Awkward Catholic

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


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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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My Sister’s Keeper

Bro & Sis at beachThat awkward moment when you realize that you’ve so absorbed the world around you that you hadn’t even noticed the dichotomy in your own life. For me one such moment happened a few years ago when I realized that the horror movies I had thoroughly enjoyed watching most of my life were damaging my soul and mind. I realized that those movies were influencing the way I looked at things; I found myself more prone to objectifying others after watching a movie of that genre and that my soul felt darkened.

 

There are countless other ways in which our culture seeps into our lives unnoticed by us, but the one I wish to speak about today is that of immodesty, specifically summertime immodesty. In our culture, it is so ingrained for women to wear bikinis and ‘barely-there’ clothing, which it seems most Christian women don’t even bat an eye at donning a bikini at the beach or pool. And it really astounds me that so many people see it as socially acceptable, when the bikini is really nothing more than glorified underwear. Check out Jessica Rey’s discussion of it here.

 

I have heard many women complain that there are simply too few options out there for modest one-piece bathing suits or tankinis, which is the fault of the fashion industry to be sure, though there are options (1). But then there are those women who think that it’s not their job to be responsible for how men see them and the men should be more mature and control their thoughts. And it’s to these women that I speak now. Believe me when I say that I want to control my thoughts; I try mightily not to look at you as an object. I have a beautiful wife whom I want to be faithful to in body and mind, a beautiful little girl whom I hope can look to me as a model of masculine respect and virtue, and two amazing boys whom I hope will want to imitate my example.

 

But I can’t do it alone.

 

I need your help.Helping Hand

 

God created men and women to help each other, didn’t he? (2) We are meant to be our brother’s keepers, aren’t we? (3) I need your help. We need your help.

 

And to those women for whom Biblical arguments don’t hold much weight, I reference a blog I recently read by Kaylin Koslosky who noticed her own hypocrisy when it came to modesty and swimwear. In her post she tells of her own struggle with seeing other women in bikinis and how she found herself judging and criticizing them, which in a certain sense is still objectifying them. This fits with something I’ve learned over my short 38 years… that most men struggle with lust and most women struggle with judgment. And so I challenge those women who think it’s solely the man’s job to control his thoughts when he sees a scantily clad woman: hold yourself to the same standard. Try not to objectify the other person; it’s not so easy.

 

So please, help your sisters and brothers out and find something modest to wear. And gentlemen reading this, it really doesn’t matter what a woman wears or looks like or how she acts. She is made in the image and likeness of God and deserves your mightiest efforts to treat her as such. For that is a valiant cause.

 

As I finish typing this post we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary and I can’t help but think how fitting this is. The Assumption of Mary teaches us many things such that our bodies and souls are intimately united and inform us who we are. Our bodies are not just random vessels carrying the important soul, but integral to our personhood. Our bodies inform us who we are and who we’re made to be, a mysterious gift to the other. And one day, when all is finished these bodies of ours will be reunited to our souls in heaven for all eternity. This temple of your spirit and of the Holy Spirit is something to be treasured and reverenced. Just like the temple of Israel, the Holy of Holies was shrouded with a massive curtain, not because of shame or fear, but out of reverence and mystery. Should not our temples receive the same treatment, more so even because of the indwelling of the Spirit?

assumption-of-the-blessed-virgin-mary

 

Check out http://www.reyswimwear.com/ for fashionable and modest swimwear for women. My wife pretty much wants to own them all.

 

  1. Gen. 2:18

 

  1. Gen 4:8-10