Awkward Catholic

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


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A Shadow of Heaven

Baby in UteroThe world we live in is a shadow of the one to come, not merely symbolic of the one to come, but a foretaste, a foreshadowing. Did you ever think about that? All creation is an act of God, a result of his ever-abundant, overflowing love. The very nature of God is love; self-gift to and reception of the other. The Father gives himself completely in love to the Son and the Son gives himself completely in love to the Father. This mutual outpouring of self, this love, is the Holy Spirit.

This in essence is life. All creation is a manifestation of this Trinitarian love. And this love naturally draws what it loves to itself. All creation flows out of this Trinitarian love and instinctively, naturally and inherently returns to the source of its love. You, I, the trees and animals, the stars in the sky, the angels and celestial choirs, every single aspect of creation is a unique expression of the love of God. And love draws what it loves to itself, so as the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “It is not we who are on the quest for God, but God who is on the quest for us!”

Further, as in all things concerning God, there is an order to things. Every aspect of creation is ordered to, in a certain and limited way, reflect this love of God. And so inanimate objects to a much lesser degree than living beings, with humans at the apex of the loving reflection. Hence, all creation is a shadow of the life to come, where we will reach our end, the end of our journey, and the beginning of life in the fullness of reality, the fullness of love.

Now let’s get real… let’s get Catholic…

When you were baptized you were betrothed to Christ and his Church (his Body). To be clear, you weren’t just “accepted” into the Church. Betrothal, as opposed to our modern form of engagement, isn’t just a promise for a future marriage. It begins the marriage! Did you ever notice that Joseph was going to divorce Mary when he found out she was pregnant? Why would he need to divorce her if the marriage hadn’t yet begun? The wedding ceremony completes what begun in the betrothal just as Confirmation completes what begins in Baptism.

Wedding Rings

Confirmation then is literally (not just symbolically) your wedding day to Christ… not just spiritually but bodily (remember the Church is the Body of Christ)! In Confirmation we walk down the aisle and enter into a covenant relationship with Christ! It’s a wedding, a real and fruitful wedding where our Beloved literally pours himself, his love, the fullness of his Spirit into ourselves. It is an exchange of selves!

So if Baptism and Confirmation are a marriage (not just symbolically, but truly) then any marriage, to be valid must have a “wedding night”. Do you know what I mean by that? A marriage is effected not just spiritually but bodily as well. Hence, the Eucharist! Communion is the consummation of our wedding with Christ! How pathetic would it be if the Eucharist were just a mere symbol? Who wants to only symbolically consummate their marriage? (This explains why you can only be baptized and confirmed once, but receive the Eucharist over and over again.) 

This is the beauty of our faith! Remember, the word “communion” is Latin for “union with”. We are meant for total union with God in heaven. Earth is just a cruise ship stuck in the ocean with overflowing toilets. Eventually we’ll get home and home is heaven! And heaven is the eternal consummation of love! And in Communion we literally and truly consummate, become one with God!

This life is only a shadow of the one to come, but Communion, Communion is literally heaven on earth.

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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.

Glass of Water.jpg

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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Air Quotes and Babies

There’s that awkward moment when you’re ‘discussing’ the hot topic of marriage with a gay ‘marriage’ proponent and you realize that he has no idea what you’re talking about and it dawns on you that except for divine intervention there’s no hope of you ever coming to an understanding of each other.

Dog fight

The other day I was eating dinner with my family and found myself making air-quotes while talking to my six year old son. He didn’t even respond or ask what I was doing with my fingers. It meant absolutely nothing to him, so much so that it didn’t even register. To him, I was just ‘talking with my hands’. Because of him not understanding the air-quotes everything I said was misunderstood by him.

This, in a nutshell, is why I believe most people today, including many Christians don’t understand the Church’s teaching on a whole range of issues that are troubling our world such as gay ‘marriage’, contraception, abortion, the permanence of the family, education, parents’ rights, etc. Ultimately, a majority of those who promote these family /society destroying things like gay ‘marriage’ or abortion have lost an understanding of what marriage is meant to be, or rather, they no longer have the capacity to comprehend the true purpose of marriage and family; they are much like my six year old who simply lacks the ability to comprehend air quotes. (1)

What is it they can’t understand? Simply this: the purpose of marriage is babies. Why can’t they understand this? Because many years ago the Anglican church accepted contraception as morally acceptable and a super-sonic slide into the destruction of the family took place where babies were divorced from marriage. Marriage is now seen as an agreement between two persons to spend time together and share their lives as long as it is mutually beneficial. There is no deeper purpose to marriage. And if this is true, that marriage was meant to be a mere emotional, financial or spiritual bond between two persons then who could justly prevent gay ‘marriage’?

But fortunately for us and our world, God has a much deeper meaning and purpose for Wedding Ringsmarriage and the family. At its core marriage is the greatest experience a person can have of God. It is the only apt analogy of the Trinitarian life: two distinct persons are united as one in love and that love expresses itself as a 3rd distinct and equal person, fully united to the other two.  The bonding between husband and wife is not the goal but rather, the only proper means of achieving the goal… the sharing of life-giving love.

Unfortunately, our society no longer has the capacity for this life-giving truth. We live in a culture of leisure (2), of the rugged-individualist’s pursuit of self-satisfaction – which is not the same as self-fulfillment. (3) Our culture is all about the individual “sucking the marrow out of life” for his own satisfaction. Pornography is prime example of this, where one uses and abuses another, sucking the life and dignity out of him/her for one’s own satisfaction.

Even when one steeped in our culture does manage to find an altruistic, self-giving spirit, it most often ends up trying to help others find the same self-satisfaction. But if we truly love others, we need to learn to look beyond their immediate self-satisfaction, towards their deeper fulfillment. And as experience and married life have taught me, true fulfillment can only be achieved in the giving of one’s life for another… self-sacrificial love… babies.

Mother and Child

If people truly loved Bruce Jenner they would not encourage him to get a sex change (which is impossible because he still has XY chromosomes) but they would seek to help him find healing and wholeness as God created him to be. If a person truly loves her homosexual cousin they wouldn’t encourage him to pursue a life of mere self-satisfaction. If a friend truly loves a young woman with an unexpected pregnancy, he wouldn’t encourage an abortion out of fear of a ruined life, of never being able to achieve that self-satisfaction, but rather, would care for her body and soul and for the body and soul of her child.

But as I said earlier, this deeper understanding of the person, of marriage and of love is beyond most people in our culture and so dialogue most often fails. The answer is not to argue louder but to love better; to witness to the Truth with our lives and marriages; to have babies and raise them with the understanding of this Truth. Then one day society will re-develop the ability to understand, much like my six year old will eventually develop the ability to understand air quotes.

Finally, remember that no matter how far our society falls, the family and the Church are divine institutions. They will never fail, they will never be undone. The family and the Church will always survive and march towards ultimate victory through the grace of God.

  1. The gay ‘marriage’ lobby, media and others are intentionally skewing the argument, but most ordinary, well-meaning people are well-intentioned but lack the ability to understand.
  1. My major in college was “Recreation and Leisure Services and Studies”.
  1. In the sense used here, “self-satisfaction” is a transitory, satisfied feeling, much like when a person feels full from eating. Self-fulfillment on the other hand means the experience of the fullness of life, completeness.