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Monday Musing

Santa Sabina

One of the elements of Father Jerry’s sabbatical experience at the Pontifical North American College is The Roman Station Liturgy. This is not the Stations of the Cross, but rather, an ancient tradition of the Church, dating back to the late 2nd or early 3rd century. A more structured approach was adopted by the 5th century, but over time, the practice had diminished. Since 1975, the PNAC, where Father Jerry is studying, has coordinated masses at these sites in English during Lent.

The Station Churches in history were very much about how the Church stood and journeyed together in public and in Lent in particular. What a beautiful image this is! Like the Stations of the Cross, like our beautiful liturgy, we journey together as we live the Gospel.  We are called to live this way, to be united in Christ; in these splintered times, this offers a lot of food for thought. Everything that we do and how we live as Catholics should be about how we restore the integrity of the Body of Christ.

I have many photos that Father Jerry has sent to me and I am going to sort them out this week and start posting them more frequently. (Last week found me more than a little behind!)

However, today I am thinking about how we stand together as Church and how we are Church in the world, how we restore the Body of Christ. Today’s Gospel from Matthew contains one of the most oft-quoted passages of Scripture. All things that are easy to say and so very hard to do. Like most things…

Monday Musing

Will I ever get caught up? At the moment it does not seem that way, but I remain hopeful! In any case, I have not mused for Monday, please forgive me, as this will be short.

The other day, on my personal blog, I wrote about being kind for Lent. So far, I’m not sure that I’ve been very kind, but I’m trying.

How has your Lent been so far? It is less than a week. As I said, I’m trying, but I can’t’ say that I have been as attentive as I would like to be.

I know that I pray for you and I am grateful, because I believe that you pray for me. Whatever happens this Lent, I know I am carried by the prayers of many and the grace of God!

(Speaking of behind, I have so many photos from Father Jerry, I have to get them sorted, edited, organized and sorted!

Saturday Song – Lent Edition

God is always calling us back to God. On Ash Wednesday, we heard the reading from Joel, some of which is heard in this song, Hosea. Joel, Hosea – read Scripture; no matter who is doing the talking, the topic is the same… Return to God. That is at the heart of our Lenten journey, returning to God through and in the Risen Christ.

Ash Wednesday

Last night I offered a talk about being too busy for Lent. I’m not sure that I said anything helpful, but what was so helpful for me was seeing so many smiling faces before me. Thank you, what a turnout! I am really grateful to all who attended and to those who worked so hard to prepare our Mardi Gras inspired event.

Despite the fact that it looked like I was reading from my notes, as is so often the case, my written notes and the numerous words that kept tumbling out of my mouth bear little resemblance to one another, so printing any kind of text here is not going to work. Perhaps an appropriate title would be, too talkative for Lent? Yes! That is me!

On a serious note, we are going to go to church today to have our foreheads marked with ashes. We are going to be reminded of our death and we are invited to grow closer to God so that we might actually change. Repent, rethink, re-orient, restore. Return.

The first reading from today’s Scriptures, from the prophet Joel, is clear:

Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart,

While Joel then intones us to do a lot of mourning and weeping, we are also reminded in the Gospel a few moments later, by none less than Jesus himself:

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance…”

That’s pretty clear too!

We are invited to traverse this place, these forty days, bracketed between those seemingly opposing thoughts. Focus on the returning seems to be the message.

Our Ashes remind us that we are all going to die; our instructions for Lent remind us that we all need to live in a particular way.

Can we do this?

This is a journey, one that is not simply between God and any individual one of us.  The journey is made together. We are all ultimately alone with God in that moment of transformation that death brings, but resurrection is about the promise of Christ for all.

Have a good Ash Wednesday. I look forward to making this journey in community with you.

Breaking blog news!

Lately I have been praying for a larger platform to write from. I am so grateful for this space and for my other parish blog, over at  St. Edward the Confessor. In any case, I do have my personal blog and while it has decent readership, it would be a privilege to write about my faith and life for a bigger audience.

As it happened, and out of the blue – well, out of God’s blue – I was contacted by Mike Huber, who oversees all the blogs for the Albany Times Union. Mike, himself a Catholic, had been on the lookout for a blog that he believed would fit the bill for the TU faith blog. One day he googled something, found my blog and he really liked it. He liked it even more when he realized that I was local! So in less than a week’s time, Mike’s google turned into me being a Times Union blogger.

Please feel free to stop by, read and comment if you wish! And I am grateful for any prayers as I pursue writing about the faith that we share and live in Christ. (click here for the link.)

Monday Musing

From today’s Gospel:

Jesus said to him,
“‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”
Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”

I do believe… help my unbelief.

A short musing for today. That line is in my heart all the time because it reflects a kind of reality for me. Of course I believe, but I am also living as if it were otherwise.

Our belief is flawed on its own. Without Christ and without one another, it is all unbelief. It is never about Jesus and me. It is always about Jesus and us.

Ideas Before Lent by Sean Caron

Ideas before Lent by Sean Caron

Most of us are aware that times of penance, prayer and fasting are part of most of the world’s great religions. Very early in the history of Christianity, the custom of fasting and penance was adopted to prepare for the solemn commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, death and resurrection. The Church adopted as its model the 40 days of fasting of Our Lord’s period in the desert at the very beginning of His ministry.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, with its solemn reminder “Man/Woman remember you are dust, and to dust you will return”. It then lasts for 6 weeks, culminating in Holy Week with the celebrations of Palm (Passion) Sunday, and the great Sacred Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Vigil of Easter.

If you take this time to deepen your relationship in Christ, by prayer and fasting, you will be surprised. At Easter, you will want to shout joyfully, “Christ is risen!” At least a bit of the joy of Mary and the apostles will be yours on the day of the Resurrection.

In preparing for Lent this year, I have thought a lot about what Lent means to me, and what it means to sacrifice. I wrote these notes primarily for myself as a set of reminders about the season and my response to it. I hope at least some of them are useful to you as you think about this holy season. Much of what is here is suggested (and even outright plagiarized) from a wonderful priest, Father John Riccardo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit. You can read his many articles, and get podcasts of his talks and sermons, at this link.

The purpose of Lent

• Remember always the purpose of Lent – to emerge from Lent at Easter more like Christ! Everything – all you give up, all new things you might take on – should be oriented to that goal alone. The point is not to lose weight, not to look good before other people because you are attending stations or daily mass, not to break a bad habit.

• To the degree that we have grown in our love for the Lord with all our heart, mind and strength, and to the degree that we have grown in our love for our neighbor as ourselves, we can measure the fruitfulness of Lent for us.

Our response to the challenge of Lent

• Do prepare for Lent ahead of time. Consider the sacrifices you select carefully. If you have traditionally made the same sacrifices, consider doing something different this year. Don’t let your response to Lent become a rote reaction.

• The Church traditionally gives us three helps to grow like Jesus. They can be found in St. Matthews Gospel, in Chapter 6, which is the second half of the Sermon on the Mount. Prayer (“when you pray…”), fasting (“when you fast…”), almsgiving (“when you give alms…”) Notice that in all three cases, Jesus says “when”, not “if” …

• Some of our Lenten sacrifices should be for someone else – an offering of penance for a specific person or persons. Fasting is a hidden act of love. The people we fast for typically never know. Yet, fasting is “heavy artillery” in spiritual warfare (see the Gospel of St. Mark, 9:29). It has the effect of eroding resistance to the grace of God. When you are tempted to break a fast, remember the person you are fasting for. Thus the fast is not just (or even primarily) about you. Pray for them, and trust that these “hidden acts of love” will bear an impact on that person.

Remember St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians 1:24: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s suffering for the sake of his body, that is, the church This is possibly the most difficult passage in Scripture. What could be lacking in Christ’s suffering? Nothing – except my participation in it! Christ wants us to be involved with him in the work of redemption. What are you willing to do for your neighbor?

• Some of our Lenten sacrifices should be for ourselves as an expression of sorrow and remorse for our sins. A sacrifice that is a daily reminder that God has redeemed us at a tremendous price. Father Augustine Di Noia says – “If the Cross is our remedy – (think of The Passion of the Christ, if you have seen it) – if our remedy is God so brutally injured that He is almost not recognizable as human – then how great is our wound? The Cross and the Passion of the Lord tell us that sin is far more serious than we ever feared to imagine.”

• Do realize – there is tremendous grace “in the air” at this time of year. I have often tried to make sacrifices or penances at other times of the year only to fail badly. Actual grace is everywhere in lent. • Strongly consider adding silence to your list of prayer and sacrifice– in the car, or for a period of time in church or at home – try to have some silence to listen for God everyday.

• Consider having a dedicated prayer time. o Not prayer in time spent doing other things (eg. driving, watching TV, working, etc). This doesn’t mean not to pray during these times! but it does mean to have other time set aside specifically for prayer. o This time should be defined – say 30 minutes, given to the Lord. o It should optimally be at the same time every day, if possible. o It’s a good idea to have a specific place to pray – a place in your house, a specific chair – which you only use for prayer. When you are there, you are praying …

• Consider making a commitment to learn more about the Divine Mercy during Lent, and especially about the promises of Our Lord on Divine Mercy Sunday (the second Sunday of Easter – ie, the Sunday after Easter Sunday). For more information, see http://www.thedivinemercy.org

• The moment the sacrifices you make cause you to start acting like a jerk (for me this is a result of giving up caffeine!) – give up that sacrifice! It’s not making you more like Christ! You are not acting in charity. Lent is not about “mind-control” or “seeing what you can do”. It is about growing in love. Be Joyful! Remember the Sermon on the Mount. •

Don’t be afraid to fail – and don’t let failure deter you! Many people fail in their promises and then just give up. Don’t just give up. But do consider *why* you failed prayerfully. God may be telling you to try again. Or He may be saying that you are not yet ready for a sacrifice or commitment this great. Accepting this takes humility – but remember the goal! Being more humble will definitely make you more like Christ at the end of Lent. Try working on something smaller.

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