Awkward Catholic

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


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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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The Storm Rages On

There is so much going on right now. Both personally and in the world around us. My boys are going to public school for the first time, my wife is due with baby #4 in two months, good friends are moving far away, the youth ministry is gearing back up for the school year, and many more things. It’s so difficult to find time to pray. Yet, I look at what’s coming at us and realize how desperately I need to… we need to.

Spending just a few minutes connected to the internet or listening to the news, it feels as if we’re being attacked on all sides. Not just from our own busyness but especially in what matters most… our faith. The culture seems hell-bent, literally, on destroying the Catholic Church and everything it stands for; and from every angle, we are besieged. But it’s not just the world around trying to tear us down.

Within the Church, forces seem to be trying to tear it apart from the inside: many priests and bishops have perpetrated or at least looked the other way while other clergy act heinously, or perhaps they’re just mediocre priests, when what we need are men who will stand in the breach, or rather, kneel in the breach and humbly lead their flock to heaven.

ukraine priest

Don’t get me wrong, there are many good priests; in my immediate area alone, I can easily name 4 men whom I would trust to guide and lead my soul and family. But unfortunately, the ones who are mediocre at best and those worse, tend to suck up all the oxygen in the room, so to speak. And it can be disheartening and scandalous.

Now, before you call me a hypocrite (because I kind of am), I’ll call myself out and say that I too would lump myself in the class of mediocre Catholics. I try-ish to be holy, but the weight of my laziness and sinfulness… oof. And I don’t excuse this either. This war I speak of, of being attacked on all sides, includes our personal sinfulness as well. Sometimes, this is the most difficult part of the fight, the most discouraging. At Mass this morning, I sat in my pew as the priest prayed the Consecration and my mind fluttered over the countless failings in my life. It was as if the devil was trying to distract and discourage me by reminding me of how horribly I’ve sinned, of how unworthy I am to even be present to this most miraculous gift.

Fortunately for me, the grace of God is tremendous and He’s taught me that I am unworthy, for all have sinned, all fall short. And so I thanked the devil for the reminder of my failures so that I could then offer them to God and his abundant mercy.

Then I looked up and around at the numerous faithful Catholics kneeling around me and was overwhelmed with joy and hope! Despite all that is coming at us, these men and women remain faithful. The storms of the world, the corruption of bishops and cardinals, the attacks of the culture, their own sins and mistakes… and here they [the faithful] are, worshiping God and returning to Him who alone can satisfy! Praise the Lord!

I see these ordinary and faithful Catholics and imagine we are in the company of Elijah and a whole cloud of witnesses around us. We stand at the entrance of the cave as the storms and earthquakes rage all around and we are unafraid. We listen for that still, small voice calling out to us, “I am with you,” and we find faith, hope and love. And there is simply no place I’d rather be.

The Summit


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To Be or Not to Be… a Saint…

That awkward moment when you’re driving down the road and suddenly realize that you forgot how old you are… “I’m 38,” you say to yourself. “No, wait, I’m 39. Wait, did I turn 38 or 39 last month? Oh shoot, I can’t remember. I think it was 39, but I’m not a year away from 40, am I? No, it has to be 38.” Then you have to start from 1977 and count forwards on your fingers until you realize with great despair and sorrow that you are in fact 39.

Fortunately, nobody was around to witness this torturous moment of self-awareness. Yes, I am 39 years old, one year away from 40 and I’m no closer to being a saint than I was at 28, sometimes I feel even further away. Ugh. Think of it this way, my life is perhaps half over and the seemingly “best years”, the ones in which I’m supposed to be fired by passion and hopeful zeal for change have slipped away. It’s funny, I used to think I’d be dead by the time I was 40, it seemed like I would have accomplished all I needed to by then. But now, the deadline looms large and I look back and realize that I let slip by so many of the best years of my life. So many of the saints were saints by now or well on their way. But where am I; still dawdling at the starting line, distracted by things that are really nothing.

This connects to what dawned on me just the other day in my favorite place to meditate, the shower… I’m not sure I really want to be a saint. I mean, sure I want to be a saint, but do I really WANT to be a saint? I don’t know. I want to go to heaven, of course; I love God and I love His Church, its teachings Traditions, doctrines, and pretty much the entire beautiful mess that makes up the Body of Christ. But I don’t think I want to give up my video games, sleeping in, binge watching Netflix, superhero movies, driving too fast and everything else I waste time doing.

Now, if you’ve been reading my blog for some time (there aren’t very many of you, so thanks) you’re probably expecting some deep insight or profound encouragement, but I honestly don’t have it. If I’m being honest, I’m content in my contentedness; I’m content to keep chipping away with tiny little chisel blows at the colossal boulder that sits in place of my heart when I know I need a sledge hammer. (Maybe this means God is going to be swinging that sledge hammer with or without my permission soon enough and he’s trying to get me ready for it… in that case I can only cry, cringe and hope for the best I suppose. – Romans 8:28.)

Why am I being so honest? Because I’m convinced that a majority of people feel the same way and it doesn’t do us any good to pretend otherwise. I’m not saying that I’m giving up, nor am I satisfied with my reality. Of course I’m still going to try to love God, my wife, my kids and my neighbor as best I can. But I need to be honest because I can’t get to my destination if I lie about where I am. If I somehow convince my Waze GPS program that I’m somewhere I’m not, no matter how accurate the program is, I will never reach my destination… to see the Face of God.

But how can I see if I am blind? Am I blind? I feel as if I have a split personality at times, as if half of me were like the man born blind in John 9, who once he was healed believed in God and worshipped him; and the other half of me is like the Pharisees who knew the truths of God but are unable to see… unable to believe and be healed. “Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, “We see,” so your sin remains.” (John 9:41)

Please God, let me see my blindness! Let me see the Truth of my sin, my weakness, my false reality (i.e. those things that distract me from you). Heal the brokenness within me and without. Give me the grace to change. I give you permission to change that which I lack the strength to change myself.


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Air Quotes and Babies

There’s that awkward moment when you’re ‘discussing’ the hot topic of marriage with a gay ‘marriage’ proponent and you realize that he has no idea what you’re talking about and it dawns on you that except for divine intervention there’s no hope of you ever coming to an understanding of each other.

Dog fight

The other day I was eating dinner with my family and found myself making air-quotes while talking to my six year old son. He didn’t even respond or ask what I was doing with my fingers. It meant absolutely nothing to him, so much so that it didn’t even register. To him, I was just ‘talking with my hands’. Because of him not understanding the air-quotes everything I said was misunderstood by him.

This, in a nutshell, is why I believe most people today, including many Christians don’t understand the Church’s teaching on a whole range of issues that are troubling our world such as gay ‘marriage’, contraception, abortion, the permanence of the family, education, parents’ rights, etc. Ultimately, a majority of those who promote these family /society destroying things like gay ‘marriage’ or abortion have lost an understanding of what marriage is meant to be, or rather, they no longer have the capacity to comprehend the true purpose of marriage and family; they are much like my six year old who simply lacks the ability to comprehend air quotes. (1)

What is it they can’t understand? Simply this: the purpose of marriage is babies. Why can’t they understand this? Because many years ago the Anglican church accepted contraception as morally acceptable and a super-sonic slide into the destruction of the family took place where babies were divorced from marriage. Marriage is now seen as an agreement between two persons to spend time together and share their lives as long as it is mutually beneficial. There is no deeper purpose to marriage. And if this is true, that marriage was meant to be a mere emotional, financial or spiritual bond between two persons then who could justly prevent gay ‘marriage’?

But fortunately for us and our world, God has a much deeper meaning and purpose for Wedding Ringsmarriage and the family. At its core marriage is the greatest experience a person can have of God. It is the only apt analogy of the Trinitarian life: two distinct persons are united as one in love and that love expresses itself as a 3rd distinct and equal person, fully united to the other two.  The bonding between husband and wife is not the goal but rather, the only proper means of achieving the goal… the sharing of life-giving love.

Unfortunately, our society no longer has the capacity for this life-giving truth. We live in a culture of leisure (2), of the rugged-individualist’s pursuit of self-satisfaction – which is not the same as self-fulfillment. (3) Our culture is all about the individual “sucking the marrow out of life” for his own satisfaction. Pornography is prime example of this, where one uses and abuses another, sucking the life and dignity out of him/her for one’s own satisfaction.

Even when one steeped in our culture does manage to find an altruistic, self-giving spirit, it most often ends up trying to help others find the same self-satisfaction. But if we truly love others, we need to learn to look beyond their immediate self-satisfaction, towards their deeper fulfillment. And as experience and married life have taught me, true fulfillment can only be achieved in the giving of one’s life for another… self-sacrificial love… babies.

Mother and Child

If people truly loved Bruce Jenner they would not encourage him to get a sex change (which is impossible because he still has XY chromosomes) but they would seek to help him find healing and wholeness as God created him to be. If a person truly loves her homosexual cousin they wouldn’t encourage him to pursue a life of mere self-satisfaction. If a friend truly loves a young woman with an unexpected pregnancy, he wouldn’t encourage an abortion out of fear of a ruined life, of never being able to achieve that self-satisfaction, but rather, would care for her body and soul and for the body and soul of her child.

But as I said earlier, this deeper understanding of the person, of marriage and of love is beyond most people in our culture and so dialogue most often fails. The answer is not to argue louder but to love better; to witness to the Truth with our lives and marriages; to have babies and raise them with the understanding of this Truth. Then one day society will re-develop the ability to understand, much like my six year old will eventually develop the ability to understand air quotes.

Finally, remember that no matter how far our society falls, the family and the Church are divine institutions. They will never fail, they will never be undone. The family and the Church will always survive and march towards ultimate victory through the grace of God.

  1. The gay ‘marriage’ lobby, media and others are intentionally skewing the argument, but most ordinary, well-meaning people are well-intentioned but lack the ability to understand.
  1. My major in college was “Recreation and Leisure Services and Studies”.
  1. In the sense used here, “self-satisfaction” is a transitory, satisfied feeling, much like when a person feels full from eating. Self-fulfillment on the other hand means the experience of the fullness of life, completeness.