Awkward Catholic

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


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Consoling the Heart of Jesus

Did you ever think that you could console the heart of Jesus? That the heart of Christ is in pain and that you, as you are today, without doing much of anything at all, can console the heart of Christ and give relief to his heartache? You can. And it costs you hardly anything at all.

sacred-heart-of-jesus

Fr. Michael Gaitley wrote a book called “Consoling the Heart of Jesus” and in it he explores this very concept. Please read this book, it’s a potential life changer, or rather, heart changer. He clearly shows how when we follow the saints of mercy throughout the ages, such as St. Margaret Mary, St. Faustina, St. Pope John Paul II, and my favorite, St. Therese the Little Flower, we see clearly that Jesus’ heart is filled to the brim with mercy and love and yet He finds so few souls who are willing to accept His torrents of grace and mercy.

We see how St. Therese so simply allowed the Father of Mercy to lift her up in her “elevator” to holiness, by casting herself upon the merciful heart of Christ. As she describes it, we stand on a razor thin edge, to one side is the abyss of despair and the other is the abyss of mercy. And in the end, there really isn’t any other option.

In one of the revelations to St. Faustina, the depths of her nothingness and complete dependence on God was revealed to her, wherein Christ told her that if He hadn’t sustained her in that revelation, she would have died of despair. And I think to myself how each and every soul is more akin to St. Faustina’s utter miserableness (without Christ) than we realize; how each of us stands on a razor’s edge and are given a choice, daily and moment by moment. Thank’s be to the God who created the stars and every single blade of grass with you in mind!

The grace and mercy of God awaits us on the edge of the precipice. It’s as simple, according to the saints, as a trustful surrender to mercy. “Jesus, I trust in you. I open my heart to receive the abundant mercy that so fills your Heart. I accept all the mercy other souls have rejected. May my weak trust, my imperfect trust and surrender, console your heart and give it joy. Though I don’t always see how I can be a joy to your heart, let me never abandon you. Bring me close to your merciful heart and hide me there. Jesus, I trust in you.”

Above, I mentioned a few of the saints of mercy, there are many more. Well this morning on my drive into work I prayed my morning Rosary and was blessed with a few minutes of real focus on the mystery itself (rather than my usual ADD mental unfocus). As I prayed the fourth Sorrowful Mystery, the Carrying of the Cross, I reflected on some of the Stations of the Cross and was struck with how these saints were perhaps the first of the saints to console the Heart of Jesus. Mary, of course is the first of the saints to console her Son. As is fitting, she does so perfectly.

Then Simon, pressed into service carries the cross, against his will perhaps, but carries it nonetheless. How often do we come to Christ: imperfectly and begrudgingly go to prayer, or help a neighbor, or forgive an injury? And yet, this imperfect accompanying of Christ consoles his heart. Then comes Veronica, a simple woman who dared brave the Roman guards and approached Christ to offer comfort and consolation. What good could a simple pressing of a cloth to the face of a tortured, condemned man do? And yet, I can only imagine what that act of love gave to Christ’s heart. So too, the weeping women, and the Beloved Disciple who’s very presence gave consolation to the Heart of Christ.

And then, the Roman guard who, in what seems like an act of heartlessness, in order to simply assure the death of the man, approached Jesus without love, but approached nonetheless and pierced the very Heart of Christ. And just as how each person who approaches Christ imperfectly  is given grace and mercy untold, the very Heart of Christ poured out His abundant love and mercy transforming Longinus from a simple soldier into a saint.

Divine Mercy

So run to Jesus, to his Heart of Mercy, imperfect though you are, and allow the oceans of mercy to wash over you and transform you into the image of his very self. If you’re still unsure of this then ask his mother, his beautiful mother, Our Lady of the Rosary to bring you to her Son. She will not fail you.

Mother Mary, pray for us.

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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

 

Wrong.

 

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.

 


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The Final Exam

The Final Exam

That awkward moment when you show up for class, sit down at your desk, and realize that everyone else is preparing to take a test you had no idea about. You rack your brain trying to remember any mention of the test, you urgently try to think of an excuse to get you out of it; perhaps you could pretend to be sick. You nervously pray that it’s all just a big joke or a dream. But the teacher has already begun passing out the test and there’s no escape. You’ve got to simply do the best you can and pray for a miracle. Being surprised and found unready is not something many people look forward to, yet many of us are likely to find ourselves in that very situation when it matters most.

I’m 38 years old, just five years shy of the age my mom was when she was first diagnosed with cancer. My mom was 43 and I was a junior in high school. I was thinking about this the other day when the thought occurred to me that the very same thing could happen to me, at any moment really. (For those concerned, no, I don’t have cancer that I know of). And if I were diagnosed, what would happen? What would I do? If I only had a short time to live, how would I react? Am I ready for that?

I’ve read the lives of many saints and one thing that separates them from the rest of us is their reaction to suffering and death: St. Therese the Little Flower rejoiced when she first coughed up blood from Tuberculosis, St. Pier Giorgio Frassati hid his sickness so as not to impose upon others, and Blessed Alexandrina exuded joy throughout her many years of excruciating pain. If I had something like two years to live, or unending pain would I, like them, exude joy and faith or would I shrivel up and turn inwards? Would I, as I hope, finally begin living a life worthy of the name Christian? That’s what it comes down to; it’s in this that we pass the test. Am I ready to love Christ in the pain and suffering? Will I find my joy and hope in his faithfulness? Am I ready like Blessed Alexandrina to say, “Yes Lord, I will give whatever you ask”?

I’m not sure I would be ready for that. Suffering aside, what it comes down to is, am I ready to die? If I died today or tomorrow, would I pass the test? No, that’s not right. I don’t just want to pass the test; I want to ace it! Isn’t it all about love after all? And why would I settle for just squeaking by? By comparison, would I be a good husband or father if I was satisfied with giving my family mediocre love?

I hold to this fantasy that I’ll be like my mom. She loved amazingly, if not perfectly, but when she was diagnosed with cancer, she experienced a transformation and became a giant, an expert, an ace in faithfulness and love. But isn’t it kind of foolish to wait until a tragedy or long-suffering happens to start loving like that?

I wonder what my life would look like if I started living like I was dying. Do you ever wonder about that? Do you ever pray about it? Perhaps we should. It’s quite an effective reality check, don’t you think?

None of us can honestly claim surprise when we encounter that final test. We will be asked a simple question, “Do you love me?” How we spend our lives studying for this test will make all the difference.

  1. Blessed Alexandrina: http://www.blessed-alexandrina.com/
  2. Blessed Pierre Giorgio Fassati: http://frassatiusa.org/
  3. St. Therese the Little Flower: http://www.littleflower.org/therese/