By Deacon John De Gano
“I’m at an awkward age,” Cheryl announced on our way to work one morning. “I’m too young to be eccentric. And too old to be quirky.”
I had to laugh at her dilemma.
Aren’t we all a bit awkward in life? We are all in a “state of becoming.” We just aren’t there yet. And some people are in such a rush to get there that they forget to take notice of the wonders God has placed along the way for us to discover and enjoy.
Some of us are contemplating death and/or the meaning of life while others seem to not have a care in the world, wanting to just embrace life to the fullest. It is fairly obvious to anyone who takes the time to reflect that we are not cookie cutter creatures, made by a bored God from scraps He found lying about after the creation of the world.
We have being and a purpose. We have free will and yet a desire to be in relationship with another. Or the Other, that is, God.
We are saints-in-the-making, called by God to a life-long encounter with our Maker, blessed and broken in order to share the love of God contained within us with those who need direction, those who need a Savior and a friend. Saints are first and foremost friends of God. It is in doing the will of the Father that we increase in holiness, in perception and relationship with the Almighty.
In fact, many saints have been described as otherworldly because they seem to have experienced a uniting of spirits with the divine. St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross are but two well known mystics of the church in Spain. St. Francis of Assisi is frequently described as “cosmic” in his encounter with the divine and with nature. And there are many, many others.
These saints certainly must have felt awkward at times.
Being awkward is a sign of transition and the Catholic Church can be said to be going through just such a time of awkwardness as we continue to address the fallout from the sexual abuse crisis, the pandemic and the general falling away of our lay members, particularly the youth.
Fortunately, the Church has been around for 2,000 years, and has seen a thing or two that it has had to repent from, lend voice to and reflect upon that we can trust the Holy Spirit to keep the Barque (or Ark) of Peter, the Church, right-side up and prevent it from capsizing under the attack of the Prince of this World, the Devil.
All people find themselves tempted. Most will fail in small ways or large. But with God and the sacraments to strengthen us, we can and will survive and even grow stronger in faith, hope and love.
If you don’t feel stronger, don’t give up. That’s the Devil telling you, “You are a failure, unworthy of God’s love and trust. God made a mistake when he created you!”
Why then would God entrust his church and the world to our flawed human hands?
As St. Teresa of Avila aptly noted, “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on the world. Christ has no body now but yours.”
She’s saying to quit body shaming yourself. Stop being myopic, and replace idle hands and feet with loving service, ministering to those in need.
“We can’t do everything,” advised St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. “So just do one thing and do it with great love.”
Still unsure what to do? Pray. Ask God to give you direction.
I know it’s awkward when you don’t know where to begin with prayer. But if you ask the Lord to reveal himself to you, you can count on that prayer being answered. You just need to be ready to respond to the invitation when He calls.
Remember that this is not our final home. Why would we want to settle for less than heaven? Especially when this world ends in eternal death, in absence from the love of God and the beauty of all creation. All that we have here will decay and vanish from our sight. Wouldn’t we want to replace it with something far grander? Eternal?
We can, if we embrace our destiny and live out our baptismal calling…
Even if it means being a bit awkward.
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.