Awkward Catholic

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


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The Lonely Little Boy

The other day I spent time with a 2nd grade little boy, about 7 years old. He was brought into my office at the church because he’d told his religion teacher that he wanted to kill himself. The boy is in SECOND GRADE!! He had no friends and was being bullied. He felt isolated and completely alone. I know that feeling well. I was severely bullied throughout my childhood, alone, lost and without hope.

Mother Teresa once said that the greatest suffering is loneliness; of those familiar with suffering, few I think understood it as Lonely Mandeeply as Mother Teresa. Her life was poured out in walking with others in their suffering and most painful moments. I believe that she saw clearly into the heart of the modern world where we have become isolated and lonely. Our lives have become filled with isolation and selfishness, or rather, they have been emptied of all that is good and beautiful. We have sterilized our lives behind the facade of social media and disavowed any need for the other in our pursuit of the empty fulfillment of fame, fortune and immortality. And this has been done intentionally.

Our beloved Pope Francis has recently stated that we must not forget that the devil is real and actively seeking to destroy us. This is nothing new and has been proclaimed by countless saints throughout the ages. The devil is real and operating in the world with an evil intent… to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, to isolate us from God and each other. And not only do we let him, we most often willingly cooperate with him! In war, when is a person most vulnerable? When he’s separated from his platoon. When is a quarterback most vulnerable? When his offensive line collapses around him and he’s left alone.

We have become isolated through our selfishness, laziness, greed and fear. And we isolate others because then, we’re not alone in our isolation. The problem is… everything we are, our body, mind and soul is designed for one simple purpose… communion. We exist to be the “thou” to someone else’s “I”. The way we live our lives can give purpose, meaning and hope to others; or it can take it away.

Every sin is a sin against communion because every sin is a sin of selfishness. Mother Teresa knew this well and sought out the most unapproachable, ignored, rejected, isolated Untouchable, who was being eaten by worms as he lay in the sewer awaiting death. She picked him up and carried him to her home, tended to his wounds (both spiritual and physical) and loved him into heaven. His was a life of loneliness and isolation. His was a death of beauty and love. Why? Because Blessed Mother Teresa entered into his suffering and walked with him to the steps of heaven.  She then repeated this act for the rest of her life with each person she met.

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What motivated her to do this? Mere knowledge couldn’t. Any person with a brain could figure out that we’re made for communion. Nor was it vein hope, desire for fame or blind faith. It was an encounter with the thirst of the One “I” to whom all others are “thou”; the thirst of the living God. Mother wrote the following in a letter to her fellow sisters:

Be careful of all that can block that personal contact with the living Jesus. The devil may try to use the hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes – to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you… That is so sad, because it is completely the opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you. Not only that he loves you, but even more – He longs for you…. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy. When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes – He is the one who always accepts you. My children, you don’t have to be different for Jesus to love you. Only believe- you are precious to Him… Why does Jesus say, “I thirst”? What does it mean? “I thirst” is something much deeper than Jesus saying “I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you – you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.[1]

When we encounter the thirst of Jesus we know, in the depths of our being who we are and who He wants to be for us. We enter into a real communion… our destiny. I have yet to experience this in its fullness. I trust in the testimony of the blessed who have gone before me. I also trust in the promises of Christ himself who will bring me to this himself.

I no longer suffer from loneliness, most of the time. I’ve been blessed with a loving wife, children and friends, but old habits die hard. Rather, I suffer the pains of loneliness in the teens, children and parents who pass through my office on a daily basis. There are so many hurting, lonely souls in the world. Our modern society, with all of its “conveniences” has turned us into lonely, isolated individuals… and we must rage against this machine! We must rage against this tidal wave of evil that is trying to scatter and separate us so as to overwhelm us. We “rage” by quietly letting go of our selfishness and simply engage those around us. We stand up for the kid being bullied, we put down our technology and talk face to face, we turn off the T.V. and talk to our family members, we sacrifice and give for those around us, we help others carry their crosses and we pray. We reach out to the person being bullied and we pray. We smile at those we pass in the hall or on the street and we pray. We do the chores and duties of our family members out of love and we pray. We hold the hand of the person (friend, stranger, enemy) that his suffering and we pray.

Ultimately, we do nothing of our own accord. As St. Augustine said, “All is grace.” We choose to cooperate with the grace of God rather than the lies of Satan. It is the love of God, our communion with him that will redeem the world. Therein lay our hope and our strength.

Mother Theresa

 

P.S., I have hope for the young boy I met with last week. He is dearly loved by his mother and knows now that he has a safe place at his church. He has been enfolded in prayer, he is not alone and through the grace of God will know that some day soon.

 

 

[1] Mother Teresa’s letter to the Missionaries of Charity family, 25th March, 1993 as found in 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC. Marian Press, Sotckbridge, MA. 2011.


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A Tribute to My Mom

3X3 pic2 Life has gone on. It has been four years and life has gone on. I wasn’t sure how at first. Four years ago my mom left this world, not my heart. Who I am, who I was, who I will be… forever because of her. My hero, my first love. My defender, protector, formater, life-giver, helper. My friend, confidant, companion in all joy, all sorrow.

 

Every wound she bound up, every joy she cried with life. She imagined the world for me. She hoped the best, she gave her all that I might be. Every moment of my life is colored by her love. I live because she gave her life. I know now she cried my every tear and suffered my every insult; silently, to herself, out of earshot she wept my tears… holding my hand, never letting go.

 

I am the man of faith today because she had the courage to live a faith she didn’t understand but knew was true. She went to church every Sunday, not because she understood it but because she knew it was right. Why? Not for herself but for her sons. She worked 10 hour days, came home cooked dinner, cared for her boys, rocked us to sleep and worked into the night because she wanted to give us a life worth living. And she did.

 

My greatest treasure is the memory I have of when I was about 7 years old. I had gotten hurt and was crying and inconsolable. My mom swept me up in her arms and carried me to our old wooden rocking chair in the corner of the family room. There she rocked holding me tightly in her arms. I knew that I would never be left alone, I would never suffer alone. I was loved. That memory has gotten me through many terrible nights.

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It is because of my mom that I love God as much as I do. She was my first experience of the Father’s tender love for me. For many years she was the only experience of God’s love, but never did it waiver. Not once. Even that one time when I tried to wound her deeply; I lashed out, not at her but at all those who had hurt me, but she was the target because I could trust her. I regret that moment, but even then her love never wavered.

 

It has been hard, these four years without her; without her advice, without her care, her generosity and her voice. She never met her 2nd grandson or 2nd granddaughter. That is a difficult burden I bear. She so deeply longed to meet them. But I know her joy in loving my 1st born. And that joy, I try to give to the others. Her love pours down on them I know. Her generosity, unmatched in this world inundates us every day. What mother wouldn’t call down great love and grace from the Father upon her children?

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Her favorite song those last few years was, “I Could Only Imagine” by MercyMe. I love that song because of her because I know there is no more imagining for her, only the reality of God, Face to face… glory upon glory. Hers was a race well run, finished well. She ran so as to win and I run so as to catch her. God, give me the grace to be so blessed.