Awkward Catholic

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


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A Refugee Christmas

Our Lady of FatimaOur Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

That awkward moment when you realize that if you’re going to truly, deeply and honestly live your faith, then that one teaching you can’t accept, you’re going to have to accept; or that one thing you can’t live without, you’re going to have to live without; or the one thing you can’t stop doing because you don’t really want to, you’re going to have to stop doing. I’m pretty sure Mary and Joseph didn’t want to flee for their lives with a newborn son, who was suppose to be God, into a country that was known throughout their nations history as the enemy (Egypt). But they did it because their faith in God demanded it.

As my faith has grown over the years I’ve experienced a number of such moments. One of my earliest occurred when I was about 11 years old. I was delivering papers for my paper route and I’d just thrown the 15th paper onto a roof (I didn’t have good aim). Now I wouldn’t have enough papers to finish my route and I shouted “G_d damn!” As I continued on my way I thought about what I’d said and realized how awful of a thing I had just done to Someone (God) I claimed to love. In that moment I vowed never to say that again.

A bit later in life I was asked by my boss to attend a seminar on immigration and my eyes were opened to the reality and truth of the immigration situation in the U.S. and what it meant for our faith. I realized in that moment that all the anti-immigration rhetoric I believed had to go if I were to continue to claim to be Catholic.

I believe, I hope, I pray that this is such a moment for many friends and people of our nation today who call themselves Christian (Catholics included). If for no other reason than the world is watching us in this moment and how we respond to the refugee crisis will profoundly affect the world’s opinion of us: do we actually walk the walk or just talk the talk.

The situation in the Middle East and Europe demands our response in faith; our bishops have called for such a response (here and here). Our brothers and sisters, yes, they are our brothers and sisters, not our enemy, not distant strangers, not even our neighbors but our brothers and sisters, their lives depend upon our response. As I’ve said before and I’ll continue to say, if you call yourself a Christian then your response to the refugee crisis MUST be one of compassion and love, not fear and hate. Our faith, our God demands it!

I know it might not make sense and seems just a little bit terrifying, but wasn’t that exactly how you felt the first timeSyrian Refugee2 you encountered God and everything in your life changed? Well, this moment can be that for you again and perhaps for the refugees as well. A number of such encounters with Christ have already been reported where Muslim refugees are converting after encountering the love of Christ in their new host countries. Isn’t it even the slightest bit possible that our hospitality is what brings them to faith?

Yet, despite what I know to be sincere and deep faith in many Christian friends of mine, they still demand we close our borders and basically say, “I’ll pray for you, here’s a coat.” And what this comes down to is fear. It always comes down to fear. Throughout history refugees (or aliens) have been feared and hated and demonized without exception. And don’t try to say this is different. It’s not. It’s no different than the fear of the Jews during WWII; it’s no different than the fear of the Catholics, the Irish or the Italians in the great migrations towards America, etc, etc, etc, down throughout history.

So here’s the thing… perfect love casts out fear. There is no fear in Christ. Fear is a sin, or it can be if you allow it to prevent you from loving. That’s why we always demonize or objectify the enemy, because you can’t love a demon or a thing. I’m afraid of spiders but that doesn’t stop me from loving God’s creation. I’m afraid of a terrorist bomb blowing up my family but that doesn’t stop me from loving the refugees. In fact, my heart goes out to them all the more because they’ve been living in the hell that I’ve only heard of on the news, they’ve watched their loved ones blown up in front of them while I’ve watched the aftermath on T.V.Syrian Refugee

Ultimately, we are to be imitators of Christ, not just when it’s easy but when it’s hard; especially when it’s hard; always when it could cost us everything! Fact check: there are churches in the U.S. who have to have guards for every priest and Eucharistic Minister during Communion at Mass because there are so many people trying to steal the Eucharist for stupid YouTube videos or worse, Satanic Black masses. Why would Christ allow that?! Why would he risk it?! One word: LOVE. He became man and allowed himself to be crucified. He became bread and allows himself to be denied, mocked, stepped on, ignored, forgotten, thrown away and desecrated in a Satanic ritual, all for the hope that you would spend five minutes with him, sometime. How can we love his children any less?!

What it comes down to is this: I would rather die from a terrorist bomb while trying to love, than live in pseudo-safety while I deny love to my brother and sister because I am afraid.

In this year of mercy, let us remember the mercy of God. Let us fear, not the one who can kill the body but not the soul, rather fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matt 10:28). Or, if you’d prefer to act out of love rather than fear:

Luke 7:27-38
27r “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,s28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.t29To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.30Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.31Do to others as you would have them do to you.u32For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.34If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit [is] that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount.v35But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.w36Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.”

Syrian Refugee3

Finally, here’s an example of how our nation should act. Remember, the world is watching and God is depending… on you to love as he loves, even if it means to die as he died.


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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”:


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A Father’s Heart

Therese and DaddyThe other day I was resting on the couch and my beautiful 16 month old daughter fell asleep on my chest. It is one of those moments I will forever treasure; a moment of absolute peace and trust and love. I lay there thinking about my love for my family when the terrible reality of what’s happening in our world today crossed my mind. Would I be willing to risk everything, to leave home and country and risk my life for the sake of my family? In a heartbeat. Don’t mess with a father’s heart.

It is through this lens that I speak of everything else below. It is through my fatherly heart that I understand the tragedy of the refugee crisis in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. It is through my fatherly heart that I struggle to understand the immigration problems in the Americas. In reality, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the crisis in Europe and the one in America. Both revolve around families doing whatever they must to stay alive.

This, in large part, is why it astounds me that so many people, so many Christians have such a strong bias against immigrants; as if having to press a button on a phone for English is actually hurting you. Many will retort that they’re not against immigration, but against illegal immigration. They’re against people breaking the law. That’s fair, I guess. I mean I know I would never break the law, even if my child’s life was at stake, even if my entire family was at risk of starving to death or of being bombed out or gunned down if we stayed where we were. Even then I would never even think of trying to find somewhere else to live if it meant getting there illegally. I would stay put and fix things in my own country, even though I have no education, money, resources, political voice, etc. to actually make a difference.

But I digress. It’s funny how we claim the word Christian when it’s convenient, when we have time to go to the soup kitchen and get our hands dirty making sandwiches, when we give of our excess to St. Vincent de Paul, as long as the poor don’t come into my neighborhood, my county, my state or my country. But when those in need begin to impose demands upon us, we suddenly find every excuse in the world. We already have too many problems here, too many poor and not enough time.

The Christian faith is not one of convenience, it is of sacrifice, and it is an inconvenient truth that those who lose their lives save it. Judeo-Christianity puts the orphan, widow and alien first, not second. Not only if they are here legally, but if they simply have a need. Unfortunately, we too often let fear control us. We are afraid they will take our jobs, drain our resources, corrupt our culture, and turn into criminals, or worse, terrorists. But perfect love casts our fear. Fear is no way to live or to love. The majority are not criminals but some of the hardest working, most faithful people I know. They add to our culture, making it richer, more vibrant and more beautiful, and they do not take our jobs but most often take the jobs we don’t want to do, and in the process grow our economy and enrich our lives.

We lose nothing, absolutely nothing when we give of ourselves, when we care for and love the orphan, the widow and the alien, rather we gain everything else along with them. Who is my neighbor? That’s simple, everyone.

Does our Father in heaven care if we’re brown, black, yellow, white or green? Does he care if we’ve crossed some arbitrary border with or without permission? No! His heart is breaking for his children who are suffering and dying for lack of sympathy and fear. My fatherly heart is nothing else than an image of our Father’s heart. He is the image in which all fathers are made. The Good Samaritan is a prototype of this. The beaten man he encountered was a foreigner, his enemy and yet he cared and loved him as his own brother.

Lord, help us be less like the priest who crossed to the other side of the road and more like the Samaritan.Helping Hand