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#Fast Fridays in #Lent… not that we might do, that we might be… not the sins, but the faith.

#Fast Fridays in #Lent… not that we might do, that we might be… not the sins, but the faith.

Lent is not a punch card. It is not a ticket to heaven. It is not dues paying or making deposits in some holy account.

Lent, in the briefest way, means 40 Days. In the longer way it means this.

40 Days.

Productivity experts tell us that it takes more than 30 days to make something a habit. Some say 66. 

Anyway, I think that’s the point of Lent for me in terms of my spiritual life. It’s making me look at my habits and asking me to add a few that will aid my faith and help me break the sinful habits. It’s like me staring at Jesus in the desert who is staring down temptation. It’s making me stronger. But only if Jesus is with me to give me courage. And the only way he is going to do that is if I’m faithful to the church which gives me the graces I need, since I’m not very courageous on my own.

Honestly, there are many days that I want my Lent to be a ticket that I punch. That way I don’t have to enter into it fully. It can become something that I check off my to-do list.

Sorry, Pat. It ain’t a to-do list.

It’s more like a to be list.

*sigh*

Honestly, I’m so much better at the doing thing.

This is much more than a Martha vs Mary struggle. I understand that message. And trust me, what I’m thinking about is way more than putting Christ above housework and people about things. I understand those priorities. It must now be Christ always. First always. Not first mostly…  This is about how fast do I want to conform to Christ? How quick am I to obey for love of Him? How long will it take for his cruciform to appear in me?

This little meditation from the Magnificat stopped me cold yesterday morning. It is anti-ticket punch. It is antithesis of the gold star mentality of earning our way to heaven, or at least earning our way through Lent. It’s about full on entering into being the one Jesus is recreating us to be. To let Jesus be in me that I might become more like him, to imitate him with greater proficiency and more in line with his thinking, his ways.

And guess what? It positively will not happen without the Church and what the Church prescribes for me, not only this Lent, but always.

Sometimes we take up the attitude vis-à-vis the Church of someone who is looking for a certificate of good behavior. But the Church doesn’t supervise: she exists and we exist within her. She is the Body of Christ and we are members of the Body. Our dependence on her and our commitment to her, if they entail external acts or signs, are above all an internal and vital dependence and commitment. Our dependence on the body that she is, is considerable.

But our initiative, our responsibility, and our function are also considerable. We are designed as irreplaceable parts of the Church. Both our submissions and our initiatives are matters of obedience, as they would be for a body’s cells…

We don’t make good on obedience with a prayer said at Mass, with a devotion to a priest or to a movement. We don’t even make good on it with a faithful life of the sacraments, or with a fervent life of prayer, but rather by carrying our sacramental life and our prayer life wherever they must go, all the way to the end for which they were made.

- Servant of God Madeleine Delbrêl (from We, the Ordinary People of the Streets)

Wherever they must go, all the way to the end for which they were made. That is purpose of Lent. Because that is the purpose of faith… that we might be in a relationship with the One who called us to be.

But let me tell you, I repeat: I cannot be all that I am to be without the Body of Christ, the Church. I cannot make it without grace.

It is the Church that believes first, and so bears, nourishes and sustains my faith. Everywhere, it is the Church that first confesses the Lord: “Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you”, as we sing in the hymn “Te Deum”; with her and in her, we are won over and brought to confess: “I believe”, “We believe”. It is through the Church that we receive faith and new life in Christ by Baptism. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 168)

There is one tiny little prayer that priest offers at Mass before the Sign of Peace. Maybe you know it. It is a great consolation to me:

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you. Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever. (Emphasis mine.)

I am always praying that in some way. Every day. Look not on the sins, but on the faith. My sins and the faith of the Church.

Thank you, Church.

 Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.
1Peter 4:8

 

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More on I-am-faithless-but-God-is-faithful.

This makes me think… about the intersection of humility and divine mercy…

St. Therese of the Child Jesus teaches, that “what offends God and wounds His heart most is want of confidence” (Letters).

To be wanting in confidence in God’s mercy, even after a grave fall, is never a sign of true humility but of insidious pride and diabolical temptation. If Judas had been humble he would have asked pardon and wept for his sins like Peter, instead of despairing. Humility is the virtue which keeps us in our place; and our place in God’s sight is that of children who are weak and miserable, yes, but confident children.

When we fall into the same imperfections after so many good resolutions; when after many efforts we still do not succeed in correcting certain faults or in overcoming certain difficulties, and we find ourselves in one way or another far beneath what we ought or would like to be, let us have recourse to the infallible remedy of humility. “Humility,” says St. Teresa of Jesus, is “the ointment for our wounds” (Interior Castle). Even if we seem to have used up all our strength, if we feel unable to do anything and see ourselves always prostrate, powerless to rise, there is still one possibility for us: to humble ourselves. Let us humble ourselves sincerely and with confidence; and humility will supply for all our miseries; it will heal all our wounds because it will attract divine mercy to them.
-Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy-
#Fast Friday in Lent …  mid-Lent, midlife…

#Fast Friday in Lent … mid-Lent, midlife…

Here we are, approaching mid-Lent! I was encouraging my bible study students this week that it is never too late to make a good Lent. Lots of folks have a fast start. They get all excited to maintain the practices of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer and then forget, or can’t maintain the habit, or peter out. Or they get too busy. Or too easily discouraged. Nobody said this would be easy.

But really, even great saints remind us that it is never too late to begin again.

Nunc coepi! — now I begin! This is the cry of a soul in love which, at every moment, whether it has been faithful or lacking in generosity, renews its desire to serve — to love! — our God with a wholehearted loyalty.

-St Josemaria Escriva-

Hit the re-set button. Begin anew. Begin today. Take one small step.

A saint is not someone who never sins,

but one who sins less and less frequently

and gets up more and more quickly.

-St. Bernard of Clairvaux-

It’s not just mid-Lent, for me it’s mid-life. Yet the message is the same. It’s never too late to change and start over — not just in Lent, but in our longing to do good and love the Lord more.

Never give up hope. We can all become saints, even if we get a late start in life.

Grace leads the way.

What Jesus is by nature, we can become through grace.

The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to His own purpose and grace… in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God’s gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received…. to live “as becomes saints”…

…that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity…

…they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. (Lumen Gentium, par 40-41, from Vatican II)

Some of the mightiest saints converted and came alive in their middle years.

Great saints for midlife include St Peter, and St Paul. Both met Jesus in midlife — the former because his brother dragged him to meet Jesus, and the latter because Jesus met him is flash of light on the road to Damascus  Of course, St Augustine dilly dallied for quite some time before caving into the love of God, too. Augustine’s conversion deeply affected his mother, St Helena. Then there’s St Teresa of Avila whose deepest conversion — in the “on going conversion” sense — began in her forties, long after first giving her life to Christ as a religious sister. There are so many more. Look into St Margaret of Cortona, St Olga of Kiev, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (AKA Edith Stein), and the later in life convert-to-Catholicism Elizabeth Ann Seton.

(H/T to my author-friend Melanie Rigney, the saint researcher, for our emails about saints with later-in-life conversions.)

There’s an old expression, “You can’t teach an old dog, new tricks.” But my Dad, whom I call a dog whisperer, teaches old rescued dogs things all the time. I’m not calling anyone here an old dog, but the same adage applies. The Heart Whisperer, the Lover of Our Soul, Jesus Christ can rekindle the flame in us, no matter what our age! But especially those of us a little older in years. We might think change is beyond us. Yet it is never beyond grace and mercy.

Who could ever forget Abraham and Moses? They got the call to shift gears and follow God — complete with cross-country moves to new places — deep into their graying years.

It’s only mid-Lent. That means for some of us, we’re just gettin’ started.

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Good encouragement here:

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For Comic Relief: Speaking of St Peter and other saints, Stephen Colbert is fan of Simon Peter…

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Why #Fast Friday in Lent?

#Fast Friday on Confession

 

 

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I must thank St John Paul II and Ave Maria Press: Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious is now in Polish!

I must thank St John Paul II and Ave Maria Press: Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious is now in Polish!

BBB cover art. POLISH EDITION-1

 

What a thrill to see this book now in print in the mother tongue of St John Paul II — the author of all good things related to the feminine genius.

Super that the book will be available for when World Youth Day comes to Krakow, Poland in 2016.

(I did not know that this was in the works… my publisher totally surprised me… I was innocently opening the mail and found 4 copies of the new book.)

Do I have any Polish speaking readers here? Contact me!

 

The Feminine Genius and reading ’round the Web… Don’t miss these posts!

The Feminine Genius and reading ’round the Web… Don’t miss these posts!

There has been, in the last two weeks, much important reading on subjects close to my heart, and many women’s hearts, relating to the feminine genius and the beauty of womanhood — and our loss of that sensibility and truth. Much of my writing and speaking in the three years has been to point out the basics of woman’s dignity, gifts, and mission as presented to our through the teachings of the Catholic Church, which is more pro-woman and pro-life than any other institution or organization you could name. (To learn more on this perspective, see my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious. Or come to one of my events.)

Sadly, I have been unable to comment on these posts, save for the briefest ideas,  due to my current writing work load and travel schedule

I am, however, linking to a few of those posts here. It’s Lent, after all, so I invite you to read and reflect on these in light of the Gospel, and our call to live it.

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1. Mary Eberstadt’s piece on Jailhouse Feminism over at National Review online is jarring as it is astutely on to something… the rage of women in the media and elsewhere is pointing to their abuse and abasement by themselves and others all in the name of freedom. This is must reading. Warning: course language here.

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2. Read Our Emotions, Our Bodies, Ourselves by Carolyn Moynihan as she comments on a female psychiatrist, writing in the NY Times about a boom in the number of women (1 in 4) talking medications… it was most emailed article on the New York Times website over the weekend, “Medicating Women’s Feelings”. I admit I have not had time to read the NY Times article but this reply references offers much quoted source material.  It is worth reading this piece by the ever-wise Carolyn Moynihan.

A few of my thoughts: One of the powerful gifts of women is their sensitivity, or empathy. It is more than emotions, for sure. But if we don’t understand the body-soul connection of a woman’s great ability of “seeing” with her heart, she might not understand that what breaks her heart also points her in the direction of holy actions: To be deeply rooted in prayer and clinging to Christ, and to be ready to acknowledge the the persons in their midst in need of care and nurture.

Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty—not merely physical, but above all spiritual—which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women.

(St John Paul II, Letter to Women, 12)

How many women may have been medicated, or told they were crazy or unbalanced, when, really they are not — just normal? I can’t take that in now, but it grieves my heart.

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3. Yet another post on one of the gifts of women, this time, maternity: Motherhood is the Strongest Bond written by a blogger who describes the heart of women… and how we need to stand alongside one another, mother to mother, when we encounter the toughest of all crosses, the death of a child. I’m reminded here how mothers are well disposed, as St John Paul would say, not only their own children, but to all children. The author of the piece has this central message: “You’re a mother, you know.”

Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb. The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and “understands” with unique intuition what is happening inside her. In the light of the “beginning,” the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings—not only towards her own child, but every human being—which profoundly marks the woman’s personality. (St John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, 18)

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4. The Christophers’ Tony Rossi has a piece up includes some compelling lyrics from singer Kelly Clarkson, and others who are trying to combat the madness of sexual imagery that is everywhere.

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5. Some hope here from Lisa Hendey in her piece on The Blogosphere as a Mission Field, with lots of commentary from women leaders, including myself.

While I really appreciate this well written piece, it’s important to remember Lisa’s end point: we are all called to the new evangelization. For many of us, it’s the call to be saints whose mission is to rescue the culture from its confusion and chaos regarding the gifts of masculinity and femininity.

Helloooo Montana! I’m off to Billings, MT – come join me at the Sisters in Faith Conference! Mar 20-21!

Helloooo Montana! I’m off to Billings, MT – come join me at the Sisters in Faith Conference! Mar 20-21!

 

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I’m flying out to the Big Horn Resort in Billings Montana for the Catholic women’s conference — “Sisters in Faith” — sponsored by KJCR radio. Full details here. 

Among Women 189: Leading with Humility — talking about “The Prodigal You Love”

Among Women 189: Leading with Humility — talking about “The Prodigal You Love”

In this latest episode of Among Women, I discuss the unscheduled hiatus of the show in the last couple of months, as well as my forays into the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. I also welcome my guest, Sr Theresa Aletheia Noble FSP, author of a new book from Pauline Books and Media, The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church. St Theresa is a former atheist who returned to the Catholic faith after encountering Catholics whose authentic faith and joy won her over. In this conversation Sr Theresa offers three tip for helping us invite our loved ones back into the Church… the most important of which is to lead with humility.

Finally we explore the life of a 14th century saint, St Dorothy of Montau, whose humility and gentility won the hearts of her husband to Catholicism, as well as many others. Don’t miss the return of Among Women with this newest episode.

Listen now. 

This makes me think… a prayer from St Thomas Aquinas to be diligent and to order my day

For Ordering a Life Wisely

O merciful God, grant that I may desire ardently, search prudently, recognize truly, and bring to perfect completion whatever is pleasing to You for the praise and glory of Your name.

Put my life in good order, O my God.

Grant that I may know what You require me to do.Bestow upon me the power to accomplish Your will, as is necessary and fitting for the salvation of my soul.

Grant to me, O Lord my God, that I may not falter in times of prosperity or adversity, so that I may not be exalted in the former, nor dejected in the latter.

May I not rejoice in anything unless it leads me to You; may I not be saddened by anything unless it turns me from You.

May I desire to please no one, nor fear to displease anyone, but You.

May all transitory things, O Lord, be worthless to me and may all things eternal be ever cherished by me.

May any joy without You be burdensome for me and may I not desire anything else besides You.

May all work, O Lord, delight me when done for Your sake and may all repose not centered in You be ever wearisome for me.

Grant unto me, my God, that I may direct my heart to You and that in my failures I may ever feel remorse for my sins and never lose the resolve to change.

O Lord my God, make me submissive without protest, poor without discouragement, chaste without regret, patient without complaint, humble without posturing, cheerful without frivolity, mature without gloom, and quick-witted without flippancy.

O Lord my God, let me fear You without losing hope, be truthful without guile, do good works without presumption, rebuke my neighbor without haughtiness, and—without hypocrisy—strengthen him by word and example.

Give to me, O Lord God, a watchful heart, which no capricious thought can lure away from You.

Give to me a noble heart, which no unworthy desire can debase.

Give to me a resolute heart, which no evil intention can divert.

Give to me a stalwart heart, which no tribulation can overcome.

Give to me a temperate heart, which no violent passion can enslave.

Give to me, O Lord my God, understanding of You, diligence in seeking You, wisdom in finding You, discourse ever pleasing to You, perseverance in waiting for You, and confidence in finally embracing You.

Grant that with Your hardships I may be burdened in reparation here, that Your benefits I may use in gratitude upon the way, that in Your joys I may delight by glorifying You in the Kingdom of Heaven.

You Who live and reign, God, world without end.

Amen.

[These and other prayers by St Thomas Aquinas can be found in the volume entitled, The Aquinas Prayer Book: The Prayers and Hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas, available from Sophia Institute Press (1-800-888-9344).]

#Fast Friday in #Lent… cleaning grime outta the corners

#Fast Friday in #Lent… cleaning grime outta the corners

I’ve been at home a lot. There’s some much snow up here in New England, it’s keeping me indoors. Clutter within the four walls is starting to drive me crazy and slowly.

As part of my Lenten penances, and to grow in humility and diligence, I’m cleaning a lot of grime out of the corners. You know the kind. In the kitchen it’s the grimy places along the back edge of the stove where it meets the countertop and the wall. Or, there’s that infrequently seen part of the counter under the knife block. Just a few nights ago we moved the dog’s crate out of the corner where it usually stays put and swept up the sniggling little scraps that have fallen behind it the past year.

Last weekend, I actually took our furniture polish and cleaned up some wooden furniture needing attention. After first having to organize and dust all the shelves.

This coming week I’m staring down multiple stacks of books that I simply must categorize and place in the office or give away. Oh gosh, the office, that’s another zone crying for my attention.

I simply must manage the little piles whose girth keeps spreading.

There are many days that I lament that I do not have a cleaning service because I’m so lazy with the domestic arts. But our budget cannot afford it, so it falls to me. (Bob is a help when I ask… but he doesn’t complain much and somehow he doesn’t see the grimy build-up the way I do.)

Did you catch that previous admission? I’m l.a.z.y. Doing these little chores can become penitential for someone like me. Sure I tidy up a lot during the week…. but the deep cleaning… whoa, that’s a commitment. I can only overcome laziness and procrastination by growing more diligent. (Remember, my doing these thing without complaining and without any recognition is worth more value to my soul than talking about it in a blog post. So, you can see, I’ve still got some growing to do.)

It’s not lost on me that the penitential nature of Lent requires us to go after the grime in the corners of our souls. Those little piles of sins we’re been meaning to get to… but somehow, and I’m speaking to myself here, we’re simply willing to live with or ignore. Dat grimy gunk over dere ain’t botherin’ nobody, right?

Naturally, as a practicing Catholic, I know all the rules about venial and mortal sins. I’ve been at this long enough to try to really steer clear from the mortal ones…. but O Lordy watch me still trip over those venial ones…. especially the bad language. It’s a default code my tongue finds when I’m stressed, over-tired, or frustrated. And that’s for starters, and I already mentioned the laziness about chores…. but I don’t need to confess my sins to you here. Today I had to take off to confession and Mass, and, trust me, I was grateful to go.

Any of this familiar to you? I’m not here to nag you. Just reminding you that we’re all got stuff to confess and clean up. By all means, let’s all get to confession this Lent.

Release the grime. Make the commitment.

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For comic relief: Life is messy. Clean it up. 

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This might help: Forgiveness is Waiting for You:  8 Tips for an Awesome Confession

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Why #Fast Fridays?

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After I wrote this, I found this great advice from Chris Stefanick… loved that he mentions the corners…

 

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This makes me think…. about fasting…

Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works. If you see a poor man, take pity of him. If you see a friend being honored, do not envy him. Do not let only your mouth fast, but also to eye, the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all members of our bodies. Let the hands fast, by being free of avarice [greed]. Let the eyes fast by disciplining it not to glare at that which is sinful. Let the ear fast, by not listening to evil talk and gossip. Let the mouth fast from foul words and criticism. For what good is it if we abstain from fowl and fishes, but bite and devour one another?

St John Chrysostom, 4th century