Sunday, August 19, 2012

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Reflection During The Homily


        I witnessed a miracle. 
In this day and age, most people would think a person crazy to make such a claim.  Maybe you have a hard time believing in miracles.  We know the healing powers of Christ are real.  But miracles?      
That’s exactly what I experienced in witnessing a miracle.   Christ healed my friend Orlando.
The bread of life, the body of Christ brought new life.
Today’s Gospel reading from John is a popular one in hospital and hospice ministry.  It's popular because it brings hope to hopeless situations.
When performing a communion service at a hospital or hospice, we often read the words:
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever."
That’s where I found myself serving a year ago, at a hospice in Seattle.
It was there I met Orlando.  The first time I visited him I tried to offer communion.  He spoke only Spanish.  Orlando understood what I was offering, but got a scared look on his face and shook his head “no.”  My Spanish is weak, so, I did not understand what he was trying to tell me.
Orlando has advanced AIDS and also a rare form of cancer eating away at his body. 
His doctors and nurses said he was nearing the end of his life.  In fact, some thought Orlando would only last a week or two at most.  He was in his early 40's.  He was in a lot of pain.  He was very scared.   
So, I asked the Spiritual Care Director to ask Orlando through an interpreter what he was trying to tell me.  He listed himself as Catholic, but refused to receive the Body of Christ.   
She found out.  Orlando was born in Cuba and baptized a Catholic.  But due to Fidel Castro’s communism and anti-Catholicism, Orlando never got to celebrate first communion.
Orlando thought it was too late for him.    
When told this, I asked her to share with Orlando that it might not be too late and to see if he would be interested in finding out more.
She immediately told him and his face lit up and he said, “Yes, Si!"
A quick call to the Archdiocese, a helpful staffer, and a Redemptorist priest who spoke fluent Spanish was at Orlando’s bedside.
Over the coming days, he would catechize Orlando in the Catholic faith, he would hear his confession, anoint him, confirm him and give him first communion.
When Jesus wants something to happen, it happens fast!
“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you."
A few Sundays later, I stopped into Orlando’s room and noticed he looked much better.  When I offered communion, his face lit up with a big smile and he said, "Yes, Si!”
For the next few months, I would give him communion on a weekly basis.  Soon he was out of the bed and in a wheelchair.  A few weeks later he was walking. 
Doctors couldn’t explain it.  Orlando’s health made a “miraculous recovery.”  Those are the doctors' words not mine.
Eventually, Orlando was released from the hospice into transitional housing.  At last check, he was doing well.
"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
These are beautiful words from John's Gospel.  These are powerful words.  These words can bring about miraculous healing.
Skeptics will say the miracle is anti-retroviral drugs keeping Orlando alive.  We wouldn't disagree that this miracle is part of God's plan for Orlando. 
But we believe his true healing comes from being one with Christ and knowing he now has eternal life and will be raised up on the last day.
A wise person believes in the transforming power of these words.  The fool rejects them.  How many foolish people in our world today are in such desperate need of Jesus Christ in their lives?
Even some of Jesus' followers rejected this notion of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ as a path to eternal life.  It was just too weird for them.
As we heard in our first reading from Proverbs, "Wisdom has built her house."   Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of wisdom in our world – yesterday, today and tomorrow.  When we step into His house each week, we are joined with Christ in His powerful ministry simply by eating of His flesh and drinking of His Blood.   We also know we will be raised up on the last day.
The Holy Eucharist is the sign of God's abundant love for us.  For two-thousand years, this bread from heaven has nourished us and given us life.  It is Jesus alive in our midst in the form of bread and wine.  It is a holy sacrifice we celebrate at this Mass.  And one especially designed for you and me. 
As we celebrate at our Mass today, we make present Christ's life, death and resurrection and we are called to enter into it.  The Eucharist nurtures our spirit.
Perhaps you're hurting.  Perhaps you're dying inside -- hiding the deep chasms of your despair by putting on a brave face. 
As you take the Eucharist today, remember the miracle God did for my friend Orlando.   Know that when you eat His flesh and drink His blood, you too have new life within you.   
I pray, we all pray, that as you take communion today you will feel Jesus healing touch… and the bread of life, the body of Christ brings you new life.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Goodbye To A Friend...


"I was 18 years old when we first met at the WSU Murrow Communications building on campus in Pullman. You were a senior and I was a freshman. I had aspirations to be a broadcast journalist. You were already an accomplished one. But you took the time to talk to me and a friendship began. Our paths crossed many times over the years and you were always the same humble and helpful person you were when I first met you. That says a lot about a person in our industry. I will miss you. Thank you for always being a class act, a symbol of courage and an inspiration to us all. Peace, until we meet again..."


I wrote the above words on my Facebook page the hour I learned Kathi Goertzen had died.

For us here in Western Washington, we know who Kathi Goertzen is.  She spent almost 30-years as the main anchor of KOMO 4 News in Seattle.  A graduate of Washington State University's Murrow College of Communication, Kathi had a passion for broadcast journalism. 

But Kathi also was a kind and humble person who never took herself too seriously and always found the time to help others. 

It is the little things she did in life that made her so beloved.

Kathi battled non-cancerous brain tumors for 14 years.  In the end, the tumors didn't take her life, pneumonia did.  As her co-worker Eric Johnson put it so beautifully, "She probably would have wanted it that way."

The tumors robbed her of her smile in recent years, paralyzing one half of her face.  Kathi's courage to publicly share her struggle provided healing for countless others battling adversity. 

That's what makes us so sad about her passing.  Each of us carries a personal scar or wound whether on the outside or the inside.  By Kathi showing us her vulnerability, her courage and perseverance and how a once beautiful face was transforming, I believe we all were healed in some small way (I know there's a homily in this somewhere and humbly look forward to sharing it someday as a tribute to a friend).

Kathi's memorial service is this Sunday at 1pm at Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center.  If you are unable to attend in person, it will be fed on 

Please Keep Kathi, her daughters Alexa and Andrea, husband Rick and the rest of her family and friends in your thoughts and prayers in the coming days and give thanks to God for a person who touched so many lives here in the Northwest.

I've attached a few articles about Kathi.  Even in death, this giving soul continues to show us all a model for how to live our lives.


Kathi Goertzen's legacy lives on in her foundation


Dan Lewis is anchor of KOMO-TV news. Credit: KOMO-TV

Op-ed: Kathi Goertzen found the positive in everything, even brain tumors

Dan Lewis - Special to the Seattle Times  
Reprinted from the Seattle Times
Originally published August 15, 2012

"THIS brain tumor business has been a wonderful experience in many ways. It's changed my life and the lives of a lot of people I love and we've learned what's really important."

Kathi Goertzen said that. It helps sum up her courageous 14-year fight against brain tumors that ended when
Kathi died on Monday. She was just 54 years old.

But that was Kathi. Wonderful experience? Brain tumors? Really?

Kathi could find the positive in anything. It's one of the many reasons we loved her at KOMO-TV and why she was loved throughout the Western Washington community.

I can't count the times I heard her in the newsroom, on the phone, at Children's hospital or out in public sharing her positive thoughts with people facing medical issues or other tribulations in life.

She let her brain tumors teach her what's important in life. She did not let her brain tumors define her.
She marched on as the same loving, giving, caring, kind soul that God put on this Earth.

God must have a mission for her in heaven. Maybe that's why he took her back.

I met Kathi when I came to KOMO-TV in 1987. She became one of the most important people in my life, a woman I would admire on the news set, and off, as a true professional and a role model for the entire Western Washington community.

Kathi and I cried together many times over the years. We cried the hardest when we lost four Seattle firefighters in the 1995 Pang Warehouse fire and when four Lakewood police officers were gunned down by an assassin in 2009.

Even as reporters, we couldn't cover the news without feeling the same emotions as everyone else.

We always knew what the other was thinking in those breaking-news situations. When I stopped talking, Kathi was always ready to add perspective or move on with a new thought or new information.

Kathi never, ever asked, "Why me?" But she did ask, "Why?" She knew there was a reason she had brain tumors. I think it was so she could spread the word about "what's really important." Cherish family and the people you love. Cherish good health. Cherish good times. Cherish good friends. 

Share your love. Give back. Truly care for others and for community.

As a board member for the YWCA of Seattle and King County, she helped raise millions of dollars. She was a strong supporter of Angeline's Women's Centers. Year after year, she opened her heart to the Children's Miracle Network Telethon.

Kathi was courageous, inspirational and beautiful right to the end.

Her spirit will live on.

I spent some time on Tuesday with Kathi's daughters Alexa and Andrea. Andrea was quick to tell me that, like her mom, she was not going to hide during this tough time. She's ready to carry on the cause to push for more brain-tumor research.

And when I asked Alexa if there's anything I could do for her -- she turned the tables and told me it's OK for me to be sad around her because she knows I am sad.

Both of the girls, the day after their mother's death -- thinking about and caring for others.
Mom would be proud.

Dan Lewis is a news anchor for KOMO-TV.


Celebration of Kathi set for Sunday

SEATTLE – A public celebration of Kathi Goertzen’s life has been set for Sunday afternoon in Seattle.

The service will be held at Fisher Pavilion at the Seattle Center beginning at 1 p.m.

Seating inside the pavilion will be limited largely to family members, friends and co-workers. But there will be an audio feed of the service outside, and the public is invited to sit on the nearby grassy area and listen.

The full service will also be streamed live on

Those planning to attend in person and sit outside are invited to bring lawn chairs or blankets.

Doors at the Fisher Pavilion will open at 12:30 p.m. and the celebration will begin at 1 p.m.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Field Of Dreams

I've always believed baseball imitates life.  Ups, downs, wins, losses, the long season and occasionally we get to play like champions.  Great baseball stories always inspire me.  But no baseball story is more beautiful than this one.  Heaven has a new shortstop.  And his name is Josh Dickerson.

Reprinted from the Seattle Times
O'Dea's Josh Dickerson remained an inspiration to the end
By Braulio Perez

Josh Dickerson lay in his hospital bed at Seattle Children's Hospital, eyes closed, barely able to mumble.

It was July 23, the day of the Ichiro trade. The Mariners-Yankees game was on TV in his room.

Friends knelt over his bed and whispered play-by-play to Dickerson, an O'Dea High School baseball player. He smiled.

Later that night, his three-year battle against the rare form of cancer that started in his jaw in October 2009 entered its final phase. He received sedation designed to render him unconscious and finally, mercifully, relieve his suffering.

He died three days later at 5:40 p.m. on July 26. A service celebrating Dickerson's life is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 16 at St. James Cathedral in Seattle.

It was only fitting that one of Dickerson's last memories involved baseball, a sport he played since he was 6 years old. A sport he lived for.

Six months before, on Dec. 27, Dickerson's rhabdomyosarcoma returned. The rare cancer spread to his jaw. He was told by doctors there was no cure, but a second round of chemotherapy might prolong his life.
There was no hesitation from Josh, his father, Kiyo Dickerson, said.

"I'm playing baseball, period," he told Kiyo.

"Doctors told him he needed to think about what was important to him," Kiyo said. "He was 17 at that point and he was asked what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to play baseball."

Said family friend and former coach Scott Thomassen, "He wasn't making a choice between living and playing baseball. He knew there was no cure, but baseball was so important to him, and it was truly how he lived. He identified himself as a baseball player first and foremost."

Dickerson went on to inspire others, playing in excruciating pain. He willed himself to participate in 16 of O'Dea's 18 regular-season games as a junior, hitting about .300. He was taking so many painkillers, family friend and registered nurse Heidi Thomassen compared the dosage to treating a rhinoceros for pain.

But Josh had a secret.

Without telling his family, he would reduce his intake on game days, calling upon his body's natural adrenaline to push forward and fight off the hurt.

"There's just something about that game that he absolutely loved," Kiyo said. "It was really the one thing that kept him going. I think it was something he was able to look forward to in the morning. He gets to play another baseball game."

One of the only two games he missed came on April 18, an 8-5 win over Bainbridge.

On that day, he had an appointment with nurse practitioner Sue Ehling. He was in such agony, he finally asked how much time she thought he had left. Ehling dropped a bomb.

"Months," she said.

Dickerson immediately texted his girlfriend, Emma Griffith.

"Too emotional, no words."

A few hours passed by, then Dickerson took his emotions to twitter.

"A couple more months to be the best I can."

He was back at shortstop for O'Dea's next game.

"That was Josh," O'Dea head coach Mike Doyle said. "It's just a testament to the tough kid he was. He was always smaller than everyone else but he never backed down to anything or anyone. The pain caught up to him, but he would never show any signs of weakness. He's honestly one of the strongest individuals I've ever met in my life."

His last game was a heartbreaking 3-2 loss in 11 innings to Eastside Catholic on May 2. Dickerson went 3 for 5, scored a run and stole a base.

"He left it all out on the field that night," Doyle said. "I don't think he could have done any more. Every ground ball, he charged at. He dove back into every base or would run as fast as he could on any given play. I saw him in pain, but he never said anything. He gave everything he had and more."

Dickerson's body crashed on the way home that evening. From then on, his condition worsened and the pain increased. He could barely stand, and could not join teammates in the dugout a few weeks later as O'Dea's season ended with a 3-0 loss to Kelso in the state playoffs.

Three years earlier, he had helped the Irish win the 2009 state championship, becoming the first freshman in O'Dea history on the roster for a state championship team. In 2010, the Irish captured state again, and although he didn't play that season because of his illness, he was in the dugout as much as possible to support his team.

During his final two months, Dickerson lost over 40 pounds as the cancer and pain spread.

Even when Dickerson was transferred to Seattle Children's hospital for the final time, he kept smiling.

During his final minutes of consciousness, he gave his parents one last enduring memory.

Kiyo approached his son, who lay in bed with his eyes closed, and asked if he was OK.

"He gave me two big thumbs up," his father said. "He was ready. ... It was his way of letting us know that everything was going to be all right, and he'd always be with us."

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

Monday, August 6, 2012

Media & Faith (Really??!!)

This next item makes me ashamed to admit I am a broadcast journalist:


"Great moments in journalism: 'Sikhism originated in Italy' and other stupid things TV says about religion"

Reprinted from Deacon's Bench blog:
August 6, 2012 By

This eye-roll-inducing item comes from my blog neighbor Joanne McPortland, who is much more charitable and forgiving than I am:
“Sikhism is a religion that originated about 500 years ago in Italy [sic].”
~ CBS This Morning reporter on the shootings at a Wisconsin Sikh temple
I’ve been bemoaning the media’s inability to get Catholicism right for a very long time, but it struck me this morning that maybe there really isn’t a specifically anti-Catholic bias out there in journalism land. The media’s talent for being tone-deaf on religion appears to be wide-ranging and indiscriminate.
The reporting on the tragic shootings at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin yesterday make this tone-deafness very clear. Most news outlets managed to insult two religious traditions at once in their ham-handed attempts to describe the event. Few were as far off base as the CBS reporter who placed Sikhism’s origins in Italy instead of India (one of them-there I-countries being pretty much the same as any other when you’re talking about religion, I guess), but most provided no insight into the faith of the victims beyond the details that Sikh men wear colorful turbans and do not shave their beards, while many Sikh women wear head coverings—like, well, the YouKnowWhoiban. Wading into their mouths with both feet, nearly every reporter or writer quickly went on to make the point that Sikhs practice a peaceful religion. They’re not, in other words (or even in these exact words, which many reports used), “Muslims or other terrorists.”
You’ll want to read more, and some of the other examples (all just from CBS, my old stomping grounds) are truly stupefying.  Joanne wraps it up adroitly:
We are a diverse nation—under God—and a very big part of that diversity is religious. It’s just tiresome to have so vital and inextricable a part of the national conversation be moderated by people who are tone-deaf to its notes and harmonies and even its deliberate dissonances. I’m not saying journalists should be forcibly converted. But is it too much to ask that they be required to pass courses in Religion as a Second Language?
Good question. A very good one.
Back in the days when we got the news from TV sets with rabbit ears and read newspapers with smudgy ink (some even had afternoon editions!), I attended a fairly respectable journalism school where we were required to take courses in economics, politics, history and a foreign language —ostensibly, so that we would be Well-Rounded. Upon graduation, we could then be (hopefully) utility players; we could cover almost anything and we could thus fit into any position needed, writing about everything from local school board meetings to international politics.  We could pitch, catch or bunt.
Well, times have changed. And so has the game, and the skills needed to compete in the field.  It seems to me that people who study journalism nowadays (or its bastard sibling, “communications”) would do well to be required to study world religions.  The great dividing issues of our time are more and more falling along fault lines fractured by faith.  A passing knowledge of what people believe and practice, and why, and how these beliefs and practices are shaping the world —and costing both lives and fortunes —would seem a no-brainer.
But instead:  the no-brainers, evidently, are the ones reporting the news.
And so, the Sikhs are Italians. Which is evident from the above picture which, of course, must have been taken in Venice. (Spoiler alert: it’s Pakistan.)