Awkward Catholic

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


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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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A Simple Question

That awkward moment when someone asks you a question that you know the answer to but you completely blank.

Confused

This happens to me all the time. I know a lot of useless information and a lot of Theology but quite often it escapes me when I actually need it. And I know I’m not alone in this. In the confirmation interviews I ask the teens questions about their faith and their understanding of Church teaching. I’m certain they know the answers to many of these questions but in the high pressure environment of the interview, they blank.

The last question I ask them is simple, “Why do you want to be Catholic?” It’s simple yet the most important question I ask. “Why do you want to be Catholic?” What I’ve found is that most people haven’t really thought or prayed about if before I asked them. Sure, they have their reasons, but even the parents would be hard-pressed to articulate the answers. For many of us Catholics (myself included) there’s simply a general feeling that the Catholic faith is the right one. For many, it’s what they are used to, how they were raised or other sentimental reasons. Honestly there’s nothing wrong with these reasons, everyone’s gotta start somewhere after all. But alone they are not enough.

The covenant we enter with God through the Sacraments of Initiation isn’t some mere contract to be made or broken at will. It is a covenantal relationship like marriage and is meant to be permanent. Just as the covenant of marriage is stronger and more permanent than blood relationships; blood relationships are created by covenantal relationships, so too is our covenantal faith with Christ and his Church.

Like marriage, there will be good times and bad times. There will be times when your faith is on fire and the world is bathed in God’s glorious wonder; the hills will be alive with the sound of music. There will be times when your faith is flat and gray and just kind of there. And there will be times when the world goes dark, your faith seems to have shriveled and the “Mighty Smiter” will seem to be smiting you with all his might. It’s in these times when your answer to that most important question matters most.

When tragedy strikes you will face that question, “Why am I Catholic?” When profound sickness comes you will be asked, Into Darkness“Why am I Catholic?” When your faith is challenged by your friends, why are you Catholic? When your priest or youth minister or other trusted leader of your parish causes scandal, why are you Catholic? When God seems to have abandoned you and nothing makes sense, why are you Catholic? Your answer to this question can make all the difference.

Recently I went through a difficult situation where my faith in God was tested. The Big Man and I had some words, I questioned his providential care for me and faced this question myself, not for the first time. My answer was simple though it did not come easy. Why am I Catholic? Because what else could I be? To whom should I go? Who else has the words of eternal life, the Eucharist, Mary and the saints, Scripture, Truth, community and so much more?

I thank God also for the grace found in the disciplines he’s helped me develop over the years. For a time I went on an autopilot of sorts. The disciplines remained and kept me going in that time of despair and depression. And like Jeremiah the prophet I cried out, “You duped me oh Lord, and I let myself be duped!” (Jer. 20:7) Yet once again his grace sustained me when all I could see was the pain in front of me. Time passed slowly but my heart remained anchored in his Eucharistic heart and the disciplines of faith kept me going. Eventually I stood firm in my faith again. The fire within, never extinguished, took hold and like Jeremiah I rediscovered that the Lord has planted his word in my heart, like a fire burning within my bones and I cannot contain it, I cannot keep silent.

FireSo I ask you, is there a fire in your heart? Does your soul ache for the love of God? Are you rooted in his word, his Truth? Why are you Catholic? From where does your fire come? What will anchor you to his Cross when all light seems to have gone out from the world? Each of us must answer that question many times throughout life. It pays to be prepared.


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Satan vs. the Eucharist… Challenge Accepted

Evil Mask

* Update: While the Harvard Extension School Cultural Studies Club officially canceled the event at the last minute, about 40 students involved found another location, “The Hong Kong Restaurant” and unbeknownst to the owner, held the black mass in the upper room.*

 

Tonight, May 12th 2014 an atheist group at Harvard conducted a Black Mass under the guise of a cultural enrichment program. The blasphemous horror of the event has not been lost on many of the Catholic faithful around the country. For those who might not know, a Black Mass is a mockery of the Catholic Mass and is the grand event of satanism with the desecration of a stolen Eucharist the main event, much like the Catholic Mass is the source and summit of the Catholic faith. The sole purpose of a Black Mass is to make a mockery of a Catholic Mass and to desecrate the Body of Christ.

Let’s be honest here, anyone aware of the culture war going on around us, both physical and spiritual, isn’t surprised by this latest atrocity. As our culture tolerates everything but the Truth, it is no wonder that the last acceptable bias is against Catholics. And as we all know, Satan attacks most fiercely those things that are a threat to him. He goes after that which is holy, good and true. Remember, Satan can’t create anything new, all he can do is twist and mock that which is real(1). Lust is nothing but a twisted form of love; greed and envy are merely twisted forms of self-gift; gluttony is twisted self-denial; wrath is twisted justice; sloth is twisted mercy.

PietaIn response, tonight my wife and I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary as I gazed upon a beautiful image of Michelangelo’s Pieta. Mary holds her Son’s lifeless body, her heart pierced by a sword of loving grief. Her right hand clasps her son’s body and her left lies open, inviting the world to adore. It’s as if she were saying, “Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see whether there is any suffering like my suffering.”(2) Mary our Mother invites us into her grief, to mourn with her and to love with her.

We make ourselves vulnerable, as he was vulnerable; as he is still vulnerable to all the evil the world can throw at him. With every blasphemous Black Mass, every abortion, every murder or grave sin, Christ’s body is bruised and broken. His hands and feet are nailed to the Cross, his side is pierced for our transgressions, and not just the grave sins, but the small ones too. Those sins we daily commit, the lustful stare, the demeaning word or rumor, the judgement in our hearts and the laziness in our bones. God made himself vulnerable to our love and our hate. He gave his body over to torment and death and he hasn’t revoked that promise.

In these recent days I’ve often wondered why he doesn’t stop such an atrocity from occurring. I have to keep reminding myself that the Pharisees mocked him on the cross with the very same challenge, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.”(3) I need to remember that God is in control, all things happen according to his will and “where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.”(4)

You see, I truly believe that God will bring about amazing graces through this blasphemy. It’s not that he wanted this to happen, but that he allows it to happen (because he promised us free will and must stand by his word) and despite the great evil that is perpetrated, he will bring about even greater good. Even before the Black Mass at Harvard began countless people around the world have been praying, Masses have been offered up, Holy Hours have been prayed and grace upon grace has been poured out all over the world! There’s simply no telling how much grace will be poured out and where it will end! That’s the awesome power of our God!

EucharistSo, how should we respond to such evils as the Black Mass being conducted at Harvard? We fight fire with Fire of course. The Archbishop of Boston is right to protest this evil with a counterpoint… the beauty of the Mass and Holy Adoration. It’s the same in our daily lives as we encounter sin, both the sin of others and our own… we counter evil with love, we respond to injustice with mercy, we pray, adore God and sacrifice. We call down God’s grace and power into this world and like the Allies on D-Day, we establish an indomitable beachhead of God’s Kingdom in a darkened world and watch satan fall from the sky like lightning.(5)

God has already won the victory, now let us fight the battle.

1. The more God-like or holy someone/something becomes, the more real it becomes.
2. Lamentations 1:12
3. Luke 23:37
4. Romans 5:20
5. Luke 10:18