I used to be so carefree
My faith seemed stronger in the fertile soil and stability of my youth
But I’ve learned that true faith must be mature—tested in battle, in fire, in desolation

Will I be able to suffer and die for You?
Sometimes the sacrifice is to hold my tongue—a brutal weapon unleashing hurt that can’t be taken back
But sometimes my words need to speak a difficult but healing truth
And the world’s misunderstanding, or its attachment to sin, will lead to rejection and the way of Your Cross

I wish I could give You better, Lord
For now, I just try to get out of bed, count my blessings, stop making excuses and selfish complaints

For forty days, You fasted and prayed in the desert
Is this a rite of initiation we all need to go through
Rejecting Satan in our hearts, giving our choice of loyalties
Before the work of God can begin?

I don’t want to be wandering in the desert forever, so please help and instruct me, Lord
Prepare me for mission, and to gain final admittance to the heavenly Promised Land

Facing constant rejection, people refusing to look you in the eye
Digging through trash, waiting in long lines for shelters and soup kitchens

Not being able to sleep well because of hunger pains, insects biting, infections and wounds on your skin, rats finding their way into your tent
Not finding a place to set up camp due to the complaints of store owners, city officials, concerned residents, and police officers

If you’re a woman and a violent man rapes you at night, will anyone answer your cries for help?
If you have psychological problems, are you destined to wander the streets like a wild animal, in the event that your family and country should forsake you?

How do you survive if you’re an immigrant and can’t speak the language?
How do you keep a job if your pre-paid phone, shoes, I.D., and other belongings keep getting stolen?

Will anyone hire you if you have a criminal record, unpaid debts, a drug problem?
What if you can’t take a bath regularly; worse yet, if a bladder problem is causing you to wet yourself uncontrollably?

Are you permitted to use the library for Internet access; can you even enter into a church to give honor and worship to the Lord?
Do you feel too stupid to learn anything, too sinful to be forgiven by God and others?

Your addictions may be killing you, but what if you’re just barely holding on for a reason to live?
When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation; who was the last person who showed that they really listened or cared?

You catch me off guard with a moment of unexpected beauty
During my daily routine of uncertainty, mistakes, and disappointments
Your love for me is strong and gentle at the same time
Always personal, ingeniously tailor-made

It could be in the funny way a dog wags its tail in excitement
Or the way a little child laughs so innocently
The way the sunlight breaks through the clouds into the ocean
And the way a husband holds his wife close to him, protecting her for as long as he can

Those who say there is no God must be overthinking things
Or simply insensitive to all You’ve created, all that is good in this great big world
I’ve only had glimpses of Your eternal beauty
Which sustain me just enough to be able to wait
With grateful, expectant hope
That there will be a vision of absolutely breathtaking beauty
At the hidden end of life’s journey
Being born into the next

Why do I try to drown the noise with even more noise?
It’s like a shouting match, nothing is really communicated, nothing is really heard
Might as well be the persistent theme of my life…
Why I feel so lonely, and why there hasn’t been much peace
Why I’m so darned tired, except for those moments when You reveal Yourself in silence

I’d like to say that I’ve been trying to find the road that leads to grace
But how many detours and dead ends
While stubbornly insisting that I know where I’m going?
What I do know is that I’ve led many astray with bad directions
How can I atone for my sins besides a radical shift in humility?

Only You know the map, Lord
I’m done being a prodigal child and ache for the Father’s home
Your sheep recognize Your voice
How sorry I am for trusting the deceiver
For being attracted by such vanity of vanities

I beg You to forgive me and take me back into Your fold
Your wisdom and mercy are my sole comfort and hope
Where everything I’ve done wrong can be made clean
My heart and soul reborn into Your vision of creation
Emptied of the dross, I can be filled with Your love and instilled with the gifts of Your heavenly virtues

I took You for granted, Lord
All those Masses, confessions—bountiful graces poured out on a spiritually blind man
This living nightmare of closed churches seems as though You’ve withdrawn from Your people
Have we strayed too far, like in the time of Noah?
Do our transgressions surpass those of Sodom and Gomorrah?

We’re reminded that it only takes one natural disaster, one invisible virus for a nation to fall to its knees
And yet we thought ourselves invincible, that our modern empires could not be destroyed
Instead of the adoration chapel, we chose to frequent the golf courses, the casinos, the beauty parlors
Rotting away inside, while wearing the mask of a happy-go-lucky social media persona
Like the prideful Pharisees, are we whitewashed tombs, lacking in the oil of charity to burn in our hearts’ lamps?

I didn’t mean for my worship to become routine, obligatory, distracted, careless
And I pray I don’t turn to You only when I need something; as a sinner, I don’t deserve Your favor, Lord
By disobedience, I have chosen a path that leads to death
But through Your beloved Son, You’ve exchanged death for mercy…
So I only need to die to myself—a Baptism of water, blood, desire, and of Your Holy Spirit

You providentially showed me two homeless men the other day
One was half-crazed, refusing food and drink, calling me the devil and telling me to depart
The other gratefully and joyfully accepting, taking what little I had to offer in a communion of brotherly love
How do I react to You, Lord? Hardened, unable to see Your presence, blaming You for everything wrong?
Or will I be a humbled soul who rests in Who You are, the benevolent Father of this beggar child?

How does our loving God feel
When we keep infecting ourselves
Passing it on to our neighbors
Causing widespread suffering and death
Because we want our freedom
To taste the forbidden fruit?

How does the Almighty God feel
To be constrained from perfect justice by His perfect mercy and compassion
Made silent in His solitary suffering
Because it’s the only way we’ll listen…
To set us free from the snares of Satan,
He would endure any torment, rejection, agony, including His sacred, pierced Heart

What other cure for our sinful sickness can there be
But to acknowledge our guilt, our humanly unpayable debts to God?
And to be made clean again, welcomed into the Father’s open arms…
In the eternal plan of God, His sacramental grace is the cure, the vaccine
Offered to us from the moment Jesus entered this contaminated, broken world
He said He would give us living water (cf. John 4:10-14; John 7:37-39), and true to His promise,
On the Cross, blood and water poured forth, every last drop of His life, His love for us

The forces of evil are too strong for me, Lord
Breaking my spirit, my body, my heart
Except for You, I don’t know whom to trust
But as long as You’re with me, the enemy can never prevail

Maybe I should say, “as long as I’m with You”?
Because Your faithfulness is unceasing
While I’m like a ship sailing without a compass
Navigating without the stars, seeking my own superstitious luck

I keep making the same mistakes, keep gambling with a losing bet—
Me, myself, my pride, my crazy selfish ways
How often do I consult You, for the big decisions or the small ones?
Is Your Word engraved in my soul—Your perfect wisdom, Your eternal laws of life?

Seems like I’m committing slow suicide in habitual sin
Only Your forgiveness restores me to hope again
And Your sacraments of grace sustain and make me into a semblance of a saint
Still have so far to go, but may I never stop believing, praying, loving, and serving You

When ordinary citizens don’t have the moral courage to do the right thing
Or even to examine what is the right thing
How easy it is to fall into the wrong thing
Incited by those wicked wolves in sheep’s clothing

I witnessed this early on in childhood’s playground
When peers were too scared to stand up to bullies
And allowed malicious crimes of taunting, beating, insulting, stealing, ostracizing
The deceptively charismatic and the imposingly strong finding unanimous, uncontested favor

As we grow older, the offenses become more hidden—
Is it still wrong if you don’t caught, if it’s the majority opinion?
The stakes are certainly higher, with corporations poisoning our every means of sustenance
While we continue to buy stocks in those profitable yet destructive giants

Sex, which is supposed to be a natural good, becomes divorced from its original intent
Marriages fall apart, young adults no longer care to get married or have kids
Unfortunately, it’s the children who suffer quietly, their worlds unstable, unpredictable by the inconstancy of it all
To fix things, we say we need to redefine marriage, the family, gender, and sexuality—our parents got it wrong, so now we gotta do things different

For all its education, its digitized information network, Ivy League professors, and TED Talk experts,
The world doesn’t seem to be getting wiser or more at peace
We’re lacking in basic empathy, for each other and for God
These technological, scientific advances are creating an emotional, spiritual divide

I must admit, the stories of victims are also hard to trust these days
When people become addicted to numb their pain, we’re so desperate just to get a fix
That we forget that God is watching out; in sadness, He’s giving us a second, a third, a fourth chance
But there’s a point where the things we want are so harmful—each cut is an expression of a perpetual self-hatred

So the pop psychologists are right, you must love yourself
But they’re also wrong when they try to turn you away from God
Who loved you first and always, and better than anybody can
Who made you for a purpose, for eternal happiness, with Him, not without

Dearest Jesus,

I’m about to meet with You in the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
And I can’t wait to receive You entirely—
Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity
Even though I’m so very unworthy

As I come to You, I’m burdened by many problems and pains
Endless intentions for my loved ones, especially for their souls
A wide array of issues which are beyond my human ability and frailty
I also come to You with the sins I’ve committed this week and throughout my life
I’m heartily sorry—please help, heal, and forgive me and mine

The Catholic Mass is an offering and thanksgiving
It’s the New Passover, the New Covenant, the Supper of the Lamb
You are perpetually made present
Turning the ordinary into the awe-inspiring divine

What will happen to me after our communion?
Oh, prepare me by Your grace
I need You so terribly, Lord
Bless me as I enter this sacred place
Transform me into a new creation
That I may rightfully give You praise

On paper, it may seem like we’ve got completely contrasting ideas and beliefs
But I can still consider you my neighbor and potential friend
Would I take a bullet for you? I would hope so…
And pray for you as well

When I meet with you, I don’t really care about appearance or success
Are you leading a virtuous life? Are you seeking truth?
What gifts has God given you?
What can I praise and thank Him for, on your behalf?

Sometimes conflict causes the good to become better, the bad to become worse
That would be my main concern…
We can argue, but may it be in a spirit of mutual peace and respect
We don’t want to sacrifice human decency, we don’t want to throw anyone under the bus

At the root of atheism, it’s been said there’s an underlying emotional reason
Because logic makes sense, and without a Creator, how can anything be explained?
You don’t believe it can ever be certified that a deity exists
But I’m certain that you exist precisely because of Him—the wonders of each cell in your body, your intellect capable of free will

Then why aren’t my prayers being answered?
Why is there so much suffering in the world?
Why, if God is so good and powerful, would He allow war, rape, cancer, starvation, child abuse?
If He’s always watching us and knows all things, why do bad people get away with murder?

I sympathize with all these questions and have pondered them myself
Ultimately, I looked at Jesus and learned how God suffers with and for us
More intensely, more sensitively, than we could possibly know or empathize
And in the parable of the prodigal, the Good Father is still searching, waiting with a broken heart

Maybe you don’t trust feelings, and faith is based too much on them
But being human means that we have both reason and emotion
Have you ever wondered if they are compatible?
If the height of reason, the summit of emotion, is a life ordered towards the greatest good, Who is God?

Why are we moved by beauty, by babies born and sacrificial love?
It’s not useless sentiment, for we’re inspired to shine like the stars
Now, if you look at humanity, I challenge you to find anyone as beautiful, honorable, wise, and good as Jesus
In all of objective and carefully scrutinized history, has there been anyone that can even hold a candle to Him?

He brings out the best in us
Because God is active and real and alive
From twelve apostles, He’s been transforming all the ends of the earth
Do you really think this is a fluke, a fiction that’s become a mass hysteria?

Would the situation change if you experienced a miracle?
Never mind the testimonies of those “crazy Christians”
You want to know it for yourself, to put your fingers inside His wounds
To have one prayer answered, that only He could know and do

Well, pray—the shortest distance to God is this direct line
Pray, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain
Humble yourself, purify your heart, before the possibility of an Almighty and All-Loving God
Let Him surprise you, and give you a reason for your faith