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.
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.
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.
More on I-am-faithless-but-God-is-faithful.
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.
[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).]
“God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us.” – Pope Francis
1. Read Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2015. (The quote above comes from it.)
2. Sign up for Fr Robert Barron’s daily Lenten Reflections.
3. Book Review by Barb Szyszkiewicz: 40 Days, 40 Ways, A New Look at Lent by Marcellino D’Ambrosio –one of my favorite writers!
5. Enter Lent, Insert Apps: three Lenten apps to consider by Sarah Reinhard. We technology users need all the help we can get!
6. Read Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son (one of my all time favorite books) and join an online book club here.
8. The Restore Workshop — This “at home” retreat is led in part by Elizabeth Foss. This promises to be rewarding, especially for Moms suffering from burnout. But even if you are not, sign up and make a retreat at home and nurture joy in your life.
9. Browse the USCCB website’s Lenten offerings, including the daily printable calendar. The theme this year is “Raise up, sacrifice, and offer.” From the website: “This Lent, you are encouraged to raise up the needs of the world in prayer, to sacrifice, by giving up food and material wants, and to offer your time, talent and treasure as good stewards of the gifts God has given you.” Lots more here.
10. Finally, if you live in the Archdiocese of Boston, The Light is On For You means that EVERY church is open every Wednesday night during Lent from 6:30-8pm for Confession. Find out more here. If you’ve been away from the sacraments, please read and listen to the advice on this page. (Other dioceses are participating, so check out confession times in your area.)
Photo credit: Your truly shot this at the Mission in Carmel, CA. Junipero Serra will be canonized by Pope Francis soon. I think this quote is appropriate for Lent.
Fr Darryl is one of the many podcasting priests around the world. Here’s one of his latest video creations.
Follow Fr Darryl Millette at SaskaPriest.
This week’s episode of Among Women talks about many things that are close to my heart — marriage and family — and the calling to make Christ the center of those relationship and in our home. I hope you’ll join me as I reflect back on 30+ years of marriage and family life, plus have an inspiring conversation with the woman who is part of the team behind the Like Mother Like Daughter blog, author Leila Marie Lawler. Together we discuss one of my favorite new books of the year, The Little Oratory: A beginner’s guide to praying in the home.
There’s even a chance to win a signed copy of the book from the authors — hear the details on the podcast!
Finally, I hope you’ll enjoy a look at the little-known mystic, St Umilta, as I read some of her passionate writings about our faith.
Don’t miss this episode of Among Women!
Sometimes ya gotta laugh…
These blogs raise bring me giggles and smiles.
The Ironic Catholic, (After years of family camping, and eight years of NOT, this was a gem to read: “How family car camping is like the spiritual life.”)
And over on Twitter, there’s always Emergency Cute Stuff.
Remember, God gave us the gift of laughter… so do it often. It might be the key to your new evangelization witness in the world.
Bonus: There’s still time to get your 2015 Nuns Having Fun Wall Calendar.
Banner Photo: Lily
This week we look at the difficult subject of losing a child to death. Blogger and Long Island Catholic columnist Mary Ellen Barrett reflects on the fifth anniversary since the death of Ryan, her 14 year old son, who died during a camping trip. The search for Ryan, who at first was thought to be lost, went on for some time, and many, including myself, were glued to the internet for news of him during that search as prayers stormed heaven.
Listeners or blog readers familiar with this event will be encouraged by the musings and memories of Ryan’s mother, Mary Ellen. Those uninitiated will be blessed by the faith of this Long Island family who suffered the keenest of losses.
Since this is Respect Life Month, my goal with Mary Ellen is to talk about the beauty and dignity of Ryan’s life — his Christian devotion even as a young boy with special needs — as well as the ups and downs that he faced in family life and elsewhere. Finally, we discuss the outpouring of support from near and far for this grieving family, plus offer tips for helping others facing a similar grief.
In our saint segment, I once again look at the life of St Anna Schaffer, whose life of prayer and acute physical suffering offers a witness to us for how to make our heartaches and pains a path of redemptive suffering.
If you’d like to read a little bit about Mary Ellen’s life with Ryan, you might enjoy this recent article in Seton Magazine, or this one from Catholic Digest. I’ve left a few more, plus blog posts from Mary Ellen’s blog, over with the episode notes for Among Women 185.
Listen to Among Women 185 right now!
If you enjoy Among Women, kindly leave a rating and a review over on iTunes!
This latest episode of Among Women features the faith story of Nan Balfour, whose love and faith in God led her to knowing her feminine genius .
Together we explore the gift of faith and what it means to fall in love with God, and how it changes the way we love and live. Nan Balfour shares pivotal conversion moments in her life — a life of on-going conversion — and how they led her to what she does now. Nan is a leader with the Pilgrim Center of Hope, and the conference coordinator for the Catholic Women’s Conference in San Antonio coming up Sept 19-20.
In our “Blessed are They” segment, we pray along with Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity — whose faith was wrapped up in love of the Holy Trinity.
Don’t miss this episode, and share it with your friends on social media, and put an announcement in your church bulletin for Among Women.
For details on upcoming conferences and retreats with me, Pat Gohn, go here.