Lent

Lent: A Journey of Encounter

on Monday, 20 March 2017. Eric Clayton Posted in Lent, Seasons

To build a culture of encounter, we must start from within ourselves, from our personal call to discipleship. God knows our true selves, desiring that we, too, discover the person God has called us to be. Through prayer, we encounter ourselves before God; we see ourselves as God sees us. And we realize that God delights in every member of our human family because God is truly present in each of us.

lightstock-social-graphic_f034b3f7c4.jpg

Jesus reminds us, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:31). To love another, we must come to know our own selves, our own hurts and triumphs, our own joys and challenges. What begins as an interior encounter necessarily goes beyond ourselves, challenging us to live in solidarity with people we may never meet. How can we hope to go to the margins, to accompany those who are most vulnerable and in need, if we haven’t properly wrestled with our own vulnerability, our own need? Only then can we recognize that each person we encounter can share with us some unique insight about our world, about ourselves, and ultimately, about our God.

Observing Lent? Try a Team Approach

on Tuesday, 28 February 2017. Posted in Family Faith, Lent, Seasons

Accompaniment and Lent

Observing Lent? Try a Team Approach

 

The forty days of Lent can seem like a long time, especially if one is giving up a favorite food or video game. It's helpful to have a friend to keep us going. He or she can encourage us, challenge us, and pick us up if we falter. And if that friend happens to be our spouse, so much the better!

This year, consider approaching Lent as a team. That doesn't mean you have to give up—or do—the same things as your spouse, although that's a possibility. It does mean sharing your Lenten resolution(s) and asking for each other's prayers and active support.  People often find that they're much more likely to keep their resolutions when they hold themselves accountable to another person. Knowing that someone walks with us, even if it's not exactly the same path, can be a great comfort and motivator.

If you're thinking about Lenten resolutions, consider the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving (works of charity). Here are some ideas to get started.

 

Holy Week with Dante

on Monday, 21 March 2016. Brittany Miller Posted in Lent, Seasons, Resource Reviews

Holy Week with Dante

I have been wanting to read Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy for some time, but have always been too busy to begin. However, after learning of Pope Francis’ high valuation of the poem, I knew that I could no longer delay.

Through his writings, Dante, is a man who invites us to regain the path of our human journey and the hope to once again see the bright horizon where shines the full dignity of the human person.

Happily, I have found the poem to be much more understandable and enlightening than I had envisioned. Despite its Medieval nature, the poem ignites the deadened imagination and reminds the reader of the undeniable human desire for God.

Dante’s Divine Comedy begins with Inferno, which describes the principle character’s journey through hell. I began Inferno near the beginning of Lent and have found it to be an excellent aide to Lenten preparations for confession. Journeying through the various rings of hell, and the corresponding human sins, invites the reader to make an interior journey into the depth of one’s own soul.

Dante’s punishments are carefully crafted to reflect the underlying nature of unholy human behaviors. The vivid images compel the reader to determine if one’s current state of being corresponds to the state of the punished sinners.

For example, Dante’s pilgrim encounters a group of souls who lived their life with no real purpose. They were too cowardly, or too lazy, to devote themselves completely to God or even to adamantly resist Him. As the pilgrim watches, he sees a blank banner go by:

Did You Know...About Sacred Chrism?

on Wednesday, 25 March 2015. Posted in Lent

Did You Know...About Sacred Chrism?

Chrism is blessed at the end of Lent by the diocesan bishop, at a special liturgy called the Chrism Mass.

by Rev. Larry Rice, CSP

The Catholic Church uses lots of physical materials in the administration of its sacraments: water,
wine, bread, and oils are typical examples. We have three kinds of sacramental oils: the oil of catechumens, the oil of the sick, and sacred Chrism. This last is a kind of multi-purpose oil used for many kinds of sacraments and blessings.

Like all our sacred oils, Chrism is made from olive oil, although other vegetable oils can be used if olive oil is unavailable. And like the other two, Chrism is blessed at the end of Lent by the diocesan bishop, at a special liturgy called the Chrism Mass. Unlike other sacramental oils, Chrism is scented, usually with essential oil of balsam, giving it a woody, pine-like fragrance.

Sacred Chrism is used primarily for baptisms and ordinations. At Baptism, after the Baptism in water, the one being initiated into the Church is anointed with Chrism, along with a prayer that recollects Christ being anointed priest, prophet, and king. During a priesthood ordination, the hands of the ordinand (the candidate for ordination) are anointed with Chrism, while the bishop prays,

“The Father anointed our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus preserve you to sanctify the Christian people and to offer sacrifice to God.”

While this is happening, the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus is usually sung.

In addition to these sacramental uses, sacred Chrism is also used to consecrate a new altar and to bless church bells at their installation.

For centuries, this fragrant blessed oil has been a symbol of God’s overflowing grace and
generosity. It’s a multi-sensory reminder of the goodness of creation and of people and objects that are set apart from that creation to serve a sacred purpose.


Father Rice is Vocations Director for the Paulist Fathers.
Copyright © 2015, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. Used with permission.

Five Holy Week Suggestions for Famillies

on Monday, 23 March 2015. Posted in Family Faith, Lent

Holy Week @home

Five Holy Week Suggestions for Famillies

During Holy Week, the Church celebrates the mysteries of salvation accomplished by Christ in the last days of his earthly life, beginning with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. For nearly 40 days, the Christian faithful have practiced the disciplines of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Now the Church invites us to an even deeper spirit of prayer as we follow Christ on his journey to the Cross.

Traditions - especially those children can see, hear, feel, smell and taste -- provide vivid and lasting impressions for all members of the family. Take advantage of all the 'smells and bells' of Holy Week to help everyone in your family celebrate the holiest time of year.

Here are five suggestions for families to use this week as an opportunity to grow in holiness as individuals and as a family.

  1. What do you do with the palm branches you bring home from Palm Sunday Mass? Consider a simple ceremony to place them in your home. See our Palm Sunday post for a suggested ritual.

  2. During the week, pray the seven Penitential Psalms together (Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143). These are especially appropriate during Lent. Prayerfully reciting these psalms helps us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow, and ask for God’s forgiveness.

  3. Celebrate the Sacrament of Penance if you haven’t already done so during Lent (www.foryourmarriage.org/why-do-catholics-go-to-confession/). Many parishes have extra hours and/or communal penance services during Holy Week.

  4. Attend a service together on Holy Thursday and/or Good Friday. On Thursday, the Church recall the Last Supper and Jesus’ gift of his Body and Blood. On Friday, parishes hold services to celebrate the Passion of the Lord; many have Stations of the Cross as well.

    What about little ones?  Can they sit through these sometimes long services?  This liturgy director offers some practical insights and suggestions: Children and the Triduum.

  5. On Holy Saturday, pray for those who will be received into the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil. Pray, too, for a deepening of your own faith and the grace to endure the suffering and celebrate the joys of married life.

Additional Suggested Resources:

  • Your Guide to Holy Week (PDF)  Download this great guide offering brief explanations of the history, traditions, and symbols of Holy Week along with 12 practical suggestions for making Holy Week meaningful.

  • Ways to Teach Your Kids About Holy Week  Here are some things you can do so that even the little ones in your family can join in celebrating one of the holiest and happiest times in the Church year.

  • 15 Ways to Observe Holy Week  Ideas for busy families with children of all ages.

  • Stations of the Cross  The Stations of the Cross are a great prayer to do as a family.  This guide will help you find the right tool to participate even if you've never done them before!

Adapted from an article originally published on the For Your Marriage website.
Copyright © 2015, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Used with permission.

What to Do With Palm Branches

on Monday, 23 March 2015. Posted in Praying with Children, Family Faith, Lent

A Simple Ritual for the Home

What to Do With Palm Branches

“On this day the Church celebrates Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem to accomplish his paschal mystery” (Roman Missal).

“Entrance” is the key to understanding the liturgy of Passion (Palm) Sunday. We enter into Jerusalem with Christ. We enter into our holiest week. We enter into our final preparation for the Easter feast.

Ordinarily when we go to Sunday Mass we enter the church one by one, as we arrive. On Palm Sunday, we enter the church together -- a grand entrance.

Usually, the community gathers in another location (outside the church, for example, or in the school hall). One of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem is proclaimed.

Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.  Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:
“Hosanna!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!
Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:8-10).

And then we “enter into” the Gospel. We go with Christ into Jerusalem. We process into the church.

Procession with Palms

This is one of our most joyful and triumphant processions of the entire year. As we gather on this Sunday we receive a branch of palm or olive (or other green plant).

What do you do with the palm branches you bring home from Palm Sunday Mass?

The branches are blessed by the priest before the procession and often kept as blessed objects in peoples’ homes. Please don't throw them (or any scrap pieces) into the trash. The proper way to dispose of blessed items is to bury them, burn them, or return them your church so they can burn them and use them next Ash Wednesday.

Palm Crosses

palm crossOne of my fondest memories of Palm Sunday as a child is the quick palm cross my mom would whip each of our palms into as soon as we sat down at church.  The palm crosses were a sign of how quickly our love and adoration for Jesus can turn to rejection of him through sin.   Our shouts of "Hosannah!" turn to shouts of "Crucify him!" during that Mass almost as fast as my palm turned from a branch into a cross.

There was another, more practical benefit to her talent as well.  Palm branches that wave during the procession quickly turn into swords, lightsabers, sky writing pens, lassos, and objects of torture in the hands of young children.  The compact crosses my mom whipped out during the First Reading were not nearly as easy to poke my siblings with!

Stations of the Cross

on Wednesday, 25 February 2015. Posted in Praying with Children, Family Faith, Prayer, Lent

Stations of the Cross

 

The Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.  

All Catholic parishes have depictions of Christ’s Passion and death called the Stations of the Cross, The Way of the Cross or Via Dolorosa (way of suffering) In many churches, the Stations of the Cross are depicted in stained-glass windows, but other media are used as well, including paintings and stone or wood carvings and sculptures.  Often on Friday evenings during Lent, you can find a parish that’s open with Catholics meditating and saying prayers in unison before each of the 14 stations.

The Stations of the Cross is a Lenten devotion that offers witness to Jesus’ Passion and Death. Often, the Stations of the Cross is an action prayer. Catholics walk to the fourteen stations of the Way of the Cross and stop to pray at each one.  At each station we use our senses and our imagination to reflect prayerfully upon Jesus’ suffering, Death, and Resurrection, and to simply experience the visual images to reflect on Christ’s love for us.

We've listed the best Way of the Cross prayer resources for...

Journey to the Cross: Prayer for Lent

on Thursday, 19 February 2015. Posted in Prayer, Lent

FREE Prayer Plan Worksheet

Journey to the Cross: Prayer for Lent

It all Starts with Prayer

Without prayer, our Lenten observances (getting ashes, giving up sweets, abstaining from meat on Fridays, dropping coins in the Rice Bowl) are traditions without meaning.

St. Clement of Alexandria (third century) defined prayer as "conversation with God" - a conversation that never ends.  In the Scriptures, St. Paul says: "Pray at all times" (Eph 6:18); "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:1); and "be constant in prayer" (Rom 12:12). He saw prayer as endless conversation.

Mike Aquilina understands that this call seems a tad unrealistic to many of us:

Journey to the Cross: Fasting for Lent

on Thursday, 19 February 2015. Posted in Prayer, Lent

Practical Suggestions for Fasting

Journey to the Cross: Fasting for Lent

More than a 40 day diet

Fasting is an act of self-denial.  Often it refers to food, but broadly speaking it is giving up something that is good for the purpose of deepening our spiritual life and making acts of reparation for our sin or the sin of others. 

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff at Integrated Catholic explains:

[Fasting] also serves to be a penance or a sacrifice - for the purpose of strengthening us. When we don't eat, for even a little while, we get hungry. When we get hungry, we have a heightened sense of awareness. If, when we eat too much, we have a sluggish feeling, when we fast, we have a feeling of alertness. Fasting is a wonderful exercise whenever we want to sincerely ask for an important grace from God. It is not that our fasting "earns" God's attention, but by fasting, we clarify our thinking and our feeling. It is purifying and prepares us to pray more deeply.

Journey to the Cross: Almsgiving for Lent

on Thursday, 19 February 2015. Posted in Lent

Journey to the Cross: Almsgiving for Lent

It just makes sense

If you've read the other articles in this series, it should be obvious  that almsgiving is simply a response by us to God - a response to the insights we have gained through prayer and fasting.  We do not give because we are required to give or because we feel guilty if we don't, but because we are so greateful for all that God has given us. 

Ultimately our journey of Lent may begin with by reflecting on "me and God," but our prayer and fasting lead us to the realization that none of us are walking this journey alone - that the needs of all are the responsibility of all in the Body of Christ.

In his Message for Lent 2015, Pope Francis asks us to reach out to those in need:

"...we can help by acts of charity, reaching out to both those near and far through the Church’s many charitable organizations. Lent is a favorable time for showing this concern for others by small yet concrete signs of our belonging to the one human family."

Mike Aquilina breaks down the challenge of almsgiving and explains why it is the most neglected of the three pillars of Lent:

Many Americans today enjoy a better standard of life than any Byzantine emperor ever knew. Central heat, central air conditioning, electric lights, consistently safe food and water, antibiotics, and even aspirin — these are luxuries beyond the dreams of our ancient ancestors.

 

We are living high, but are we giving high?

 

It's a good question to ask ourselves during Lent. It is a scandal, after all, for Christians to have closets overstuffed with clothing when there are families who are shivering because they can't pay their heating bill. It is a scandal for Christians to be epidemically overweight when they have near neighbors who go to bed hungry.

 

We need to give to God — whom we meet in our neighbor — until these problems go away.

 

Great Lenten Giveaway

on Monday, 02 February 2015. Posted in Lent, Seasons, Resource Reviews

Great Lenten Giveaway

We're giving away some of the best Catholic Lent resources to 7 lucky winners!

A new winner is picked each day, so enter early for your best chance to win!

You can get 1 entry for each of the tasks you complete below...

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

We know that there are a plethora of resources out there to help those who want to grow in their faith – but that so many Catholics get overwhelmed at the thought of having to sift through the thousands of books listed on Amazon or the Catholic blogs and news sources that are out there. Part of our mission is to comb through the thousands upon thousands of available books, videos, CDs, websites, podcasts, DVDs, and apps and share with you only the best. Like these...

Full Contact Faith During Lent: Almsgiving

on Monday, 02 February 2015. Posted in Lent, Seasons

3 PIllars of Lent

Full Contact Faith During Lent: Almsgiving

This is part of a 3 part series on the 3 Pillars of Lent.  Read the parts on Prayer and Fasting for more ideas on how to make your faith Full Contact this Lent!


 

While it may seem sometimes that being a Catholic Christian is a passive, primarily mental activity, the reality is that being a follower of Christ is a full-time, full-contact sport.

As Father Sergius Halvorsen points out, St. Paul often uses sports imagery when speaking about what it means to be a true disciple of Christ.

He says that he does not run aimlessly, nor does he "box as one beating the air." Rather, he "pommels" his body and subdues it. (1 Cor 9:24-7)...[he] encourages us to "run with perseverance the race that is set before us" (Heb 12:1) because our goal is a heavenly prize.

 

St. Paul points out that athletes exercise self-control in all things in order to be victorious (1Cor 9:25).  If athletic discipline was obvious in St. Paul’s day, then it should be even more obvious in our culture with its preoccupation with professional sports.  The athlete cannot pigeonhole his or her athletic life.  One cannot eat junk food and sit on the couch throughout the off-season and expect to make the team. Similarly, Christ challenges us to follow Him three hundred sixty five days a year, which means that we lead a life of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

RUN the Race: Almsgiving

A runner could spend all his or her life in the gym doing cardio exercise and strength training. A life spent perpetually "in training" is missing the point.

Race Title

At the end of the day, an athlete actually plays the game, a runner actually runs the race, and a Christian, lives Christ's call to love God and neighbor. Almsgiving how we put our training into action.

Christ commands us to love the Lord your God, and to love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:39) Almsgiving is a concrete act of love for the neighbor. When we give alms we offer ourselves to those in need. This does not have to be exotic and dramatic, like giving your college savings to an African mission.

 

It can be as simple as taking someone out to lunch. Even better, taking someone out to lunch who does not have much money and who does not have many friends.

 

It could mean giving an hour of your time to visit an elderly shut-in. It could also mean volunteering as a mentor for a young person.

 

It could also mean giving money to the poor.

 

Almsgiving is the way that Christians do the will of God in concrete terms; showing mercy and compassion to real people who are in real need. Fundamentally, we do this because Christ did the same thing for us. He gave Himself for our salvation, and in following Christ we give ourselves for the service of others.

Almsgiving comes from the heart. It is something that we give of ourselves or something that costs us. The cost can be emotionally, physically and/or financially.

When making your almsgiving decision, keep in mind Jesus' alms for us....Himself!

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving more than just "Lenten disciplines." They are essential to our basic health and well being: they are fundamental to the Christian life.


Adapted and with quotes from "Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving: They're Not Just For Lent Anymore" by F.r Sergius Halvorsen.

Full Contact Faith During Lent: Fasting

on Monday, 02 February 2015. Posted in Lent, Seasons

3 PIllars of Lent

Full Contact Faith During Lent: Fasting

This is part of a 3 part series on the 3 Pillars of Lent.  Read the parts on Prayer and Almsigiving for more ideas on how to make your faith Full Contact this Lent!


While it may seem sometimes that being a Catholic Christian is a passive, primarily mental activity, the reality is that being a follower of Christ is a full-time, full-contact sport.

As Father Sergius Halvorsen points out, St. Paul often uses sports imagery when speaking about what it means to be a true disciple of Christ.

He says that he does not run aimlessly, nor does he "box as one beating the air." Rather, he "pommels" his body and subdues it. (1 Cor 9:24-7)...[he] encourages us to "run with perseverance the race that is set before us" (Heb 12:1) because our goal is a heavenly prize.

 

St. Paul points out that athletes exercise self-control in all things in order to be victorious (1Cor 9:25).  If athletic discipline was obvious in St. Paul’s day, then it should be even more obvious in our culture with its preoccupation with professional sports.  The athlete cannot pigeonhole his or her athletic life.  One cannot eat junk food and sit on the couch throughout the off-season and expect to make the team. Similarly, Christ challenges us to follow Him three hundred sixty five days a year, which means that we lead a life of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Weight Training: Fasting

In the last thirty years or so, strength conditioning has been embraced as an essential part of all athletic training. From dancers to linebackers, all athletes require muscular strength and conditioning in order to perform well. Fasting is very much like weight training, however, instead of strengthening our physical muscles it strengthens our will.

Fr. Halvorsen elaborates:

We all need to eat in order to survive, so the desire to eat—to fill our stomachs when we are hungry—is a powerful and fundamental instinct. Because the desire to eat and be satisfied is such a powerful desire, voluntarily abstaining from food is profound expression of free will. Feeling hungry, or feeling that twinge of desire for double chocolate malted crunch ice cream, but then choosing to use our God-given free will to say, “not now” is incredibly powerful.

The Church calls us to a few specific forms of fasting for Lent. In general, the Church says that Ctholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In addition, all Catholics 14 years old and older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent (read more about the Lenten guidelines).

fasting channge your life

Why? These guidelines? Do they really matter?

In the large scope of life, whether or not you eat a bacon double cheeseburger during Lent is relatively meaningless. However, as you choose to avoid the food you love during Lent, or on any Wednesday or Friday, you exercise and strengthen your will to say “not now.” While the burger means virtually nothing, the knowledge and confidence that you can say “not now” is invaluable when we are faced with much larger decisions that have immense ramifications for our lives. Fasting, saying “not now” is not a rejection of food, or our bodies, or the material life. Rather it is a conscious decision to exercise our willpower for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.

Some Catholic embrace the call to fast during Lent by giving something up (chocolate, alcohol, and sweets are popular choices). Choosing to give up something for Lent trains us to have self-control. Self-control aids us in our prayer and prayer brings us closer to God.

Make a commitment to follow the Church's fasting guidelines this Lent, and consider giving up something else that will help to you strenghten the muscles of your will and self-control.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving more than just "Lenten disciplines." They are essential to our basic health and well being: they are fundamental to the Christian life.


Adapted and with quotes from "Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving: They're Not Just For Lent Anymore" by F.r Sergius Halvorsen.

 

Full Contact Faith During Lent: Prayer

on Monday, 02 February 2015. Posted in Prayer, Lent, Seasons

3 PIllars of Lent

Full Contact Faith During Lent: Prayer

This is part of a 3 part series on the 3 Pillars of Lent.  Read the parts on Fasting and Almsgiving for more ideas on how to make your faith Full Contact this Lent!


While it may seem sometimes that being a Catholic Christian is a passive, primarily mental activity, the reality is that being a follower of Christ is a full-time, full-contact sport.

As Father Sergius Halvorsen points out, St. Paul often uses sports imagery when speaking about what it means to be a true disciple of Christ.

He says that he does not run aimlessly, nor does he "box as one beating the air." Rather, he "pommels" his body and subdues it. (1 Cor 9:24-7)...[he] encourages us to "run with perseverance the race that is set before us" (Heb 12:1) because our goal is a heavenly prize.

St. Paul points out that athletes exercise self-control in all things in order to be victorious (1Cor 9:25).  If athletic discipline was obvious in St. Paul’s day, then it should be even more obvious in our culture with its preoccupation with professional sports.  The athlete cannot pigeonhole his or her athletic life.  One cannot eat junk food and sit on the couch throughout the off-season and expect to make the team. Similarly, Christ challenges us to follow Him three hundred sixty five days a year, which means that we lead a life of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. 

Cardio Training: Prayer

In the same way that cardio-vascular exercise strengthens our physical heart, prayer strengthens our spiritual hearts. To pray means that we take time every day to intentionally still our minds and focus on the person of Jesus.  We listen to God speaking to us in the silence, or in His Word and we talk to him.  Just like with cardio workouts, the more time we spend in prayer strenghtening our spiritual hearts, the easier it becomes to have longer sessions with greater intensity.

heart-health-prayer

Prayer opens our hearts and minds to the love of God, and allows us to be filled with the grace which God abundantly pours out upon us.

Here are a few ways to add to your prayer life this Lent:

  • Commit to 5 more mintues of daily prayer than you are doing right now
  • Attend the Stations of the Cross
  • Spend 1 Hour in Eucharistic Adoration
  • Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • Take our Prayer Survey to get suggestions and resources tailored to you.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving more than just "Lenten disciplines." They are essential to our basic health and well being: they are fundamental to the Christian life.


Adapted and with quotes from "Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving: They're Not Just For Lent Anymore" by F.r Sergius Halvorsen.

 

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