An evening in the neighborhood: “Blessed are you when they curse you and utter every evil against you on account of me.”

Okay.  Despite the photo, I don’t want to get all dramatic here.  But, I was reminded last night as I often am here in Portland, OR, that there are some facts we Christians have to face.  And we will have to help our children face them, too.

I read in the paper a few weeks ago about a Socrates Cafe that has just started here in my neighborhood.  SC is a kind of loose discussion among folks from different walks of life of philosophical questions.  Having an otherwise useless BA in philo but a mind that is hard wired to the field I just had to get to this groovy little bar/cafe and see what it was all about.

The place was packed last night with about 30 folks who wanted to get philosophical.  I had been working all day and was in my clerics.  I figured I wouldn’t show my hand right away so I shifted my white collar tab to the side and out of sight.  Everybody wears black, so no big deal, I thought.

Our conversation was on the question, “What is the distinction between rights and priviledges?”  Cool topic, I thought.   It was going fine and I tried to help it along with some occasional comments–not dominating, just participating.

A couple of guys on the other side were very sharp and were clearly coming from a socialist point of view with many comments focused on exploitation, class tensions, injustices and conflicts.  All fair enough and worthy points.  Then suddenly the mood changed and there began a stream of caustic references to abusive Catholic schools, Catholic brainwashing, bad Catholic this, and bad Catholic that, etc.  Of course, no one flinched.  No one challenged.  Much had been said earlier about the limits of free speech being the offense given to the other–but no one seemed to see their contradictions when it came to Catholicism, which wasn’t even remotely on topic.

As I was thinking about this I brushed my chest with my hand and realized I was still wearing my cross!!  And it dawned on me that these guys were looking directly at me while they made these remarks.  I didn’t get angry.  I wasn’t even offended really.  In fact, I was just really okay with their hatred of Catholicism.  They were misguided.  And they were even a bit malicious.  But, still I was okay…

… then the words came to mind, “blessed are you when they persecute you for my sake, when they utter every kind of false accusation against you on account of me…” Matt 5:11.

I was not being cursed, but blessed.

As the culture continues to become more hostile to belief, to innocence, to the Lord himself, we will have to get used to not having those cultural props of yesteryear when being a follower of Christ was considered respectable and decent.  We will have to prepare ourselves and our children to accept hostility graciously on behalf of the Lord whose love sustains us.

When the session was over the two men came over. I shook their hands and introduced myself as J. in order not to embarrass them, though I knew they knew.  One asked if I had ever been a minister.  I said yes.  “You look good in black,” the other said.  We three smiled and agreed to see each other next month.


9 Responses to An evening in the neighborhood: “Blessed are you when they curse you and utter every evil against you on account of me.”

  1. pablo says:

    And there was a day when Eliseus passed by Sunam: now there was a great woman there, who detained him to eat bread; and as he passed often that way, he turned into her house to eat bread. 9 And she said to her husband: I perceive that this is a holy man of God, who often passeth by us.

    Dear Padre,

    You cannot hide the fact that you have brought God down from Heaven; you are a Holy Man whose eyes carry within them the reflection of the Blessed Sacrament.

    “Would you help me save these souls?” is what God was asking when those lost sheep approached you.

    Animo, Padre.

    May God our Lord in his infinite and supreme goodness be pleased to give us his abundant grace, that we may know his most holy will, and entirely fulfill it.

    Santa María de Guadalupe Esperanza nuestra, salva nuestra patria y conserva nuestra Fe.


  2. Fr. J. says:

    Thank you, Pablo. Words to live by. Perhaps I am still a bit cowed here in the NW, yet. I do not know the people, yet. While I can be reticent in all kinds of social settings where small talk is in order, I seldom lack boldness on any matter of principle. The Lord will give me the right voice at the right time, I’m certain.

    Gracias y que Dios te bendiga!

  3. Stephen says:

    Dear Fr.J, not that I’m any good at spotting things and slap me on the hand by all means if I’m wrong but, although you put your collar to one side ( which I disagree with, because its equivalent to St.Peters behaviour ) the devil knew you were there, and he used the ignorance and pshychological conditioning of those men to create such a conversation, for he is the big arguer, if I may, we should never argue with someone whos mind is already made up, in the words of St.Anthony the Great ”When you find someone arguing, and contesting what is true and self evident, break off the dispute and give way to such a man, since his intellect has been petrified, For just as bad water ruins good wines, so harmful talk corrupts those who are virtuous in life and character.”

    God bless

  4. Fr. J. says:


    Thanks for your comment. I know what you say is true. Certainly, the accuser is there. When I was younger, I would not have let such comments go by without a fight. But, as you have said, I have learned not to let the negativity of others to control my actions. I need not take the bait.

    As for not wearing the collar right away, I suppose we can disagree. I wear my clerics pretty much all the time, so no argument there. What I wanted to do was to not make my being a priest an issue for others, a reason to dismiss what I was saying outright out of bias. I wanted to add to the conversation some thoughts that might call into question some of the basic assumptions of our day like relativism. Of course, the relativist position was presented enthusiastically just as I would have presented it when I was in my twenties. I had some good challenges to that point of view which in the end went unchallenged. In essence, I was able to raise the level of the conversation just a bit, even winning over the guys who had made the anti-Catholic statements. I suspect that if I had gone in with my collar showing, whatever I might have said would have been dismissed outright.

    “Be cunning as snakes and innocent as doves,” he says to us.

  5. pablo says:

    Our sweet Lord was so loving; And Judas that betrayed him, answering, said: Is it I, Rabbi? He saith to him: Thou hast said it.

    He treated even he that betrayed Him with Charity.

    Simon of Cyrene carried our Lord’s cross when His strength was waning. Sometimes we need to carry the cross of our Priests and Confessors, by being gentle with them, or showing them extra-ordinary Charity.

    You do not give a man who is dying of thirst a gallon of water, and expect him to drink it all immediately, thinking we have cured him. That much water would kill him.

    When our Priests call out from their cross “I thirst” we give to them that water which Christ spoke of when reproaching the Apostles during His meeting with the Woman at the Well.

    I hope to have more communications with the good Padre, as he ‘Thirst’.

    I entrust this whole matter in the hands of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, “Mother of the Priest par excellence, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and through Him, of all priests in whom she forms her Son”.

    Viva Cristo Rey!


  6. Stephen says:

    Thank you father J, funny enough, half way through your reply I thought of that peice of Scripture and then noticed you had said it at the end of your reply, funny how the Holy Spirit works, I see how you mean now with the collar, Saint Paul also says that to a Jew he became a Jew, anything to get them over.

    However the importance of debate is always there, it is the seed, but one has to know when to shake his sandals of dust and leave that town of incredulity too.

    Thank you for your reply, which cleared up some thoughts of mine.

    God bless,
    Stephen <3

  7. anon says:

    I super-♥ Marty H!

  8. Lucy says:

    Dear Father,

    How wonderful of you to go where the “people” are. This is what Christ did. He didn’t just stay with the “holy” ones, but went to spend time with the “real” people and show them how His message of love applies to them. This is why the Holy Father is encouraging priests to reach out online.

    People have such bizarre misconceptions of priests, and moreover the teachings of the Catholic Faith (as Fulton Sheen pointed out). Your presence there, as a cordial regulary guy, who is willing to listen to the other side, can speak volumes without uttering a word (as St. Francis pointed out).

    Most importantly, your prayerful presence does more in the spiritual battles taking place in that room than any manner of spoken words can do. Perhaps you are the only person that has ever prayed for those people and initiated grace on their behalf. It would also perhaps be wise to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament on their behalf (as did Fulton Sheen) before meeting with them again.

    I always have to remember what Mother Theresa said: “We have an obligation to speak the truth, but we don’t have to convince anyone.” I want results. I want conversions, now. Like one of the characters in Flannery O’Connor’s stories, I want the lion to enter the den and lay at my feet, converted. Planting seeds isn’t gratifying enough.

    But reagardless of any visible results, seeds are being planted which is all we really can do. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes it gnaws at them for a long time, is watered by Apollo and others, until they can no longer ignore the truth you planted years before.

    Two proverbs I also need to remember when discussing matters of faith with non-believers are:

    Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Prov26:4

    and: Hast thou seen a man wise in his own conceit? there shall be more hope of a fool than of him.

    In Christ,

    P.S. I just recently read the entire collection of Flannery O’Connor short stories. Without your “Fridays With Flannery” series, I would have been hopeless at deciphering their meaning. There really isn’t anything else that’s very helpful online. Only a Catholic can get to the real meanings intended by the author. Will you please continue with more articles? Instructing the ignorant is a work of mercy! ;-D

  9. Why be a loser who comes back and beats a dead horse?

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