Awkward Catholic

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


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Contemplation and Beatitude

SolitudeThat awkward moment when you can’t help think that all you want to do is run off and join a monastery and never have to speak to anyone ever again. It’ll be just you and God and all the craziness of the world can just keep to itself. I’m sure this feeling has a lot to do with my needs as an introvert, but at times I just want to run from my boys who can’t seem to stop talking, fighting, eating or crying, my amazing and beautiful wife who wants quality time, all the demands of my ministry, and the constant bombardment of news and controversies: flags, vaccines, wars, marriage, scandals, etc… basically, all the noise and busyness of life. And who hasn’t felt this way at one time or another.

Our world and lives are such bundles of chaotic noise and busyness, it seems to me we’re like a bunch of blind ants Angry Antsscrambling to rebuild our little pile after some kid keeps kicking it over. We all seem to be in a perpetual state of motion, and I believe it is destroying our spiritual lives.

Of course, I would never run off and join a monastery, I love my wife and kids and ministry. But the fact that I long for solitude is quite telling of how starved I’ve let myself become. We are spiritual beings as much as we are physical and just as our bodies need food, so too our souls. And while our main spiritual food is the Eucharist, it is incomplete without that interior connection, that deep interior rooting of our souls in union with God’s love; this is contemplation.

Contemplation comes only through solitude, times of silence where we are alone(1) with the Alone. We are built for rest, “Our souls are restless O Lord, until they rest in Thee.”(2) We long and hope throughout our pilgrimage on this earth to reach our final destination, heaven: where we can rest and with our whole being sigh, “Ah, at last I have found You; at last You have found me.” Our every longing will be fulfilled. There will be no more searching, no more crying, no more lack, for we will see him face to Face and know and be known.

This beatitude is one of contemplation, where we will just be. Should we not begin now? Each time we pray, “Thy kingdom come…” we seek that which we ignore or refuse when we opt for the busyness of the world. Where God is, there is His kingdom. And where is he found but in the silent recesses of our hearts. Why do we incessantly fill our lives with so much noise and distractions? I agree with Fr. Mike Schmitz who says that most of us don’t really think that prayer works(3). We’re afraid of wasting our time. The rest of us are afraid perhaps that the opposite is true, that prayer works and we’re not certain we want that to happen. Or perhaps we’re afraid of what we might discover about ourselves and about God if we let his voice be heard. Silence can be a terrifying thing.

But we must not let our fear or doubts stop us. This silence, solitude and contemplation transcends our physical and psychological natures. Introvert or extrovert, shy or outgoing, self-confident or unsure, we cannot know who we are meant to be without hearing the Word of God whispered in our souls, without seeing ourselves reflected in the eyes of our Creator, without probing the wounds of our Savior. To accomplish this stillness of mind and body is central. Silence and peace are necessary because contemplation is not merely thinking about God but about being in his presence and adoring him. Meditation is the active work of thinking about him, the mental journey towards the center where the King resides. Both Martha and Mary are necessary, but by far, Mary has chosen the better part(4).

Going back to Fr. Mike Schmitz, I do struggle with believing that prayer really works. If I honestly thought it worked then perhaps I would pray more. Perhaps I wouldn’t be so lazy at night and stay up late watching TV when I could spend time with my God, at least 20 minutes. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Each night I sit down and “veg” out on the computer or TV trying to recharge my batteries when in reality I need to recharge my soul. I stay up way too late and lack any energy to wake up early and start my day off in silence before the little noise makers wake up. But whether I think it works or not, I know in my heart it does. So pray for me as I struggle to make these changes, and I’ll keep you in my prayers as well.

The Summit

1) To be alone does not mean to be lonely. Some of the loneliest people in the world are surrounded by others. To be alone means to be in a place of solitude, even when in the middle of the crowd. To be lonely means to feel unloved.

2) St. Augustine, Confessions

3) Fr. Mike Schmitz: http://ascensionpresents.com/video/time-to-pray/

4) Luke 10:42


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Getting Perspective

baby crying This morning started off pretty well. I woke up on my own, as opposed to my three year old loudly disturbing my slumber early in the morning as is his custom. My 3 month old daughter slept until 9AM and then sat quietly and patiently by as I finished cooking pancakes for the boys. It was after that when things started getting rough. An hour after waking my daughter started crying; she was hungry and tired.

Normally I’d just pass her off to Maria to nurse her which would almost instantly put her to sleep. However, my amazing wife was not home. She was at her first day of work after giving birth. So this morning was my first attempt (and Therese’s 2nd attempt) at using a bottle. It didn’t work. She cried her sweet little eyes out not understanding why her mommy wasn’t coming to the rescue. It was heartbreaking.

So I took her upstairs and tried pacing around the room with her, shushing her and patting her back. Eventually it worked beautifully and she fell asleep and I was able to put her down just before my back began cramping up. Prior to her falling asleep, as I paced back and forth, my mind poured over all the problems and concerns I have, from the stress of a crying, inconsolable baby, to my two boys fighting downstairs, the unpaid hospital bills and looming mortgage payment, our old house which still hasn’t rented out (on which we’re counting to augment our income), the ridiculously high electric bill and on and on.

Then something occurred to me that put it all in perspective. Here I stood in a huge house, holding a beautiful baby girl, with her two wonderful, healthy siblings downstairs, and my wife and I both are gainfully employed and so many other countless blessings. Meanwhile, there’s the worst Ebola outbreak the world’s ever seen occurring in Africa, Isis is taking over Iraq and destroying the lives of millions of people, a war is brewing in Israel, typhoons are ravaging the Philippines, countless thousands of refugees are crossing into Texas, the scourge of sex slavery is growing exponentially (a result of porn) and on and on.Ebola

How blessed am I?! It’s not that I shouldn’t be concerned with those little things that surround my life, but in the greater perspective my life is good, amazingly blessed and my loving concern for those suffering unfathomable loss and grief has grown enormously. So, rather than wasting my time stressing over these little things I need to pray. I need to pray for them and let them go in trusting surrender to God’s will. Then I need to pray earnestly for those that need God’s grace. Or rather, I need to pray to God and call down his grace on those who need it now, the most. He knows so much better than I where his grace is most desperately needed.

I want to challenge anyone reading this to find a new perspective. Let’s put aside our judgment and preconceived prejudices about immigrants (legal or illegal), about the chaos of northern Africa, about who’s at fault in the Israel/Palestinian conflict (more than one side is wrong there, it’s not as black and white as you think), about the terror and evil in Iraq, and so on. Let’s cast aside our judgment and pray. Pray for a just and compassionate solution for the immigrants seeking a better life, for those suffering from plague or terror or war. Pray earnestly for peace, for health, for hope. Pray.

After all, the wars and plagues and famines and suffering is your fault anyway. Well, OK, it’s all of our fault. You see, God created paradise but our sin brought chaos. That’s what sin is, a tearing away of perfection and replacing it with chaos, with an absence of love. So yes, that Ebola outbreak is a result of our sin, the evil in Iraq is a result of our sin and the only way to bring an end to it all is God’s grace breaking into the chaos of our sins and turning it into something good, beautiful and perfect… kind of like the Crucifixion of Christ.Crucifix