Awkward Catholic

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

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Head First Into the Abyss of Love

When was the last time you delved into the wounds of Christ? I can hear the objections, “But this isn’t Lent?!” “We just finished Easter and it’s Ordinary Time, let us relax in the calming green for a little while.” I can’t. Or rather, I did. I neglected to post anything for the last month because I was too busy relaxing in front of the T.V. (at least I’m honest about it, right?). But the wounds of Christ were still there when he appeared to the disciples, and they’re still there now and will be for eternity.

Wounds of Christ

So, when did you last probe the depths of his love for you, not just with your finger but with your heart? Thomas challenged his fellow disciples, and unknowingly God, that he would need to probe the wounds of Christ before he believed. Then, when he encountered Christ in his risen glory, wounds and all, he fell to his knees in adoration. He no longer needed to probe with his finger for he dove heart first into the merciful wounds of Christ.

In those wounds he discovered who he truly is. So, I ask again, when was the last time you delved into the wounds of Christ? Have you ever delved in? I haven’t. Let’s be honest, I’ve only thought about sticking my finger into his wounds, and that with a surgical glove on! If I had, I’d be the saint he was calling me to be. But I can assure you, not on my experience but on the testimony of the saints… Every. Single. One. Of. Them. that what I say is true. Probe the depths of the wounds of Christ and you will be transformed from an ordinary, every day, ho-hum human being into a gloriously-world-transforming saint.

Why is that I wonder? I wish I knew. I’ve been trying to work up the courage for years now. I recently ran my first obstacle course race (see It was a blast. One of the obstacles gave me quite a pause though; it was the the high jump. We had to jump from a platform into a pool of water about 50 feet below. Many people walked around the jump because even though they’d seen others jump and survive, they simply couldn’t bring themselves to take the leap themselves. And I don’t blame them, it was terrifying. Fortunately for me I was running the race with a friend.

Tom (name changed) and I stood on top of the platform with about 20 other people trying to work up the courage to jump. As I stood back in the “ready to jump” posture but frozen in fear, Tom simply ran and jumped and eventually splashed in the water below. Encouraged by his survival and joyous exclamations, I ran forward and dove feet first. It’s one of my proudest moments of recent history. Now, if I could only work up the courage to do the same in my faith.

I share all this because I want the world to be full of saints; those who can’t do, teach. I am a teacher with the hopes of becoming an doer. What about you? How many hours per week do you sit, simply sit in the presence of Christ? St. Catherine of Siena once said that everything she knew she learned at the foot of the Cross. Everything I know, I studied. I’m ignorant when compared to St. Catherine.

Sit at the foot of the Cross. Gaze upon his wounds – one wound; pick one, it doesn’t matter which. They are each unique and speak differently to each person. I’m personally attracted to the wounds in his feet. I feel him calling me to go out into the world and walk the walk. For me, the feet represent the lowest part of the body, the most abused and used part. I don’t have great expectations for myself (as long as I can provide for my family and lead others to Christ) and so I identify with Christ’s bruised, bloodied, pierced feet.

Hold a Crucifix in front of you, in your imagination. Now kiss it. Do you kiss his feet, his hands, his head or his heart? Why? What does it signify to you personally?

Leap of FaithWhat is it that holds you back from diving in, head first, into the wounds of Christ? As Pope Francis said, “Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: He is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.”

For me personally, I’m too lazy and too busy (or so I tell myself) to take the plunge. It’s apathy really, that prevents me from diving in. What prevents you? I’ve found that naming those things that bind us gives us a power over them. We are then able to call God’s grace into those specific places of bondage. For St. Thomas it was his doubt. For me it’s my apathy… yes, I will be a saint one day, hopefully sooner rather than later. I claim that grace. I make no excuses, I have only myself to blame. As St. Augustine once said, all is grace. Only my sin can I claim as my own.

I am not Pelagius, I cannot pull myself up by my boot straps. But I can cooperate with the grace of God, the grace that pours out of his pierced side, the holes in his hands and feet. As Pope Francis states, “it is precisely in contemplating Jesus’ death that faith grows stronger and receives a dazzling light; then it is revealed as faith in Christ’s steadfast love for us, a love capable of embracing death to bring us salvation. This love, which did not recoil before death in order to show its depth, is something I can believe in; Christ’s total self-gift overcomes every suspicion and enables me to entrust myself to him completely.”(1)

What more is there to say? The wounds of Christ earn, deserve, demand my complete trust. My life is found in the wounds of Christ.


1. “Lumen Fidei” – Encyclical of Pope Francis, Paragraph 16.

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Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat

My mom’s cancer was, in a certain sense, one of the best things that ever happened to her. I know, that sounds horrible, but bear with me here. She suffered with cancer from 1993 – 2010. Prior to her struggle, she was a Sunday Catholic, attending Mass every week and raising her boys with a sense of the Catholic faith. But she wasn’t very spiritual. She didn’t strive to live by the teachings of the Church and she didn’t seem to have a deep prayer life, except for the occasional attempts to pray together as a family. She was a good woman, though, a woman who truly sacrificed every single moment of her life for her family. She taught me the meaning of love through her every action.

As she struggled with cancer, a particularly painful kind called osteosarcoma (bone cancer), she was slowly transformed from a Sunday Catholic into a saint.

J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “The world is one long, slow defeat, with only faint hints of future victory.” And it certainly seems that way, doesn’t it? A simple look back through history and we quickly realize that the world seems to sink further and further in sin and destruction. Rather than advance into utopian futures, we use our ingenuity and capacity to create to make more and more effective methods of waging war and death.

Looking into the history of the Church is not much different. Each time the Church seems to flourish and thrive, it is ultimately consumed with corruption or beaten down into triviality, just look at what has become of “Christian America”. And when we look into our own lives we see much the same thing. Time and again I seem to be making progress in my spiritual life only to slip and fall back twice as far, or if I’m lucky, back to where I started. And there are many reasons (excuses) for this: the busyness of life, fear of failure, exhaustion, sinful habits, laziness, pride, etc., etc., etc.

I know, I’m really encouraging you here, aren’t I? But this is important to point out, because it puts the hidden truth into greater clarity. This long, slow defeat we experience ultimately becomes a victory. As Gandalf says in The Lord of the Rings, “There was never really very much hope. Only a fool’s hope.” So let us be fools for Christ. (1 Cor. 1:22-31)

As we peer through the wounds of Christ—his defeat—at the history of the world, of the Church, and of our own lives, we discover a tremendous victory and a trustworthy hope. We discover the grace of God—meek, humble, unassuming, and indomitable. All we need do is look at the Cross and the broken, beaten, bruised and bloodied body of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Read to the end of the next paragraph and then go spend time actually gazing upon a Crucifix (not an empty Cross, lest we forget exactly what our life has cost – Jar’s of Clay).


Contemplate the contradictory images of defeat and victory found therein. Don’t come back to this article until you’ve spent at least five minutes contemplating this. Here are some Scripture passages to help you:
– Mark 15:31 “He saved others, he cannot save himself.”
– Luke 23:34 “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
– Mark 15:32 “Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.”
– Luke 23:34 “Amen, I say to you, this day you will be with me in Paradise.”
– Mark 15:34 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
– Rev 21:5 “See, I make all things new.”

Why are you still reading? I’m not kidding. STOP, go, turn off your computer, find a Crucifix (you shouldn’t ever be more than an arm’s reach away from one) and stare at it. Ponder the contradiction of the Cross. I’M NOT KIDDING… GO!!

Welcome back, friend. What did God reveal to you in your time of prayer? For me, I found hope through letting go, victory through obedience, patient love in the face of injustice and indignity, and strength hidden in and revealed through suffering.

Winged VictoryAt the end of this post I want you to return to prayer and contemplate your own life: where you have been defeated, ground down, hopeless or broken. Where in these moments was God’s grace? Where are your victories? You see, there’s no such thing as victory without struggle because without struggle, success is just a hand out. Be careful here, though. I’m not asking you to go and pat yourself on the back. Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing except your sin is truly your own. As St. Augustine said, “All is grace.” But we should spend time noting in our lives where we’ve cooperated with God’s grace and found victory in the midst of our defeat!

In your prayer time, think about those moments you overcame adversity, persevered through suffering, and when you sacrificed your own desires and pleasure for the sake of another. And then thank God for those moments. Carry those moments with you throughout the rest of the day and through tomorrow. With a thankful heart raise your hands up to your Savior and rejoice in his victory on the Cross!! Because I guarantee that he will be thinking of and hoping for you.