Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From April 3rd, 2011 Bulletin)

The Dessert Father

Did you ever have a hard time remembering the difference in spelling between ‘desert’ (a very dry place) and ‘dessert’ (a scrumptious thing to eat)? More importantly, we need to know the difference in meaning for our Lenten journey. Is our journey in the ‘dessert’, our wayward passions, or the ‘desert’, real mortification of the physical and spiritual senses? It is easy to miss this opportunity where collectively, the Church considers a renewal of the meaning or our Baptism and what it is to be immersed in Christ. Immersion in Christ, the Word made flesh, entails a transformation of our relationship to the created world because through His life, death and resurrection, Jesus has connected us with the Divine Holy Trinity, uncreated God who exists outside of time and space.

As I write this I am packing to go on retreat to Marymount Hermitage (see for information and a few pictures). I’ll be leaving before you read this article (March 28th) and returning this week (April 6th). I hope to experience the word of the Lord through Hosea which is on the Marymount website, “I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.” (Hosea 2:16) While this word in scripture is first meant for Israel, it also applies to each one of us. God desires to speak tenderly to us. For that purpose we all need some solitude in our lives. As Jesus said to his disciples, “Come aside awhile to a deserted place and rest.” (Mark 6:30-31)

One of my favorite books is a collection called The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (Cistercian Studies 59). It in are some great gems like:

A certain brother went to Abbot Moses in Scete, and asked him for a good word. And the elder said to him: Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.

Abbot Macarius said: If, wishing to correct another, you are moved to anger, you gratify your own passion. Do not lose yourself in order to save another.

A monk ran into a party of handmaids of the Lord on a certain journey. Seeing them he left the road and gave them a wide berth. But the Abbess said to him: If you were a perfect monk, you would not even have looked close enough to see that we were women.

Prayer, patience, and purity, virtues that we all need. No need to go to the desert to obtain them, but solitude of some kind can be very helpful, if not essential. Lock yourself in the bathroom if necessary. We all need a little space at times to think with the mind of Christ and give God a chance to inform us. May this Lenten Season continue to give us opportunities for refreshment of soul in solitude and silence.

Class on Iconography by Deacon Joseph and Carolyn Garner

Instead of my normal Catechism Class on Wednesday evening, April 6th, Deacon Joseph Kaiser of the Melkite Rite will do a presentation on the theology and spirituality of Iconography. Carolyn Garner will also be present to answer questions on her own experience of writing our new Crucifixion Icon in the chapel. All are welcome. Mass is at 6:30pm, followed by snacks in the narthex and class in the chapel at 7:30pm. Please come and learn more about the beautiful prayer tradition of Eastern Christians.

In My Prayers

Your intentions remain in my prayers. Out of sight does not mean out of mind. Please keep me in yours. Hope to see you April 6th for Mass, fellowship, and wisdom.

"In silence and quiet the devout soul advances in virtue and learns the hidden truths of Scripture." - Imitation of Christ

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From March 27th, 2011 Bulletin)

Gabriel Project Begins! 
After much preparation the Gabriel Project is up and running here at St. Stephen's and around the Archdiocese. You can see our new sign on SE 192nd St inviting women in crisis pregnancies to call the toll-free line, 1-888-926-ANGEL. Once they call, they will be linked with an ‘angel’, a volunteer who comes alongside the woman in distress as a mentor and support. The angel will help the woman with encouragement and resources, both material and spiritual. This angel represents the whole parish, who in turn support the woman and the angel, as stated in the Gabriel Project Manual:
The parish community responds with love by providing spiritual, emotional, and material support to help meet those needs. Through prayer and action the parish community assures Mom that she has their love and the love of Christ.
If a Mom has been abandoned by family or her child’s father,
the parish community can lovingly help her overcome her sense of loss and loneliness.

As Christians our attitude needs to be one of mercy. This does not deny the reality that often our own behavior is the cause of chaos in our lives. But the bottom line for each one of us is God’s Infinite Mercy. He has forgiven all of us. Without His grace and mercy we would not be at St. Stephen's living in His Presence. See how Christ meets the woman at the well in this weekend’s Gospel. He begins by break-ing through a cultural barrier when He asks her for a drink. (John 4:7) She is shocked because “Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans”. (v. 9) Jews would consider it a defilement to use the same cup or ladle as a Samaritan. Samaritans were considered unclean traitors who had soiled their Jewish blood by intermarrying with the gentiles of the local area.

By inviting women in distressing pregnancies to seek our support, we too are crossing barriers, either economically, intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually. A woman experiencing a pregnancy that is unplanned and even unwanted is often trapped by fear and shame. It takes great courage to admit one’s need to another, even a stranger. But the desperation that would drive a woman to abort her child is also a measure of what little it may take to save her from this seeming dilemma.

I was recently at the Cedar River abortion mill (I can’t call it a medical clinic) in downtown Renton. A man who had dropped off his wife at the place was approached by one of our praying parishioners, who finding him willing to talk called me over to his van. He was a Christian and willing to encourage his wife to keep the child. I offered him lunch, saying that the abortionist would surely be here tomorrow, but today I would like to buy his wife and him some lunch, and to talk about their situation. He called her on his cell phone and she soon came out of the mill, willing to talk with us. We sat down at Pizza Hut and found out what was driving her to make this choice.

This woman quickly identified that they needed marriage counseling, not an abortion. We gave them several resources and I have since learned that they kept the child. In telling this story, another parishioner remarked, “So for the price of a pizza, a life was saved.” Too true. A small sacrifice of time and effort with enormous, life-changing, earth-shattering results. The price of a child. What is it?

I want to thank Cecilia Foster and all those parishioners who have helped get Gabriel off the ground here at St. Stephen's. It is also blossoming elsewhere - Sequim, Bremerton, Shoreline, Tacoma, and Everett to name a few - as a wonderful sign of God’s providence. Angels and phone intake operators are still needed, along with other forms of support. The promise first made by a priest and his parishioners in Houston, Texas which began Gabriel Project several years ago can be ours:

We, the members of this church community, see in the birth of each baby a fresh expression of God's unfailing love. For the love of God and each and every one of His children, we offer immediate and practical help to any woman faced with a crisis preganancy.

This principle does not stop with the unborn, nor their mothers, but really ought to leaven all of our relationships, so that all who encounter members of St. Stephen's encounter Christ Himself. This is His mission and ours. I hope you will join me in welcoming Gabriel Project to our parish along with all who seek assistance here.

For more information on Gabriel, you can see the Archdiocesan Website at: or contact our parish coordinator, Cecilia Foster, at

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From Mrch 20th, 2011 Bulletin)

It is good to begin a project with the end in mind. In Greek this is called the telos, from which we get the word telescope. There is a branch of philosophy that deals with the end or goal of things called teleology. Jesus gives the apostles in today’s gospel a vision of things to come as well as establishing a credibility for things about to occur. The Transfiguration shows Moses and Elijah, who represent the Law and the Prophets, conversing with Jesus. For Jews this would indicate the Divine origin of Jesus and His work. It also gives us a goal to strive for, to commune with Jesus.

Peter did not want to leave. When we taste a spiritual high of some kind it is hard to return to the valley, even where Jesus announces His impending suffering and death. No, we prefer heaven and the glory of God. But this valley that we live in is a necessary preparation for heaven. Without the suffering of this present life we would not share in His glory. St. Paul said that is only to the extent that we suffer with Him that we will be glorified with Him. St. Rose of Lima said that if we knew the value of suffering we would be begging God for more.
The Father’s voice instructs us, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” “Listen to him” - have we taken such time so as to hear Jesus’ voice? It can be difficult with so many demands and voices in our heads, so much media to compete with the
voice of God in our minds and hearts. But it is essential that we stop and listen. The Scripture says, “Be still and know that I am God.” What peace we would know if we did that. Lent is the time to listen, listen and obey, just like Jesus, just like the apostles.

Sistine Chapel
Technology can now take us into the Sistine Chapel for a beautiful tour of the images painted by Michelangelo. It is also less crowded. If you do happen to get to Rome, the best way to see the Chapel is to arrive at the Vatican Museum before the doors open (they normally
open at 8:30am I believe). Then, once the doors open do not wait for a tour, do not follow the self-guided tour. Look for signs indicating where to find the Sistine Chapel. Go straight there and you will have 30 minutes practically to yourself before the guided tours enter. At that point guards will begin pushing people through like cattle. Take your time with this virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel at

Icon of the Crucifixion
We have a new icon of the crucifixion written by Caroline Garner, one of our bi-ritual parishioners (Byzantine and Latin Rites). Caroline attends both here at St. Stephen's, as well as St. John Chrysostom parish in Seattle, and she brings this beautiful tradition of iconography with her. The word ‘icon’ means window, as in a window into heaven. An icon is intended to draw the viewer into prayerful communion with the mystery that is depicted. A good explanation of the icon exists at Here is a short excerpt explaining icons from an Orthodox perspective:

In the fullness of time, God put on flesh; He made himself a man. Now, not only had we seen
God in the flesh, but we had seen His face. Now there was a certain obligation to makean icon of God in the flesh as a means of education and veneration. The failure to depict Him in images
suggested that He had not become man. One cannot separate God from Jesus Christ; it is
impossible to create an icon of Christ without, at the same time, making God present.

To paint an icon of Christ, and deny the presence of God in the icon of Christ is the denial of the Divine Economy; hence, the denial of our salvation. But what is not being depicted is God's nature. Only the humanity of Christ. "Being indepictable in thy Divine nature, O Master, Thou didst deign to be depicted when, in these last days, Thou becamest Incarnate..." [Third Sticheron of the Great Vespers for the Sunday of Orthodoxy] "While depicting Thy Divine likeness in icons, O Christ, we openly proclaim Thy Nativity..." [Kathisma of Matins, Sunday of Orthodoxy] "He who seeth Me, seeth Him that sent Me" [Jn.12:45] said the Lord. Elsewhere Christ said to Philip: "Have I been so long with you, and yet thou hast not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, show us the Father?" [Jn.14:9]. The Church has taught Her people that, in the icon of Christ, we also "see" God the Father. Christ is the very image or Icon of the Father; so where One is present so is the Other. (see:

You can find the new icon either in the chapel or main church during Lent, after which we will be mounting it in the chapel.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From March 13th, 2011 Bulletin)

Washington State Redefining Marriage and Family
This coming week legislators in Washington State are attempting to broaden the definitions of family and marriage
to open the door to paid, same-sex, surrogate parenting. At the same time, there is an attempt to recognize same-sex
‘marriages’ (‘marriage’ is a misnomer) that are legalized in other states, as domestic partnerships here in Washington
State. There are many problems with this legislation, beginning with a faulty anthropology. “In the beginning, when God
created the heavens and the earth…God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female
he created them.”

As Scripture, Tradition and most recently John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” teach us, we are created with a ‘nuptial’ (marital) meaning in our bodies. We are born, created, for marriage. Only God’s will calls to something different, as in celibacy. This is so fundamental to the identity of humanity that it appears as the very first words of scripture in reference to humankind (Gen 1:26-28). His
first command to humanity relates to the complementarity of men and women that includes pro-creativity, “Be fertile and multiply…” Finding ourselves in Christ requires a relationship of some kind to the opposite sex.

Notice too, how God speaks of Himself in the plural, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (v. 26) We believe God to be a plurality of persons in a relation of love with one another, even, as some theologians have said, the Holy Spirit being the love between the Father and the Son. John writes that “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Love requires at least two persons. Human persons, created in the
image and likeness of God, are called to participate in this love. While love certainly occurs outside marriage, the primary sacramental symbol of Trinitarian love is found in the relation between husband and wife.

Jesus reiterates this truth in His teaching about divorce: “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Mark 10:6-9) To undermine, tamper with, and reject this natural union from the beginning of time will lead to grave personal and social decay. St. Paul speaks in Romans about people ‘who suppress the truth by their wickedness’ (Rom 1:18) and ‘God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females
exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another.’ (v.26)

No one can deny the basic human need for love and friendship. Sexuality itself is a need that only God’s grace can transcend with the virtue of chastity. Chastity governs and guides our sexuality according to the form of love. Love of any kind is sacrificial, placing another’s good as an ultimate priority. Because of concupiscence, it is all too easy for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike to use another for one’s own pleasure, even inside of marriage. As we say in Theology of the Body language, ‘Love gives, lust takes.’ Those feeling a ‘same-sex’ attraction
(as well as heterosexual singles) are called to a heroic chastity like those of us who are called to celibacy. It is not easy at times, but like Peter walking on water, ‘all things are possible with God.’ Nor can a heterosexual person judge themselves better than a homosexualoriented person. In their efforts to be chaste, they may gain more merit and grace than the heterosexual who neglects their faith.

The desire to reproduce and parent children is also inherent in all of us. One cannot blame the homosexual person for this desire; it goes back to Adam and Eve. This is not a right however, whereby we can manipulate nature in such a way that separates the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage. Homosexual couples buying wombs for rent (sorry for the crudeness, but the reality is crude) degrades the
dignity of the woman, who normally has the great gift to participate in the most intimate way in the creation of new life. John Paul II describes the womb as another tabernacle, where God and humanity meet in the miracle of life. Washington State is in the precarious position of succumbing to vocal lobbies that would make drastic shifts in the common understanding of marriage, family, and parenting.

Please see for more information. Contact your Senator and ask him to vote against the Senate version of House Bill 1267 if it comes to a vote. St. Stephen's is in District 47 with Joe Fain as our State Senator. 1-800-562-6000 is the Legislative Hotline. There is also a public hearing in Olympia on Tuesday, March 15 at 1:30PM, Government Operations, Tribal Relations &
Elections Committee, Senate Hearing Room 2 /John A. Cherberg Bldg.

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” - John Paul II (to be beatified May 1st!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Words from Fr Ed (From March 6th, 2011 Bulletin)

The Will of God…Fiat voluntas tua

Our Gospel today (Matt 7:21-27) reminds us of the ‘one thing necessary’, the unum necessarium that we also find in Luke 10:42. Matthew shares with us this truth in a slightly different context, with Jesus addressing the discrepancy between doing great things, even in Jesus’ name, and the actual desire of God. This points to a few important principles for Christian living.

One principle that we can note is how blind we can be to the motive of our own actions. Even while we are do something ‘good’, like prophesy, or exorcism, or ‘mighty deeds’, it can be an act of our own choosing, our own willfulness, done for reasons that we aren’t even aware of. As I write this article, I’ve just returned from Honduras with several groups from St. Stephen's. This Gospel is a good check on the euphoria of doing something ‘good’. Who could argue that helping orphans is not God’s will? There are few things clearer in the scriptures than the call to help ‘widows and orphans’. St. James writes, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)

Still there can be a loving that meets my own need to ‘be loving’. Thomas Merton said something to the effect that the last stage of the spiritual life was to let go of ‘loving’. Now this does not mean to stop loving, but we ought to love others ultimately for God’s sake. Let’s look at Luke 10:42 for a moment to see how this plays out in a common situation. In the story of Mary and Martha where Martha is ‘burdened with much serving’, she asks Our Lord to make her sister help her. Jesus protects Mary’s seeming inactivity by saying that she had actually “chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” This protection has been extended throughout the centuries by the Church’s Canon Laws which regulate contemplative life with great esteem.

This seeming inactivity on Mary’s part, sitting “beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak,” is genuine activity. Listening is a concrete act. Unfortunately in our busy culture listening can become a lost art. We can too easily become addicted to speaking. Remember the Proverb, “Where there is much talk, there is much sin.” (Proverbs 10:19) And who else is better to listen to than Our Lord Himself. It is from Him that we receive our mission. It is from Him that we receive the healing necessary to truly love selflessly. It is from Him that we learn how to remain connected to heaven and draw others into that union.

Making listening a priority however does not excuse the listener from activity. The Lord makes real requests during prayer time that obligate one to true charity. Our love of neighbor must grow apace with our love for God. In fact, love of neighbor is considered a crucial indicator of authentic prayer by the great master, St. Teresa of Avila. But the listener recognizes their Master’s voice, the voice of the Good Shepherd leading his ewes with care. If we want our ‘mighty deeds’ to come from God and obtain true merit for ourselves, then they have to be ordered by the Holy Spirit. As our Gospel says, “only the one who does the will of [Jesus'] Father in heaven” “will enter the kingdom of heaven.”

How do we find this will of the Father? Only through a personal relationship obtained by prayer, study and obedience to conscience. While that is not always easy, Jesus has promised, “Seek and you shall find.” Seeking His will is essential for the Christian, both as an act of obedient love and also for salvation itself. Are we doing His will today? To begin with, seeking His will is doing His will. St. Teresa of Avila used to pray 50 times a day, “What is your will, Lord?” In this will, resides infinite love. St. Alphonsus De Liguori writes in his Uniformity with
God’s Will (,

Perfection is founded entirely on the love of God: “Charity is the bond of perfection (Col. 3:14)” and perfect love of God means the complete union of our will with God’s: “The principal effect of love is so to unite the wills of those who love each other as to make them will the same things" (St. Denis Areop). It follows then, that the more one unites his will with the divine will, the greater will be his love of God. Mortification, meditation, receiving Holy Communion, acts of fraternal charity are all certainly pleasing to God-but only when they are in accordance with his will.

We should not be caught unawares on the last day if we practice real prayer, where God can inform us of our iniquities and our weaknesses and lead us accordingly into verdant pastures. Then our works flow from the Charity of charities and are pleasing to God.