Awkward Catholic

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


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A Tedious Time of Prayer

That awkward moment when you’re having a conversation with someone and you run out of things to say. Not that it’s ever happened to me, OK well, it happens all the time. Honestly, I’m not that good of a conversationalist; if you couldn’t tell by the title of my blog, I’m a bit awkward when it comes to social situations. I either say exactly what I’m thinking or I can’t think of something to say, or ask.

Have you ever felt that way? From what Licking EnvelopesI’m told, most people have that experience at some point in their lives. We all seem to know someone with whom we’d like to be friends with… they seem like a great person, with an interesting story, but for some reason whenever you try talking with them it feels like you’re just licking envelopes. If you’ve never sent out over 100 letters before you might have trouble understanding my analogy, but doing a “mass mailing” is one of the most tedious and time consuming things. And having to seal all those envelopes becomes the bane of your existence.

I feel that way in prayer… a lot. I try to pray a lot. I say lots of Rosaries and Chaplets of Divine Mercy, I read the Scriptures most days, I say countless prayers for others, yet I constantly feel as if I’m stuck in this situation where I’m talking to a wall, or when it’s going well, I’m having one of those conversations where neither one of us seems able to find something to say. For me, this is a very frustrating experience.

As I ponder it, I believe it a profoundly good and necessary one. Because of this experience many of us think that we just don’t know how to pray, or that God isn’t listening, or that prayer just doesn’t work. But the reality is, the experience of dryness or tedious prayer actually deepens our souls and connects us to God in a profound way. Just like when a person who is trying to change his diet to eat healthy and get into shape; compared to the sugary, processed foods with tons of flavor, the healthy food is bland and boring. Eventually though, the person realizes that the healthy food is more robust and good than initially thought and those sweet, processed foods are sickening and simply make you feel awful.

In this awkward prayer, God is training us to let go of our addiction to emotional prayer and to trust in his goodness and love. Like in marriage, I don’t love my wife because of all the emotions she gives me, because honestly, they’re not all positive. Rather, I love her because of who she is, for her own sake. And that’s what God wants of us too! He wants a pure love, a pure life, a pure hope! Only in a pure heart, one that loves without thought of self can we truly discover who we’re meant to be.

In the “Song of Songs”, one of the most beautiful and powerful books in the Bible, we are told, “Do not arouse, do not stir up love before it’s own time,” (Songs 2:7). And I think this passage is talking about our addiction to emotional prayer. It is not a bad thing, but when we depend upon it to gauge our prayer lives, it can become deadly. Allow God to stir up and inflame our hearts, in his time, and remain faithful. You will be blessed beyond understanding. That prayer you struggle with will eventually bear fruit, in God’s time. Every night ends, no matter how dark. Before we know it we will declare, like the beloved in Song of Songs, “Before I knew it, my heart had made me the blessed one of my kinswoman,” (Songs 6:12).


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The Paris Attacks – A Call to Arms

Words can’t truly express the sorrow of the tragic events that have unfolded around the world. The attacks in Paris last night, the attacks in Lebanon… what can we say but my Jesus, mercy! Let us take time to mourn those who lost their lives, to pray for them and yes, to pray for the murderers as well.

As I’ve said in past posts, the magnitude of evil happening in our world is unfathomable. There is a tidal wave of evil that is crashing over us and it often feels as if we are about to be crushed by it. The terror attacks that happened last night are unquestionably evil and tragic, yet they do not stand alone, the tragedy of countless lives lost in Syria and Iraq are equally as horrific. Are they not just as tragic as the lives lost in France? What about those countless lives lost to abortion? Our world is hurting, is bleeding out and nothing seems able to stop it:

“Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see
Whether there is any suffering like my suffering,
Which has been dealt me
When the Lord afflicted me
On the day of his blazing wrath.”
– Lamentations 1:12

Let me be clear, I am not making light of the tragedy in Paris. But I hope that this event may spur us to something great, “We know that all things work for good for this who love God.” (Rom. 8:28). What’s likely to happen is that France’s president will make bold statements and commit to bold action in response to the terror attacks, our president will do the same. The world will unite in solidarity with France and the war will continue. More guns, more bombs, more war will ensue and evil upon evil will multiply.

I am not advocating that we simply ignore what happened and not attempt to defend the defenseless. I’m not saying we shouldn’t fight for those in the Middle East or anywhere around the world that are being murdered and persecuted. What I am saying is this, before we react in vengeance, before we attack those who attacked us should we not do the one thing that will actually make a difference? Should we not pray?

Many have called, since the attacks in Paris, to pray. After every tragedy like this we are called to pray. And many of us do, we offer a Hail Mary or a Rosary, we go to a Mass or adoration, we stay mindful and send our thoughts and sympathies to the victims and their families. That’s great, for a start. How about this though, instead of offering one Hail Mary or a Rosary for a day, we keep praying the Rosary everyday.

If we truly believed that pray works, then wouldn’t we pray more? If we truly believed in the power of prayer we wouldn’t need guns or bombs or anything else. If you doubt me then let me refer you to the words of the Bishop of Nigeria. Not long ago he reported a vision he had of Mary who told him that if people prayed the Rosary every day for the end of Boko Haram, it would be no more. How many people do you think took up this call? How many people trusted that Mary’s words would be accomplished? The Bishop did, and I’m certain some of the few people around the world who heard of this story did. But many didn’t, or many tried and gave up. Is Boko Haram still spreading its evil through Nigeria? Yes. But as Mary promised, if we but pray, not fight but pray, Boko Haram will be no more. See here for the story.

Could it be true that if we but prayed, earnestly, believing that our prayer would actually work, that ISIS would be no more as well? I believe so. But it’s going to take more than a few Hail Mary’s and adoration hours. It’s going to take a great deal more suffering and a great deal of perseverance, but it is possible:

“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.”
– James 1:2-8

It’s more than possible, it is the only sure means of our hope.

How many people spend 30 minutes or more in their car 5 days a week on their way to work? What a great time for a Rosary! What about those who spend countless hours in waiting rooms and hospital beds, with our without kids? What is it we’re waiting on in those moments as the cars stand still, as other people’s names are called? Why wait when we could actively seek, actively intervene in world events through our prayer?

How many of us spend more than an hour each night ‘unwinding’ from the stresses of the day, watching TV, cruising social media, playing video games, reading books, etc.? What are we really searching for but to refresh our minds, bodies and souls? Why not spend at least 20 minutes instead searching in the one place that will actually refresh us and at the same time change the world?

Let these most recent tragedies be a call to arms, a call to two arms stretched out upon a piece of wood, a call to thousands of arms stretched out, pierced and bleeding with love, waiting to embrace the suffering of others, waiting to welcome those hurt and those who caused the hurt alike.

“I called upon your name, O Lord, from the bottom of the pit;
You heard me call, “Let not your ear  be deaf to my cry for help!
You came to my aid when I called to you;
You said, “Have no fear!”
– Lamentations 3:55-57

 

I think Matt Maher sums it up beautifully in his song “You Were On the Cross”: