Time to Reflect


Ash Wednesday has arrived. It feels so early this year, but I suppose everything feels a bit jumbled during this pandemic year. As my priest said at mass this morning, things are different, but they’re also the same. Less people allowed at mass. Ashes distributed with a cotton swab (my parish) or sprinkled over your head (others). I didn’t make this morning’s mass in person although I planned to, and registered to attend. The ice on my car made different plans. I was able to watch the mass livestreamed and stopped by the church later in the afternoon to pick up a small vial of ashes. It was a do it yourself for me today.

I would have thought a year into the pandemic that I’d be an expert on reflections on any subject that came to mind, but when I went to write this on Tuesday, there was nothing. Sometimes reflections feel like journal entries, and I’ve been not great at journaling this past year. I’ve tried to keep checklists – masses attended, rosaries said, writing accomplished, but even that little bit has been a failing.

I hadn’t even decided what I’d be giving up, and then I gave myself an extension. Not anything canonical, but I think sometimes when we force ourselves to do things without the impetus of why we’re doing them, they lose something in the translation.

I spend a lot of time worrying about what I’m going to give up as if forty days without chocolate or soda is a hardship in the big picture of things, but on the other hand, I think that sacrifice should also be a sacrifice of time. What can I do to grow in my relationship with G-d? What are things that I can do for these forty days that will stay with me for the next forty? And then the next?

To begin for the readers waiting with bated breath, I’m not going to make my decision on what I”ll be offering to G-d for Lent until the first Sunday of Lent although I have a good idea what it will be and it wasn’t even on my original brainstorm list. By Sunday, I will have had some time to discern what I can accomplish from giving something up or trading it for something that is more positive and/or spiritual.

Lent is a forty day period where prayer, fasting, and almsgiving take the center of spiritual life. Despite being given dispensation from holy days and Sunday masses during the pandemic, I have still gone almost every week to the livestream mass. I was happily surprised to find it just as rewarding as going in person. In the summer, I began to attend Monday’s daily mass in person and I will continue to do that. Our church has done a great job of keeping things safe. I am very lucky with both my church and my children’s school.

In addition to the three pillars of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving since I’ve become a Cursillista, I try to incorporate the tripod of piety, study, and action into my everyday life, but moreso during Lent when our time is spent in communion with Jesus, and of course, ourselves.

I have some tools and links that I’d like to share with you to assist with your own Lenten journey. The first three I will be doing throughout Lent.

Daily Reflections for Lent: Not By Bread Alone 2021 by Mary DeTurris Poust

A Stranger and You Welcomed Me from Clear Faith Publishing

Along the Way: A Jesuit Prayer Pod – a weekly Lenten podcast from two Jesuit brothers

The Examen with Father James Martin, SJ – daily podcast with Fr. Jim Martin, SJ

Prayer of Spiritual Communion (this is what my parish uses for communion during their livestream masses for those of us participating at home):

I wish, my Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility, and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervor of the saints. Amen

In addition to some of these, I am also going to praying the Rosary on Mondays and the Stations of the Cross on Fridays as well as committing to submit a reflection to my Cursillo group’s weekly digest. I will also (finally) begin reading A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith by Timothy Egan. This was recommended a couple of years ago and I bought it then, but haven’t found the right time to start it. I’ve decided to make that time now.

I also intend to recommit to my writing, both spiritual and secular. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve kept consistent with this website, but my other writings have fallen on the wayside. I hope to rectify that over the next forty days.

I hope to bring you more in the coming days. Have a meaningful Lent.

Lenten Almsgiving


While the use of the word Almsgiving has fallen out of the modern vernacular, it is still to be found in religious language and one of the three tenets to be acknowledged during Lent along with fasting and prayer. Many of us give money to our churches and temples and a variety of other charitable organizations, but how many of us specifically give alms to the poor?

In the nearby city, there are several soup kitchens, homeless shelters, a city mission, and poor boxes in a variety of church denominations. Unless we are involved int he day to day lives of the poor, we do not always see the needs.  We leave it to our friends and neighbors. Much of this is without thought. Whenever I pass someone asking for money on the road, my first inclination is to roll down my window and give something to them.

Unfortunately, in this electronic world of debit cards, I rarely have any cash in my pocket.

One of the groups that is organized out of my church (and out of many churches across the country) is the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Even before I was a member of my parish, they helped me many times, including with money for a much needed hot water heater. When I went to them it was for advice, perhaps they had a suggestion of a reliable company to use or one that offered the group a discount. I had not expected money towards the heater even though we desperately needed financial assistance. We’re one of hundreds of families who request and are given help throughout the year with both money, food, and resources. Contact your local society or go through your local Diocese’s website for ways to reach them and contribute, not just money, but time as well.

Every year, despite our own monetary shortcomings, I try to give back a. little bit towards them.

Also at the top of my list is our local volunteer fire department. This is not necessarily an alms in the traditional sense of the word, used for the poor, but our local firefighters do not get paid and they come out to help with fires and medical emergencies whenever they are called, no matter the weather or time of day (or night).

Places where I try to send my money when I have it follow below. Please add your own suggestions and charities in the comments to make us aware of what opportunities are out there for us to donate to.

Don’t forget – you can donate more than money. Many charities are looking for clothes, household items, baby items, school supplies, and your time and talent. As the organization before you drop things off so you can make sure that they need what you’d like to give them. Items should definitely be in good, working order and be clean. Imagine if you were receiving this item.


Almshouses in Llanrwst, North Wales built by Sir John Wynn in 1610 as seen from the entrance at Ancaster Square


View of the alley of Almshouses in Llanrwst, North Wales as viewed from St. Gwrst Parish Church and the Afon Conwy

Random Acts
American Red Cross

The Trevor Project

Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation

Human Rights Campaign