remain clients. I’ve been blessed with an abundance of work in the U.S. and Canada. I’ve also been blessed with more time for studies and ministry work. And I no longer have to use important family time for this.

God has a purpose for all of our lives and leaves us signs along the way. We just need to open our hearts to hear the “quiet whisper” that will lead us home.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Seattle's Newest Catholic Church

Our deacon formation group toured this facility two years ago before the renovation began. I love the concept: create a faith gathering place to bring Christ into the lives of the rich and the poor, young and the old, right in the heart of downtown Seattle. That neighborhood already experiences some tension between the homeless and the wealthier condo dwellers. Maybe they can find common ground or, as St. Paul encouraged the Romans, unity in sharing communion together. I'll be there this weekend for one of the inaugural Masses. Please join me.


Reprinted from

The Seattle Archdiocese bucks a national trend toward closing inner-city parishes, dedicating the new Christ Our Hope parish in a city-landmark building.

By Stephen H. Dunphy

The Downtown Seattle Association estimates there are now more than 55,000 people living downtown. In 2008, the Kress IGA Supermarket opened on Third Avenue, adding another piece of needed community infrastructure.

Now downtown is about to get another institution that often helps form a neighborhood or community: a new church. The Archdiocese of Seattle this weekend (Aug. 28-29) will dedicate its first new building-based parish (as opposed to parishes for ethnic or other groups) in 42 years, when Christ Our Hope Parish officially opens in the Josephinum on Second Avenue.

The former high-ceilinged chapel in the building has been remodeled while preserving many of the architectural elements that make the building itself a special place. At the dedication the first pastor, the Rev. Paul Magnano, will be installed by Archbishop Alexander Brunett.

“We’re ready except for a few details here and there,” said Deacon Larry McDonald, one of three deacons assigned to the new parish. “We’re all pretty excited. I know the Archbishop is excited — this has been one of his dreams for years.”

Brunett issued a statement saying, “For some time now it has become clear to me that downtown Seattle needs a Catholic Church to serve the diverse needs of many Catholics in this vibrant and growing neighborhood. Responding to that need, I have created a new parish in downtown Seattle, with a new pastor and pastoral team. The parish will be called Christ Our Hope, the theme that Pope Benedict chose for his pilgrimage to the United States in 2008.”

Magnano, the new pastor, said he hopes “that everyone can come together in this church — the rich and the poor, the old and the young, all the diversity of downtown Seattle, sharing the same place, around the family table, so to speak.”

On Oct. 28, 2009, on the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Christ Our Hope was officially established as a personal parish, a parish that has no geographic boundaries. The new parish may draw downtown workers for daytime services when they are unable to travel to their own parishes during the workday.

The new parish is another signal that downtown Seattle is becoming a true community, changing dramatically from a typical downtown that empties out at 5 p.m. as workers leave to commute to homes elsewhere. With 55,000 people, there is a critical mass of residents now that has changed downtown.

The new parish runs against the grain in some ways and with it in others. Throughout the country, the Catholic Church is closing many parishes and schools in the inner city. So it is unusual for a new parish to be created. The parish also fits in with existing downtown churches such as Plymouth Congregational and the First United Methodist Church, which moved in January to its new site at 180 Denny Way.

First Church, as it now calls itself, also believes that “direct service to the homeless is a cornerstone of spiritual life.” Magnano, a Seattle native with deep family ties to the community, sees the new parish serving the many different populations downtown from high-rise condo dwellers to the homeless.

Magnano was pastor at St. Therese Parish in the Madrona neighborhood. Under his leadership, St. Therese in the summer of 2001 became the first Catholic parish in the area to host a tent city on parish grounds. Speaking of his new parish, he described the church as "downtown's living room."

The building itself is a Seattle landmark. It started as a hotel in 1908 to accommodate the rush of people expected for the Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition the following year. The New Washington Hotel hosted such celebrities as President Howard Taft, Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley. The building was purchased in 1963 by the Archdiocese of Seattle, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace were asked to help with the management of the facility.

The building was renamed the Josephinum after the Sisters’ patron saint, St. Joseph. The building continues now to serve about 220 very low-income residents as part of the Archdiocesan Catholic Housing Services.

The new parish shares the building with those residents and the offices of SHARE/WHEEL, the self-help group that sponsors the region’s tent cities. SHARE (Seattle Housing and Resource Effort) is co-ed while WHEEL (Women's Housing, Equality and Enhancement League) is women-only.

The two are partner organizations of homeless and formerly homeless men and women, and all of their efforts are self-managed by the homeless members themselves. With the arrival of the new parish, the organizations have moved to new offices in the basement of the building — with a separate entrance in the alley between Second and Third avenues off Stewart Street.

Early this week, the offices were still in transition with a clutter of moving boxes. The group tries to keep a low profile in the media — its tent cities draw enough attention — so it has not said anything about its new neighbor.

Joe Martin, a social worker and well-known activist (he is a co-founder of the Pike Market Clinic), said the new parish is a welcome addition to downtown. Martin said SHARE/WHEEL has a policy of keeping a low profile, so he was not surprised that they did not want to comment on the new parish.

“The parish is reaching out and recognizing the many kinds of people who comprise the downtown community,” Martin said. “I think it might even attract some people who are not Catholic but looking for some kind of spiritual home.”

McDonald said the only relationship between the SHARE/WHEEL organization and the parish is that they are both tenants of Catholic Housing Services. “We both have the same mission, serving the poor,” he said, adding that the parish has a strong group of volunteers. Although there is nothing specific to point to as yet, he said the surrounding neighborhood seems positive about the new parish.

“I am sensing a lot of excitement,” he said. “People seem interested in our mission to serve residents of this building, people on the street, tourists, downtown workers.”

Magnano, asked if his role as pastor of a downtown parish would thrust him into downtown politics, said, “The church has to be where the people are and involved in their issues and concerns, hopes and dreams. We have to be courageous in bringing our faith to bear on every aspect of our daily lives, including the public order.”

The Mass of Dedication of the church will be celebrated at 5 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 28). The Mass of Installation for Father Magnano as Pastor will be at 9:30 a.m. Sunday (Aug. 29).


Steve Dunphy is Vice President for Communications and Strategy at the Cascade Land Conservancy. He also was a business editor and columnist for a number of years at The Seattle Times.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Friend In Need

Brian Camp is a friend of mine. We first met when he coached our oldest son's t-ball team 15 years ago. Brian was a healthy, former star high school baseball and basketball player who had a love of teaching young people to art of the game. Shortly after that experience, Brian was diagnosed with debilitating Parkinson's disease. We stayed in touch over the years. And in 2004, Brian and I co-managed a Little League baseball team together. He really was the manager. I just helped organize and did what I could to assist with teaching the game. Brian never let his disease get in the way. I respect him greatly and pray for him every day. Please do the same. There's a fundraiser for Brian being held next month. Click on the above title to donate online if you feel called to do so.


By Kristi O'Harran, Herald Columnist

Team Lexi set the bar very, very high.

An upcoming golf tournament for a medical-needs campaign called Camp Brian may not produce the same monetary windfall, but its heart is in the same place.

Brian Camp, 52, was on Team Lexi. Now he needs help because he has Parkinson's disease. A fundraising group that calls itself Camp Brian aims to raise money to help the single father and his three school-aged children.

Really, what goes around comes around in this case.

Let's take a look back at Team Lexi to understand how these friends operate.

Lexi Frost, a junior at Lake Stevens High School, and her family live on Lake Stevens. She was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 22 months old.

There were two years of treatment and remission, then in December 1997, the cancer came back.

Friends formed Team Lexi. They took turns on 24-hour shifts to help with child care, trips to the pharmacy and organizing meal deliveries.

The team included movers and shakers in these parts: Folks who gave and didn't expect to see their well-known names splashed in the newspaper.

To help pay for Lexi's medical expenses, they sold candy bars at ferry docks and Team Lexi T-shirts. They raised an amazing $165,000.

That wasn't the big miracle.

Lexi's brother, Brennan, donated the bone marrow that saved his sister's life.

The family, including Michelle Frost, nurse manager with the Pediatric Advanced Care Team at Seattle Children's Hospital; Whitney Frost, an orthopedic physician at the Everett Clinic; and their oldest son, Riley, never forgot how many people helped them.

Michelle Frost said money collected was used for part of the transplant that wasn't covered, including $50,000 they paid up front and for medicine (a huge monthly expense) and months of lodging for the family while Lexi was in the hospital.

Frost said it was humbling to be on the receiving end of donations. She said Brian Camp, a lifelong friend, was active with Team Lexi.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson's about the same time as Lexi's transplant. Camp is confronting the full force of the debilitating disease and its downward spiral.

"When Brian was reeling from the effects of his Parkinson's disease, unable to work and facing brain surgery, a similar group -- made up of the same high school friends and Brian's lifetime friends and family -- joined forces to raise money," Frost said. "From my point of view, in America, this is one of the ways we extend our support, our hands and our prayers. We give money, which means, 'We are with you.'"

Words of encouragement are helpful, Frost said, but words don't keep the lights on.

Camp was born in Seattle to a family with seven children. His father took a truck driving job in Everett and they moved to the Eastmont area.

He graduated in 1976 from Cascade High School and in 1982 from Central Washington University.

Camp worked for many years for Boys & Girls Clubs and ran a pub for eight years in south Everett.

"I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1997 by several neurologists at the Everett Clinic," he wrote via e-mail. "I had deep brain stimulation several times. It is a very long story."

To help with expenses, a fundraiser golf tournament is planned for 9 a.m. Sept. 17 at Legion Memorial Golf Course, 144 W. Marine View Drive in Everett. Sign in at 8 a.m. The cost is $125 per player.

Also, a Camp Brian "funraiser" is planned for 7 p.m. at Floral Hall at Forest Park, 802 Mukilteo Blvd., Everett. The suggested donation is $30.

For more information on both events, go online to

One member of Camp Brian is only 5 feet tall.

"She is so tiny, even after growth hormones," Lexi's mother said. "However, a very small price to pay for what is now called our 'normal' life."

Lexi is a big supporter of Camp Brian.

"I love Brian, he is like family to me," Lexi said. "It's an amazing thing to have so many people pulling for you."

Kristi O'Harran: 425-339-3451; .

For Camp Brian

A fundraiser golf tournament to benefit Brian Camp, who has Parkinson's disease, is planned for 9 a.m. Sept. 17 at Legion Memorial Golf Course, 144 W. Marine View Drive in Everett. Sign in at 8 a.m. The cost is $125 per player.

A "funraiser" is planned for 7 p.m. Sept. 17 at Floral Hall at Forest Park, 802 Mukilteo Blvd., Everett. The suggested donation is $30.

For more information, go online to

Monday, August 16, 2010


I read an interesting New York Times OP/ED recently. Clergy are becoming disillusioned as a result of congregations wanting short, entertaining sermons that leave parishioners feeling great about themselves. As a deacon candidate, the prospects of the author's premise are somewhat daunting. I'm hoping Catholic churchgoers are different.



The American clergy is suffering from burnout, several new studies show. And part of the problem, as researchers have observed, is that pastors work too much. Many of them need vacations, it’s true. But there’s a more fundamental problem that no amount of rest and relaxation can help solve: congregational pressure to forsake one’s highest calling.

The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people.

As a result, pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants’ daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy.

The trend toward consumer-driven religion has been gaining momentum for half a century. Consider that in 1955 only 15 percent of Americans said they no longer adhered to the faith of their childhood, according to a Gallup poll. By 2008, 44 percent had switched their religious affiliation at least once, or dropped it altogether, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found. Americans now sample, dabble and move on when a religious leader fails to satisfy for any reason.

In this transformation, clergy have seen their job descriptions rewritten. They’re no longer expected to offer moral counsel in pastoral care sessions or to deliver sermons that make the comfortable uneasy. Church leaders who continue such ministerial traditions pay dearly. A few years ago, thousands of parishioners quit Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn., and Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Ariz., when their respective preachers refused to bless the congregations’ preferred political agendas and consumerist lifestyles.

I have faced similar pressures myself. In the early 2000s, the advisory committee of my small congregation in Massachusetts told me to keep my sermons to 10 minutes, tell funny stories and leave people feeling great about themselves. The unspoken message in such instructions is clear: give us the comforting, amusing fare we want or we’ll get our spiritual leadership from someone else.

Congregations that make such demands seem not to realize that most clergy don’t sign up to be soothsayers or entertainers. Pastors believe they’re called to shape lives for the better, and that involves helping people learn to do what’s right in life, even when what’s right is also difficult. When they’re being true to their calling, pastors urge Christians to do the hard work of reconciliation with one another before receiving communion. They lead people to share in the suffering of others, including people they would rather ignore, by experiencing tough circumstances — say, in a shelter, a prison or a nursing home — and seeking relief together with those in need. At their courageous best, clergy lead where people aren’t asking to go, because that’s how the range of issues that concern them expands, and how a holy community gets formed.

Ministry is a profession in which the greatest rewards include meaningfulness and integrity. When those fade under pressure from churchgoers who don’t want to be challenged or edified, pastors become candidates for stress and depression.

Clergy need parishioners who understand that the church exists, as it always has, to save souls by elevating people’s values and desires. They need churchgoers to ask for personal challenges, in areas like daily devotions and outreach ministries.

When such an ethic takes root, as it has in generations past, then pastors will cease to feel like the spiritual equivalents of concierges. They’ll again know joy in ministering among people who share their sense of purpose. They might even be on fire again for their calling, rather than on a path to premature burnout.


G. Jeffrey MacDonald, a minister in the United Church of Christ, is the author of “Thieves in the Temple: The Christian Church and the Selling of the American Soul.”

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New Catholic Come Home TV commercials

(Click on above headline to see the TV spot)

Hot off the presses... and taken from the website today:

(August 4, 2010) Roswell, GA—Catholics Come Home will premier their new TV commercial “Home” as part of the upcoming Advent 2010 television initiative. The commercial, which invites all people “to experience the peace that only comes from God,” gives viewers hope especially during these tough times. The commercial premieres just as Pope Benedict XVI offers his August mission prayer intention, “That the Church may be a ‘home’ for all people.”

“Home” will air beginning in December in select markets across the United States in English, Spanish and closed captioned for the hearing impaired.

Also debuting is a new commercial for, the Spanish language website of This testimonial commercial features Eduardo Verástegui, actor, producer, and star of the movie Bella. Eduardo shares his personal testimony of his journey back to his Catholic roots after years outside the Church pursuing fame and material success. “There is nothing greater than to wake up every day and to use your talents that God gave you to serve Him and to serve others,” Eduardo stated during the Hollywood shoot. These commercials will premier on Spanish language television in December, in a number of markets across the U.S..

Tom Peterson, President and Founder of Catholics Come Home, met with Eduardo in Los Angeles to produce the commercials and website videos for both and the outreach ministry Spirit Juice Studios of Chicago, following the Peterson/Verástegui story, produced a behind the scenes video of the two commercial shoots.

Catholics Come Home (CCH) is a not for profit, independent charity designed to invite inactive Catholics and others searching for a faith home to the Catholic Church, through television commercials and interactive websites. In response to twelve initial CCH campaigns and viral exposure of the website, the website has been visited by over 1 million individuals from all fifty states and over one hundred countries, who were moved by the welcoming messages and website. Overall, the CCH TV messages have reached nearly 20 million television viewers across the United States, just since 2008.

To date, CCH campaigns have aired in twelve dioceses from Providence to Sacramento, Chicago to Seattle, helping to increase Mass attendance an average of nearly 11%, and welcoming a total of 200,000 inactive Catholics and converts home since inception.

Now, Catholics Come Home is inviting other families back to the Catholic faith across the country in 13 additional dioceses, including Boston, Worcester, Portland Maine, Atlanta, Charlotte, and many other dioceses and archdioceses.

By 2012, hopes to begin airing on national US television networks and national cable systems, then internationally in the future.

The inspiring television and website advertisements are viewable at

“These messages are created and sponsored by lay Catholic families who have experienced a renewal of faith and who want to bring purpose and hope to other families across the country. The results are nothing short of miraculous,” said Founder, Tom Peterson.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Is It Death With Dignity?

Euthanasia. When I was a child, I would hear this word, but never clearly understood its meaning. When my young brain eventually wrapped itself around the idea of “mercy killing,” I still thought euthanasia meant killing youths in Asia.

Deacon Pat set me straight as I approached my teen years. It started with his passion for a movie called “Soylent Green.” He thought it was “one of the most thought-provoking movies of our time” and encouraged a 12 year old to see it. Deacon Pat was a transitional deacon moving toward full ordination as a priest. He was young, hip and very cool for clergy. And when Deacon Pat endorsed a movie, I had to see it.

“Soylent Green” opened my eyes to the true meaning of euthanasia. The movie is about an overpopulated, dystopian future. The year is 2022. Society is filled with violence, food shortages and is undergoing a moral turning point. Death Centers are commonplace. Anyone who chooses can simply sign some simple paperwork and end their life in a painless, sterile way.

Food being in short supply, there is much starvation and food riots. The newest food to hit the marketplace is called “Soylent Green.” In the end, the shocking source of “Soylent Green” is revealed. In the classic line uttered by actor Charlton Heston during the final scene of the movie, we learn that, “Soylent Green is people!“

The reason Deacon Pat found the movie so intriguing was his belief that this could really happen someday. Death Centers, food shortages, organized cannibalism.

But the part that stuck with me most was the eerie idea of Death Centers. To me, a society that allowed the easy transition to the afterworld gave me the chills. Even more than the idea of a food source made from humans (which I considered preposterous), the idea of assisted suicide Death Centers seemed all too real a future to my heart. Perhaps this was God sounding the warning alarm in my soul.

I have experience with real suicide. My father took his life when I was 14, two years after I saw “Soylent Green.” I never connected the two until a good friend told me of his support of I-1000 in the summer of 2008. He was approaching his 80s and smoked cigarettes for nearly 50 years before quitting. In his 70s, he developed COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or emphysema. By the time he shared his support of I-1000 with me, his disease had become chronic. He was dying a slow, painful death. His support of I-1000, the so-called “Death With Dignity” initiative, made perfect sense to me. In many ways, he was the father I lost when I was 14. My heart ached for his plight.

But inside, I felt this is all wrong. Assisted suicide is still suicide. We don’t get to choose when we enter this world. God decides. We should give God the same courtesy in how we exit this world.

The danger of assisted suicide now being legal is that our softening moral stance will eventually turn into Death Centers in the future. The alarm that sounded after seeing “Soylent Green” was ringing again and my heart told me I could never support such an initiative despite the desperate pleas of a good friend who was facing a painful end of life.

I understand the desire for a painless death. Who wants to suffer at the end of our long journey? The blessing of our time is the miracle of palliative care and the ability to manage pain as we slowly fade from this reality and into the next.

The Christian model of death and suffering was that of Pope John Paul II. Parkinson’s disease robbed him of his ability to function only in the final few months of his life. His painful decline was on display for all to see for more than a half decade before his death. His suffering was symbolic of Christ’s passion. Why is this idea of sharing the burden of the cross so difficult for many to embrace? Perhaps I’m the clueless one since I am not dying from an incurable disease.

The Vatican’s Declaration on Euthanasia (1980) states, “Life is a gift from God, and on the other hand, death is unavoidable.” Death should be accepted “with full responsibility and dignity. It is true that death marks the end of our earthly existence, but at the same time it opens the door to our immortal life.”

The dying person needs compassionate medical care, the love of family and friends and our support as their life’s journey comes to an end. As I think of and pray for my friend, I realize this is his life. These are his choices. My opinions matter not unless asked. Even then, I have to be careful in sharing my views in a non-judgmental manner. But as for my life, I hope to have the courage of my convictions when the end is near. I pray my strong feelings won’t give way in a moment of weakness to thoughts of an easy end.

End of life issues are among the most challenging for members of our faith struggling to keep God in the equation. To quote Catholic Morality expert Richard M. Gula, S.S., from his book “Reason Informed By Faith,” “Religious beliefs … too easily become dispensable baggage in the moral life, since moral choices can be defended on grounds other than religious ones.”

When wrestling with the practical moral question, “What ought I do?,” we need to use all of the tools at our disposal to reach a sound moral decision concerning our own life or the life of a loved one. These are complex, personal decisions requiring all of the facts, all of our minds and all of our hearts to do the right thing. Such matters are between families, doctors and God.

Our Catholic moral tradition gives guidance for people making such decisions. It is usually the patient, himself or herself, or designated family if the patient is incapacitated making an important choice about life-sustaining measures. The Vatican’s Declaration on Euthanasia defined “proportionate” versus “disproportionate” or “ordinary” versus “extraordinary” to denote obligatory versus optional means of life-support. A major difference does exist between these important decisions and a person’s decision to legally use a massive overdose to immediately end life.

Now that the assisted suicide measure I-1000 is the law of the land, I’m afraid the powerfully disturbing vision of Death Centers in “Soylent Green” will eventually become reality. Maybe not in ten years, or 20 or even 50 years, but the day will come when human life is reduced to such a clinical approach to the rhetoric “death with dignity.” The morally slippery slope will send society crashing down to a world where true human dignity vanishes. Death will become an easy out of our choosing. Lose your job and go bankrupt, cash in the chips and call it a good life. Have a loved one die, join them in Heaven. In our advertiser-driven culture, can’t you just hear the insipid commercials?

What a horrible world it will become.