Awkward Catholic

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


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Checking Your List for the Divine Invasion

That awkward moment when you see the horrible things going on in the world around you and you realize that this day, or any day, might be your last and that you aren’t prepared, that there are too many things left undone or unsaid. At the very least, you want to check off a few more things from your bucket list.Bucket

So, what’s on your bucket list? My bucket list has four items on it: To marry a beautiful woman, to have a family, to be published and to become a saint. Thus far I’ve accomplished 3 of my four goals.

What about you? If you haven’t actually made a bucket list, then at least ask yourself what you most want to accomplish in this life before you die. But then ask yourself why you want these things. Most likely there is some story behind your desire or need for each item on your list. Most likely you believe that obtaining those goals will bring you satisfaction or fulfillment of some kind. And most likely they will, to a certain extent.

But now I want to ask you what do you think is on God’s bucket list? The obvious answer is that he wants us with him for eternity. But really, that’s too generic, isn’t it? Your bucket list is most likely specific and concrete, why wouldn’t God’s be?

I’ve said this before but I think it bears repeating: why did God create the world?

The answer is simple: to love you; so that you would be here for him to love. You are the apple of his eye, the treasure of his heart, his precious. What God wants is you; simply you. Nothing else, nothing less, he wants you and you alone. Every star in t he sky exists so that God could love you.

But we resist this, don’t we? We look for our satisfaction just about everywhere else. Why is that I think? Why do we continue to seek the satisfaction of his love elsewhere?! I think a major part of the problem is that, for most of us, eternity is so far away, so distant into the future that it’s hard to think about, to live for. Rather, most of us are just trying to survive this week, or this day, aren’t we?

Yeah, I want to go to heaven but right now, I want more to make it through today without giving up, without being hurt, without hurting someone else or embarrassing myself or messing up or disappointing someone.

This, in a certain sense, in a very real sense, is the war we find ourselves in on an almost daily basis… a war with its most evil manifestations in the mass shootings and terrorism around us, but more importantly in the everyday lives of everyday people. None of us signed up for this war, but we find ourselves in it nonetheless.

Each day we find ourselves simply trying to survive the day and all these fears, hurts, dangers and traps are the weapons of the enemy, the devil. We’re so focused on these small battles that we forget the overall war, the goal. We make concessions saying that I don’t think I can obtain salvation, or I’ll worry about it later. Right now, I just want a little rest, a little peace and something joyful. To be clear, delighting in the everyday joys, the little things that make life good or tolerable are not bad. In fact, they are gifts from God. But the danger comes when we begin to make these little pleasures all we’re fighting for.

That’s why the idea of a bucket list is actually a good one. Typically, a bucket list contains things that are life-changing, life-defining, lifetime accomplishment type goals. They are real and concrete and help us focus on the long term, they help us to keep fighting and moving forward. But make sure those items on your list have the right priority. What is your #1? What should it be? If the love of God isn’t your #1 goal then you’re missing the point.

But let’s get back to this war we’re fighting. We’re getting ready to celebrate the Incarnation of Christ, where the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Think about that for a minute, about how in this Great War, a war that has raged through all time and space, there was a moment when God’s plan had come to fruition and it was time to strike. And so he sent his army of One onto the front lines, a beachhead in the form of a baby in a manger… the Divine Invasion began and continues today.Nativity

In our lives, our minds and hearts, Christ comes again and again, in the silence and stillness. Just like he came the first time as a still, small baby; he comes to us now in a still, small voice. Not with guns or bombs or fanfare but in the silence of a still mind, a quiet, searching heart. Mark my words, strength to survive this week or the day will not be found in those small pleasures of things but rather in the stillness of silence.

Sure, silence is a terrifying experience for most. With all the countless distractions of today it’s nearly impossible to know silence. And this, I believe is one of the most potent weapons of the enemy. I know well the fear of silence. I had a difficult time growing up. My inner thoughts were filled with self-hatred and disgust and the thought of spending time with those thoughts, of wrestling with them was a terrifying one. Why would I want that?

But where else am I going to find healing and wholeness? It is in the silence where I am able to confront my wounds, wounds inflicted on me and those I’ve inflicted myself. Then, in his mercy he enters our hearts and minds, often unseen, and begins to heal those wounds and we find peace and begin living the eternity we are destined for.

This Advent, prepare your heart for the coming of Christ. Wrestle with the silence and hear the voice of God say to you, “You are my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” You are his Beloved! Sit with that in the silence. Let this truth overwhelm your fear and wash clean your wounds, you are God’s entire bucket list.


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The Final Exam

The Final Exam

That awkward moment when you show up for class, sit down at your desk, and realize that everyone else is preparing to take a test you had no idea about. You rack your brain trying to remember any mention of the test, you urgently try to think of an excuse to get you out of it; perhaps you could pretend to be sick. You nervously pray that it’s all just a big joke or a dream. But the teacher has already begun passing out the test and there’s no escape. You’ve got to simply do the best you can and pray for a miracle. Being surprised and found unready is not something many people look forward to, yet many of us are likely to find ourselves in that very situation when it matters most.

I’m 38 years old, just five years shy of the age my mom was when she was first diagnosed with cancer. My mom was 43 and I was a junior in high school. I was thinking about this the other day when the thought occurred to me that the very same thing could happen to me, at any moment really. (For those concerned, no, I don’t have cancer that I know of). And if I were diagnosed, what would happen? What would I do? If I only had a short time to live, how would I react? Am I ready for that?

I’ve read the lives of many saints and one thing that separates them from the rest of us is their reaction to suffering and death: St. Therese the Little Flower rejoiced when she first coughed up blood from Tuberculosis, St. Pier Giorgio Frassati hid his sickness so as not to impose upon others, and Blessed Alexandrina exuded joy throughout her many years of excruciating pain. If I had something like two years to live, or unending pain would I, like them, exude joy and faith or would I shrivel up and turn inwards? Would I, as I hope, finally begin living a life worthy of the name Christian? That’s what it comes down to; it’s in this that we pass the test. Am I ready to love Christ in the pain and suffering? Will I find my joy and hope in his faithfulness? Am I ready like Blessed Alexandrina to say, “Yes Lord, I will give whatever you ask”?

I’m not sure I would be ready for that. Suffering aside, what it comes down to is, am I ready to die? If I died today or tomorrow, would I pass the test? No, that’s not right. I don’t just want to pass the test; I want to ace it! Isn’t it all about love after all? And why would I settle for just squeaking by? By comparison, would I be a good husband or father if I was satisfied with giving my family mediocre love?

I hold to this fantasy that I’ll be like my mom. She loved amazingly, if not perfectly, but when she was diagnosed with cancer, she experienced a transformation and became a giant, an expert, an ace in faithfulness and love. But isn’t it kind of foolish to wait until a tragedy or long-suffering happens to start loving like that?

I wonder what my life would look like if I started living like I was dying. Do you ever wonder about that? Do you ever pray about it? Perhaps we should. It’s quite an effective reality check, don’t you think?

None of us can honestly claim surprise when we encounter that final test. We will be asked a simple question, “Do you love me?” How we spend our lives studying for this test will make all the difference.

  1. Blessed Alexandrina: http://www.blessed-alexandrina.com/
  2. Blessed Pierre Giorgio Fassati: http://frassatiusa.org/
  3. St. Therese the Little Flower: http://www.littleflower.org/therese/


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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.