Awkward Catholic

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


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Once More Into the Breach

That time you started a new habit of prayer, or started using your gifts to follow your dream, only to let it slowly slip away… just like all those good New Year’s resolutions or Lenten promises; or every time you’ve fallen to temptation and made sincere promises never to fall again… but then life happens and you forget your promises, rationalize your choices or make excuses.
Horse Fall
This sort of thing happens to me all the time! If I’d followed through on even a fraction of the spiritual commitments I’ve made over the years I’d be a saint by now. You probably would be too. In light of this endless struggle and failure it’s easy to become complacent and to stop tying so hard. It’s easy to look up from our failures and think, “Well, I tried and failed again. I guess there’s no point anymore; it’s just not going to work.” And we move on, or in the case of sin, give in and rationalize it away.

About this blog, if you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been posting nearly as often as I use to. Well, this is me, picking myself back up and saying to you, it’s OK to fail, but now it’s time to pick yourself up (with God’s grace, because ultimately, all is grace) and try again. I’ve been given the gift of writing and have a dream to use this gift to help others encounter Christ. But for various reasons (the biggest is laziness), I’ve dropped the ball these last few (many) months.

A friend recently challenged me to get back up and keep writing, so here I am, back up on my horse and I want to encourage you to do the same. It feels good to be trying again, a bit scary, but good. It’s not easy, but it’s good. As it’s been said many times before, we’re not promised tomorrow, or even another hour. So don’t wait to strive to accomplish what you most desire and what God has called you to.

In light of the immanence of Christ, I think this Lent presents us a unique moment in history. Our world seems to be coming apart at the seams and in the midst of all this chaos, it’s the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima! I don’t know about you but I am super-excited and hopeful that God, through Mary, is going to do something marvelous!

But even if nothing stupendous happens we should still be trying our best to prepare our hearts and minds for whatever God wills. And let’s be honest, every breath we take is a stupendous grace that provides us an opportunity to love God and transform our world. And every life we touch, every movement in union with God’s grace is a miracle never before seen! I encourage you to take a minute (or ten) and sit with these truths, just spend some time breathing slowly and with each breath contemplate the miracle of your life, the breath you are able to take. After all, if God weren’t actively thinking about you (and madly in love with you) you would simply cease. Every single breath is the miraculous grace of God within you!

Now that we’ve readjusted our vision to the end goal (union with God), let us set our sights back to the moment in front of us (keeping the end goal in our hearts)… standing back up after our failures, picking up where we left off, seeking forgiveness and healing once again.

I can almost hear you thinking (because I’m thinking it myself), “But I know I’m going to fail, again!” But all I can respond with is, “You’re probably right. So what?” God doesn’t ask us to succeed, he asks us to try. Cliche yes, but nonetheless truth. As a saint once said, a saint is someone who got back up one more time. You see, saints aren’t perfect. They’re stubborn and humble. Their failures don’t bother them because the failures only prove how helpless and weak they are, what they’ve already learned so well. And it’s precisely in this utter helplessness that God rushes in to lift them up. Nothing attracts God to a soul more quickly, more completely than true humility.

That was St. Therese’s Little Way. It wasn’t merely doing small things with great love (let’s be honest, we’ll fail miserably at that too). It was in recognizing her utter inability to reach the heights of sanctity that her soul desired. And so, she cast everything onto Christ. He would have to lift her up because she certainly couldn’t do it herself.

This is easier said than done of course. But then again, doesn’t that just prove exactly what I’m saying (repeating from the saints)? So go ahead and get back up, dust yourself off and cast yourself onto the mercy of Christ. You can do it… um, I mean, you can’t do it, but Christ can.

Mother Mary, give me your heart.

Pieta


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Confessions of a Flawed Father

It’s Lent, a great time for confession, reconciliation and a new start. Hence…

I have a confession. I failed miserably the other night while putting my two boys to bed. My wife was out at a prayer meeting, her “Praying Wives Club – praying for their husbands” of all things, and so I had the pleasure of putting my two boys to sleep. It was story time and each boy got to pick a story. While reading “The Best Nest” with each boy sitting on either side of me I should have been on top of the world! I should have been thinking how blessed I was and soaked up each second, each word as two of the greatest blessings in my life snuggled close. Instead, as my eldest son (5 years old) tried to tell me what was going to happen in the story, trying to impress his father, I shut him down, “Yes, Gabriel, I know. Stop spoiling the story for your brother.” A few moments later he was again trying to impress me and I turned the page and shushed him because it was all taking too long.

Complete. And. Utter. Fail.9394078863_296f04b407_z (2)

The good news is, a little later after some time in prayer I figured out why I acted so horribly, so selfishly towards my son who was only trying to impress me and connect with me. For awhile I had been getting lazy in both my prayer and discipline. I’ve been acting more selfishly, and I’ve been letting my mind wander to where it shouldn’t. And these seemingly harmless actions and hidden thoughts have actually revealed their true nature in a big way.

Why am I telling you all this and not just to my priest? Because through this experience I’ve come to realize how my sin and lack of virtue affects not only my own soul but also all those around me! I’ve always intellectually understood that sin has communal effects, but now I see it face to face and it’s an ugly little demon.

Who does it really hurt when I fantasize in my head? My children, my wife, the teens I minister to, and myself. It even hurts those I’ve never met. So, I have resolved to fight harder, to pray longer and to love(1) deeper and when I fail, to stand back up, apologize and try again. Yes, I’m going to fail. Yes, I’m going to scar my children with my selfishness and failures. But I’m also going to teach them that their failures and wounds can do more than crush them; in God’s grace they can give glory to God through their wounds! A wise man once said that in heaven God’s glory is going to shine brightest through our healed wounds; that gives me great hope.

That night I resolved that when my son wakes me up too early the next morning, isn’t it always too early, I will kneel down on his level and apologize for something he has no recollection of. Sin is communal yes, but where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.

I think it a little ironic that we were reading “The Best Nest” since it’s all about how they made a mistake yet ended up together, happy and with new life. And isn’t that what this article is all about… abandoning what is good in a selfish search for something better only to find that the “better” thing is really just a loud clanging bell that’s only going to offer despair and grief. Fortunately, I found (was led) back home quickly.

My son, having such a good and generous heart, simply replied after my apology, “I love you daddy.” Now, with God’s grace I’ll be able to teach him what that love really means.

1. Love, as defined by Pope John Paul II is a gift of self, not some mere emotion or sentiment.