In the latest episode of Among Women, author and Catholic.Mom found Lisa Hendey shares her amazing trip to India and her ongoing association with the mission of Unbound.org. We talk about how personal sponsorship can be a loving almsgiving plan.
In this program we look at the art of giving — specifically, alms-giving this Lent. Together with my guests, Sherry Brownrigg and Lisa Hendey, we talk about the work of almsgiving this Lent through the mission of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and its Lenten apostolate called “Rice Bowl”. Both Brownrigg and Hendey recently toured CRS’s mission in Colombia’s coffee country and share their pilgrimage stories and their passion for Rice Bowl as a powerful means of almsgiving and personal transformation.
There are many of us, for very good reasons, who cannot attend the March for Life in Washington DC on January 22, or the ones scheduled in other cities. Yet we yearn to attend. Let us channel that yearning beyond wishful thinking and DO SOMETHING.
Discern on what front God wants you. Catholics have a consistent life ethic. Preventing abortion is a very important aspect of that ethic, but so is caring for those women. men, and families needing support in their daily needs, and those facing the end-of-life. The USCCB’s Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities has four emphases that you should consider. I’m here just to say we all can DO SOMETHING.
Here are three suggestions:
1. Pray and fast. Offer your intentions for the March and the marchers’ witness to life, for families in need, and for women contemplating abortion. Also discern where God is nudging you to act.
Pray as you are able. Pick one or more:
- Go to Mass
- Pray a Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy
- Spend an hour in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Fast as you are able. Pick one or more:
- Fast from lunch, or choose a bread and water fast for the day.
- Fast from coffee, or whatever your go-to beverage is.
- Fast from television, or better yet, your internet connection, for a period of several hours or days.
2. Support and celebrate motherhood.
- Do you know a single mother? Call her today and tell her you are ready to give her one day a month to serve her. She has the hardest job in the world. Make a plan and let this be your private march for life during the Year of Mercy. March on over to her house and get involved. Perform a chore, babysit, pay a bill if you are able, tutor a child, paint a room. You get the picture. And remember to invite her to church with you, and tell her you’ll help with the children.
- This is a very unique idea: Offer to host the 2016 Catholic Conference 4 Moms, themed “Faces of Mercy”, at your church or in your living room during Lent. This is an online conference with videos and support materials — a complete “conference in a box”. Listen to this Among Women podcast for a conversation with the conference organizer, Tami Kiser. [Update for 2017: Tami Kiser offers a new parish event for women.]
3. Donate your time or your money to those who are assisting women with crisis pregnancies, or trying to find healing from “the after affects” of abortion.
These groups support women and babies:
These groups support women in recovery from abortion, with confidential retreats, counseling, etc.
May the “people of life” constantly grow in number and may a new culture of love
and solidarity develop for the true good of the whole of human society.
– Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life, no. 101_
This Lent, I’ve been working on a deeper sense of fasting. Of course, that’s supposed to be between me and the Lord, but I thought I’d share just a few things that I’m learning about myself and that perhaps these things will resonate with you. If not, just move along with your day, don’t let me be a distraction.
So that’s the first thing about fasting: Distraction. So many distractions that can try to pull us away.
Distractions make us want to give up.
If you are fasting on a fast day on bread and water, you suddenly see all the luscious fruit on the countertop from your last grocery shop and you secretly wonder if you don’t enjoy it now, it may go bad by tomorrow. Distraction! Or as you’re preparing the evening meal for others, you decide that maybe a glass of wine would be just what you need. Distraction!! These are the moments when fasting is really a test of your will. Identifying your distractions is helpful.
To decide to stay with your fast is the goal. So to defend your fast against distraction, it’s okay to put the fruit or the wine in another room on a fast day. It’s also okay to plan a recipe with the food you are fasting from today (or for the whole of Lent) that you will cook tomorrow (or on Easter). That way you can think about the gift that food truly is for you as you fast from it today. And you’ll enjoy a richer blessing of it tomorrow or in Eastertide.
Distraction and the temptation to end your fast prematurely will be less likely if you find the fast that works for you — that is, making fasting something truly sacrificial and something that lends to a conversation between you and the Lord, but one that is not negatively impacting those around you. Otherwise, every distraction will equal a fail in your mind, and you might consider skipping your fast all together. Talk to the Lord when you feel distracted and talk to your feet too… move away from the distraction!
The goal here is tame the will and not crush the spirit. And to let your fast be something that you can lift up for love of Jesus.
Here’s something I’ve learned about myself when I am fasting that may be a good example. In the last few weeks, I’m finding I’m less productive work-wise on a fast day. (This is a once a week bread and water fast that I’m doing). Translation: I’m a bit sleepier, slower, and finding that coffee really is my friend. I don’t want to be a grumpy faster or non-productive at work, especially when I have to lead a class or give a presentation. So what to do? If my bread and water fast days occur on a night when I have to teach, etc., I allow a little coffee into my schedule. I have to know myself, and I have to be considerate of those I interact with. I’m still working up to the full on bread and water fasts, but when I need to “on”, I choose to modify the fast. So my bread and water fast days may have additional coffee/tea breaks if needed, especially when I have to interact with others.
If moving my fast day is an option, I might do that, too. So, you might think I’m a slacker. I’m mean, why not just soldier on and keep that fast day as scheduled? Am I not holy enough to do that? Am I cheating or something?
This brings me to the second thing that fasting teaches me: The need to achieve is strong in this one.
Patience, Not Perfectionism.
Fasting is not about perfectionism. Perfectionism is — A DISTRACTION!!!!!!
Honestly… I’m also trying to let go of perfectionism. Perfectionism tells me I can do it all and it shows the world I can do it. My goal is to keep this between me and Jesus and not get all self righteous about my performance of this fast or task. Trust me, sometimes it takes more humility for me, and is a greater sacrifice, to change the day and to give up my control of things, than to keep the date I had scheduled. May the Lord be the Lord of my Day. Not me.
Finally, the third point about fasting and distraction… sometimes even delayed gratification is positive and moving you toward giving up full control, and that’s good too.
Delayed gratification is mortifying.
If you’re fasting from, say, television, suddenly it seems everyone you know is talking about the game you missed or the episode of such-and-such that you are now pining to see. The chatter from others, both in person or online, can be a real humbling of our need to part of the in-crowd among friends or colleagues.
(Fortunately, in the land of online streaming and DVR’s we are not really fasting from those things… we are merely post-poning our gratification… for eventually, we may indeed watch what we’ve missed and catch up.)
Certain moments like this remind me that even delayed gratification is worth doing. It is worth something not to live in an on-demand way, to accept rather humbly what comes our way, as if you are waiting for a surprise. You never know what God might send into the empty space of time you create for Him. It gives him the full access (dare I say the remote control access?) to our hearts, rather than us being in control.
Fasting is not a cruel Catholic joke. It’s meant to change us, to change what we depend on. Do I depend on myself or the Lord? If my fast does not have me seeking Jesus, then change it up. Yes, it’s okay to begin anew. To hit the restart button and select a fast that keeps you in closer contact with Christ.
So, for me, fasting is an exercise in giving up control… to say that its not my way or the highway, that I’m good with whatever the Lord is bringing my way today. He is the Lord of all Time, not me. He is Divine Providence, not me.
What does fasting build in me?
Gratitude and generosity, for starters.
I’m thankful for everything that Providence has supplied for me this Lent, and in many other ways.
That gratitude is allowing me to be more generous in giving alms and wanting to do more and give more and more over to Jesus. The more that I can hand myself over to Jesus, the more his Will will take root in me.
I want Jesus separate me from what I’m attached to, from what takes me away from him. And at the same time I humbly pray that I’m never separated from His Will.
#Fast Friday from last week.
#Fast Friday from two weeks ago: midlife, mid-Lent
Matthew Kelly on 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
“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.
This year I was feeling a bit overwhelmed facing down the Lenten season. It felt like one more thing on my to-do list. But after praying about that I realized that some of the difficult things in the family (lots of illness and joblessness for many loved ones), and in the world (you name it, just watch the news channels and you will have an instant call to prayer), and elsewhere (lots of deadlines and pending work) were weighing heavy.
Lent was not coming to weigh me down — it was coming to lighten my load through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. So all the more reason to GO BIG. Make a splash by calling on ALL the GRACES.
So I went to confession this past weekend. I made a fasting plan. I made a schedule. I’m engaging Lent, embracing it. And it requires some disengagement from other distractions that I’ve been having.
In the end, it’s not about how I feel, its about how I respond. If I do the right things I’m called to, my heart will follow.
OK Jesus – here we go!
Let us pray for one another, shall we?
I’ve compiled good stuff that might help inspire you along the way.
Learn how to pray the Rosary.
Learn how to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
Join an online retreat with Authors Vinita Hampton Wright and Kerry Weber
If you live in the Archdiocese of Boston, there’s confession everywhere… many places around the country are doing the same.
READ and USE these Resources:
Get a printable Lenten calendar from the USCCB, with great suggestions for living every day.
Why Do Catholics Practice Fasting and Abstinence? by Deacon Mike Bickerstaff
5 Reasons to Love Fasting by Matthew Warner (I love #4!)
Fasting suggestions from Life Teen
Get daily Lenten reflections from the late great Fr Henri Nouwen in your email.
Watch The Power and Purpose of Confession, a video with Johnnette Benkovic and Fr Mitch Pacwa. (an oldie from 2008)
Catholic Vote has 40 Things You Should Give Up for Lent
40 Ways to Give during Lent, from the gals at Sound Mind and Spirit blog
Simcha Fisher recommends quality spiritual reading at her Register blog.
Find great soups and inspiration for Lent from The Practicing Catholic’s series “Soup and Stories.“
100 Things to Do for Lent by Meg Hunter-Kilmer
The award for the most-comprehensive-Lenten-Mega-Post goes to Aggie Catholics for the most resources in one place – you’ll find something there that you like, for sure!
The Social Media Scene:
If you are not fasting from social media, make your social media count!
Follow Pope Francis on Twitter. Oh, and there’s this:
Will you help us trend #ashtag tomorrow? Take a forehead selfie after Mass, and post it to social media to tell the world it’s Lent!
— Matt Swaim (@mattswaim) March 4, 2014
Finally, some Podcasts:
Of course, there’s Among Women…
AW 175: The newest episode is “An Appointment with God”. This features a chat with Allison Gingras about her story of growing in relationship with Christ. It also profiles Mary Clopas, friend of Jesus and Mary, and mother to James the apostle, bishop, and writer of an Epistle.
From the archives: AW 126: Special Editon for Lent — AW listeners share their favorite Lenten practices
iPadre Podcast: Fr Jay Finelli has been podcasting for years!
About the Photo above– that’s a photo I took at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. Take a virtual tour.
A few links:
Locally in the Boston Archdiocese, Cardinal Sean O’Malley will lead a vigil at St John’s Seminary.
Press release about Catholic TV’s live and delayed coverage of the event in Rome
Francis’ call to for this day…
More on the letter the Pope pleading for peace by contacting the leaders at the G20 Summit.