The Church says what?

If you’re like me, more than once during your faith journey you’ve found yourself challenged by a Church teaching.

Back in February I received a summons for jury duty in the Aurora theater trial. Knowing that the prosecution was seeking the death penalty for the accused, James Holmes, I did some homework and discovered that I would be released because I am unalterably opposed to it. In the process, I did some research on the Church’s teaching on the issue and found myself confused.

The Catechism says “. . . the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.”

Huh?

The Catechism does go on to say, “If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means.”

It was confusing that the Church would ever allow for the death penalty, and I was tempted to get fixated on it. But I know better, because in my faith journey, I’ve found that such confusion leads me to one of two places: Satan’s playground, or God’s lap.

If I try to resolve confusion on my own, it always grows. Satan loves confusion, so leaving it to my mental devices thrills him. But if I turn the matter over to God, and cooperate with his guidance and direction, confusion leads to clarity or peace.

In his divine wisdom, God designed our Church with a breadth of spiritual resources that are far deeper than anything I could tap into using my finite mind. I have a broad, spiritual toolbox to turn to when I find myself challenged or confused by a Church teaching:

The consecrated—During this Year of Consecrated Life I’m reminded that those who profess the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience are models for me when I struggle with a Church teaching simply by the way they live out their vows. They can also be resources for spiritual direction. The consecrated were particularly helpful to me with the death penalty issue as my research led me to several articles by Church leaders that provided me with clarity around what the Catechism teaches. I discovered that Archbishop Samuel Aquila called for its repeal in Colorado in May 2013. And in early February, Pope Francis spoke out against it noting that the Catechism’s allowance, which I was tempted to get fixated on, is “practically nonexistent.”

Scripture
—The word is one of the ways that God reveals himself to me, so opening sacred Scripture is a beautiful way to glean clarity. There are countless stories that reveal his direction to me, particularly on how to trust God in the face of confusion and adversity.

The saints—By their lives and writings these women and men invite me to call on them for help. I can ask them for intercession through prayer, and look at their lives as faithful witnesses. Most of their spiritual journeys are anything but linear, so I can readily find one to turn to for any matter at hand.

The sacraments—Any time of challenge or confusion should prompt me to seek the sacraments more frequently, as I’m more vulnerable to the trappings of the evil one, and these are the means by which I receive divine life. These signs of grace were given to me by Christ himself and bear fruit beyond the moment I receive them.

Each other—God reveals himself to me through the people he puts in my life. I’m reminded of my friend Suzie; in February she took to Facebook to voice her desire for clarity about confusion she had around the Ash Wednesday Gospel reading. What resulted was a series of robust, enlightened responses—a beautiful witness of how God can use us to help one another in our journeys with him.

Prayer—The most powerful and the most necessary tool I have in such times is prayer. God wants all of me, including my vulnerability. To go to him and honestly admit what I am confused and challenged by with a pliable heart is essential.

When I am challenged or confused about a Church teaching and I turn to God with it, one of two things happens. Either he provides clarity, or he provides peace with what I don’t understand. Both are gifts. But when I rely solely on myself for resolution, the confusion always grows.

These challenges are sacred invitations that God uses to draw me closer to him. How I choose to R.S.V.P. makes all the difference.

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.