The Forty Day Journey Begins. Ash Wednesday.

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​Giving up something is hard to choose, and giving up something for Lent can be a daunting task. Sometimes what I choose feels arbitrary and superficial. Some are good ideas, but not meaningful enough. Will giving it up bring me closer to G-d? Or just make me miserable for forty days? My feeling on giving something up is that it should be sacrificial – you should definitely notice that it’s absent. I won’t be giving up brussel sprouts or beets. I don’t eat them anyway. That would lack sincerity and significance. However, it should also not be something that is impossible to give up like driving or any number of things that you find indispensible.

I asked for help from my friends on Facebook, and I received some very good suggestions. In spite of their excellent responses, some of those very valid suggestions don’t (or won’t) work for me:

  • TV? Then I’d miss family time. We watch most things all together and enjoy that time. I’d be abandoning them for forty days.
  • Cable news? I don’t watch it 24/7 anymore, but I do need to keep informed, especially in this era of misinformation.
  • Internet? Besides keeping in touch with my family, it is essentially my livelihood.
  • Chocolate? Soda? Bread? Been there, done that. I’m not sure it holds the same meaning as the first time; at least not yet.
  • Caffeine? And go through withdrawal? Too physically taxing.
  • Ice cream? Maybe. My doctor would certainly like that.
  • Bacon? Hmm. Possible. Very possible.

I do always add a spiritual component to my forty days in the desert:

  • Prayer time.
  • Reflection.
  • Rosary.
  • Reading.

I already read two devotional books throughout the year on a daily basis: Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2019 by The Irish Jesuits and A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His journals. I’ll be adding two more: My parish gives out a small book, Not by Bread Alone 2019: Daily Reflections for Lent by Mary DeTurris Poust. This takes about five minutes to read each day and provides a reflection and a suggested meditation to reflect on. We’ve used this book for a number of years and it really is a good way to meet G-d everyday. The second book is Lenten Gospel Reflections by Bishop Robert Barron, which was given to my by the person who will be sponsoring me on my Cursillo journey (more on that in a later post). This one looks to be short readings also and it has space for notes or journaling.

Daily Lenten Reading, 2019. (c)2019


i’ve also decided to set aside $1 every time my family eats out or buys a non-grocery food item like Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, etc and on Easter money donate all those dollars to my parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society.
I’m currently getting ready to attend Ash Wednesday Mass followed by a parish soup lunch. It is a really lovely way to begin Lent with other like-minded people, all on different paths but the same journey. It reinforces the community of the church.

 In addition to my own commitments during Lent, Lent has three pillars of prayer, fasting (and abstinence), and almsgiving. Fasting and abstinence sound similar, but are very different in practice, and for me, Catholic fasting is much different than my decades of Yom Kippur fasting (which I still observe). Fasting during Lent is only required of those 18 through 59, and may include one regular meal as well as two smaller meals. Fast days in Lent are today, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Additionally, Fridays in Lent require abstinence from meat as well as other enjoyable sources, freeing us to grow closer to G-d.

My church also included a forty day calendar offering suggestions on ways to make Lent moe meaningful. It is provided from Take Five for Faith and I sill share it with you this weekend.

I will keep you updated on my progress and I hope you will comment with your own reflections and suggestions this Lenten season.

Advent Resources

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Waiting, waiting, waiting. I hate waiting. When I go to the doctor, I bring my Kindle with a book to read on it. When I’m at church waiting for Mass to begin (assuming I’m not running in the door at the last minute), I glance through the hymn sheet or the Missal for that day. Waiting for a television program to begin I can be found on the sofa reading the mail and checking my email. No one likes waiting.

Unfortunately, that is all that Advent is about: waiting for the birth of Christ.

It is not the fun, elf-driven, rah, rah, rah countdown to Santa Claus, but in some ways it’s better than that.

While we’re waiting, what is there to do? For me, it is reading, and soaking up more and more about the man and the Son of G-d. It fills me with such joy and leaves me wanting more that I can’t get enough. At the end of this, I will give you links to my resources, some I’m doing and others that I’ve found along the way this first week that I will keep in a folder for next year.

Father James Martin also describes Advent as a time for us to recognize our desires. This link will help explain what he means by that (and this related video). In this culture, we’ve grown accustomed to desire having a sexual connotation that we need to break out our open minds and our thesauruses. What do we truly desire in our relationship with Jesus?

While we are followers of Christ, we are also called to walk beside him. Not that we’re equal, but He is always by our sides, opening our eyes and our hearts to see and feel His love for us.

Two things that I keep reading this Advent season is mercy and forgiveness. Ironically, the two ideas that I struggle with the most. Certainly, their inclusion has a lot to do with the Jubilee Year of Mercy that begins next week. When Pope Francis first announced the Jubilee year, he offered the pilgrimage to those who couldn’t travel for one. The idea of a Pilgrimage is not something I can remotely entertain but then he did what he has done since his election as Pope – he made it accessible to all. He not only opened a door but he provided an opportunity that might want to go on pilgrimage but can’t leave their home area. I’m still discerning what it is I want out of a pilgrimage and my godmother gave me some questions to ponder, in addition to my own. That is my first step on whatever my quest might be.

It is also a time to slow down and really appreciate this time of the year. Chorus concerts, family dinners, baking cookies. We bustle through and complain about the amount of work and money and in the end we’re exhausted but happy but the slowing down of Advent is something we should all strive to reward ourselves with.

It’s the beginning of a new year. We’ve survived and thrived through so much. It’s time to celebrate and rejoice that and think of the beauty and spirit that’s coming.

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Local Mass and Daily Readings

Advent Moments of Mercy (Online Retreat from Loyola Press)

Loyola Press Interactive Advent Calendars

America Magazine Readings for Advent

Bishop Robert Barron’s Daily Email for Advent

Unto us a Child is Born – Henri J.M. Nouwen– my parish’s Advent Reflection Booklet

The LIttle Blue Book for Advent and Christmas Seasons, 2015-2016

The Living Gospel: Daily Devotions for Advent by Theresa Rickard

Random Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar

Acts of Kindness Christmas Countdown Calendar

Open These Doors for Refuge Advent Calendar