Showing posts with label lent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lent. Show all posts

Monday, April 14, 2014

Word Among Us: Lenten Bible Study (Part 6)

Lent Bible Study Session 6 from The Word Among Us on Vimeo.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Word Among Us: Lenten Bible Study (Part 5)

Lent Bible Study Session 5 from The Word Among Us on Vimeo.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Word Among Us: Lenten Bible Study (Part 4)

Lent Bible Study Session 4 from The Word Among Us on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Is there more to Lent than just giving up the stuff that you love?

The following comes from

Open the Bible and you won’t find the word “Lent” anywhere. So where does Lent come from? Why does it last for 40 days — 40 long days? And what exactly are we supposed to be doing? Is it really just about giving up coffee, chocolate and Coke? Or is there more to it?

The answers can be found by exploring the biblical roots of the season. Every year on Ash Wednesday, we read Jesus’ teaching about prayer, fasting and almsgiving (Matthew 6:1-18). And every year, on the first Sunday of Lent, we read about Jesus’ 40 days in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-15; Luke 4:1-13).

First, the 40 days of Lent are modeled on Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the desert: “At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry” (Matthew 4:1). I bet he was! Here we see the deepest reason for the Lenten season: the 40 days of self-denial are done in imitation of Jesus. He prayed and fasted 40 days, so we follow his example with 40 days of self-denial. Now, we could just stop there. And many people do. But there is more to Lent than just “giving up” food and drink. For Jesus not only fasts, he also overcomes three powerful temptations:

The devil tries to get Jesus to transform stones into loaves of bread (Matthew 4:1-4). The temptation is for Jesus to break his fast and satisfy his hunger, which by this point must be ravenous.

The devil offers to give Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence” if Jesus will bow down and worship him (Matthew 4:8-10). Here the devil tries to tempt Jesus by offering him possession of the kingdoms of the world, which were handed over to the devil by Adam in the Fall (see Luke 4:6).

Finally, the devil tries to get Jesus to “prove” he is really the Son of God by throwing himself down from “the parapet of the Temple” in Jerusalem and letting the angels catch him. Here the devil tries to tempt Jesus to perform a miracle that everyone would be able to see.

Of course, Jesus rebuffs each temptation by declaring that a person lives by the word of God, not by bread alone; that God alone is to be worshipped, and that one should not put God to the test. But why these temptations? Why does the Gospel tell us that “when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from (Jesus) until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13)?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cardinal Dolan on How Lent "used to be"

The following comes from Cardinal Dolan of NY:

This time of the year, these forty days of preparation for Holy Week and Easter, I often hear folks over fifty-five or so reminisce about how Lent“used-to-be.”“Remember the tuna casseroles and grilled cheese sandwiches?”

“I used to long for Sunday when I could have a piece of the candy I had given-up for Lent.”

“Did I ever love the Stations of the Cross on Friday.”

“Remember how tough it was not to eat between meals?”

“I can still recall dad reminding us to make a good confession before Easter.”

“Mom used to love her sodality meetings, and dad his night of cards and a couple beers at the Holy Name evenings at the parish, but those were all cancelled during Lent.”

“Remember the ‘rice bowl’ to help feed the starving sitting on the kitchen table where we’d put our pennies saved from buying treats.”

“And remember how we used to so enjoy Easter, after forty days of sacrifice and penance; it was like we were entering a new life and the sun of spring with Jesus risen.”

A lot of that these days, what I call “used-to-be Lent.”

Because, I wonder if we’ve lost it . . . has Lent become a thing of the past?

Now, don’t get me wrong! I don’t want to go back to the “under-pain-of sin” mandatory fast and abstinence of pre-1967 Catholic life – – although I sure remember Pope Paul VI, as he lifted mandatory fast and abstinence (keeping it only on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent), expressing confidence that mature Catholics would now freely embrace penance and self-denial.

Nor do I suggest that there aren’t a good number of Catholics who still take Lent very seriously with their acts of sacrifice, more fervent prayer, and added deeds of service and charity.

Yet, I am still moved to wonder if, as a Church, we have lost the wonder of Lent, that these forty holy days have gone the way of holy days of obligation, fasting before communion, and no meat on Friday.

And all our kids hear about is how Lent “used-to-be.”

So, for instance, I’m at a great parish in the archdiocese and notice that they’re having a big dance on . . . the first Friday of Lent!

So, I’m at a huge banquet for over a thousand men, mostly Catholics, where the liquor flows and the steaks are medium-rare on . . . a Friday of Lent!

So, I’m at Mass in a parish where they sing the Gloria and have alleluias all over the place on . . . a Sunday of Lent!

I admire how our Jewish neighbors take their “high holy days” in the fall so seriously, especially the days of penance, fasting, and contrition . . .

Our Islamic neighbors fast all day and deepen their prayers for a month at Ramadan . . .

And here, my Catholic people write me for a “dispensation” on one of the six measly Fridays we’re asked to abstain from meat (big sacrifice these days!), if they even bother with the dispensation at all.

Am I being too gloomy here? You know me well enough to realize I’m hardly puritanical or a crab. All I’m asking is: have we lost Lent? Is it all now nostalgia, a museum piece, in the attics of our souls, as we tell our kids and grandkids how Lent “used-to-be”?

Lent didn’t just used to be . . . it’s needed now more than ever!

Let me ask you, is there anything different at all in your life, in the rhythm of your family and home, in your parish, this Lent?

Is it too late to get it back?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pope Francis: Shed Egotism and Rely on God Alone

The following comes from the NCR:

Pope Francis drew on today’s readings from the Gospel of Luke and the Psalms to warn listeners against putting one’s faith in man or accomplishments, rather than God.

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace that he would give to each of us the wisdom to have confidence only in him — not in things, not in human powers; only in him,” the Pope preached in his homily at his Mass said March 20 at the chapel of St. Martha guest house.

Only in God do we receive our true name, which is not “I” or “me,” but “Son,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. But when we place our trust in others, our accomplishments or even ourselves, we lose sight of our true worth as a child of God.

Just as in today’s Psalm, the one who trusts in the Lord “is like a tree planted by the waters” while the one who trusts in man or himself is “like a barren bush in the desert,” the Holy Father said.

“Today, in this day of Lent, we would do well to ask ourselves: Where is my confidence? In the Lord? Or am I a pagan, who confides in things, in the idols that I have made?”

He said that the “worst misfortune” of the one who trusts in his own strength and the strength of other human persons is that they “lose [their] name.”

“Do I still have a name or have I begun to lose my name and … call myself ‘I’? I, me, with me, for me, only ‘I’? For me, for me ... always that self-centeredness: ‘I.’”

Just like the rich man who ignored Lazarus the beggar, the one who trusts in himself and his accomplishments walks along the path of “unhappiness” and “self-centeredness,” taught Pope Francis. “This will not give us salvation.”

However, God always provides us with a chance to turn back to him: “To the end, to the end, to the end there is always a possibility.”

Concluding his homily, the Pope said God is waiting to give us back everything that we have lost in our selfishness.

“If one of us in life, having so much trust in man and in ourselves, we end up losing the name, losing this dignity, there is still a chance to say this word that is more than magic, it is more, it is strong: ‘Father.’”

“He always waits for us to open a door that we do not see and says to us: ‘Son.’”

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Word Among Us: Lenten Bible Study (Part 2)

Lent Bible Study Session 2 from The Word Among Us on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Listen to Him: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Second Sunday of Lent

The following comes from Scott Hahn:
Today’s Gospel portrays Jesus as a new and greater Moses.
Moses also took three companions up a mountain and on the seventh day was overshadowed by the shining cloud of God’s presence. He too spoke with God and his face and clothing were made radiant in the encounter (see Exodus 24,34).
But in today’s Lenten Liturgy, the Church wants us to look back past Moses. Indeed, we are asked to contemplate what today’s Epistle calls God’s “design…from before time began.”
With his promises to Abram in today’s First Reading, God formed the people through whom He would reveal himself and bestow His blessings on all humanity.
He later elevated these promises to eternal covenants and changed Abram’s name to Abraham, promising that he would be father of a host nations (see Genesis 17:5). In remembrance of His covenant with Abraham he raised up Moses (see Exodus 2:243:8), and later swore an everlasting kingdom to David ‘s sons (see Jeremiah 33:26).
In Jesus’ transfiguration today, He is revealed as the One through whom God fulfills his divine plan from of old.
Not only a new Moses, Jesus is also the “beloved son” promised to Abraham and again to David (see Genesis 22:15-18Psalm 2:7Matthew 1:1).
Moses foretold a prophet like him to whom Israel would listen (see Deuteronomy 18:15,18) and Isaiah foretold an anointed servant in whom God would be well-pleased (see Isaiah 42:1). Jesus is this prophet and this servant, as the Voice on the mountain tells us today.
By faith we have been made children of the covenant with Abraham (see Galatians 3:7-9;Acts 3:25). He calls us, too, to a holy life, to follow His Son to the heavenly homeland He has promised. We know, as we sing in today’s Psalm, that we who hope in Him will be delivered from death.
So like our father in faith, we go forth as the Lord directs us: “Listen to Him!”

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Word's of a Saint

During Lent we can all benefit from the words of a saint!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Lamentation of Jesus

The following comes from the Catholic Exchange:
As Jesus walks the Via Dolorosa, among the procession of people, He sees His beloved Mother who is accompanied by John and some holy women of Jerusalem.  He gazes at his sorrowful Mother who is humble, silent, resigned and valiant as always. His suffering is mirrored back to Him in the perfect anguish of her maternal heart. We can perceive the lamentation of the Lord as he communicates to His sorrowful Mother.
Jesus speaks to Mary in the silent gaze of love on the way of the cross:
My beloved Mother, My enemies deride Me, but they will not disrespect you. Even amidst this bloodthirsty crowd you are esteemed, as you should be. No one will lay a hand on you, Mother of the Condemned One!  No one will speak an unkind word to you, Mother of the Messiah! They will not cease their cruelty against Me until I breathe my last. Death by crucifixion is their only aim: it is a sport to them.
The devils are unleashed to enter into this crowd to carry out the most tortuous execution possible. But the devils dare not to approach you, Mother of the Redeemer. The Father will not permit it. Legions flee from your presence for you are altogether too much for the fallen angels. Any number of these people will do their evil bidding but not you!
Mother, I know that you ardently desire to share in my physical pain.  It is enough that you share in all the pain of my soul. Your sorrow is complete for I see the mystical swords that pierce your Immaculate Heart. Our two hearts are beating in the synchronized rhythm of love that we have always shared. I am bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. Our hearts are inseparable.
This maddening crowd stares at you. They see you: “There is His Mother!”  But no one dares to come against you. While they have no sympathy for Me, you elicit sympathy from them. Your tender maternal heart is pierced as Simeon prophesied so that the thoughts of many will be revealed. I am a sign of contradiction that they seek to annihilate but you are a mother of love touching their hearts in a mysterious maternal manner.
Mother, your tears are sanctifying the earth. They fall like My blood and sweat to purify the earth’s children. Mother, your Son’s hour is now. We talked about this. We prepared one another for this hour. My enemies think it is their hour.  But you and I know the truth: this is hour of the redemption of the world.
Mother, your noble heart is thoroughly anguished yet rapt in love. My pure, gentle mother, your love always tends upward. You could no more wish ill upon my persecutors than I could! Your suffering is complete because of the affection you have for these people. You know that I love them and so do you. Love bears all things with equanimity. You are the flower of divine mercy and your fragrance of holiness is like heaven’s incense soothing my laboring lungs.
Your loving eyes speak volumes to me. You are always full of heaven’s grace, my selfless Mother. Valiant Lady, thank you for accompanying me along the Via Dolorosa. My friends have fled in fear but you remain near me always. Take courage, as I must complete the mission now. That My suffering is complete, I shall not receive the consolation of your loving gaze again until this Body is raised. Let Me look at your lovely face one last time before it is finished. Your countenance is sorrowful but noble for you are more radiantly beautiful than ever. My Queen, your heart is well prepared for the piercing swords of bitter sorrow that take hold of us in this hour. Most holy Mother, I die for you also. My will is fixed. Mother, fiat!
During Lent, we can spiritually accompany our Lord and Savior along the way of the cross. As we fix our eyes on His complete and perfect sacrifice, He looks back at us in a gaze that communicates His infinite, personal love for us. We may think that we are consoling Him (it is good that we try to do so), but in truth He is consoling us. Saint Luke tells us, “But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children (Luke 22:28).” These are the only recorded spoken words of the Lord along the way of the cross. They are an invitation to travailing, intercessory prayer. Our Lenten tears and sacrifices are not for the Lord, but for ourselves; that we may rediscover the joy of loving Him.
The grace of Lent is an opportunity to experience the personal and corporate weight of sin. Oh, that we may weep! Oh, that our tears of love will help purify the earth! During Lent may our tears join Mary’s tears on the Via Dolorosa to join Christ’s perfect sacrifice of love! When He sees us accompanying Him on the way of the cross, certainly He will speak the words we long to hear.

The Word Among Us: Lenten Bible Study (Part 1)

Lent Bible Study Session 1 from The Word Among Us on Vimeo.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Forty Days

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

40 Days by Matt Maher

The Story of Ash Wednesday

The following comes from The Catholic Exchange:

Q: A Protestant friend asked me why Catholics use ashes on Ash Wednesday. What are the origins of Ash Wednesday and the use of ashes?
The liturgical use of ashes originates in Old Testament times. Ashes symbolized mourning, mortality and penance. For instance, in the Book of Esther, Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes when he heard of the decree of King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes, 485-464BC) of Persia to kill all of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire (Est 4:1). Job (whose story was written between 7th and 5th centuries BC) repented in sackcloth and ashes (Jb 42:6).
Prophesying the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, Daniel (c. 550BC) wrote, “I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” (Dn 9:3). In the 5th century BC, after Jonah’s preaching of conversion and repentance, the town of Nineveh proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, and the king covered himself with sackcloth and sat in the ashes (Jon 3:5-6). These Old Testament examples evidence both a recognized practice of using ashes and a common understanding of their symbolism.
Jesus Himself also made reference to ashes: Referring to towns that refused to repent of sin although they had witnessed the miracles and heard the good news, our Lord said, “If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they would have reformed in sackcloth and ashes long ago” (Mt 11:21).
The early Church continued the usage of ashes for the same symbolic reasons. In his book, De Poenitentia, Tertullian (c. 160-220) prescribed that the penitent must “live without joy in the roughness of sackcloth and the squalor of ashes.” Eusebius (260-340), the famous early Church historian, recounted in his The History of the Churchhow an apostate named Natalis came to Pope Zephyrinus clothed in sackcloth and ashes begging forgiveness. Also during this time, for those who were required to do public penance, the priest sprinkled ashes on the head of the person leaving confession.
In the Middle Ages (at least by the time of the 8th century), those who were about to die were laid on the ground on top of sackcloth sprinkled with ashes. The priest would bless the dying person with holy water, saying, “Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.” After the sprinkling, the priest asked, “Art thou content with sackcloth and ashes in testimony of thy penance before the Lord in the day of judgment?” To which the dying person replied, “I am content.” In all of these examples, the symbolism of mourning, mortality and penance is clear.
Eventually, the use of ashes was adapted to mark the beginning of Lent, the 40-day preparation period (not including Sundays) for Easter. The ritual for the “Day of Ashes” is found in the earliest editions of the Gregorian Sacramentary which dates at least to the 8th century. About the year 1000, an Anglo-Saxon priest named Aelfric preached, “We read in the books both in the Old Law and in the New that the men who repented of their sins bestrewed themselves with ashes and clothed their bodies with sackcloth. Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.” As an aside, Aelfric reinforced his point by then telling of a man who refused to go to Church on Ash Wednesday and receive ashes; the man was killed a few days later in a boar hunt. Since the Middle Ages at least, the Church has used ashes to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, when we remember our mortality and mourn for our sins.
In our present Ash Wednesday liturgy, we use ashes made from burned palm branches distributed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. The priest blesses the ashes and imposes them on the foreheads of the faithful, making the sign of the cross and saying, “Remember, man you are dust and to dust you shall return,” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”
As we begin this holy season of Lent in preparation for Easter, we must remember the significance of the ashes we have received: We mourn and do penance for our sins. We again convert our hearts to the Lord, who suffered, died and rose for our salvation. We renew the promises made at our baptism, when we died to an old life and rose to a new life with Christ. Finally, mindful that the kingdom of this world passes away, we strive to live the kingdom of God now and look forward to its fulfillment in heaven. In essence, we die to ourselves, and rise to a new life in Christ.
As we remember the significance of these ashes and strive to live it during this time of Lent, we must allow the Holy Spirit to move us to charity toward our neighbors. Our Holy Father in his Message for Lent, 2003, said, “It is my fervent hope that believers will find this Lent a favorable time for bearing witness to the Gospel of charity in every place, since the vocation to charity is the heart of all true evangelization.”
He also lamented that our “age, regrettably is particularly susceptible to the temptation toward selfishness which always lurks within the human heart…. An excessive desire for possessions prevents human beings from being open to their Creator and to their brothers and sisters.” This Lent, acts of self-giving love shown to those in need must be part of our penance, conversion and renewal, for such acts constitute the solidarity and justice essential for building up the kingdom of God in this world.

3 Practices of Lent

Detox Your Soul This Lent

The following comes from Patti Maguire Armstrong:

Toxins are poisons that can cause disease if absorbed into our bodies. In the spiritual world, the poison of evilhas been absorbed by our culture.

Christians are hunkering down for the spiritual battle that is intensifying and sometimes, are feeling overwhelmed. I know the feeling. But three things have lifted my spirit recently and have given me a plan to detoxify my soul this Lent

Interview with an Exorcist

While working on an exorcism story, I interviewed Father Vincent Lampert, the designated exorcist for the archdiocese of Indiana. He consulted on the bizarre case of a demonic attack on a family in Indiana. I found Fr. Lampert to be like the other exorcists I’ve interviewed over the years--spiritually uplifting. Consider that exorcists go head-to-head with evil, and then afterwards, can enjoy a good night’s sleep. That’s the kind of peace I want.

Fr. Lampert learned to be an exorcist in 2006 at the North American College in Rome. While studying there for three months, he assisted on over 40 exorcisms withlongtime Italian exorcist Father Carmine De Filippis. Fr. Lampert trained alongside Fr. Gary Thomas, whose experiences became a book by Matt Baglio called "The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist," and inspired the fictionalized movie.

Fr. Lampert emphasized faith as the key to life and according to him, with faith, we need not fear evil. “The power of God is greater than the power of evil,” he said. “I don’t carry a bag of tricks with me, I bring the power and authority of Jesus Christ that he has given to his Church.”

If we stay away from the occult, go to Mass, have faith in God, and pray, Fr. Lampert says we are protected. “The focus is on faith of Jesus Christ and it’s going to be reinforced by going to church,” he said. “The devil is already on the run if you are going to church and especially if you are receiving Communion.”

Fr. Lampert is confident and upbeat. One of his secrets for peace is that he stopped watching the news six years ago. “ I choose to be a positive person,” he said. “I can’t be a Christian and walk around with a long face because no one with a long face is going to bring someone to Christ.” He said that rather than letting the world change us, we should tune out the negative as much as possible and do what we can to change the world. “I believe the Gospel has the power to change the world, and that is what I choose to focus on,” Lampert said.

Raise the Soul through the Mind

With Lampert’s message in mind, I am keenly aware that what I let into my brain, affects my spirit. I don’t plan to stop watching the news (not yet anyways) but during Lent I will fill my mind with holy thoughts. I have selected writings assembled in Meditations for Lent for daily reading. Bossuet was a Seventeenth Century, French bishop, theologian, a brilliant orator, and a student of St. Vincent DePaul. His writings are compared to those of St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom, and reported to have been at the bedside of Pope Pius XII.

“The whole of the Christian life consists in making this journey [to Heaven] well,” Bossuet writes, “and it was to that end that our Lord directed all his deeds.”

The first day of meditations state, “”We will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). “Desire that he should be in you in this way. Offer yourself to him as his dwelling and temple.”

Bossuet encourages us to look at Jesus in heaven waiting for us so that we will break the chains that holds us down. With such a vision, we are drawn to our Lord who awaits us.

Heavenly Music

Better than a cup of coffee to start the day, is filling up on angelic music that lifts one’s heart towards heaven. The music of Lent at Ephesus soothes the soul in a mystical way. Ironically, it is from a group of women who have separated from the world to answer God’s call. The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles live a monastic life in the country in the Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph. Hidden from the world, they sow, tend crops, and farm animals. Yet, their voices ring out. 

A young, classically trained Prioress Cecilia and her sisters use music to worship God eight times a day. It is surely his sense of humor that these cloistered nuns have an international recording deal and two other albums that have topped the charts.

Their album, Advent at Ephesus, was #1 on the Billboard's Classical Traditional Music chart for 6 weeks in 2012. Last year, the sisters’ bestselling album, Angels and Saints at Ephesus topped the chart for thirteen weeks.

They have just released Lent at Ephesus, a collection of 23 songs. Three are original compositions inspired from the Diary of St. Faustina. 

“Lent is the time for us to meditate deeply on the love of God for Man,” Sr. Cecilia explained. “Forty days have been lovingly given to the church to prepare her members for the greatest mysteries of our faith.”

I can’t control the world or much of anything really, but I can start the day lifting my mind, heart, and soul to heaven. Regardless of what else you have planned for Lent, it’s never too late to add holy reading and inspirational music. I imagine that it’s the kind of daily activity that will become addicting.

Fr. Robert Barron on Practices of Lent

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Silence and the Radical Christian Life

Here is a great reflection for Lent. The following comes from the Sinners Guide:

Silence should be part of every Christian’s life. Unfortunately silence is becoming more and more scarce in our society. It doesn’t come without Cultivation.

Why is silence so important? Every baptized Catholic has the threefold vocation of Priest, Prophet and King. We cannot fully take up the role of Prophet without first cultivating silence in our everyday life. Why? Being a prophet is more than proclaiming the Truths handed to us from the Church. God speaks to us all individually and we each have a part in His plan and a unique message for the world. We will never hear that message that is deep inside us without cultivating silence in our every day life.

Its not easy to find times when we can be in solitude to try and work towards that special silence where we can really communicate on a deeper level with God. Solitude and Silence certainly never came easy for me. Before I was married it was pretty common for me to have the television or radio on all day. As soon as I got home I would turn one of them one for some “background” noise. Once I got married I really learned from my wife to cherish silence she hates background noise and rarely ever wants the television or radio on. Now with my busy life (like most everyone else) I have to wake up early to find time for silence. It has to be a priority for me or it won‘t happen.
Some tips to help cultivate silence in your daily life:
  1. Make it a priority. Set aside time each day to not only pray but listen to God
  2. Make it the same time each day. This builds a habit and shows how important it is to us
  3. Turn off EVERYTHING. (TV, Radio, Cell Phone, Laptop Etc.)
  4. Write down things that are distracting you. For example things you need to accomplish
  5. Work hard to keep your mind on the conversation with God
  6. Use the little times to practice. (In the car, the shower, as you are falling asleep)
  7. Most of all: Ask God for his help. He wants to speak to each one of us. His message is personal.
“Solitude enables you to make contact with yourself, a necessity if you want to realize yourself- not to repeat like a parrot a few acquired formulas, but to be the prophet of God within you who speaks a unique language to each man”
A. G. Sertillanges, O.P.
Oh that my people would listen to me…
Psalm 81:13

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Victory of the Cross

Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart; Give me right faith, sure hope, and perfect charity. Fill me with understanding and knowledge, that I may fulfill your command.

-St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, March 4, 2013

Lent: A Time For Review of Life Aimed at Growing in Holiness

The following comes from the blog of Bishop Paul Etienne:
Lent is clearly a time to examine our holiness of life.  Some have recently asked for greater detail in terms of what exactly holiness entails.  In short, holiness is found through our relationship with God.  That is why Jesus instructs us “to be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Matthew 5:48)  In other words, our holiness exists in God, who is Supreme holiness; Holiness itself. 

St. Thomas Aquinas saw holiness as our capacity to receive God.  “For nothing is worthy to receive God unless it be pure, according to Psalm 92:5: ‘Holiness becomes your house, O Lord.”  (Summa II-II Q. 81)  This is why the readings for Ash Wednesday plainly call us back to God.  The prophet Joel says: “Return to the Lord, your God.”  (2:12-18) St. Paul similarly stated: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”  (2 Corinthians 5:20)

God’s will is that we be holy.  (1 Thessalonians 4:3)  And God has provided for this high calling through the Incarnation and Redeeming work of Christ.  We know this from St. Paul’s teaching: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessings in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.  In love, he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.”  (Ephesians 1: 3-6)

How does one grow in holiness?  Basically, growth in holiness occurs in two ways.  First, since our holiness is attained through Jesus Christ, we must draw near to him.  This is done through prayer, receiving the Sacraments, growing in our knowledge of Sacred Scripture, and practicing charity.  Second, and perhaps this needs to be first, we must remove from our day-to-day lives all that is crass. In other words, there are things in our life that can and do block our ability to receive Christ, and thus to be drawn into the very holiness that is God.

Perhaps a practical starting point is to think about the kind of television programming we watch, or the music we listen to, the places we search on the internet, the video games we play, the conversations we have or the mindless thoughts we may entertain.  Do these things lift our spirits to God?  Do they respect the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of life?  Or do they leave us feeling empty, mindless, unfulfilled?  Good discernment tells us: “do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God.” (1 John 4:1)  If of the Holy Spirit, embrace it.  If of the counter spirit, (Satan) reject it. 

Once you identify a bad or questionable habit, take the risk and eliminate it from your routine for a while.  (This is what Lent calls us to do.)  Let God show you what a difference it makes when we make more room for him in our lives.  I have talked to several people over the years that stopped watching TV during Lent and were amazed after Lent when they began watching TV again, how offended they were by some of the shows they used to watch. 

Stated more positively, how much do we allow ourselves to experience beauty in sacred or classical music or art or even the simple beauty of nature?  Things that are beautiful naturally lead our heart, soul and mind to God.  (Philippians 4: 8)  Make a resolution to practice greater charity in just one relationship.

Perhaps finding a weekday Mass time is in order?  Spending more time with Jesus is absolutely necessary if we are going to grow in holiness, and there is no more privileged means of receiving Jesus than in the Eucharist.

I believe Abbot Marmion, OSB summs these points up nicely: “Our holiness will be the higher according as there is in us more loving dependence on God and conformity of our free will to our ultimate end (which is the manifestation of the Divine Glory).  The more we adhere to God by detaching ourselves from all that is not God, the more this dependence, conformity, adhesion, and detachment are firm and stable.”  Christ The Life of the Soul, p.28

These are just a few starting points to consider regarding holiness.  I’ll post more tomorrow.