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Saturday #2 of “The Five First Saturdays… ” — who’s with me? #5FirstSat4Mary

Saturday #2 of “The Five First Saturdays… ” — who’s with me? #5FirstSat4Mary

We interrupt all the post-Pope coverage for this reminder… Tomorrow is a first Saturday.

Over the summer I was convicted to attempt to make the Five First Saturdays devotion. Let me just say that, like in most families, Saturdays can be pretty hectic. And on reflection, that’s probably why I need this all the more. It’s a taming of my chaotic heart. This devotions send me to monthly confession — always a good practice. It sends me to Mass to meet the lover of my soul in Holy Communion. And it asks me to pray the Rosary to be in touch with Momma Mary, and the intentions of the day.

In this post I share the precepts of making this devotion, so my purpose here is just to encourage you to join me. You can start your five Saturdays tomorrow. (Or if you are reading this down the line, on the next first Saturday.)

After I posted the invitation to join me in the First Saturdays, a little campaign developed on Twitter and Facebook that asked others to join in, as a kind of encouragement and solidarity with one another. What a blessing that is, so if you want, use the #hashtag  and let’s invite others.

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A few notes about this from last month’s experience…

For me, it’s all about conquering the calendar: To make these five mornings a priority. Last month I was going to out of town on the first Saturday, so I had to look up and find a church in the area where I was staying. It also meant I had to restructure my Friday to find a confession time, since I could not rely on that as part of the travel. It afforded me a lovely respite visit to St Joseph the Worker Shrine, one of my favorite haunts over the years. A priest I had never met there before heard my confession and blessed my socks off.

After driving that night to New York, on the next morning, the church my husband and I found for Saturday morning Mass turned out to be a lovely classically hewed-stone church with a “first Saturday” group praying the rosary after Mass, and — bonus! — discovered an eucharistic adoration chapel before we left!

So try it. Ask Momma Mary to help you get this scheduled… to open your calendar and your heart to these prayers and reparation and love of Jesus and Mary. 

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My photo from inside the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul, Philadelphia, PA.

On keeping a good Lent: 10 Helpful Reading & Resource Links:

On keeping a good Lent: 10 Helpful Reading & Resource Links:

“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!

4. Amazing Catechists offers 6 Ways to Pray Your Way Through Lent by Karee Santos. Also some great suggestions on Getting ready for Lent by William O’Leary.

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.

7. Live The Fast – on doing bread and water fasts. Plus you can order bread! (Bonus: Catholic Cuisine has a recipe for fasting bread. Plus other cool recipes for the season.)

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.)

 

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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.

How to Forgive our Fathers: By Making Jesus’ Prayers Our Own

How to Forgive our Fathers: By Making Jesus’ Prayers Our Own

This post is for all those who struggle with their relationship with their fathers. Sometimes, when Father’s Day comes around, we are reminded more acutely that the pain of these relationships or non-relationships plays like uncomfortable background noise in our lives.

I’m no expert in the field of human relationships, but I do know this: As Christians we get to tap into a power that it bigger than ourselves. It’s called grace. And the graces we receive in and through the sacraments, beginning with our Baptism, allow God’s life and love to be activated in us. As Christians we also experience on-going conversion… which is another way of saying, we learn to cooperate with God and God’s graces more and more as we continually grow closer to Him.

So what does all of this have to do with our fathers? With grace and time, we can learn, to forgive our fathers (or our mothers, or anyone significant to us) thanks to the incredible love of God that unfolds in our lives through on-going conversion.

Frank Weathers, at his blog Why I Am a Catholic, whose parents were divorced when he was young, explains that forgiveness of his father flowed in the days that followed his conversion to Catholicism…

One of my first memorable acts upon becoming a Catholic was to forgive my father for leaving his wife and family behind. It took me a few months to get around to it, though.

Prior to my becoming Catholic, I had boasted that I would never forgive him. And not just to myself, but to others, publicly, and loudly.

Break your promise and leave your family? I just couldn’t see how someone could do such a thing.  And Pharisee that I was, planting the flag of prideful honor on the hill of righteous indignation came pretty easy to me.

But this all changed back in the Summer of 2008.

My wife and children were in California on vacation (two weeks ahead of me) visiting her family…

I invited my dad to spend the weekend with me during this time…

You see, I needed to tell him that I was a Catholic now, and I figured getting together with him was a good way to broach the subject.

Certainly he knew that I had married a Catholic. He’d witnessed the event of our Nuptial Mass nineteen years earlier. But I had never converted to the faith either.  Just like I had loudly and publicly said I’d never forgive my father for leaving us (not when he was around to hear it, you understand), I had loudly said to him on more than one occasion that I’d never become a Catholic either.

Oh, he probably already knew, as my sister had attended the Easter Vigil and either her, or my brother, might have told him during a phone call. But I wanted to tell him, and tell him in person.

I thought it would really be a big deal, but it wasn’t. During a lunch break while we were working, we were talking about being Christians, as he himself had undergone a reconversion of his own. I was reading Pope Benedict’s  book Jesus of Nazareth at the time, and I shared a few things I’d learned there.

Then I just up and told him that I was now a Catholic…

The mountain I thought I would climb to make this revelation turned out to be a mole hill. Or perhaps with faith the size of a mustard seed, the mountain was just leveled for me. Either way, it was a relief.

My dad went to his car and brought me a few things he wanted me to have. One of these items was an envelope full of photographs that he wanted to give me. They were duplicates of photos of me from various time periods, including when I was a wee tot and we were still together as a family.

As I was leafing through them, my heart burned within me, and I just felt compelled to tell him the simple words that mean so much, but which are rarely said. Earlier that year, he had had a mild heart attack, and there being no time like the present,  before I could stop myself I said,

“Dad, I just want you to know that I forgive you for leaving us.”

Of course, by the time I got those last three words out, my voice had broken and the tears were flowing, and we embraced each other much as I figure it was like when the prodigal son was embraced by his dad. The roles seemed reversed to me, but the effect was the same.

Cathartic reconciliation.

Read his entire post.

This is a fact: the deeper you come to know Jesus, the more that relationship will invite you to forgive those who have hurt you. Forgiving them doesn’t change the facts of what happened between you, or make the gravity of their mistakes or offenses — or ours — any less. For example, it doesn’t take a felony against love and reduce it to a misdemeanor. But it changes us. Grace allows us to choose to leave the judgment of the offenses, or the pain, in the hands of God, and allows us to cling instead to the mercy of God. Mercy and grace restores some measure of what we’ve lost by helping us let go and move on. Mercy combined with forgiveness helps us transcend hurts.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe, in her column in The Pilot, reflects on this.

There comes a point in our lives when we can no longer hold our parents responsible for what we’ve become or haven’t. Even the very worst of situations is within the reach of transforming mercy. While forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean reconciliation in every case, it can mean peace.

When I left home for college, I packed a lot more than I thought I had. I took the hurt and rejection of fatherlessness with me. It didn’t take long to notice the elephant in my dorm room. By Thanksgiving, I had found my dad’s Florida address and phone number. I knew I had to forgive him.

That phone call was at once one of the most difficult and liberating things I have ever done. Talking with him after 10 years of absence didn’t make the hurt disappear, and didn’t end up giving me the father I had needed. What it did do was enable me to let go of unmet needs, broken promises, and reasonable expectations.

Perhaps you or someone you know needs to forgive, or ask forgiveness from a father. Maybe there are fathers, too, who need to be forgiven. Whatever regrets or hurts, whatever disagreements or disputes, whatever obstacles there are between children and their fathers, it is not impossible to set them aside. You don’t even have to trust your dad to do it. You can trust your heavenly father, and have faith in Him, instead.

Read it all.

Wolfe’s final point is significant… “we have to trust our heavenly father and have faith in Him, instead.”

How do we do that?

What if I can’t trust my Heavenly Father because I’ve had a damaged or broken relationship with an earthly father?

I talk about the “how” in Chapter Three of Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious: and while that is a book largely written for women, one theme in this particular chapter for everyone: JESUS IS THE WAY TO THE FATHER.

Here’s one suggestion for “how” we can start to trust our Heavenly Father: thanks to our baptism, we can make the powerful prayers of Jesus our own.

Jesus entered into the world that we might enter into relationship with God the Father. We all need to know who our Father is. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

Maybe you’ve heard that before. Sometimes when we hear something over and over again, we take it for granted. Notice the language of fatherhood, love, and life: “For God so loved . . . that he gave his only Son. . . . Everyone who believes in him should . . . have eternal life.

Jesus reveals the personal and unique love God has for us and his universal plan of love for the salvation of the world. Jesus taught us about God in the ways we really need to experience him most—as a father.

Jesus knows some of us harbor reticence when it comes to fatherhood. Still Jesus teaches the necessity of our knowing the Father: “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30). He reveals the Father by what he did and said. He never stops using examples in parables about fathers or praying to the Father himself.

The gospels record Jesus saying the word father over 130 times. Coming to know the Father in heaven is not optional for a Christian. Jesus repairs the rift opened in the days of Adam and Eve when the first human relationships with the Father were fractured. Most important, Jesus instructed us to call God “Our Father” in The Lord’s Prayer, which is one of the most basic prayers in Christianity: Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Mt 6:9; emphasis added).

Jesus taught us how to enter into his prayer, using his words, when he taught us to pray to our Father. Jesus shares the love of his Father so that we, too, might enter into conversations and prayers—a loving relationship—with the Father like he did. Ultimately, “the Lord’s Prayer reveals us to ourselves at the same time that it reveals the Father to us” (CCC, 2783).

The gospels are filled with Jesus’s prayers to the Father, a Father that yearns to love us, not disappoint or hurt us, a loving Father who understands the baggage we may be carrying. Let’s make Jesus’s words our own. Learning the words of the Son’s heart can help heal our daughter-hearts.

The image of the Good Shepherd soothes my daughter-heart. Jesus describes the tender, committed care that he offers his sheep, a care in union with his Father:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (Jn 10:27–30)

No one is father as God is Father. If someone has treated you badly, such that you cannot understand the gift of the Father’s love, remember that “no one is able to  snatch . . .  [you] out of the Father’s hand.” His love for you has never wavered, even if you have been unable to know it, see it, or understand it. Jesus’s word guarantees it.

We can make this our prayer, too: no one can snatch me out of the Father’s hand.

To trust Jesus is to trust the Father.

When we address God as our Father, as Jesus has taught, we are moved toward trusting the Father. When we refer to God as “our Father,” we do two important things. First, we declare him as the origin of everything in our lives. Second, we trust the goodness and loving care that a father bestows. (See CCC, 239.)

When Jesus was finished with his work on earth, he charged his followers to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (See Mt 28:18–20.)

In the graces of Baptism, God became a father to me…

The graces of Baptism empower me to make Jesus’s words my own…

In Baptism we meet the fatherhood of God, blessed and dignified as beloved daughters. Unfortunately, it is a gift we can fail to recognize or take for granted. Imagine owning a costly heirloom worth millions, but having no idea of its value because it is locked away in a chest and forgotten. For many of us, that treasure is our Baptism, specifically the knowledge that we are God’s beloved daughters. That knowledge is the key that unlocks many graces.

 If we ponder that, relying on the graces we’ve already received in Baptism, we will begin to reclaim the girl who may be carrying around a lot of angst and rejection where fatherhood is concerned.

Baptized Christians utter the word Father six times in the Nicene Creed. There’s a reason. We are blessed daughters standing before a magnificent, loving, all-knowing Father…

Here the fatherhood of God heals our hurts. Lest we think this is some kind of romanticized vision of love, think again. It is rugged and strongly tempered in power, yet gentle and approachable enough to trust. The Father’s love is sturdy enough to enable us not only to thrive despite our hurts, but also to transcend them.

How can we transcend hurts?  You already know—by deeply entering into the prayers of Jesus and making them your own. Jesus and our Baptism give us direct access to our heavenly Father. You’ve seen it with the Our Father; now take it a step deeper. Jesus prayed at his crucifixion amidst complete suffering. He forgave his persecutors, his detractors, enemies, friends who betrayed or left him, and those who forcibly put him to death. And he forgave us even before we came to be: “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them’” (Lk 23:34).

With grace, we can forgive in the name of Jesus, with Jesus, who is one with the Father. I can forgive each person who has hurt me, even the worst offenders. I can even forgive myself. “Father, forgive them.” Father, forgive me.

The name of the Father is the name Jesus used when his deepest wounds were open and bleeding. It’s the name we can call on to heal us of wounds we can see and the ones we keep hidden. It’s the name that brings our ongoing conversion.

[More details about my book here.]

This Sunday at Mass, on Father’s Day, when I stand to pray the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, I will be remembering my own healing and growth in these areas, and pray that we can all enter into those prayers more deeply that they may bear good fruit in our lives.

Let us pray for one another. And pray for all the fathers out there too.

 

This makes me think… about how evangelizers are evangelized.

This makes me think… about how evangelizers are evangelized.

The New Evangelization reminds us that the very agents of evangelization – you and me  –will never achieve that abundant harvest Blessed John XXIII described unless we are willing and eager to first be evangelized themselves. Only those themselves first evangelized can then evangelize. As St. Bernard put it so well, “If you want to be a channel, you must first be a reservoir.”

I would suggest this morning that this reservoir of our lives and ministry, when it comes especially to the New Evangelization, must first be filled with the spirit of interior conversion born of our own renewal. That’s the way we become channels of a truly effective transformation of the world, through our own witness of a penitential heart, and our own full embrace of the Sacrament of Penance.

“To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and penance,” declared the council fathers in the very first of the documents to appear, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. (SC, n. 9)

To be sure, the sacraments of initiation – – Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist – – charge, challenge, and equip the agents of evangelization. Without those sacraments, we remain isolated, unredeemed, timid and unfed.

But, the Sacrament of Reconciliation evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and allows us to answer his invitation to repentance — a repentance from within that can then transform the world without.

What an irony that despite the call of the Second Vatican Council for a renewal of the Sacrament of Penance, what we got instead was its near disappearance.

We became very good in the years following the Council in calling for the reform of structures, systems, institutions, and people other than ourselves.That, too, is important; it can transform our society and world. But did we fail along the way to realize that in no way can the New Evangelization be reduced to a program, a process, or a call to structural reform; that it is first and foremost a deeply personal conversion within? “The Kingdom of God is within,” as Jesus taught.

The premier answer to the question “What’s wrong with the world?” “what’s wrong with the church?” is not politics, the economy, secularism, sectarianism, globalization or global warming . . .none of these, as significant as they are. As Chesterton wrote, “The answer to the question ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ is just two words:’I am,'”

I am! Admitting that leads to conversion of heart and repentance, the marrow of the Gospel-invitation. I remember the insightful words of a holy priest well known to many of us from his long apostolate to priests and seminarians in Rome, Monsignor Charles Elmer, wondering aloud from time to time if, following the close of the Council, we had sadly become a Church that forgot how to kneel.If we want the New Evangelization to work, it starts on our knees.

~Cardinal Timothy Dolan, President of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, Presidential Address, November 12, 2012.

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