Awkward Catholic

Living my faith as the awkward man of God that I am.


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True Discipleship

The Ascension

What is a disciple? I’m pretty sure we all have an image of a disciple in our heads. In my head I see the Apostle’s, a rag-tag group of unwashed and unshaven men following an itinerant preacher in Ancient Israel. Or perhaps today we might imagine some sort of missionary going door to door trying to share the Good News of Christ’s salvation, or perhaps, we could envision just an ordinary person who claims to follow Christ going about his or her day not looking all that different than everyone else around them.

At its essence though a disciple is someone who engages in an active relationship with Christ, one who sits at his feet and learns from him, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” Matt 11:29

So a disciple is someone who is bound to Christ, follows and learns from him. Clearly, just because you follow Christ doesn’t mean you’re a disciple; just look at Judas. So we need more than this if we are to be true disciples of Christ.

What else did Christ command of his followers? “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Matt 28:19. A disciple therefore is in relationship with Christ and shares this relationship with others, we could say, they bear God to others to invite them into relationship with Christ.

So a true disciple of Christ is in relationship with Him and obeys his commands to go out and make disciples of all nations. A friend of mine shared with me the other day some thoughts she had on the Ascension. She said it was kind of funny how Jesus commands them to go and evangelize and they just stand there and stare at the sky as he ascends into heaven. So an angel comes down and commands them to go. So what do they do? They go back to the upper room. So finally, God sends the Holy Spirit and they are transformed and go out and literally change the world. It took the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and also their cooperation, their yes… their amen… their “Let it be done.”

And why, what is all this for? It’s simple really, what is anything for? What is the purpose of all creating things? As it says in Eph 1:11-12 “In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.”

Everything that exists, and the entire will of the Father is in, through, and for the Son. We exist to praise, glorify, and magnify God’s glory. To do this is to do the will of the Father. To be holy, to be set apart. That is what the word “holy” means after all, to be set apart for God. It’s the reason we consecrate our churches, the altars, the vessels, and the hands that do the consecrating. To consecrate means “to make sacred with”, or to make holy, to be set apart. It would be terrible sacrilege to drink beer out of the chalice used at Mass. And so we too should be holy, set apart by God, to exist for the praise of his glory.

OK, so how do we get there? Well, looking at all of life, nothing is done on our own. In everything we do, we need others to help us and teach us. So, I think a first step is to find a teacher, a role model, one who is a true disciple who can show us the way. And throughout history there have been many true and good disciples (the saints), but ultimately each of them, as holy as they are and as amazing and awesome as they are, are only copies of the original, the first disciple, our Mother, Mary.

Mary & Elizabeth

Look at her life:

Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit:

Luke 1:35: “And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

She gave her yes, her amen, her “Let it be done”:

Luke 1:38 “Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

She then immediately goes to Elizabeth and bears the Good News to her relative; she is the first and truest “God-bearer”:

Luke 1:39-40 “During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.”

She learned from her Son:

Luke 2:19: “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

She exists for the praise of his glory:

Luke 1:46-47: “And Mary said, ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.’ “

If we are to be true disciples, our best hope is to be like the first disciple, the prototype, there can be none better. Fly to Mary, our Mother and ask for her intercession. Pray to her often, love her with all your heart. As St. Padre Pio said, “Never be afraid to love Mary too much. You can never love her more than her own Son.” After all, who are we to disobey Scripture? Remember, the true disciple does the Father’s will. And as it says in Luke 2:48 “Behold, from now will all ages call me blessed.” Mary says this just after her cousin Elizabeth, moved by the Holy Spirit proclaims in Luke 1:41-42, “Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’ ”

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen!


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Our Father or Almighty Smiter?

“Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth utters to Mary in the Gospel of Luke when Mary arrives to visit her cousin. “Who am I?” What profoundly humble and exacting words! At the end of the day, who are any of us that the Lord should keep us in mind? For years I have been telling people, the teens I work with, their parents, in my writing and speaking and in every day conversations, that God created the stars in the sky, every single one of them, for you personally.

And many times I have gotten the response, “Yeah right, like I matter that much,” or “I don’t think so. He’s got more important things to worry about than me.” I get it. Compared to God we’re nothing. Heck, without God we’re nothing, literally! Honestly, the above claim, that you mean more to God than all the stars in the galaxy, is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, claim of Christianity to believe. In a certain sense, it’s much easier to believe that those old Greek/Roman/Norse gods are real because at least they’re more “human”, more relatable. It’s much easier to believe in a god or gods that don’t really care all that much because I don’t really matter all that much. Each of us is really just a blip on the radar of history.

And that’s what’s so startling, revolutionary, and world-changing about our Catholic-Christian faith! As totally insignificant and transitory as each of us seems to be, the deeper reality of the truth is that we are central to all of time and history and we are more than just tolerated and begrudgingly loved by some all-powerful deity in the clouds. We are His very dear and beloved children! And as any good parent will tell you, we figure as central to all His purposes and plans.

I’ve come to know this deeply in many ways. As I write today my dad lies in a hospital bed dying from COPD/emphysema. I’m at peace with his inevitable passing, as is he. But naturally it’s gotten me thinking about the grand scheme of things (most things get me thinking about that honestly). How important was my dad’s life to time and history? Well, if he hadn’t been around then neither myself nor my brother would be here, neither would any of our children. So yeah, kind of important. And as broken of a man as he was (all of us are really), I wouldn’t be who I am today without his love and example. So to quite a lot of people, my dad’s life mattered, is critical in their history. And we could backtrack to every life ever lived based on this line of thought. Even the most seemingly insignificant lives in history were critical to countless people around the world.

But let’s get back to that really hard pill to swallow, that your life matters, not just to a few or many people, but matters to the infinite, eternal and uncontainable God of the universe as much as the entire galaxy and more. My thoughts on this keep returning to a simple common prayer that’s easily overlooked because its said so often without a thought… the Our Father. Ponder this prayer if you will; not the entire thing, but simply the opening line, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by the name.”

Have you ever pondered that line before? The very fact that we can call God, “our Father” is mind-blowing! He isn’t just some distant creator, we aren’t just random atoms smashing around breaking things; our lives aren’t simply insignificant blips on a radar screen! We matter!! You matter!! Your life has meaning, your suffering, your joys, your everything matters!

Notice how when the disciples ask Jesus how to pray, he doesn’t simply suggest a few prayers or techniques. His response isn’t just one technique that he happens to find helpful, like mindfulness, or meditation, or anything like that. His response is definitive, demanding and precise. And there’s a reason for that. He wasn’t just saying, “Hey, if it suits you, call God your Father. It’s a nice thought, a nice compliment to God.” Rather, he commanded us to pray the “Our Father”. It wasn’t just one way of praying among many, it is The Way of praying.

Why? Because he knows us better than we know ourselves. He was setting us up to understand this most difficult of truths, that you matter more to God than all the galaxy combined! You are precious to Him, the apple of his eye, his beloved son or daughter. Who am I? I am loved. Who are you? You are loved. You are the center of your Father’s universe.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name!


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An Act of War

As we grow closer to celebrating the Nativity of Christ, it’s important for us to recognize that for many of us, the Incarnation and birth of Christ has become common place and mundane. It is such a comfortable and joyous season we celebrate, filled with happy songs about snowmen and Santa, eggnog and shiny lights that we forget how terribly powerful it all is. The Incarnation and birth of Christ was an act of war, not simply a bedtime story. It was the landing at Normandy, D-Day in a war that has raged all across history and wherever human hearts beat. When Christ landed he declared war on all the powers of hell; with victory assured we press on, fighting to bring the light of Christ back into our lives and the world. This is the truth of the Nativity story. It is a beachhead from which our salvation is won.

But let us not fall into the subsequent trap like the Jews did at the time of Christ; thinking that the Messiah was coming to conquer Rome with military might. I sometimes have this problem, in a sense. I have a tendency to imagine what it will be like when his kingdom comes, when his will is done on earth as it is in heaven. I think of how life will be, how just the laws will be, etc. And while those types of things will happen, that’s not what’s needed right now and it’s certainly not where Christ began his war.

A regional or earthly kingdom is not really the point at all, nor is he simply a savior of the moment. This war isn’t for land, or individual rights, or anything other than the human heart. “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword,” Luke 12:49. Christ is the Truth, and truth is a sword… a sword aimed directly at your heart. Christ will divide and conquer, he will cut out the idols and sins we set up within the deepest recess of our hearts and replace them with Himself.

It has always only ever been about our hearts. He is not merely the God of the universe, though he is that. He does not need to conquer kingdoms and territories (it’s already his anyway!). The one thing he has come to conquer and claim as his own is the only thing in all creation he does not inherently possess… in a word, YOU!! No, he is not merely the God of the Universe, He is the God of Love!

Peter Kreeft wrote of this beautifully in his book Jesus Shock (one of my all time favorite books) when he said,

“The world was converted by the Gospel because the Gospel is the beautiful love story of God’s crazy love for man. The story of the world’s conversion to this love story is also a love story: it is the story of man’s love for this crazy God. We were not converted by the reasonableness of the story. The story is not reasonable! It would be far more reasonable for a man to love the rebellious ants in his pet ant farm so much that he became an ant and let the rebel ants torture him to death in order to save the ants from their sins. We sinned for no reason but an incomprehensible lack of love, and He saved us for no reason but an incomprehensible excess of love. Everything in the story is crazy, nothing is reasonable, nothing is expected, nothing is boring, and everything is beautiful. How can our response to such beauty be boring instead of beautiful? How can we ossify and mummify the Living One? How did we invent the spiritual taxidermy that turns Christ the Tiger into a toy to cuddle and sell? Far better to shout, “Crucify him!” than to mumble comfortably, “Isn’t he nice?” He is not Christ the Kitten but Christ the King, Christ the Tiger, Christ the Lion. And when you hear this lion roar, even if you believe it is only a myth, “a midsummer night’s dream,” you can’t not say, with the good duke, “Let him roar again!”

Kreeft, Peter, Jesus Shock, P. 60

So this Advent and Christmas season, let us learn to hear the roar of this mighty lion, this tiny, defenseless baby and allow Christ to conquer our hearts and transform our lives.

Mother Mary, pray for us who have recourse to you.


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It’s the End of the World As We Know It

Hypothetical situation: You find yourself on the cusp of the the realization of the book of Revelations. Are you prepared? We’re talking earthquakes, worldwide famine, wars, one-world government, floods, chips in your hand/head, etc. Are you ready? Are you at peace? Or are you anxious, terrified, giving in and giving up?

Here’s the point, the end of the world as we know it will happen. It may happen in the next five mornings, or it may happen in 5,000 years. We don’t know. But what we do know is this, we are commanded to be ready. OK, so what does that mean? Should I stockpile 5 years worth of food, buy 101 guns and enough ammo to supply a small nation? No. It means that you should be ready to meet your Lord and Savior this very moment. It means that you should be in a state of grace, having recently been to the Sacrament of Confession and trying your best to cut out the sins and vices in your life that keep you from being the saint God has called you to be.

With half of America on fire (literally), another section being inundated with hurricanes, and the rest being overturned with riots, a lot of people lately have been asking if this is the beginning of the end. Oh, and let’s not mention a pope that seems to be beholden to the Freemasons. Honestly, I don’t know. Nobody knows the hour when Christ will come. But he did also tell us to read the signs of the times. And the Apostles knew they were living in the end of times. Thus, so are we. Are you ready?

I’m not, if I’m being honest. There are still a number of things in my house to “get in order”. But I’m trying, and I’m praying. Are you? In Matthew 24:36-44 it is clear that we don’t know the day or the hour, but we must be prepared. Be careful though, the person “taken” isn’t the good Christian but the one not worthy. In Noah, the people who weren’t prepared were the ones “taken up”. So don’t be taken by surprise. Be prepared, not like a boyscout but like a saint.

If you do nothing else, do this one thing… pray the Rosary. Pray the Rosary as if your life depended upon it… because it does. There is no greater weapon, no greater intercessor, no greater love than to pray the Rosary. I will link below a number of videos that can help you to learn how to pray the Rosary. Please watch them. But more importantly, pray the Rosary. Nothing can better prepare you to meet the King of the Universe than his very own Mother… your Mother. She will teach you what to do and what to say. Listen to her.


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Listen to Him

Here I sit, at 2:50AM and I can’t sleep. Why? Because it’s been 5 months since my last post and I can no longer ignore the almost silent, yet unmistakable whisper in the back of my mind that I need to write. I pray that this will bless someone tonight, tomorrow or in the future, whenever really.

Really that’s why I write. I want nothing more than to bring others to a deep and intimate knowledge and relationship with Christ. I don’t really have that myself but I have glimpses of it throughout my life and I can grasp the beauty and glory of it. So I want to share that with others, these glimpses of eternity, hope, and love. I know God has gifted me with the ability to write, even though it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere (of course it would help if I actually got around to writing more than every 5 months).

Well then, why haven’t I written in the last five months? The long version is because a lot has happened and I was going through a really rough patch of self-doubt, depression, fear and rejection. But the short version is that I stopped listening to that still, small voice in my heart that was encouraging me and practically yelling at me to keep writing. So I find myself sitting here at 2:55AM writing about it all, rambling on about how I refused to listen to that still small voice screaming in my heart.

As with the rest of the world, these last five months have been something for the history books. Our world has shut down and fear, chaos and sickness have run rampant. And for these last five months I feel as if I’ve done nothing, as if God had given this time to me (and to most of us) to accomplish all those things that we’ve been putting off because we’re too tired, too busy or too distracted to accomplish. It’s as if He was so sick of our excuses he finally had enough and just wiped away all of our silly excuses so we could sit back and enjoy His unadulterated love.

But what did I do with this gift? I squandered it. I let it slip through my fingers like water and made new excuses, continued to put off till tomorrow what I could do today. So I find myself sitting here at 3AM in the morning finally coming around to write and respond to God’s call.

And there in lies the profundity of it all. I squandered five months of grace only to find myself responding to that very same grace, that still small voice and I discover that I actually did learn and grow in grace, despite my best efforts. I guess I’m discovering the truth of the Scripture passage of Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

I won’t go into the details, but two things converged that woke me up to my foolish slumber, fear and St. Joseph*. In that moment I heard a voice that encouraged me to go to bed early. I did, then woke up the next morning before everyone else and the passing thought occurred to me to spend the next hour in a holy hour. I almost ignored that thought, like I so often ignore promptings to pray or fast. But this time I didn’t. I found a perpetual Eucharistic Adoration website, knelt down and spent the next hour in prayer (yes I fell asleep three separate time just like the Apostles). And it was beautiful!! I actually heard and responded to God’s voice in my life! This was a remarkable grace. And often, since then, I have had similar experiences. Of course I keep ignoring it (like earlier this evening when I felt the urge to write a post, I ignored it and kept scrolling through social media. Hence, it’s 3:05AM and I’m sitting here just now writing this post).

But within these last few weeks I’ve begun to discover the joy and beauty of hearing his voice and responding yes to it! It’s amazing!! Now, to be clear, it isn’t a neon sign, voice out of the clouds type of thing. Rather it is an impulse, a thought or idea that pops into my head, and inspiration that enlightens my mind about something, a person I haven’t heard from or spoken to in awhile. It’s those simple little promptings that we tend to write off as weird, random crazy and fleeting thoughts. These are, in my experience, often the still small voice of God calling me to listen and respond. As the voice of the Father said to the three Apostles in Matthew 17:1-9, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

So let us strive to listen and hear His voice in our lives and go where he calls us, serve and love where he leads us, that we may be his voice and hands for others to hear and respond; even if it is 3:20AM.

Jesus, I trust in you.

Mama Mary, pray for us.

Papa Joseph, pray for us.


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United to the Cross

I love to pray in silence. Like St. Ignatius of Antioch, I love to use my imagination to enter into meditative prayer. Full disclaimer… I’m awful at it. I’m so ADD that I can’t hardly focus for more than a few moments. But I love it nonetheless. When I do go to meditate, my favorite place to go (in my heart) is to a little garden patch, no bigger than 20’x20′ and in the middle is my Mama. I love Mama Mary! She’s sitting on a park bench and I usually walk over to her, sit down beside her and snuggle in close, like one of my kids do with me.

In this place I experience peace, joy, and hope. The comfort I encounter in these moments is unmatched by most any consolations I’ve experienced. It’s not always like that, but when its not, I still find peace. In those moments she whispers to my heart things I need to hear, not that I always want to hear them: challenges to my brokenness, comfort in my shame, hope and trust and confidence in her Son.

This morning was different; in my prayer time I went to this place of peace and it was closed to me. It was there, off in the distance and unobtainable. My heart broke, because, if I’m being honest I’ve been in a rough place lately, trying my best to humbly trust in God, but needing His consoling grace all the more than usual.

Now, before you go sending me consoling notes, thank you, but its not necessary. I “know” all the right answers, and I believe in them too. But I don’t share this for my sake. I share it for those who may find themselves experiencing something similar. St. Teresa of Calcutta experienced much the same throughout her own life (not that my darkness is anything remotely close to her experience). Perhaps God is testing me and calling me into a deeper relationship with Himself (not perhaps, He definitely is); perhaps, through my own brokenness and bad choices I’ve cut myself off from His face (though He’s still there waiting for me to simply turn around); perhaps it’s a simple emotional exhaustion because I’m stressed and anxious about a great many things; perhaps its something else entirely or all of the above converging together into a gloriously painful experience.

What I know for certain, what is not simply a “perhaps” is this… God’s grace is sufficient. God, the Gentleman, who knows how to break us so beautifully, never takes away something precious to us without giving us something even more precious in return. In my prayer this morning I experienced these moments of desolate longing for the comfort of my Mama but experienced nothing but rejection. I began praying a favorite prayer of mine, “Jesus, I trust in You.” I then heard my Mama’s words in my heart, “I will return; until then remain here.” And my heart was brought to another favorite place of mine, kneeling before the foot of the Cross, akin to the one we see in the movie “The Passion”, but different also. It’s a desolate, lonely, darkened and red place; a place of hopeful grief.

Mama placed me very close to the foot of the Cross, closer than I normally am, and repeated her words, “Remain here. Remain here.” Then she seemed to leave me. I gazed upon the foot of the Cross and saw His feet, pierced and fastened to it and a deep dark blood run down the wood. And I embraced the wood, wrapped my arms around the splintered, blood soaked wood and wept, pouring out my failures, doubts, sins and hurts. I grieved over my life and sins, and wept. I then recalled Christ’s words as He hung dying on the Cross, “I thirst.” and the Spirit within me groaned in reply, “I thirst.”

This is something I have not experienced before and is difficult to put into words. But I have hope that my Mama is doing exactly what she wants to do for all of us, to lead us into a deeper union with her Son, with the Merciful thirst of our beloved Savior.

Your pain is not purposeless. It is not in vain. United to the Cross it becomes something beautiful and hopeful (at least that’s what I know and believe, even if I struggle to live it out). As I sit here and ponder this at the end of the day, I think to myself about this hope. I typically strive to keep my eyes fixed on the time ahead, when the suffering is done; I hope for an end to the suffering and try not to live in it. But I’m beginning to think that that’s not what the hope of the Cross is about.

What if it’s about fully embracing the suffering now, looking at it square in the face, not trying to look beyond, but looking through. Because I know there are sometimes when I can’t see beyond and everything gets all the darker. What if Christ wants us to look through the suffering, to see it fully for what it is and say, “Hello. I see you and accept you and embrace you. In fact, I love you because you are going to help me love my Savior even more than I do now. So thank you.”

So here I find myself, closed off from snuggling into my Mama, instead embracing the blood soaked Cross where my tears mingle with His blood and my thirst encounters God’s.

Jesus, I trust in You.


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The Boredom of Heaven

I’ve made a deal with God that when I get to heaven and all’s said and done, the Secondsong-to-sing Coming is all wrapped up, evil is defeated for good and Christ reigns over all in glory forever, that I’ll get to do a solo song in praise of the his supremely beautiful Mother. This being due to the fact that He gave me such a lousy singing voice here on earth.

But I digress. Tonight some of the teens teens I work with expressed concern over being bored in heaven; an eternity with God, awesome! But that’s going to get kind of repetitive after awhile, isn’t it? Well no, not really… not at all. There will be no boredom in heaven. There simply can’t be.

Boredom

Look at it this way, all creation is an expression of the unending, over-flowing love of God. Every single thing that exists does so as an expression of God. Of course we have twisted many things, if we’re being honest we twist pretty much everything, into something selfish, but in it’s very nature, all things exist for God, in God and through God, which means that all things are designed as an expression of God and his love. Therefor, the enjoyment we receive from any created thing, or person, is in part a reflection of God.

Therefore, it stands to reason that if you love Hot and Now Krispy Kreme Donuts (and who doesn’t?!) then you’ll find that joy in heaven as well. If you love flying down the road with the top down and the wind in your hair, then that joy will be found in heaven. If you love sitting on a mountain top and gazing in wonder at creation then that joy will be there for you. If you love the thrill of jumping from a perfectly good airplane, or the excitement of asking someone out on a date for the first time, or reading a good book on a rainy day with your favorite cup of coffee or tea, then those joys will be there in heaven too!

But in an even fuller, pure, more prefected way. Because in most things we engage with here on earth they are at least tinged with imperfection and sin, even the marital embrace of a loving husband and wife is more often than not tinged with selfishness. But in heaven, the fleeting and imperfect nature of all things will be transformed in glorious beauty. And lest we think of heaven as an earth-less cloud-like existence, remember in Scripture it tells us that the old earth and heaven will pass away and a new earth and a new heaven will come. It will be even more beautiful than Eden. In fact it has to be, just like we will be more glorious than Adam and Eve in the pre-fallen state. This new heaven and earth will be in perfect harmony and perfect and complete union!

Solitude

As I was in the chapel this afternoon praying I imagined that, as it says in Rev. 8:1, “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” I imagined what that would be like… all the angels and saints standing in worship around the throne of God and complete in utter silence, gazing in awe… a half hour passes of this collective breathlessness and sheer wonder… then Michael, the chief of the Seraphim begins singing the glorious hymn,

‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honour
and power and might

And as he nears the last line the entire company of heaven breaks in…

be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’

And eternity begins as all the joy and goodness on earth find the perfection and fulfillment united to our Glorious God and the unending symphony of praise cascades throughout the new heaven and earth.  And the thrill of being pursued by the Divine Lover, and wonder at being caught up in His arms will continue eternally, ever ancient and ever new.

Let the Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” (Rev. 22:17)

john-paul-n-mother-mary


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Trust the Church?

Recently I was talking with some teens about the Church and how has the fullness of the Truth and they struggled to accept that statement. Mind you, some of these teens are faithful Catholics and peer leaders in their youth group.

Helping Hand

So, that begs the question, can the Church be trusted? If the Church is made up of people like you and me, how can we trust the Church to have the answers, to have the fullness of the Truth? In the Creed we say that we believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. But how can this Church be holy? I know what I’ve done in my life and I’ve not always lived a very holy one. Even today, I’m constantly succumbing to temptations and sins. I feel like such a hypocrite being encouraging teens to be holy, pray more and to love God, when I so often choose the opposite in my own life.

So how do I do it? How can I tell you that the Church is the fullness of Truth and holiness when there are so many hypocrites like me in it? First, perhaps we should define our terms. To be holy is to be set apart for God. You and I are holy because, through our Baptism, we have been set apart for God, claimed as His very own, and so we are holy. The sacred vessels at Mass are holy because they are set apart for God alone. It would be terrible to fill the chalice with coke or beer. We could, and that would desecrate it, but wouldn’t change the fact that the chalice continues to have a unique and beautiful purpose… to hold within it the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ Jesus our Lord.

You and I are more than just “like the chalice”; we become the chalice! Through Communion we become the vessel that brings Christ to the world! We are called to be set apart for God, and no matter how much we tarnish our lives with sin, we still remain His.

This may not seem too important to your life right now, but think about what this means! You are unique and deeply loved and longed for by God! You have a purpose and mission unique in the entire history of time and space! Because of this call to holiness, this being chosen and set apart by God, your life, your drama, your suffering and joys are given a beautiful purpose.

I don’t know about you but that gives me hope and joy, especially when I’m not feeling so special or unique or good about myself.

Next, what about all the hypocrites like me? You know what it’s like. You’re sitting in the pew at Mass and see that kid from school who was passing pictures of some poor girl around on his phone, or you see that girl you know who was killing some other girl’s soul with gossip and lies the other day. And there’s that youth minister guy who’s always talking about God and love, but you I saw him in the store the other day losing it at his kids. What a hypocrite.

Some faith this church seems to have.

Here’s the thing, the Church isn’t a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners. You and I don’t come to church because we have it all together, but because without His grace and mercy in the Sacraments and found through our community, we’re sick and gasping for breath, choking on our brokenness.

Finally, we are the Body of Christ. We are not merely a random group of people who happen to believe a similar thing, trying to find comfort in a hoped for future paradise. We are Christ’s hands blessing the world; we are his mouth speaking mercy and peace upon those around us; we are his heart pouring ourselves out for the weak and lost.

And he is our head. He is perfect justice, perfect mercy, and the fullness of Truth.

He is the Way, the Truth and the Life; not a way, a truth and a life! He is the only true way, the fullness of Truth, the only true source of Life! All other ways are either mere copies, or cheap knockoffs, or complete shams.

In the end, it is not just me or the priest, mere men and women who call you to holiness. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit within us. And this Holy Spirit is not mixed with shadows of error, doubt or lies.

Can the Church be trusted? Well, only you can answer that question for yourself. When we ask that question, we are not asking whether or not men and women in the Church can be trusted. We are asking, can the Holy Spirit, God himself, be trusted? That is a question that each heart must answer for his or her own.

And if I trust Christ, trust in his Spirit, then it naturally follows that he will lead me into the fullness of His Truth, the place where there is no mixture of falsehood or shadow. And that when he promised us that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that he would give us the fullness of His Spirit in our Church, then it only leaves two options, either Christ is a liar and can’t be trusted at all or the Church contains the fullness of Truth who is Christ himself, and that while we are still sinners, he is transforming us into saints, to be holy, like His Church.


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Why Mary?

On this, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary I wonder, why Mary? What do I mean by that? Of the 7 most important feasts that we celebrate as Catholics: Mary, the Mother of God (Jan. 1st), Easter, Ascension Thursday, The Assumption of Mary (Aug. 15th), All Saints Day (Nov. 1st), The Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8th), Christmas (Dec. 25th), why are so many focused on Mary? That’s three feasts directly about Mary, then All Saints day with the greatest of saints being Mary, and Christmas which kind of heavily involves Mary.

So why Mary?

Well, let’s look at it like this… what is our primary responsibility as Christians? It’s not the salvation of our own souls. If all you’re concerned about is saving your soul, that’s an inherently selfish perspective. Don’t get me wrong, desiring salvation is good, but if it’s your main or only focus, that’s selfish.

Ultimately, we are tasked with helping to save the souls of as many others as we can. Our primary responsibility is to bring others to heaven. Of course, we’re most effectively by striving for holiness in our own lives.

Why is saving others our primary responsibility? Because God has chosen to work through our broken humanity to save others. Sure, he could simply reveal himself in glory to everyone, but that would, in a sense, take away our free will. We would be so overwhelmed by Him that we couldn’t choose not him. And his love necessitates a completely free response, just like any pure love does. So he chooses to reach out in love, to save each soul through the hands and feet and lives of you and me.

In other words, we can’t just accept our redemption then sit back and enjoy the show. We have work to do! “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.” The more Christ-like I become, the more I live and breathe and move in the will of God, the more I look like Christ, the more beautiful and attractive I become, drawing others along with me.

And who, other than Mary imitates her Son more perfectly?! Who, from the moment of her birth until the moment of her Assumption reflects the love and will of God more than Mary?

As Saint Maximilian Kolbe once said, “Mary’s will does not differ from the will of God. Calling upon her without reserve, you manifest a love for the will of God, for her will is so perfect that in nothing does it differ from His. Thus you give glory to God that he created so perfect a creature and took her for his Mother.”

And then he gave her to us! He gave us his own Mother as our own. In my favorite Scripture passage, “The Wedding at Cana,” Mary notices that they have run out of wine. The fact wasn’t brought to her attention, she knew before anyone said anything. And she proceeds to tell the waiters to “Do whatever he tells you.” Do you see that?! She knows, your Mother knows what you need and says only this, “Do whatever he tells you.” Let go of your own will and take up the will of her Son and the grace of God will pour out upon you abundantly! The waiters at the wedding didn’t then take the most beautiful wine and keep it to themselves, but shared that overflowing and abundant grace with others.

In a certain sense, the Christian life is really that simple. Like Mary, to do the will of God.

So why do we go to Jesus through Mary? As Fr. Michael Gaitley put it in his grace-filled book “33 Days to Morning Glory:” Because Mary was there. She was present at every moment of Jesus’ life and ministry, literally from the time of his Conception to his Ascension into heaven. It was she who carried Christ in her body before any disciple, it was she who ushered in his first miracle at Cana, it was Mary who watched at the foot of the Cross, it was she who was given to the world as Mother. It is she who loves her children and brings them to her Son, to satisfy his dying words, “I Thirst.”


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Consoling the Heart of Jesus

Did you ever think that you could console the heart of Jesus? That the heart of Christ is in pain and that you, as you are today, without doing much of anything at all, can console the heart of Christ and give relief to his heartache? You can. And it costs you hardly anything at all.

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Fr. Michael Gaitley wrote a book called “Consoling the Heart of Jesus” and in it he explores this very concept. Please read this book, it’s a potential life changer, or rather, heart changer. He clearly shows how when we follow the saints of mercy throughout the ages, such as St. Margaret Mary, St. Faustina, St. Pope John Paul II, and my favorite, St. Therese the Little Flower, we see clearly that Jesus’ heart is filled to the brim with mercy and love and yet He finds so few souls who are willing to accept His torrents of grace and mercy.

We see how St. Therese so simply allowed the Father of Mercy to lift her up in her “elevator” to holiness, by casting herself upon the merciful heart of Christ. As she describes it, we stand on a razor thin edge, to one side is the abyss of despair and the other is the abyss of mercy. And in the end, there really isn’t any other option.

In one of the revelations to St. Faustina, the depths of her nothingness and complete dependence on God was revealed to her, wherein Christ told her that if He hadn’t sustained her in that revelation, she would have died of despair. And I think to myself how each and every soul is more akin to St. Faustina’s utter miserableness (without Christ) than we realize; how each of us stands on a razor’s edge and are given a choice, daily and moment by moment. Thank’s be to the God who created the stars and every single blade of grass with you in mind!

The grace and mercy of God awaits us on the edge of the precipice. It’s as simple, according to the saints, as a trustful surrender to mercy. “Jesus, I trust in you. I open my heart to receive the abundant mercy that so fills your Heart. I accept all the mercy other souls have rejected. May my weak trust, my imperfect trust and surrender, console your heart and give it joy. Though I don’t always see how I can be a joy to your heart, let me never abandon you. Bring me close to your merciful heart and hide me there. Jesus, I trust in you.”

Above, I mentioned a few of the saints of mercy, there are many more. Well this morning on my drive into work I prayed my morning Rosary and was blessed with a few minutes of real focus on the mystery itself (rather than my usual ADD mental unfocus). As I prayed the fourth Sorrowful Mystery, the Carrying of the Cross, I reflected on some of the Stations of the Cross and was struck with how these saints were perhaps the first of the saints to console the Heart of Jesus. Mary, of course is the first of the saints to console her Son. As is fitting, she does so perfectly.

Then Simon, pressed into service carries the cross, against his will perhaps, but carries it nonetheless. How often do we come to Christ: imperfectly and begrudgingly go to prayer, or help a neighbor, or forgive an injury? And yet, this imperfect accompanying of Christ consoles his heart. Then comes Veronica, a simple woman who dared brave the Roman guards and approached Christ to offer comfort and consolation. What good could a simple pressing of a cloth to the face of a tortured, condemned man do? And yet, I can only imagine what that act of love gave to Christ’s heart. So too, the weeping women, and the Beloved Disciple who’s very presence gave consolation to the Heart of Christ.

And then, the Roman guard who, in what seems like an act of heartlessness, in order to simply assure the death of the man, approached Jesus without love, but approached nonetheless and pierced the very Heart of Christ. And just as how each person who approaches Christ imperfectly  is given grace and mercy untold, the very Heart of Christ poured out His abundant love and mercy transforming Longinus from a simple soldier into a saint.

Divine Mercy

So run to Jesus, to his Heart of Mercy, imperfect though you are, and allow the oceans of mercy to wash over you and transform you into the image of his very self. If you’re still unsure of this then ask his mother, his beautiful mother, Our Lady of the Rosary to bring you to her Son. She will not fail you.

Mother Mary, pray for us.

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