Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Church of Saint Michael the Archangel, PSU’s unofficial house of Catholic worship, is located at 1701 SW Fourth Ave.  I visited this parish’s celebration for the Feast of All Souls Day.  The noon Mass was dedicated to all the souls who sacrificed their lives in the name of Jesus Christ and for their faith in his teachings.  Before Mass began I grabbed some of the literature laid out for the patrons.  Many things could be said about the messages printed in bulletins and the different donation forms; that is a different topic.  Though, I will share one statement made about Saint Michael’s attributes, “…vanquisher of rebel spirits.”  I took a seat near the back corner of the church and pulled out my notebook.  I showed early and observed as patrons prayed until Mass began reading through the different bulletins.  Mass began, people continued to arrive ten to fifteen minutes afterwards quietly finding the first available seat.  I choose to observe the mass rather than participating noting how long different people kneeled or how loud they sang and how they dressed, watching their response to my presence.             

            After Mass I approached the priest and asked if had time to sit a talk.  He told me that this was not where his office was and directed me toward the deacon.  There was also a form for scheduling a meeting with the priest on the back of the St. Michael literature.  I introduced myself to the Deacon.  He introduced himself as a Married Deacon when I greeted him.  I asked if had time for a conversation, he agreed after asking  what I wanted to talk about.  My question was, "Could you tell me about he personal life experiences that have lead you to the vocation of seminary work and describe you spiritual calling?"  After going to the back of the church and changing into a different outfit we met for an hour.  In his office he asked me to join him in prayer before beginning his story.  It goes as follows.  Growing up in rural Oregon with seven siblings his family raised him a devout Catholic.  He recalls schoolwork being a challenge for him and expressed feelings of alienation (especially after moving to Salem) with his family and fellow classmates.  Insecurities grew with the stress of high school and pressures of choosing a carrier path.   During this time he explained an experience he had walking up the stairs of his childhood home where he spoke to God directly creating their first open dialogue.  During this time he kept his eyes closed and took many long pauses.  He seemed to be navigating through stirred feelings from the past.

            After his graduation he attended eight years of seminary school.  After seminary school he felt confused, not wanting to take a vow of celibacy, he said, “I came from a big family you know…it fit for me.”   He met his wife later in age.  Speaking very fondly of her he shared a desire for five children.  To provide for his future family he received his library of science degree and worked in a library until he was let go being told he talents were best served in the faith services and let go.  It was then he decided to become an ordained deacon.  At this time he described various duties of his.  He seemed to favor couple counseling.  He now has three kids, he said after watching his wife go through pregnancy he now knows who the weaker sex is, men.  After three children she decided to not have anymore.  He silently protested by carrying two pennies in his pocket everyday for an extended period of time in hope that his wish would come true.  We concluded our meeting with prayer and me sharing some about myself.  He wanted me to come back to the Catholic faith after learning I had received all of the sacraments.  He also told me a joke, “Almost all of the western population is Catholic, or used to be.  Some come back,” he went on, “I never left my faith.  My family went to church every Sunday and I prayed everyday, including the rosary, I’ve never stopped.  My friends in high school were nerds and maybe deep down I was too.  I played football but I never drank kegs with the other members of the team.” The way he said this lead me to believe that he was scared to test his faith.  

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