Awkward Catholic

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


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God is Goodish!

That awkward moment when you realize that the mercy you’ve received and will continue to receive is so utterly undeserved and any words you may try to write about it will ultimately fall flat, will fail to grasp…

God is so good! To say that God is good is an understatement of such magnitude that it is actually closer to an insult, if it weren’t for the intention of the one who says such a thing. The mercy of God is likewise. The Divine condescension!! How could he?! Why does he?! Have you ever pondered that? Look into your heart, contemplate your choices, those thoughts that no one else will ever know and how often they come to you, and then contemplate the fact that God has shown you mercy and willingly, longingly wipes those sins away like so much dust on a mantle place.

God is good! How good is he? He allows us to proclaim his goodness, even though the goodness we see and proclaim is but a scratch of the true depths of goodness that he pours out onto his Beloved. To compare it to a child who hugs his dad for giving him a small treat, though the child has no idea how much the dad has sacrificed and given to love his child. Even that falls short of the goodness God has showered upon us!

God is good! His heart overflows with tender love for us. My tender love for my little girl pales in comparison to the tender, fatherly love my Father has for me… for you. The lengths he would go to love us, protect us and bring us back to himself… I can’t even fathom! The Cross. Why did he die on the cross for us? He could have saved us with the first little scratch he endured as a child. But that wouldn’t have shown the depths of his love. And if there were a more profound means of demonstrating these infinite depths, he surely would have chosen it. But as it stands, as He hung, he gave all. He gave more than we could possibly conceive. The mercy and love of God is beyond us, utterly. We speak of the depths of his love but don’t ever think about it more than that. God gave up being God! God experienced death! God felt the utter separation of Him from Himself! I sit here and simply can’t. How do you express this any further? What words? There are none.

God is good. We are nothing. But he loves us still. He gives us worlds, a literal universe! God is good! God is! You, reading this, when you doubt that you are good enough, when you doubt that you worthy, know this… you are not. But you don’t have to be. God is good! And his goodness, his love, his mercy doesn’t care about your worthiness. He cares only for your love. So how do we do that? How do we love a Love that wants nothing less than a perfect love in return? By loving with the Love that loves perfectly! In other words, I cannot be what He wants me to be. So I must let Him be perfect for me! I must let Him love through me. (Thank you St. Therese!)

God, you are good! Give me your heart that I may love you, that I may be good like you. Only then can I love as you will, only then can I be perfect like you, my heavenly Father is perfect.


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The Life Sucking Monster

The Father and Adam

That awkward moment when you realize that for the last three years you’ve been attacked by a life-sucking monster and had no idea.

* The below post is an article published in “Family Foundations” a Natural Family Planning magazine published by the Couple to Couple League (www.ccli.org). It is republished here with permission and some modifications by the author. 

It happened about two months ago, the day our whole world fell apart. It seemed rather sudden, but looking back I can see that life-sucking monster growing in the shadows for months, years even. It grew unnoticed or unchecked and even when the monster did start to reveal itself, we ignored it, pushed it back down and made excuses for it. But the monster of Depression wasn’t going anywhere without a direct fight. Looking back, we see that it was sometime after our 2nd child was born when Maria started feeling the effects of Postpartum Depression. She journaled that  her joy was slowly slipping away as she felt overwhelmed more and more each day and life became a burden, but she soldiered on like a “good wife and mother”. I didn’t notice anything at all; she put on a good front and despite all those communication blessings that flow from using NFP, we never really discussed it.Depression.png

I was consumed in my work doing youth ministry, working 3-4 nights a week… 4-5 nights a week. Maria took on a part time job and then another to help make ends meet while trying to home school our three children and slowly the monster grew. It slowly sucked away her joy, her patience, her hope. She stopped listening to music; she dropped her hobbies and kept trudging along, washing and folding clothes, working on work, feeding and clothing our kids, etc., etc., etc. It was a long day, every day. And I slowly grew accustomed to a joyless wife and began detaching from her as she detached from life. And slowly my joy slipped away too.
After 2 ½ years, she began to cry out in desperation, meekly asking for help. I noticed and tried to accommodate, offering to help, asking what I could do. But we didn’t really sit down and discuss it; neither wanted to burden the other. She started seeing a therapist who suggested depression and possibly medication. We resisted. I resisted. But finally it was too much.

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If you want to know what it’s like, then pick up a glass of water and hold it straight out for a minute. It’s not too difficult but keep holding it out for 10 minutes, for an hour, for a day. Eventually, your arm becomes numb and paralyzed and it all comes crashing down. That’s what happened, or almost happened. But my beautiful bride cried out and I finally had ears to listen and we sought help, and are now slowly healing and finding our way back to good. I’d forgotten what it was like to hear her laugh, to see her smile. It’s beautiful.

Hindsight is 20/20. I wish I’d probed deeper into her feelings. I wish I’d done more than just ask what she needed. I wish I’d left work earlier. I wish.

I wish I’d used the lessons I learned in NFP and applied them to my life. NFP teaches us to check our wife’s temperature every morning, to record her signs and to reflect on our status; and when one of us is struggling, the other can pick up the slack because we’re a team. And this truth applies to more than just fertility awareness. It applies to all of our marriage… asking not just how I could help, but seeking to understand what is going on inside of her, emotionally, spiritually and physically.

Let’s be honest, most of us men don’t like to do that (stereotypes exist for a reason). We’re often exhausted at the end of our day of work and make excuses as to why I need to “veg” out in front of the TV for 3 hours rather than spend 15, 30 or 60 minutes talking to the woman whom I’ve committed my life to, the mother of my children, my best friend and most trusted confidant. She’s my wife after all, she’ll be there tomorrow when I need her… but when will I be there for her? She needed me then and I’m struggling with the guilt of not doing more when I could have. It’s something I need to come to terms with. Both of us made mistakes. Both of us are in the process of healing. It’s  long road, a hard road, but a road worth going the distance on (if you find yourself on it). We lost sight of who God was calling us to be. We let our immediate desires take the place of our deepest needs. God allowed us to travel on this road and He is is trustworthy; he is good.

God is good… if not predictable in his incessant imaging of himself in his creation. Natural Family Planning doesn’t just help us plan our families. It mirrors life. Theology of the Body is the study of who we are and who God is through our created selves. All of life is a mirror, a reflection of God and our destiny. When we lose sight of that, we lose sight of ourselves. When we lose ourselves, we slowly slip away. The constant daily checkups in NFP are a reminder of a deeper checkup… am I living as God intended, am I being the person he intended me to be?

Maria & I lost sight of these truths over the last few months… years. We lost sight of ourselves as reflected in Christ. But through his grace, we’re finding his vision again, in a greater clarity than we ever had before.

Helping Hand


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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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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 Antidote to Death

Mother and ChildThe awkward moment when you realize that aborting a baby after it’s been born is no different than aborting a baby in his mother’s womb, except location.

There’s a saying about one of the most important things to consider when starting a business, “Location, location, location.” What this means is that it doesn’t matter how awesome of a product you are selling, if your location stinks then nobody’s going to buy it and your business will not thrive. Well, just today the Center for Medical Progress released yet another sting video exposing the horror that is Planned Parenthood. Of all the videos released this is by far the most difficult video to watch. In it a young woman describes a post birth dissection on a live fetus. And it is truly horrifying. To her credit, it seems she deeply laments her involvement and is actively striving to make amends.

And now, all over social media people are horrified and sickened to know that such acts happen at Planned Parenthood all the time. But come on, what’s the difference really between harvesting the organs from a born fetus as opposed to crushing it’s head in the womb? In fact, isn’t the womb an even more sacred place? Is there really any difference though; It’s all about the location, eh? Out of sight, out of mind I guess?

A philosopher named Paul Holmer once said, “What we know depends upon the kind of person we have made ourselves to be.”(1) I think this is a profoundly true statement and that it also applies to our nation. What we know depends upon the kind of nation we have made ourselves to be. And what kind of nation have we made ourselves to be? A nation of secular humanist butchers(2).Let’s make no mistake, our society is the direct result of the people who make it up. Our society is that of the rugged individual; it’s fine and good to be a rugged individual when talking about Manifest Destiny (though it wasn’t so good for the Indians). But we’ve carried that principle to it’s logical, yet unforeseen end.

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We are a nation of individuals striving to achieve our greatest goal of self-actualization. The “I” has become our god. We have turned ourselves into ego driven madmen who know only death. Remember, “What we know depends upon the kind of person we have made ourselves to be.”

Whether the baby is born or in the womb, it is still a human life. There is no arguing that; science, the other “god” of the secular humanist, has proven beyond a doubt that the clump of cells is a unique, living, human being. It is not a cat or a dog or a human-being-in-potential. A human sperm about to fertilize a human egg is a potential human being. A fertilized human embryo is a human being, just a lot smaller than you and I are at this moment. Abortion, at any stage is murder. There is no possible way to argue against this truth without committing some sort of fallacy. Yet, in our society where truth is relative to the individual, it doesn’t matter. Why does individualism lead to death? Nothing is accomplished in isolation. All you have to do is look at just about anything. Take an army for instance. If the enemy is able to separate a section of troops from the main body of the army, it’s much easier to kill those troops. In sports, no person can win on their own; even in something like swimming it takes a team of coaches and trainers, etc. to create a champion. Alone we die, together we thrive. We are meant for community. Yet, in our society we have become individuals and we know only death.

Now, back to the recent sting video from CMP. Obviously, I’m not arguing that it’s not as bad as everyone says. Rather, now that we’ve seen the reality of what happens with our own eyes, perhaps we will wake up. I’m sorry to say, while I’m usually an optimist in almost every area of life, in this instance I’m a pessimist. Our society has gone so far down the slope I don’t see a way back. All things are possible with God and I pray every day for a great miracle, but limited by my unsaintly life, I don’t see it. The only possible antidote is an army of saints. Chesterton once said that “a saint is medicine because he is an antidote. He will generally be found restoring the world to sanity by exaggerating whatever the world neglects… Each generation seeks its saint by instinct; and he is not what the people want, but rather what the people need… It is the paradox of history that each generation is converted by the saint who contradicts it the most.”

Well we certainly need some saints today. Pope Saint John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa certainly were a good start, but let’s keep on going. Somebody please step up to the plate! Perhaps you and I could do it? As I said, I’m usually an optimist and this is the perfect example. You and I could be the antidote. You and I could speak up, our lives could proclaim life, love and the hope of heaven to a desperately lonely world. I hope in the grace of God. And if there’s hope for you and me, maybe there is hope for our society after all.

Helping Hand

  1. As quoted in “What Would It Mean to Believe in the Resurrection?” by David Fagerberg, published in Assembly: A Journal of Liturgical Theology by Liturgy Training Publications and the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, 2010.
  2. That’s a funny coincidence, don’t you think? Secular humanists tend to be the liberals fighting the hardest for women’s rights (to abortion), they call themselves humanists (pro-human) yet they are vehemently fighting to destroy human lives in the womb.


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The Man in the Mirror

That awkward moment when you realize you left a teen behind for the confirmation retreat and you have to call his mother.

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I’ve been doing youth ministry for 15 years and I’ve never yet lost a teen on a trip. I’ve wanted to at times, but it’s never happened yet, thank God. Well, a few weeks ago 100 teens and chaperones gathered at our church for the fish fry and then to carpool 70 miles up to the confirmation retreat center. Getting everyone signed in and assigned to a car was like herding butterflies with a stick. Loaded and leaving 45 minutes late for the campground I decided to call Bob’s1 mom on the road. He hadn’t signed in or been seen at the church and so I assumed he decided not to attend.

When I’m finally able to call Bob’s mom we have a pleasant conversation about how Bob had apparently been dropped off at the church and should be with us. As it turns out, discovered about one hour after that unexpectedly calm conversation, Bob had indeed been dropped off at the church, had proceeded to eat at the fish fry without checking in, felt sick and sat in the bathroom for about 30 minutes only to come out and realize everyone had left. Needless to say, Bob was none to thrilled to attend the retreat in the first place. His very understanding parents subsequently dropped Bob off at the retreat center and he remained distant and aloof the entire weekend.

As I said earlier, I’ve never lost a kid on a trip but I’ve watched too many of them walk away on their own: too proud, stubborn, angry or apathetic to let the transforming power of God break in. It breaks my heart every time. I want to grab a hold of the kids like Bob and shake them to wake them up, to shout at them, “Can’t you see what you’re missing?! How could you walk away from Him?! Why would you give him up?!”

But later on, as I look inward and examine my own life I realize I do the very same thing a hundred times a day. When I judge someone in my heart, look at a woman impurely, speak ill of someone, ignore the thoughts to visit with Christ in adoration and on and on. I imagine what St. Therese or St. Francis would say to me; are they looking down wanting to shake me awake? The reality is, I’m much spiritually closer to Bob’s choice than to St. Therese.

I pray St. Therese does what I do for Bob and all his friends, call my Mother and ask her to get me to where I need to be; because I can’t do it on my own. I’m stuck in the bathroom, sitting on the pot too tired… too lazy… too weak to get there myself. But even if Mary does the work for me, even if when she somehow gets me to her Son, it still hinges on my choice.

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Whom do I love most: my Savior or myself?

When my wife justifiably expresses her frustration with me I have a choice. When a teen does something stupid or rejects me I have a choice. When I feel the call to prayer I have a choice. When I’m tempted to lust, or to judge, or to anger, pride or sloth, I have a choice. The grace of God is already in me. The power to move the mountain of my heart is already within me. All is grace… each and every breath. “In him I move and breathe and have my being.”2 His grace is sufficient and made perfect in my weakness.3

Please Lord, wake me up inside, that I may choose life. Then, maybe, through your grace I may help Bob and all his friends wake up too.

1.  Name changed.

2.  Acts 17:28

3.  2 Cor 12:9


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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.

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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.