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.

Sundays in Easter – 6th Sunday

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Readings

Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
Ps 98
1 John 4:7-10
John 15:9-17

Reflection

In the first reading today, the gift of the holy spirit poured out on the Gentiles. Peter ordered them to be baptized – cannot withhold water when they’ve received the holy spirit.

It’s not the water. It’s not the holy spirit. It’s not the cross. It’s all of those individual things becoming the greater thing, not only to guide us, but to always be within us.

When I was brought fully into the church four years ago I found out that the Easter Vigil is the only time the parish priests confer confirmation on the candidates. It is the only time that the bishop is allowed to be substituted. It is also the one time when the traditional sacraments are given in their order – baptism, confirmation, communion – rather than receiving the first communion between baptism and confirmation. There is something about being a part of such a longstanding tradition. When I participated and observed the Jewish rituals, I was always in awe of being a part of G-d’s chosen, descended from Abraham, observing things that had been observed since the beginning.

I feel that same way about my journey through Catholicism. In my studies, I’ve discovered that the mass hasn’t changed much since those first centuries.

The profoundness sometimes weighs on me, but the joy of it all lightens me.

Journal Prompt

This I command: love one another

Prayer

Accept the Father’s love,
Offer your love as he does.
Accept His saving power, and
Offer gratitude for it.
Follow his commands,
Absolve your sins,
Close your eyes, and breathe it in.
Exhale it out with thanks, and
Amen

Sundays in Easter – 5th Sunday

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Readings

Acts 9:26-31
Ps 22
1 John 3:18-24
John 15:1-8

Reflection

It reminds me of James 3:26: Faith without works is dead. It’s not the faith that’s important; it’s what having faith leads you to do. From giving money to giving time, our works and their reception increases our faith which increases our good works. Similarly, when we love both truthfully and through our deeds, we, and they, come alive.

Journal Prompt

“Let us love in deed and truth.”

Prayer

Remind me, O Lord that faith and love are paramount, equally deed and works will lead us to fulfillment and a deeper faith and abiding love. Amen.

Sundays in Easter – 4th Sunday

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Readings

Acts 4:8-12
Ps 118
1 John 3:1-2
John 10:11-18

Reflection

The cornerstone is the foundation, but it’s more than that. It’s the beginning, the first step, the mark of remembrance; the placeholder for all that is to follow.

When seeing the cornerstone, we see where that space all began. Sometimes there’s an engraving, a year of commencement or sometimes completion. A symbol highlighting the buildign’s significance – a cross, an open book. Letters: an engraver’s initials, an artist’s signature, a person’s legacy.

We trace the marks with our fingertips; we photograph all sides with a camera or even our mind’s eye. We do a pencil rubbing on vellum, but there are still realizations hidden deep away.

We begin with the cornerstone and find our own way from there.

Journal Prompt

The cornerstone

Prayer

Jesus,
Show us the full meaning of the cornerstone,
Bring us there for the beginning,
And walk with us as we end there
At the end of our circle.
We pray to you, and thank you for being by our side.
Amen.

Sundays in Lent – Easter – The Resurrection of the Lord

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Today’s Readings:

Acts 10:34a, 37-43

Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

Col 3:1-4

Gospel: Mark 16:1-7

Since I’ve joined the church, even before my baptism, I have only attended one Easter Day mass. It was the year before I took my sacraments, and I remember it was crowded and there was bright sunlight streaming in through the skylight, and the women were wearing the brightest, most springy colors I could ever imagine. I feel like I wore my own bright pink shirt. Since then, last night included, I have attended the Easter Vigil. It is a bit more solemn and dark. It is literally dark. It doesn’t begin until 8pm with the blessing of the Easter fire from Saturday morning, and the lighting of the Paschal candle. From that, the entire church is lit up with candlelight and the Paschal candle lights all of the individual candles. It is really quite beautiful and moving as we move from utter darkness (Good Friday) to the brightest light (that of the Resurrection). 

On Saturday evening, after darkness has fallen, the Paschal candle is brought inside with the chant of The Light of Christ followed by the Easter proclamation. Then seven readings and responsorial psalms, an epistle, gospel and homily and we’re ready for the renewal of baptismal vows, bringing our candidates into full communion with the church and finishing with the hymn Jesus Christ is Risen Today. Alleluia!

I come home and it’s Easter.

We do an egg hunt. Our children are twelve, thirteen, and twenty-one, and they still enjoy gathering the eggs and finding the baskets the Bunny left them. We baste a turkey, mash potatoes, and casserole green beans. For all of its significance, it is a much quieter affair, a smaller, more internal celebration. We’ll read and eat some candy. We’ll clear the table for dinner. This year, I have a small, lovely vase of flowers to add as our centerpiece.

More than anything, on this, a most sacred day is spending the day with our family, as a family.

How do you celebrate as a family? Do you continue any of the traditions you did as a child in your parents’ house?

[Beginning next Sunday, I will continue this devotional, Sundays in Lent as a Sundays in Easter with a devotional posting each Sunday through Pentecost. I hope you’ll continue to follow along, and are enjoying reading and participating with it as much as I’m enjoying writing it.]

Sundays in Lent – Holy Saturday

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​I never really think of Mary as a mother. It’s right there in the Hail Mary prayer, and many if not all of the Mary prayers. And more than the Mother of G-d, she is mother to a child. She fed Jesus and taught him his letters. She told him not to run through the kitchen and to take a bath. When she asked him to assist the bridal party at Cana and his response was, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come,’ I can see the side-eye she gave hm until he relented and did as he was told. I can’t imagine how she felt watching him die on the Cross – a public renunciation of her own flesh, his pain her pain, his torture hers, never once challenging the path set out for him, but bearing it.

Last week, mys on had a medical emergency and was in hospital for three days. It felt like a lifetime. He’s an adult, but my child will always be my baby. Mismatched words became prayer and as always, G-d hears all, even what isn’t said. Not the fancy, not the prayers that come with a collection basket, not the extravagant song, but the simple. The humble. The genuine plea to set aside the pain, the heal the hurt, to comfort the parent, to help the child.

Comfort me, O Lord in my distress,
But care for my loves.
Heal the sickness;
Subside the pain.
Give rest to the weary.
As your name is on my breath,
Keep their breaths free of obstruction.
Make them whole.
Care for them as I would:
With whole being and gentle blessing.
Praise for your health restored.
Praise for your answer,
Their care and well-being.
In all this I ask
with a grateful heart,
In your name, Amen.

Sundays in Lent – Good Friday

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Depiction of Calvary. Whitefriar Street Church. Dublin, Ireland. (c)2018


The traditional order of the sayings, which are known as Jesus’s last seven words, are:

Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.

John 19:26–27: Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.

Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34 My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

John 19:28: I thirst.

John 19:30: It is finished.

Luke 23:46: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.


Traditionally, these seven sayings are called words: 

1.Forgiveness
2.Salvation
3.Relationship
4.Abandonment
5.Distress
6.Triumph
7.Reunion

See Father James Martin’s book, Seven Last Words.