Awkward Catholic

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

Leaning In Deep


Our Lady of Fatima

Two weeks ago Gabriel Rodrigues took his own life.

One week ago I found out that my beautiful wife is pregnant with our fourth child.

Two days ago I received word that a number of parents are unhappy with what I am teaching the teens at Life Teen (high school youth ministry).

Each of these events are uniquely different and yet profoundly world shaking to me. Each, in its own right shatters my world.


Gabe is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of kid. He promised, after the Marines that he would come back and take my job as youth minister. He had potential to be amazing. He was amazing. But something… I can’t bring myself to even write more about it. My heart is shattered.

We weren’t expecting to have another child anytime soon. We both wanted another one, but because of our circumstances, we discerned that now wasn’t the best time to bring another child into the world. But God had other plans in mind. We weren’t fertile when we chose to renew our marital vows. Every time we engage in the marital embrace we pray for the Holy Spirit’s presence and work. And now our hearts are an explosion of unexpected joy and a flurry of other thoughts and emotions at His creative presence, like a person afraid of heights getting on an extreme roller coaster for the first time… trusting in the creator’s ability to build and guide the coaster’s course despite the wild ride.

The most important thing in my world is my wife and kids. Second only to that are my teens. The teens in my youth ministry… I love them, they are my kids. I’ve given my life and everything I am to them and their families. I’ve made mistakes with them, for sure. I’ve had teens and families walk away because of something I’ve said, done or taught. But each time it tears me to shreds. I know the surpassing love of God, the unfathomable joy of a life united to Christ, and to have a teen or a family walk away because of what I’ve said or done… shatters me.

The grief…

The uncertainty…

The sorrow…

In these moments I survive by leaning in deep. I look to my Savior and kneel before his broken, bruised, bloodied body on the Cross and lean in, pressing my lips to his bloodied and pierced feet… allowing the mercy of his spilled blood wash over me.Wounds of Christ

When these trials beset me I run to my blessed Mother, hold her like my 3 year old runs and wraps her arms around my waist and presses herself against me. I lean in deep and allow her to wrap me in her mantle of grace.


Beyond my imagination, in reality, I am the beloved disciple leaning against the breast of my Lord, hearing that

one will betray him, knowing that I have done as much, hoping that others will not, asking if it is I.


Jesus I trust in you.


Jesus I trust in you.


Jesus I trust in you.


Divine Mercy.jpg

In all of this and more, I choose to lean in deep. Each moment I choose to lean in deep. I lean into the grief, the uncertainty, the sorrow. I lean in, knowing that I am not alone, that I am carried and redeemed, that I am on certain ground. The standard of the victor has been planted on a mountain for all to see and I am counted as his very own portion.

I don’t see a way forward.

He does.

I don’t understand.

He does.

I doubt.

He doesn’t.

There is One to whom I can go. There is One answer, One hope, One love. There is One God and I am His, you are His. All is His!

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!”… it is here where we lean in deep; it is here when He leaned in deep. Have you ever read the entire Psalm 22? Christ was not crying out in despair! He was leaning in deep! In the greatest moment of his affliction, in the most horrible moment of all history, He leaned in deep. He gave himself over to the affliction and suffering, he took upon himself the weight of our sins and cried out to His Father for mercy! Not mercy for himself, but mercy for you and for me! He opened wide his arms and took in all those who are willing to lean in deep into his embrace.

Be washed, be cleansed, be healed, be, within His embrace. Lean in deep.


Author: mgagnon181

I am a passionate Catholic, husband and a father of four kids. I have been a Catholic youth minister, writer and speaker for over 18 years and have earned a Master's in Theology with a minor in Philosophy. Through many years of struggle I've come to embrace my awkwardness and use it to the best of my ability to share my faith with others. God has blessed me with the gift of faith and has called me to serve him by serving young people and families and to help them encounter Christ in their lives. As Leon Bloy once said, "At the end of life there is only one great tragedy, not to have been a saint."

4 thoughts on “Leaning In Deep

  1. I’m sorry for your loss. Congratulations on the new baby. And, I think many people are put off by the fact that you act as a peer to the teens instead of a teacher. The teens need spiritual guidance, not another buddy. It’s obvious that you would rather have a conversation with a teen than his mother/father. You dismiss whatever the parent says. Parents would be more willing to chaperone your social events if they felt more welcome by you. You have a wealth of knowledge on the faith, and YOU should be teaching the teens on Sunday nights. Parents and other teens should not be leading the nights, they should be your help. I’m always surprised when I pick up my teen and hear that high school seniors led a serious night and the topic was porn or relationships, and the only things shared were personal experience, not facts. While sharing personal experience is valuable, and should possibly be incorporated, it should be in addition to facts and research. I’ll leave it at that.

    • Hello Anon, thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m sorry you feel that way about my ministry. I look forward to the day that you are willing to speak with me directly about your concerns. Whenever that day comes, please know that I’ll be here ready to listen and do my best to respond patiently and lovingly. Until that time, know I’ll be praying for you and ask that you do the same for me; I need all the prayers I can get.

  2. Well, there’s the case in point about how well you’ve chosen to take constructive feedback. I guess I’m not surprised that you focused on anonymous feedback instead of the points made. Although I haven’t been vocal with my concerns with other parents, I’ve been at a loss as to what to do. I’ve considered going to parish leadership, but they seem to be just going through the motions these days. I’ve considered contacting the Archdiocese as well. We will likely follow other parishioners who’ve left to other parishes as soon as all of our teens are confirmed. It’s really a shame because you are top notch with the theology aspect of it. It’s the organization and leadership skills that are lacking.

  3. Anon, thank you for your reply. Once again, this isn’t the forum to address these issues. If you will call, email or set up an appointment I would be happy to address the points with you. If you receive the emails I send home to parents each week then you will see that I addressed a great number of the concerns via that way. I’m sorry that you have been so completely disappointed with my ministry. I don’t claim to be perfect and mess up plenty (as do most people), neither do I put on airs pretending to be a top notch leader or organizer. If these are skills you have then by all means, feel free to step forward and help out. I would be grateful for it (just ask any of the 10 or so Core members who help out on a regular basis. If you wish to discuss this further, then please contact me directly as opposed to my personal blog. Thank you.

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