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#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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My column at Patheos: Lumen Fidei’s last chapter = Faith as light in family, cities, culture

My column at Patheos: Lumen Fidei’s last chapter = Faith as light in family, cities, culture

As we conclude the Year of Faith this month, I’m completing my 5-part series at Patheos summarizing Francis’ first encyclical on faith, Lumen Fidei, looking at chapter four. (Check out the new study guide on the document at the bottom of this post.)

Here’s the opening of my latest column at Patheos…

God has our best in mind — always! God sees the eternal city he longs to bring us to one day. Yet at the same time God provides faith for the life we are called to build in our homes, cities, and societies. In this final chapter of Lumen Fidei (LF), Francis explores how faith builds a better world for the sake of all.

Screen Shot 2012-09-26 at 11.39.54 AMFaith is not only a journey, but also “a process of building, the preparing of a place in which human beings can dwell together with one another (LF, 50).” God first built the Creation where humanity could live and flourish. Then he took it a step farther and engaged humanity, calling us into a relationship with himself.

We’ve seen from history that God always builds with the good of his people in mind. God calls us to build with him, and we must do so with faith in God in mind.

The faith of Abraham and the Old Testament peoples was built upon the promises of God and a yearning for their fulfillment: a holy land, a chosen nation, a blessing for the world. The Letter to the Hebrews recalls how their faith was built on God.

“They desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb 11:16).”

Faith builds reliably on the firmness and fidelity of God himself. Faith illuminates all we do, not just for ourselves but for the good of all.

We are designed to think and act like God — for the common good — building families and societies with faith.

Faith makes us appreciate the architecture of human relationships because it grasps their ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love, and thus sheds light on the art of building; as such it becomes a service to the common good. Faith is truly a good for everyone; it is a common good. Its light does not simply brighten the interior of the Church, nor does it serve solely to build an eternal city in the hereafter; it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope. (LF, 51)

Families are the building blocks of society that best serve the common good. God’s master plan uses families to bring love to the world.

The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan. Grounded in this love, a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love. Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person. (LF, 52)

Truly the vocation of marriage and family life is bigger than what a husband and wife might plan for themselves. Their home is the field where the seeds of God’s plan are sown; it is the where faith is passed on and where children learn to trust in the love of parents, and ultimately trust God too.

This is why it is so important that within their families parents encourage shared expressions of faith which can help children gradually to mature in their own faith (LF, 53).

The encounter with Christ is an indispensible necessity to fruitful family life. Strong Christian marriages give birth and build strong Christians. Homes built on the foundation of Christ provide a secure and firm environment for the conversion of children and their spiritual maturing.

Encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives [life] a firm hope which will not disappoint. Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness (LF, 53).

Read the rest at my column on Patheos.

To catch up with the series I wrote on Lumen Fidei, you can find the introduction here, and my earlier articles on Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 3.

Go here to subscribe to my column by email or RSS.

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EXCELLENT RESOURCE!! Master Catechist and Ave Maria Press author, Jared Dees, has a great study guide on Lumen Fidei. Now you can do a personal study on this encyclical, or do a group study in your home or church! Don’t miss this study guide!

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