Awkward Catholic

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

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A Saint Half Full is No Saint at All

That awkward moment when you realize the person treating you like crap is your “neighbor” and you’ve sort of got to treat him with mercy and love. That happened to me recently. I was working with someone on a project (a board game I’m preparing to Kickstart) and I didn’t effectively communicate with him to make my dream a reality. He didn’t take it well, to say the least. I tried my best to apologize and make amends but he ignored all that and in my heart I passed judgment on him.

Judgment Bus

It seems like such a small thing, passing judgment on someone who rubs us the wrong way, it seems such a small thing, a harmless thing, a justified thing at times to judge and speak ill of those who offend us. “They deserve it,” “That person is rotten to the core,” “She is just getting what she deserves,” “I’m only speaking the truth about him so it’s not really gossip.” But in reality, it’s a big problem. I’m not claiming it’s easy, to show mercy and forgiveness, in fact I fail at it myself so often, but it’s worth saying and being reminded of. After all, St. Therese said, “You cannot be half a saint. You must be a whole saint or no saint at all.” And it’s precisely in these little things where we fail to be a whole saint.


Today’s Gospel strikes to the heart of the matter: Luke 10:25-37. In this passage Jesus is questioned by a scholar as to how to inherit eternal life. Is this not the crux of sanctity… uniting ourselves for eternity with God?! Jesus turns the question around on the scholar and asks him to sum up the Law (which in the Jewish understanding meant “teaching”). The scholar responds by stating the “Greatest Commandment”: to love God with your whole self and to love your neighbor as yourself. “Do this and you shall live,” Jesus responds. Easy, right?good-samaritan




The scholar, perceiving exactly how difficult this would be immediately wishes to justify himself by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” This the way of things, isn’t it? “But Lord, my neighbor s a jerk!” “I’m just trying to teach him a lesson!” “He deserves it!” “He doesn’t deserve my love, he’s a sinner!” “He’s disgusting, his lifestyle is so obviously wrong that I just can’t love him.” “What would others think of me?”


To our limited vision, according to worldly wisdom our justifications make sense. But our ways are not the Lord’s ways. How does Jesus respond to the “justified” scholar? By telling him the story of the Good Samaritan. You know the story, the priest and scholar ignored the dying man on the road but the Samaritan (the one who was considered lower than a dog, to Jews) saw the man’s wounds and had merciful love on him. And that is how we’re called to act to all we meet along this road of life; it’s not easy.


Most people we meet along our road are not literally lying in the street bloodied and dying. As always, when reading Scripture we must probe deeper than the surface of things. Most people look normal and healthy, as you and I do. But that’s only because most wounds are not visible to our senses. Each of us is broken and dying on the inside. Most of us harbor deep wounds that cause us to love like half saints, or even less than that. The robbers who left the man for dead are all those that wound us throughout our lives, who hurt us, abandon us and leave us for dead; those who rob us of our dignity through bullying; those who rob us of our ability to have healthy relationships through abuse and neglect; those who rob us of so much more, often times because of their own wounds.


So that person who “deserves” our justified judgment is wounded just as we are and thus, in God’s eyes demands our mercy and love! It is up to us to enter into the person’s woundedness, even if that simply means forgiving them in your heart and not judging them. A transgression forgiven heals the victim and the transgressor, for “where sin abounds grace abounds all the more”.


But, if possible, more is demanded of us. To love our neighbor as ourselves requires sacrifice and accompaniment. We are called, not simply to have pity on our neighbor but mercy. And mercy doesn’t simply pour some ointment on the wound and walk away. The Samaritan didn’t just pour some wine and oil on the man’s wounds and go on his merry way. No, he lifted him onto his own donkey and carried him to an inn and paid for his care and promised his return.

Pope Francis' General Audience

Do you see that accompaniment?! The Samaritan accompanied this man to safety, to deep healing; he loved him as a brother, a man who likely would have treated the Samaritan as a dog if they’d met under different circumstances. Recall, this is a story directly out of Jesus’ mouth, not just a nice thought of some pious theologian living in a comfy monastery. This is the demands of love, of the Law of eternal salvation. To be a whole saint means to have merciful love on all those we meet, on each and every one of our neighbors, no matter how beautiful or disfigured (inside or out) they may be. We are not called to save them; we are called to love them; just as we are not called to save ourselves but to be faithful to the One who loves us onto eternal life.



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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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.


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 Great Adventure: A message to teens

That awkward moment when you come back from a retreat, having encountered the Living God for the first time in your life, and your friends and family expect you to be the same old person. But you’re not. And you don’t know what to say, how to act, or even how to describe what you’ve experienced. The retreat high slowly begins to slip away and you’re confronted with a choice.


I remember back in college when I attended my first Fall retreat with the Catholic Student Union. I had just given up on my faith the year before and had started partying and drinking like there was no tomorrow. But after that retreat, I wanted to change all that. I knew I needed to change; God had come to me, met with me, and whispered his love in the depths of my heart. The following weekend I went out with some friends and I told them that I wasn’t going to drink. They laughed, passed me a beer, and the next thing I knew I was drunk. I needed to change; I just didn’t know how.

I started going to the Catholic Student Union meetings, but “those people” were weird. They kept raising their hands and singing praise songs. And they were so friendly! Who’s that friendly, all the time?! It was unsettling.Worship

Over the years I’ve seen many teens go through a similar experience. They have an unexpectedly amazing retreat (despite—or maybe because of—the fact that their phones were amputated from their bodies for the weekend!). They encounter the Living God for the first time in their lives and suddenly everything’s different. Like me, they know things have to change, they want things to change. They just don’t know how. And they may feel as if they are facing an army arrayed against them— friends, family, bad habits, school, sports, technology, themselves—all trying to pull them back to what they used to be. It’s a common experience, isn’t it?

The world around you expects you to be the same person you were before, but you’re not. You encountered the Living God and have been transformed; that kind of encounter tends to have this effect. But how do you make it stick? How do you stand in front of these forces trying to pull you back to where you used to be and hold your ground? How do you ensure that the seed of faith God has planted in your heart doesn’t wither and die, but takes root and produces fruit? And do you really need to become like those silly Christians raising their hands in the air and singing praise songs all day long?

Well, let me offer a little encouragement…

I think the first step is to realize that God wants to transform you, not change you. If you’re a jock, be a jock. If you’re a goofball, be a goofball. If you’re a bookworm, be a bookworm. But do it for the glory of God, not the glory of you. God doesn’t want a heaven full of identical replicas of saints. He wants an incalculable number of unique souls glorifying God in their own unique way. Be yourself for God’s glory.

Then you need a game plan. You need to pray for God’s help and guidance to give you the strength you need to make the changes you need and the wisdom to find friends that will help you. In the parable of the sower, Mark 4:1-9, the good soil that produces much fruit wasn’t just lucky to be good soil. And the bad soil wasn’t simply unlucky to be full of rocks. The good soil was prepared; the rocks and weeds were removed so that the seed of faith could thrive. In all my years working with teens and seeing this play out time and again, there are two things that teens who manage to remain faithful do differently. First, they pray. They make small changes in their lives to allow more room for God. Second, they find a community that supports them and encourages them and picks them back up, without judgment, when they fall. (Hint: the easiest way to do this is usually at youth group.)

Have you ever tried to weed a garden by yourself, in the sun? It’s not fun. But bring a friend with you and the work becomes tolerable, almost enjoyable. But just removing the rocks and weeds is only the beginning. You need to add water to help the seeds grow. Likewise, making small changes with the help of a trusted friend and slowly building your prayer life are fundamental to holding on to that transformative experience, to letting go of yourself and holding on to God’s love, of living as the new person you’ve become. And occasionally lifting your hands in prayer and worship. It’s not as silly as it first looks.

Ultimately, God’s grace is sufficient. He gives us the grace we need to become saints. He’s a generous God, not a stingy miser. But we must cooperate with his grace. God wills you to become a great saint, a glorious shining beacon of hope to a hurting world, a light in the darkness, a port in the storm, like Mary, Star of the Sea. Who you are, the summation of your personality, your strengths and weaknesses are yours on purpose. Nothing in you is by accident (not even my receding hairline). God has knit you together for a glorious purpose! As St. Augustine once said, “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him, the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.”


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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.


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.


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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Head First Into the Abyss of Love

When was the last time you delved into the wounds of Christ? I can hear the objections, “But this isn’t Lent?!” “We just finished Easter and it’s Ordinary Time, let us relax in the calming green for a little while.” I can’t. Or rather, I did. I neglected to post anything for the last month because I was too busy relaxing in front of the T.V. (at least I’m honest about it, right?). But the wounds of Christ were still there when he appeared to the disciples, and they’re still there now and will be for eternity.

Wounds of Christ

So, when did you last probe the depths of his love for you, not just with your finger but with your heart? Thomas challenged his fellow disciples, and unknowingly God, that he would need to probe the wounds of Christ before he believed. Then, when he encountered Christ in his risen glory, wounds and all, he fell to his knees in adoration. He no longer needed to probe with his finger for he dove heart first into the merciful wounds of Christ.

In those wounds he discovered who he truly is. So, I ask again, when was the last time you delved into the wounds of Christ? Have you ever delved in? I haven’t. Let’s be honest, I’ve only thought about sticking my finger into his wounds, and that with a surgical glove on! If I had, I’d be the saint he was calling me to be. But I can assure you, not on my experience but on the testimony of the saints… Every. Single. One. Of. Them. that what I say is true. Probe the depths of the wounds of Christ and you will be transformed from an ordinary, every day, ho-hum human being into a gloriously-world-transforming saint.

Why is that I wonder? I wish I knew. I’ve been trying to work up the courage for years now. I recently ran my first obstacle course race (see It was a blast. One of the obstacles gave me quite a pause though; it was the the high jump. We had to jump from a platform into a pool of water about 50 feet below. Many people walked around the jump because even though they’d seen others jump and survive, they simply couldn’t bring themselves to take the leap themselves. And I don’t blame them, it was terrifying. Fortunately for me I was running the race with a friend.

Tom (name changed) and I stood on top of the platform with about 20 other people trying to work up the courage to jump. As I stood back in the “ready to jump” posture but frozen in fear, Tom simply ran and jumped and eventually splashed in the water below. Encouraged by his survival and joyous exclamations, I ran forward and dove feet first. It’s one of my proudest moments of recent history. Now, if I could only work up the courage to do the same in my faith.

I share all this because I want the world to be full of saints; those who can’t do, teach. I am a teacher with the hopes of becoming an doer. What about you? How many hours per week do you sit, simply sit in the presence of Christ? St. Catherine of Siena once said that everything she knew she learned at the foot of the Cross. Everything I know, I studied. I’m ignorant when compared to St. Catherine.

Sit at the foot of the Cross. Gaze upon his wounds – one wound; pick one, it doesn’t matter which. They are each unique and speak differently to each person. I’m personally attracted to the wounds in his feet. I feel him calling me to go out into the world and walk the walk. For me, the feet represent the lowest part of the body, the most abused and used part. I don’t have great expectations for myself (as long as I can provide for my family and lead others to Christ) and so I identify with Christ’s bruised, bloodied, pierced feet.

Hold a Crucifix in front of you, in your imagination. Now kiss it. Do you kiss his feet, his hands, his head or his heart? Why? What does it signify to you personally?

Leap of FaithWhat is it that holds you back from diving in, head first, into the wounds of Christ? As Pope Francis said, “Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: He is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.”

For me personally, I’m too lazy and too busy (or so I tell myself) to take the plunge. It’s apathy really, that prevents me from diving in. What prevents you? I’ve found that naming those things that bind us gives us a power over them. We are then able to call God’s grace into those specific places of bondage. For St. Thomas it was his doubt. For me it’s my apathy… yes, I will be a saint one day, hopefully sooner rather than later. I claim that grace. I make no excuses, I have only myself to blame. As St. Augustine once said, all is grace. Only my sin can I claim as my own.

I am not Pelagius, I cannot pull myself up by my boot straps. But I can cooperate with the grace of God, the grace that pours out of his pierced side, the holes in his hands and feet. As Pope Francis states, “it is precisely in contemplating Jesus’ death that faith grows stronger and receives a dazzling light; then it is revealed as faith in Christ’s steadfast love for us, a love capable of embracing death to bring us salvation. This love, which did not recoil before death in order to show its depth, is something I can believe in; Christ’s total self-gift overcomes every suspicion and enables me to entrust myself to him completely.”(1)

What more is there to say? The wounds of Christ earn, deserve, demand my complete trust. My life is found in the wounds of Christ.


1. “Lumen Fidei” – Encyclical of Pope Francis, Paragraph 16.

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Gutterball Stuck

GutterballHave you ever given someone good advice that would truly help them in their life, only to realize that you fail to live by that advice yourself? I have. In fact, I have given this particular piece of advice about 150 times a year, for the last 9 years. Think about that, at least once every two days I told something to somebody (usually a different person) that I failed to follow myself. Have you ever met such a hypocrite?!

What advice am I talking about? Just this: that in order to become a saint, you need to pray, a lot more than what you’re doing now. You see, I am a youth minister and it’s my job to prepare high school teens for Confirmation. If you’re not Catholic, Confirmation is where a person confirms his or her faith in God as a Catholic and receives the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (the love of God). It is one of the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church and is a big deal.

I meet one-on-one with each teen in the program twice, once at the beginning of their two-year preparation and again at the end, prior to their receiving the Sacrament. Each time I ask the teens about their prayer life. Most of them have progressed very little during their time in the program, which is natural, in a certain sense, for the average American teenager who’s more concerned about texting and enjoying life than about becoming a saint. OK, let’s be honest, that description pretty much sums up just about every single American, no matter the age, religion, gender, race or life situation.

I guess that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? We’re all kind of stuck in this rut, in this tired and routine way of doing things that prevents us from ever truly changing. I mean, COME ON! I’ve actually said the words, “You need to pray more, a lot more, because trying to be a Christian without a prayer life is like trying to be a pole vaulter without a pole,” over 1450 times in the last nine years and I’ve maybe taken two steps forward in my own prayer life.

What have I done to improve my prayer life in the last nine years? Well, I used to go to daily Mass; now I’m lucky if I make it there once a month. I’ve started saying a daily Chaplet of Divine Mercy… when I drive somewhere. If I don’t go anywhere that day, I don’t pray the chaplet. I say a Rosary each day, usually. That started about a year ago. But I usually only finish the full Rosary when it’s convenient, like when I have to spend time rocking one of my children to sleep. I have started trying to “practice the presence of God” in my daily life and I usually remember to do that once every other day.

What’s my point? I’m a hypocrite. I’m a hypocrite with a gift for writing and encouraging others to do what I’m so bad at doing myself. Could you imagine how holy my family would be or how effective my ministry would be if I actually started living the life I challenge my teens to live?! How many lives could I change if I were the person God expected me to be? Pope Francis recently said,

“Accompanying Christ, remaining with him requires a “stepping outside,” a stepping beyond. Stepping outside of ourselves, of a tired and routine way of living the faith, of the temptation to withdraw into pre-established patterns that end up closing our horizon to the creative action of God.  God stepped outside of himself to come among us, he pitched his tent among us to bring the mercy of God that saves and gives hope.”

If I had the courage to step outside of my routine, tired habits I could change the world, I could be that mercy and hope to others in ways I can’t even imagine. What are your tired routines, your pre-established patterns? For me, my tired routines are thus: driving home each night to sit down at the dinner table and help my kids to eat their dinner, engage in small talk with my wife, and put my boys to bed. Then we watch a show or play a board game and head off to bed ourselves.

Sure, we bless our food, we pray with the boys each night as they go to sleep and we pray as husband and wife as we fall asleep (when I’m tired enough to go to bed when my wife does). But those are such routine prayers! There are so many other opportunities to grow in my prayer life! But I’m like a stream of water, taking the path of least resistance. It’s easier to turn on the TV then to sit in prayer. It’s easier to play a game of chess on my tablet than to read Scripture or the life of a saint. It’s easier to check Facebook than to go to the church and pray (which is only 40 steps away from my office desk).

What about you? How can you change your tired routines to become the saint that God is calling you to be? You shouldn’t have to think too hard. I believe most of us already know what it is we need changing, but we lack the will to do it. As Saint Augustine once quipped, “Lord, Make me chaste; just not yet.”

I think there are only about 3 husbands/dads reading my blog at this time (and about 5 women), but who cares? To paraphrase Thomas Dubay in his book, The Fire Within, if only 100 people would become the saints that God has called them to be, it would set the world on fire. Three husbands/dads is a good start… only 97 to go.

How can we bust out of our tired routines? Even if we have to embarrass ourselves in front of our wives by asking for their help, what is it we can do to become great saints, to lead them into sanctity? For me, it’s reading Scripture with my wife each night after we put our boys to bed and before we turn on the TV; or perhaps we talk about our feelings for a little while; or, God forbid, I wake up early twice a week and take one of my boys to daily Mass with me (and then go for those beautifully unhealthy treats called donuts afterwards). I love donuts. Maybe one day soon I’ll love prayer even more.


From Bench-Warmer to Saint-Warrior

My boys never cease to amaze me. A few days ago Maria informed me that Gabriel, my five year old decided to forgo a frozen strawberry Popsicle (even while his younger brother enjoyed one) so that he could get a special treat after dinner instead (they’re only allowed one special treat a day because my wife does not suffer from the same problem I do). It seems my boy has more self-discipline than his dad. As for me, I hate suffering, and especially voluntary suffering. I’m the biggest wimp when it comes to self-sacrifice.

This of course explains why I can’t seem to make any progress on a number of issues in my life, such as why I haven’t made any real spiritual progress in years, why I seem stuck as a mediocre husband and father, a bench-warmer. It’s why I haven’t really pursued the jobs I want or the education I desire. I’m so addicted to comfort and indulgence that the mere thought of fasting makes me hungry. Each day I rush home to my family with all these great ideas and energy… I can’t wait to wrestle with my boys and to embrace my wife in a passionate kiss and help cook dinner. I’m going to get all the bills paid and fix that closet door; I’m going to engage my wife in meaningful conversation and we’re going to spend quality time in prayer.

But then I walk through the front door, put my bag down and hear the comfy couch calling my name. Suddenly all my grand schemes come crashing to the ground in a pile of charred wreckage. Perhaps it’s because I watched nine hours of TV each day during high school and so never really formed any sort of self-sacrificial discipline? Whatever the reasons and excuses, the fact of the matter is that I’m not very good a making those small sacrifices in my daily life, which if we’re being honest, are what make all the difference between a saintly life and a “could have been”.

What, pray tell, does all this have to do with being a good husband and father? Simply this, what could be more important than helping my wife and children become saints? Leon Bloy once said, “At the end of life there is only one great tragedy, not to have been a saint.” As a husband and father, my single most important responsibility is to help my wife and children avoid that tragedy.

So how do I do this? By being a saint myself and reflecting the light and love of Christ so as to illumine their lives and to teach them to do likewise; easy, right?

So, it’s my job to form them into saints (with the grace of God of course). Well, I can tell you this much, that the formation we’re talking about doesn’t take place in those “big”, “easy”, “obvious” moments in life where you’re called to give some gloriously obvious sacrifice. The big sacrifices are the easy ones. Real saintly formation takes place in those small loving sacrifices, those daily moments that take place a thousand times a day.  It’s in not watching “one more” YouTube video, or checking Face Book for the umpteenth time, or not complaining that the AC isn’t cold enough. It’s in waiting patiently behind a slow driver who doesn’t use her turn signal and giving the peace sign to the guy who is flicking me off while cutting me off. It’s in listening attentively to my little boy’s story that makes no sense, or my wife talk my ear off because she’s been listening intently to nonsense all day long.

BUT I DON’T WANT TO!! And that’s the problem. As I said earlier, I really stink at all this self-donating love stuff. Fortunately, with God’s grace, I’ve made that first really big step… I’ve stopped making excuses. I’m a grown man and I own (take responsibility for) my lazy, self-indulgent nature. Now I need to start praying for the grace to take the next step… to get off the bench and actually start making some of those small sacrifices that I loathe so much.

I know it’s going to be painful at first and I cringe at the thought of it. But I’m certain that one day in the future it won’t seem so bad. I might even begin to look forward to those sacrifices of love. Then, I’ll be able to say with St. Lawrence to the torturers who were flaying him alive, “You can turn me over, I’m done on this side.” Or better yet, I’ll be able to join my five year old son in not having a Popsicle because my wife asks us to only have one special treat a day.

Mary, my Mother, help me to imitate your Son by giving myself in love. Amen.