Awkward Catholic

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


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Satan vs. the Eucharist… Challenge Accepted

Evil Mask

* Update: While the Harvard Extension School Cultural Studies Club officially canceled the event at the last minute, about 40 students involved found another location, “The Hong Kong Restaurant” and unbeknownst to the owner, held the black mass in the upper room.*

 

Tonight, May 12th 2014 an atheist group at Harvard conducted a Black Mass under the guise of a cultural enrichment program. The blasphemous horror of the event has not been lost on many of the Catholic faithful around the country. For those who might not know, a Black Mass is a mockery of the Catholic Mass and is the grand event of satanism with the desecration of a stolen Eucharist the main event, much like the Catholic Mass is the source and summit of the Catholic faith. The sole purpose of a Black Mass is to make a mockery of a Catholic Mass and to desecrate the Body of Christ.

Let’s be honest here, anyone aware of the culture war going on around us, both physical and spiritual, isn’t surprised by this latest atrocity. As our culture tolerates everything but the Truth, it is no wonder that the last acceptable bias is against Catholics. And as we all know, Satan attacks most fiercely those things that are a threat to him. He goes after that which is holy, good and true. Remember, Satan can’t create anything new, all he can do is twist and mock that which is real(1). Lust is nothing but a twisted form of love; greed and envy are merely twisted forms of self-gift; gluttony is twisted self-denial; wrath is twisted justice; sloth is twisted mercy.

PietaIn response, tonight my wife and I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary as I gazed upon a beautiful image of Michelangelo’s Pieta. Mary holds her Son’s lifeless body, her heart pierced by a sword of loving grief. Her right hand clasps her son’s body and her left lies open, inviting the world to adore. It’s as if she were saying, “Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see whether there is any suffering like my suffering.”(2) Mary our Mother invites us into her grief, to mourn with her and to love with her.

We make ourselves vulnerable, as he was vulnerable; as he is still vulnerable to all the evil the world can throw at him. With every blasphemous Black Mass, every abortion, every murder or grave sin, Christ’s body is bruised and broken. His hands and feet are nailed to the Cross, his side is pierced for our transgressions, and not just the grave sins, but the small ones too. Those sins we daily commit, the lustful stare, the demeaning word or rumor, the judgement in our hearts and the laziness in our bones. God made himself vulnerable to our love and our hate. He gave his body over to torment and death and he hasn’t revoked that promise.

In these recent days I’ve often wondered why he doesn’t stop such an atrocity from occurring. I have to keep reminding myself that the Pharisees mocked him on the cross with the very same challenge, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.”(3) I need to remember that God is in control, all things happen according to his will and “where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.”(4)

You see, I truly believe that God will bring about amazing graces through this blasphemy. It’s not that he wanted this to happen, but that he allows it to happen (because he promised us free will and must stand by his word) and despite the great evil that is perpetrated, he will bring about even greater good. Even before the Black Mass at Harvard began countless people around the world have been praying, Masses have been offered up, Holy Hours have been prayed and grace upon grace has been poured out all over the world! There’s simply no telling how much grace will be poured out and where it will end! That’s the awesome power of our God!

EucharistSo, how should we respond to such evils as the Black Mass being conducted at Harvard? We fight fire with Fire of course. The Archbishop of Boston is right to protest this evil with a counterpoint… the beauty of the Mass and Holy Adoration. It’s the same in our daily lives as we encounter sin, both the sin of others and our own… we counter evil with love, we respond to injustice with mercy, we pray, adore God and sacrifice. We call down God’s grace and power into this world and like the Allies on D-Day, we establish an indomitable beachhead of God’s Kingdom in a darkened world and watch satan fall from the sky like lightning.(5)

God has already won the victory, now let us fight the battle.

1. The more God-like or holy someone/something becomes, the more real it becomes.
2. Lamentations 1:12
3. Luke 23:37
4. Romans 5:20
5. Luke 10:18


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Soul Gardening 101

Straw Bale 2Have you ever wondered why it seems almost everything in life can be made into an analogy of the spiritual life? Some things are more apropos than others, but pretty much every situation, event, and experience, every aspect of creation is somehow analogous to our relationship with God. Of course, the obvious answer is that it was all created by God and therefore must reflect his glory, “I tell you, if [the disciples/you] keep silent, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40) But I think it is also because God planned it this way; he wants us to know and love him and he will do anything to speak to us, to reach us, to reveal himself to us. So he ordered creation so that even the rocks cry out his glorious love for us.

Now, the greatest analogy of God’s love is marriage, and it is the goal of marriage to prepare us for heaven… the eternal union with God. But today I want to reflect on another profound analogy of our relationship with God, a favorite of both mine and God’s… the garden. Gardening is on my mind right now since we’ve just started prepping ours for the seeds this Spring.

This year, my wife and I are trying something new: straw bale gardening! We’re very excited because there will be no weeding. Over the years, we’ve tried row gardening, square foot gardening, and trellis gardening and we’ve explored other options like raised bed gardening. All have their benefits and drawbacks, but in the process of these experiments I’ve learned something important: that no matter which type of gardening you do or gardener you are, there are a number of universal principles necessary to have a healthy and fruitful garden—and therein lies our first great analogy for gardening.

Straw Bale 1

Just as every single garden plot and garden style is unique, so too is every human soul, and so too is the manner in which each soul approaches God. Yet, despite our uniqueness, there are certain constants that each soul requires. Every garden needs light, water, nutrients, and tender care and every soul needs the same: light (faith), water (hope), nutrients (love) and tender care (a personal relationship with Christ).

 

But while every garden needs certain universal things, each absorbs and requires them differently; so too the soul. Each person encounters God uniquely and so it is profoundly important to understand how you personally encounter God.

Here’s a personal reflection for you to try: (what’s listed below are just examples, there are many more possibilities for each question)
In what manner do I encounter God? How is my soul primarily fed: through beauty, truth, goodness, or unity?

In what manner does God stretch me: through acts of service, suffering, or self-discipline?

Where do I hear God most clearly: through meditation, the Sacraments, guided meditations, the Rosary, Scripture, or holy conversations?

Now use the fruit of your reflection to continue to grow, stretch yourself and produce fruit a hundred-fold.

Weeping AngelSt MichaelWhat’s more, every garden needs constant pruning and care. If you’ve ever gardened, you know that to let your garden go  untended for more than a week is to court disaster. The fruit of the plants must be culled at the right time, the weeds will quickly overwhelm your garden in what seems like minutes, and the wild animals will ravage anything they can reach; so too with our souls. Make no mistake; the spiritual life is warfare (another analogy, I suppose). The demons (yes, they are as real as you and me) will stop at nothing to tear you away from God— they will nibble and gnaw, tear and chew anything that you leave exposed. Temptation will weed its way into your heart before you even notice it is there and you will find yourself overwhelmed and spiritually undernourished.

What about the culling of the fruit? This is something profoundly important but often overlooked in the spiritual life. So often we concern ourselves with rooting out sin (a very important task) that we forget to cull the fruit, we forget to harvest! Each sacrifice, every moment of suffering, every prayer, every single last grace that God pours out upon our lives bears fruit unseen. And so often we have our noses pressed into the mud trying to root out our sins that we forget that abundant fruit is being produced through us and around us!

Make no mistake, the weeds must never be forgotten. To drop your guard against temptation for an instant is to court disaster. But to ignore the good that God is doing in you and through you is to ignore hope and joy; because without hope of a resurrection the crucifixion is ludicrous. The deepest desire of the human heart is joy & happiness. Every single action, every single breath is taken in the hope of happiness. (NOTE about how the next time you think your spouse is nagging you remember that she/he only does so because he/she is seeking happiness and is hoping you will help him/her obtain it.) We need to acknowledge the good God is doing in our lives and most importantly we must share it. You do this by engaging in holy conversations about where God is working in your life, by noticing the good in others (especially those that most irritate you), by generously sharing the energizing spirit that you’ve gained from the good fruit with others, etc.

So, here we find ourselves, almost through Holy Week, a time of preparation, a time of tilling and sowing and readying the soil of our hearts to receive the seeds of eternal life within us. Whatever your Lent has been up to this point, take these last few days and prepare the soil of your heart for the bountiful goodness of God’s love. Root out the sin in your life. I know for certain that God reveals to us those places in our lives where sin has a strangle hold (such as anger or lust or laziness) and I know that you know what it is in your life. Five minutes of self-reflection is sufficient to reveal your biggest stumbling block. And for these next few days fight with everything you have, like William Wallace of “Brave Heart”, for the freedom that God offers you over this sin. And you will rejoice on the day of victory that God has given you the strength to overcome. Because there’s something pretty cool about our God that so many people take for granted… he will never be outdone in generosity. Let me repeat that… he will NEVER be outdone in generosity! See Matt 20:1-16 for proof.

So give yourself generously to these last days of Lent and God will begin a transformation in your life like you have never seen. Die to yourself. Die to yourself, for “Amen, amen I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies it produces much fruit.”