In Your Midst
Taking Our Faith to the Streets
July 2006

How does what we do on Sunday at St. James Cathedral translate into our daily life?
Parishioners meditate on taking their faith into their homes and workplaces

Dear Friends,

    A month or so ago, on the feast of Corpus Christi, we took our faith to the streets. Literally! One thousand of us left the comfortable confines of the Cathedral to process around the entire city block that frames the Cathedral. Were we talking and singing to ourselves? I hope not. I think we were making a statement—first of all, to ourselves, and then, to all the people who walked or drove by on Ninth Avenue—cars, buses, emergency vehicles, motorcycles, taxis.

    The statement we were making to ourselves during that colorful and holy procession was that we know our faith cannot be confined to a place or to a day. Our faith is for every place and every day. And our faith is mostly lived outside the walls of the Cathedral, not inside—in all the messy, humdrum, challenging, demanding places we live our lives.

    The statement we were making to the passers-by who witnessed this unusual display of joyful devotion—and who must have been charmed by bagpipes and brass and children strewing flower petals —is that we love our faith and take it seriously.

    The lead article in this issue of In Your Midst is written by your fellow parishioners who share with you how their faith shapes what they do and what it means for them to live their faith those six days of the week they’re not in church. Their stories could just as easily be your stories. In fact, as you read them, I hope you take a moment or two to ponder the same questions they have pondered.

    This year I find myself looking back on forty years of ministry as a priest. I suppose most people think it’s easy for a priest to live his faith when he’s not in church. To be honest, I haven’t found it so. My challenge has always been to live and to practice what I preach and only I know how far short of that I regularly fall! My challenge is also to translate the deepest convictions of my faith—convictions about God’s love and mercy, God’s thirst for justice and passion for the poor—into things that will make this world a better, more loving, more just, more caring place. The possibilities for that are endless, of course, and I must never grow tired of trying them. And neither must you. Together, week after week, we gather in the Cathedral to celebrate the great mysteries of our faith and to be transformed by Christ’s love that flows to us so generously in the sacraments, and together we leave the Cathedral to walk the procession that is our life, bringing hope, love, integrity, compassion, and justice wherever that procession takes us.

Father Michael G. Ryan

* * * * * *

    Summer Sunday mornings spent at Mass at St. James are a very special time for me. The bright summer sun illuminating the rich lucent colors of the saints in the beautifully leaded stained glass windows, the choirs in full voice, Father Mike teaching us with an eloquent homily spiced with many exclamation points! And then, at the end of Mass, we walk down the stairs to Ninth Avenue, and bang— we’re back to the reality of life on First Hill.

    A young woman approaches and asks for a dollar for some gas for her stranded car, three men are rolled up in blankets sleeping off the night on the grassy planting strip.  Two blocks away many homeless are emerging from their makeshift hotel under the freeway. How can we convert our Sunday faith to a daily faith?

    A few years back I signed up for a men’s Cursillo Retreat and one of the charges at the end was to join a weekly prayer group, which I did. The challenge given to the prayer group was to put our faith in action. Being a restaurateur in Pioneer Square made me very conscious of the number of street people that the overnight missions dismiss each morning at 7:00am.  So our group prayed about what we could do for these folks during the day. And, it finally came to us to open a day center for Bible study, AA and NA meetings and counseling. Joe Curtis, before he was our Deacon, came up with the name, and one of our group, Gregg Alex, volunteered to run it!  And I’m happy to tell you after twenty one years the Matt Talbot Center is still serving the street people of Seattle, better than ever!  It’s been a great blessing in my life to be part of one solution for helping Seattle’s street people.  I encourage you to offer to join one of the St. James’s outreach ministries. You will be richly blessed in return!

Mick McHugh

* * * * * *

    At 3:30am weekdays I’m driving north on 509 on my way to work. The lights of the city are all golden as I drive down the hill. When I get to my job at United Parcel Service, I enter a concrete cavern. It is dirty, sweaty, physically demanding work.

    There was a time when I cursed my fate, but kept the job for the great benefits. But then I came to the realization that the only way I could make my job meaningful was to see that this is where I am called to practice my faith.

    The way I apply my faith at work is just to forgive. I’ve expanded my definition of forgiveness to include every form of annoying behavior. Righteous anger and outrage are my main spiritual enemies so I have to remind myself how often I’ve been in the wrong and been forgiven. In this way I try to keep down the barriers to knowing and caring for the people I work with and to see their basic goodness. It isn’t easy, so I allow myself some extra time to hold a grudge occasionally!

    When I hear about a co-worker who is experiencing a tragic situation or an illness in their family, I’ll tell them that I will light a candle for them at St. James. This is my code language for “I’ll pray for you” (just so people don’t get uncomfortable).

    Of course I’m the main beneficiary of my efforts. Now my big challenge is to bring my faith to the freeway.

Beverly Laughlin

* * * * * *

    Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit. Carl Gustav Jung came across this saying and made it his motto. He even had it inscribed on his tombstone. Poetically, it can be translated: “Bidden or unbidden, God is present.”  I now have a plaque with this inscription just inside my apartment door, so that it is the last thing I see before leaving for work and the first thing I see upon returning. Since my natural tendency is to see things in a large, visionary way, this helps me live in the here and now, to see the smallest encounter as a way to serve God in his people.
One of the visions I hold dear is improving the health care of East Africa, especially Tanzania. I recognize that no matter how great our efforts (I usually take a team of 4 or 5) at the care of individual patients, the only way to make a lasting difference is by training native caregivers. I teach applied musculoskeletal anatomy to first year medical students at BUCHS (Bugando University College of Health Sciences, a division of the Augustinian University). The class that entered in 2003 had only ten students. We bonded and they learned. They still greet me joyously when I return each year.

    The most recent class has 51 students. The size grants them an anonymity that seems to entitle them to sleep, talk, pass notes, stroll in 20 minutes late, and blame everything on me, because of my American accent. I was tempted not to return. This is where faith comes in (faith isn’t faith unless it’s all you are holding onto). I’ll find a way to reach them. God is present. God will help.

Barbara deLateur, Baltimore, Maryland

* * * * * *

    Saint Francis says, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” I take this to mean that Jesus’ message may be communicated in doctrinal debates and evangelizing missions, but the Gospel is best preached in works of charity and service. These acts of love go far beyond rational arguments or pushy proselytizing to continue Jesus’ work of salvation. It is this kind of radical preaching that will take the Gospel message to the ends of the world, but more importantly, to the remotest ends of our own hearts.

    This summer I joined a program to teach elementary school in a low-income school in California’s central valley. During my preparation I have learned the rudiments of teaching theory and lesson planning, but I aspire to become not only an effective teacher but a “preacher” of sorts—one who spreads the Gospel not through words, but through service to the “least sisters and brothers” with whom Christ abides. My teaching commitment lasts for two years, but I hope that my work will further a larger, long-term project: using education to eliminate the drastic disparity between the poor and the rich in this country. The fulfillment of this ambitious goal, more than any amount of proselytizing, will be the measure of our far-more-ambitious faith and the social justice it demands.

Curtis Leighton

* * * * * *

    “Mama, do we drive to heaven?” my three-year-old daughter Zoe asked me recently. We converse almost daily as she tries to understand death, heaven, and God. It’s been a fascinating and illuminating experience for me, as I attempt to instruct her in our faith.

    This same conversation turned to more questions about where God lives. As I’ve done before, I told her God lives in heaven and in our hearts. Asking with all the three-year-old silliness she could muster, she wondered if God lives in our mouths. Thinking about it for a second, I said, yes, God does live in our mouths, especially when we say loving things. “Does God live in our eyes?” she continued with her silliness. Yes he does, I told her, when we see others as God sees them, with love. With serious self-doubt, I reflected on how often I model that for her and her baby brother. But I also understood, like never before, the beautiful simplicity of what it means to say, “God is love.” It was awesome to see the bare truth of this “concept” through the eyes of a child.

    I learn so much from my children. They teach me about love; real, joyful, merciful love. They instruct me about genuine humility and the beauty of sacrifice. As I struggle to live my faith day to day, my children remind me to keep it simple. God is love.

Elizabeth Swift

* * * * * *

    My name is Payton Buchholz. My parents tell me that I was named after the Cathedral (my middle name is “James”) because it’s always been a big part of our lives. I am 10 years old. Every Sunday, my family and I drive down to St. James from Mill Creek to attend Mass. It is a special place for me because I was baptized there and have had all my Sacraments there (so far), and because I love seeing Father Ryan, who I consider my friend.

    St. James is one of my favorite places to pray, but it’s not the only place that I pray or grow in my faith. At home, there are signs of my faith everywhere. My Mama collects crucifixes that have stories. One of them is from the same place where St. Francis of Assisi is buried. I have a special one in my room that I got when I received my First Communion.

    One of my favorite prayers is the Rosary. It has a lot of my favorite prayers all rolled into one, especially the ‘Hail Mary.’ My Mama taught me how to say the Rosary when I was five years old. My family says the rosary when we are happy, when we are sad, and when we just need to pray. I like the prayer so much, that I started making rosaries for my family and close friends. I hoped that the rosary would give them another way to pray and become closer to God.

    Praying is important to me and my faith because Jesus taught us to pray to God, it brings me peace and brings me closer to God, it helps me make the right decisions, and it makes me feel good. But what’s even better than praying is praying with other people. Right now, I’m trying to teach my little brother to say a proper Grace Before Meals. The rule at home is that the youngest person prays when our family eats. It’s time for me to pass that job on to my little brother so he can be more a part of living our faith.

Payton Buchholz

* * * * * *

    What most struck me when I first walked into St. James many years ago were the words at the base of the cupola: “I am in your midst as one who serves.” Almost every day those words, filled with grace as they are, come to my mind. They inspire me, guide me, and give my life meaning and purpose. They unify and order my daily life as a husband, a father of four (three between the ages of 17 and 19), English and Religion teacher, and Chair of the Language Arts Department at Bishop Blanchet High School.

    I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to work and play with high school students. The reality, though, is that I need lots of grace to do it! What my children and our students need are teachers who will help them develop the critical consciousness needed to identify empty values and to make choices rooted in Gospel values. They need teachers who, in the words of Jesuit philosopher and theologian Bernard Lonergan, will encourage them to “be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, be responsible, and be in love.”

    I need lots of grace to be that kind of husband, father, and teacher!

    To walk with them at this point in their journey, I need walking shoes made by a master craftsman from durable materials: humility, courage, understanding, patience, a sense of humor, compassion, and forgiveness.

    I can’t buy those walking shoes at the local shoe store. I can only receive them as a gift. And I receive those shoes when we celebrate the Eucharist at St. James. Here I meet Jesus, the master craftsman. Here He begins the intellectual, moral, and religious conversion that transforms my life. Here I receive the grace to be a husband, friend, father, and teacher. Meeting Him at the Eucharist inspires me to begin every day with an hour of prayer and meditation, a time when He gives me a new heart and a new spirit.

    And it is here along with everyone that I meet Jesus Christ, the one whose words I find bathed in light at the base of the cupola, the One who fills my heart with a desire to serve, and the One who sends his Spirit so that, in Paul’s words, my “inmost being is renewed, and [I] put on the new man.” I become the husband, father, and teacher that God invites me to be.

Leo Genest

* * * * * *

    When, on any given Sunday, as reader I sing “The Word of the Lord,” and you respond, “Thanks be to God”—it feels heavenly. I am known by you, and you are known by me the way we want to be known. It is the easiest and most rewarding time to be Catholic.

    It is less easy in home life. Alice and I have been together for fourteen years. She has been Catholic all her life, while I became Catholic through RCIA some ten years ago. I have learned in those years that Catholics come in many shapes and sizes. Alice is diamond-shaped. She is with me at Mass every Sunday, and yet being in a relationship with another for this length of time is not always easy.

    It is even more difficult to be Catholic at work. Being in a customer-service environment day in and day out is very stressful. The customers who wind up getting the most help are sometimes those who are the loudest rather than those who really need help. And, sadly, truly being Catholic and listening to their needs often gets passed by. I left the ashes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday, and rather than engaging customers in conversation about what it meant, they insisted that it was an ink mark—something I must have forgotten to wash off!

    It is even more difficult to be Catholic with my mother. My mother is Jewish, 92, and in a nursing home. It is most sad at this time in our lives not to find a mamaloshen (mother tongue). We spend quiet times together when I can only pray for her.

    It is most difficult, however, to be Catholic when I am alone. Being someone in recovery for 13 years, I am most often challenged in my faith during what ought to be the quiet moments. It is then I read the Bible, sometimes finding—sometimes not—the reassurance of “be still, and know that I am God.”

Walt Steciuk

* * * * * *

    There are a million things I don’t know. A number of things I think I know. And, about five things I know for sure. One is that I am Catholic. Another is that I’m human. A third is that I have moments which are not spiritual (these usually occur in the car). Yet in spite of these last two setbacks, each day I venture out into my world knowing that God is with me. I have a friend who says “God is all knowing, all powerful, and thrilled with the slightest bit of attention.” So, with that in mind (and heart) I go about my business. Giving God credit, and asking for help, and griping about God’s timing, as it is often not on par with my expectations.

    The one constant I work at is to invite God into all that I do. The more I do this the more joy I find in my day. Struggle and discontent diminish (as does the length of my Confiteor on Sunday). I’m not 100% successful and that’s ok. I’m on what I call the “Catch and Release” program with God. I get hooked by my pride and ego and God untangles me and throws me back in and off I swim a little more spiritual, and perhaps, a little less human, even if it’s just for a moment.

Rachael Heade

* * * * * *

    I come to the Cathedral every week to get fuel—the bread and the wine. I look forward to it. It’s a week’s supply of food. I guess you could say I’m an addict. And it’s not only for communion: I’m hooked on the people. As an usher, I get to see the regulars week after week and I get to know them. And we all have one thing in common: we’re all church addicts.

    For years I’ve seen Father Ryan giving sermons—greeting people—and he’s always happy. I used to think, “Does he have any problems in life?” Yes, he does. We all do. But that’s the reason we come. Here, just for this one hour, we don’t have problems.

    I’m retired now. I run my dog every day. I’ve got seven cats I take care of—two ferile cats, too. I love meeting people when I take Pony Boy (my dog) out. People at their windows will wave at me. When you have people genuinely like you, that’s like winning the Lotto!
Being an usher, the greatest reward is when a visitor comes up and says they had a good time, and they thank me. You can’t buy a cup of coffee with it, but it feels good.

    A lot of people have a hard life. We all have a hard life in one way or another. How do you make it a good life? Come to Church.

Azel Shackelford

Back to the July 2006 Issue of In Your Midst