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One week into Lent…

We may be one week into Lent, but this submission from Shannon O’Donnell, written originally for the start of Lent, still holds true. How is your Lenten journey thus far?

Image courtesy of Mary Brack, at Me With My Head in The Clouds.

Image courtesy of Mary Brack, at Me With My Head in The Clouds.

For the first time or the twelfth or the sixty-third, we stand at the borderland of Lent. The bright promise of Easter and its celebrations of light, water, oil, and Eucharist lie ahead of us, out of sight, beyond the horizon. We stand, like so many of our ancestors, refugees with our stories and dreams, wondering about this journey.

We have known failure, disappointment, betrayal. We are marked by the violence done to us and by the harm we have done to others. We long to be better people, to love without reserve, to transform the world that we all might live in grace and peace.

The journey will not be easy or quick, but we will be together. With Christ in our midst, we will listen to him and to each other. We will make space to acknowledge our pain and fear, our sin. We will take on the task of reconciliation and peace because Christ will show us how. He is the great Reconciler and he calls, “Come, follow me.”

-Shannon O’Donnell

Shannon O’Donnell is a jail chaplin, a lay minister, and author from Seattle, Washington. She generously shares her gifts through periodic reflections on this and other blogs. Her book, Save the Bones, about her mother Marie,and Alzheimers was published last year. It is available at in both paperback and ebook editions at the link.

Lead us not into temptation

mediumTemptation. What does this word mean? For many of us it means things like avoiding the temptation to look at our phones compulsively, or to stay away from snacks. It might mean the feeling of wanting to buy something new, when we have a perfectly good whatever-it-is at home, but we want a new one. There are many sentences that begin with “I was so tempted to…” and end with something that does not seem very harmful. We pray, “lead us not into temptation,” but what do we mean when we say those words?

A long time ago, I was speaking to someone who was practicing the 12 Steps of AA. He said that rationalizing the dismantling of small boundaries was the road to ruin for him. Often he would be tempted to put himself in a situation that might not seem to be so bad, but one that he knew might be a trigger. And he might even do OK in that situation, not yielding to the magnetic force of his addiction. Then he would Continue reading

Ash Wednesday and Hard Hearts

heart_stoneHere we are, another Ash Wednesday. This one comes so late, too. By this time last year Easter was clearly on the horizon, at the end of March. This year, we are just about to begin Lent.

Somehow, all I can think about is the dark of winter and Lent, and how light it will be starting next week. No, no, no… Something feels off about that.

It’s me that is off if I am honest; I don’t like change as much as I pretend to like it. Why can’t Lent always start in early or mid-February? My pretty, shiny stone heart likes it better that way! Insert pouting face here. I know that we got those ceramic hearts at mass this weekend… And I believe, as Fr. Jerry told us, that they are to remind us of God’s love, but my heart feels hard, resistant to change. Very. Resistant.

Oh Ash Wednesday, you are upon us. Today work was full of the usual “Ashes will be distributed at masses at 9, 12, and 6:30pm.” My goal is to avoid the church secretary’s tongue twister that offers the potential for mixing up ASHES and MASSES. If the “sh” ends up with the m, then the double s goes Continue reading

Lenten Workout for Your Soul – Book Review and Giveaway

404616_LARGEAbout six years ago, I found myself reading The Ignatian Workout by Tim Muldoon. In all honesty, I did not take to the book. At the time, I was still “working out” my relationship with Ignatius! Then I picked the same book up about a year ago, and got a lot out of it. Funny what time does, along with an open mind, right?

This is precisely why I was very interested in reading his latest offering, The Ignatian Workout for Lent, 40 Days of Prayer, Reflection, and Action, from Loyola Press. It did not disappoint!

Muldoon skillfully employs the athletic references of St. Paul, which we know are many. That kind of theme turn hackneyed and a-bit-too-clever in the hands of a lesser author, but not so with this one.

For me, another potential challenge with using the “running the race” motif is that spiritual pursuit can be turned into something that we have the power to do for ourselves, and by ourselves. Oh yes, if only we train hard enough and stay focused! Where is the room for God’s action and mercy in that?

In setting the tone for Lent in particular, but truly for our lives, Muldoon expresses some real insight about that thought in the introduction, reminding us of the “ecclesial” dimensions of lives of faith. Everything we do is not by and for ourselves, but should be ordered to the “good of the whole people of God.” It is this sort of wisdom, given at the beginning, that orients this resource towards a wide audience.

Other connections and contrasts, to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are set forth. This guide is organized around four “weeks.” For those familiar with the Exercises, this is a time frame used by St. Ignatius. My own experience with the Exercises, limited as it is, reminds me that my own need to “accomplish” this “race” in what I perceive four weeks to be, is not spiritually healthy.

The primary intent is on themed weeks, but the book is set in an Ignatian style, with 40 days of “exercises” for the holy season of our 40 days of Lent. They are not dated and do not refer to the mass readings.

So sports fans and non-sports fans alike, those who are immersed in Ignatian spirituality and those who have curiosity about how it might work in their own lives, please consider buying this book. It may just be the helpful foundation needed to get you going. And for all of us looking to deepen our Lent, this book has the potential be rich resource to turn to this year. And the next year, and the next year… It could have a very long life in your Lenten collection!

The Ignatian Workout for Lent is a little bigger that some of the other resources reviewed this week, perhaps the “largest.” It is still very portable, so the idea of taking it with you is not a problem, nor is taking up room on your nightstand. This volume is available in both paperback and several eBook formats. Visit the Loyola Press website, for more details and purchase, as well as web resources for whatever particular ebook format might be.

Today is the last review and as always, leaving a comment, however brief, puts you in the running to win. Please feel free to share this post with others, all are welcome to read and enter!

Here is to a great Lent for us, one in which we find ways to quiet down, strip down, and grow closer to God. My prayers are for one and all, and I am most thankful for your reading and journeying with me out here!

Not By Bread Alone – Plus A Retreat Offer – Lenten Resource Review and Giveaway

NotByBreadAloneThis blog, as you know, is called “There Will Be Bread.” The title came to me through some prayer and meditation about Eucharistic living and the importance of God encountered in real form as we gather at the table. In this way, I am aware that “bread” is not “bread” alone. And we do not live by bread alone, but by the bread that is Christ.

That is why I love the title of this next little Lenten offering, Daily Reflections for Lent, Not By Bread Alone, by Robert F. Morneau, published by Liturgical Press. It is a true gem! If I am honest, I will tell you that I look forward to each year’s version of this small book. This year’s edition does not disappoint. None of this is a surprise considering the nature of content that comes from this august publisher.

The format is simple. Each day is marked by a line from Scripture and followed by a brief reflection. Bishop Morneau is an excellent writer, which one must be to convey so much in but a few words and images. His voice is gentle and wise. East reflection is followed by a couple of thoughts to prompt meditation, and then by a closing prayer.

It is with regret that I tell you that the paper copy of this book is already sold out! That said, a copy does await today’s winner. If you want to purchase an eBook version, please purchase at Liturgical Press. A large print edition is also available by clicking here.

Your comment on the blog counts as your entry. This will be a great book to win considering that you can’t buy it any longer!

13292458-empty-wooden-fruit-or-bread-basket-on-white-backgroundIn addition to reviewing this Lenten book resource, I also wanted to say a few words about an upcoming online retreat for the season. Desert Journey and Daily Bread: Food and Fasting in Lent is being offered by theologian, author, and spiritual director, Jane Redmont. This topic is very timely of course, and I was reminded of the connection of not living by bread alone.

This seven week online journey is a call to, in Jane’s words, “simplicity, mindfulness, and holiness.” Each week of this ecumenical journey will offer a different theme, via short readings, spiritual exercises, prayers, images, and explorations of the broader context of the Lenten journey. The retreat runs from March 5 to April 20, and gives one the opportunity to commit to a Lenten practice. The retreat is fully online, and need only be as interactive as the user wishes. There are more details at the link.

Jane+at+ferry+terminal+July+25+2011+croppedA skilled retreat leader and facilitator who brings a contemplative focus to all of her work, Jane has extensive experience offering online retreats. The retreat cost is $150 and there may be options for a sliding scale payment or scholarship. Contact Jane via her website for information. In full disclosure, I am very pleased that I myself have decided to join in on this Lenten retreat.

Jane is offering a special price reduction for Food and Fasting to readers of this blog. The cost is $150, but there is an early bird price in place this week for $120. If you register by Sunday, use code 1105 for a reduced price of $105. If you register from Monday on, the price goes back to $150, but the reduced offering will be $135. Please use code 2135 for that! Thank you Jane, for offering these price breaks. This makes a great value an even greater one!

Hope to have many of you join us on this unique Lenten journey. If you have questions about an online retreat, ask Jane by writing to readwithredmont at earthlink dot net.

Remember leave a comment to win a book, and go to Jane Redmont’s website to register for this retreat. (She is also offering a Merton retreat, read more about that at that link.)

Thanks for reading and commenting, all are welcome! Please fee free to share these opportunities and offers with others.

Lenten Reflection for Tuesday, March 26, 2013 by Karen Bond

Parishioner Karen Bond wrote this for Tuesday, March 26, and due to my own backlog, I did not get to post it until now. I hope that you will read this and be as moved as I was. Her story about someone who discovers our parish and starts to attend mass, has moved me tremendously. Thank you Karen, your open heart is a gift – and you are most welcome. We hope that all know that they are welcome here. And thank you Karen!

pewI wanted to write something for today’s Pastoral Postings, but the words aren’t coming as easily as I had expected (or wanted) them to. I chose today’s date because it was one that was very significant to me.

One year ago today I began attending daily Mass during the week. It kind of came about accidentally, but in the last year, I’ve discovered that nothing is accidental.

Every day that I attended, I discovered something new about the Lord, the church and myself.

For one thing, I became calmer. I wasn’t looking for it, but it was a definite change in my mindset.

It began on my drives to church in the mornings. They had the effect of washing away the troubles and the bad part of the last night and the morning. I wasn’t trying to get rid of it, but my mind would clear itself and when I arrived at the church door, I was ready for whatever message was coming my way.

For another thing, more likely than not there was a question in my mind, a struggle, something that I needed help with and had nowhere to go, and nine times out of ten, the answer was there in the Mass. If it wasn’t in the Gospel or the Responsorial, it was in the homily.

As a child and young person growing up, I wasn’t Catholic, so the few times I would attend church for friends, for weddings or funerals, it was awkward. I was awkward. I understood nothing, I never knew when to stand, when to sit, when my eyes should be open or closed. How did everyone know what to say and when? I was uncomfortable whenever Jesus was mentioned.

However, from my first day here at Mass, I wasn’t awkward. I wasn’t looked at strangely. I was welcomed. I felt welcomed. My questions were welcomed. No one cared that I wasn’t Catholic, and they went out of their way to explain anything to me that I asked about. I was allowed to explore my faith and myself and the pieces of the church that I had never seen before or been exposed to, and discovered much more than a place to rest my depression or simply a place to go.
I still didn’t know what to do, but it didn’t matter. I stood when the person in front of me stood, and sat when they sat. When they turned to shake my hand, I shook theirs, and in that moment of touch, it was like a bolt of lightning. I felt my face alight with a smile and joy filled my soul and I looked forward to that touch every day; the connection as our eyes met, our hands met. I would close my hand and keep that touch in there for as long as I could. It gave me energy. It gave me hope. It gave me promise and purpose and love. And I held it close.

When I would forget, I could just close my hand and it would be back again.

One year ago I took refuge in the pews of the church, usually empty save for me or the occasional visit by the grounds keeper. Before I began attending the Masses, I would just sit and read the daily prayers in the Missal. I was lost and at a loss and just in the sitting and talking to G-d, I found something. I hadn’t realized it at the time; it took several months to realize how important my mornings with G-d meant to me and how they changed me in a positive way.
In the year since that first day, I have found many more readings that fit into my daily life and give me guidance and a hand to hold when I’m feeling alone.

Mass is not an obligation to me. I look forward to the Mass. And I’m never alone.

I have this deeper understanding of who Jesus Christ was and is and where He fits into my life. It is more comfort than I think I have ever felt.

The beginning of today’s Psalm reminds me of why I started coming and why I come nearly every day:
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me.
R. I will sing of your salvation.

It’s hot in here! A Lenten reflection

In today’s first reading we hear the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and their visit to the fiery furnace. This tale has a powerful message for all of us, just like all Scripture does, if we simply stop and listen, holding the words in our hearts.

15-01-02/ 4

This image is from the Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome, Italy.

What would you do if faced with serving another god and making homage to an idolatrous statue and by doing so, reject God? And let’s up the ante… the punishment for not doing this would be a horrifying death in the fiery furnace?

If you are like me, perhaps you will say that you would never reject God. Well, that may be the case for you, but if I even think about this for a minute, I can see just where and how I reject God all day long. Perhaps it is even worse, because I do it so mindlessly, God forgive me.

We are at a critical point in our Lenten journey with Jesus. Jerusalem is calling to us; not a fiery furnace, but the cross awaits us, just as it awaits Jesus. Certain death. Suddenly this whole Christian thing is looking very uncomfortable. Very, very uncomfortable.

Most likely, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, could have rationalized their way out of this. I know that I could! “Le’s see, I think. I ‘pretend’ to follow King Nebuchadnezzar’s god, and when I get out, I will make good on what I have done wrong! Phew! No fiery furnace for me!”

Now as our new Pope Francis recently reminded us that “the Lord never tires of forgiving,” true enough. However, do we ever tire of making the wrong choices? I know that I feel like I tire of making them, but somehow, I… keep… making… them… *sigh*

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are a reminder, forerunners of Christ, of what happens when we make the correct choice. Often we lose it all – or seemingly so. Do we really lose it? Or do we gain? If our life is solely grounded in the material, then forget it. If we are solely grounded in how many hours we spend in church or in prayer, looking up at God, we might want to forget that, also. Once again, we find ourselves in the great both/and of life. We have certain obligations and responsibilities to our material life, true enough. And wouldn’t we want time in church and in prayer?

How do we hold the tension between heaven and earth and make the correct choices? Sometimes we have to choose the most difficult thing. Jesus lived that for us, he died for us. There were many before him who foreshadow what was to come, from Moses to Abraham to – I could go on and on – and including, our three friends in the hot spot.

This Sunday we will hear the Passion, and then we enter Holy Week. What awaits us? The same things that awaited Jesus. Choices between life and death, with the counter-intuitive choice of death bringing new life.

The fiery furnace and the Cross attract me, but do I really choose them? Luckily for us, our tireless God forgives us, but ultimately our choice will have to be made.

What will we do?

Thy will, not my will

blahblahblah2In today’s Gospel

Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Well, that is pretty clear, isn’t it? Sometimes I begin to pray and do I ever ramble.

Just like me in Continue reading

Fast day? I’ll have the rocky road, please!

In 1990, I went on a pilgrimage* as a means of thanksgiving for something that had happened. One day, I was part of a small group attempting to climb a path strewn with rocks, on a very, very hot day.

Someone decided, quite sincerely as I recall, that they should go up on their knees, an idea that lasted about sixty seconds. Others were known for doing it, so this person thought it was possible desirable even. I must admit, I agreed, but I was not going to try it.

A discussion of this practice began as we stopped to rest; it was a very hot day as I recall. Our guide, who had led people up and down this path many times, very gently asked why any of us thought we should do this. A few answers sprung up, most of them saying that we thought that God wanted us to make sacrifices. She shook her head, I recall thinking that her large blue eyes looked like seas of compassion, and she said that maybe we shouldn’t always be deciding what God wants. She went on to say that what if God wanted us to go home and forgive the person we had the greatest grudge against, rather than climb rocks on our knees?

Our small group fell silent. Who wanted to do that?

Can’t we climb rocks on our knees, please? I’ll have the rocky road, please!

Today’s first reading delivered me back to that rocky path in an instant, as I read these words from Isaiah 58: Continue reading

Thursday, February 14 – Lenten Reflection by Sean Caron

Mt. Nebo, Jordan. Where Moses addresses the people about to cross the Jordan, into the promised land.

Mt. Nebo, Jordan. Where Moses is believed to have addressed the people, about to cross the Jordan River to the promised land.

L’Chaim! To Life!

(today’s readings found here)Today’s readings resound with calls to Life. I think it’s interesting to see how the various Biblical Authors address the topic of life in these readings.In Deuteronomy, Moses speaks of a “long life for you to live on the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Dt 30:20).  He also promises, “and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy” (Dt  30:16).For Moses, and in the Old Testament in general, the concept of “Life” often refer to “life on the land” – life lived here in the earthly kingdom – lived richly and well in the praise of God. Think here of “a land flowing with milk and honey”(Ex 33:3)! Promises also extend to the earthy future to the decedents of Israel living in the promised land.

David, too, picks up this theme in Psalm 1:

He is like a tree planted near running water, That yields its fruit in due season,and whose leaves never fade.Whatever he does, prospers.

These are beautiful promises, and they inspire Continue reading

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