Lent did not seem to rush by or to trickle; it went along just right as Goldilocks would say. For me, I think part of it was keeping the labyrinth journal throughout Lent. It forced me (in a good way) to look at my day, both before it began and then to examine how it went later on and keep track of my activities. I mostly stuck to spiritual activities, but some secular ones seeped in, especially when I spent quality time with my family or if I completed writing assignments. Those things got me up in such a positive way, I couldn’t help but meditate on them and incorporate them into my spiritual journey for Lent. I enjoyed switching the colors between journaling, and I enjoyed recognizing close moments with G-d in the micro-narration as well as in the moment.
With Lent finished, and other responsibilities beginning, I thought I would try my hand at a spiritual journal. I started it on the 19th and didn’t pick it up again until yesterday. So far not an auspicious start, but I don’t intend it to be a daily journal; I’m attempting to keep it pressure free. It occured to me to begin it when I started keeping a log for my Cursillo grouping and Ultreya tripod and close moments. I thought I should keep those and have access to re-reading them and be able to always be advancing in my spiritual life.
Here are the final pictures of my Lenten Labyrinth Journal. It is definitely something that I found rewarding and something I would consider doing again. As you can see below the cut, I needed a second labyrinth to cover everything during Holy Week, concluding with Easter.
“To many people holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.”
Phillip Andrew Adams
This week marks my massaversary. Two years before I received my sacraments, I began attending church services. It was during Holy Week that this started and it marked a profound change in my life. Attending mass, sitting alone in a pew reading Scripture didn’t make all my problems go away; they didn’t suddenly create a magical turnaround in my mental health issues, my personal issues, my crisis, but it did create light in the darkness, both metaphorically and literally in a bright light vision. I met new people who influenced me in all the positive ways you want friends to influence you. I discovered a group of people who were glad to know me, and provided material help despite not knowing me from Adam. I saw what a calling was through their actions, and I saw what it means to walk with Christ.
I was welcomed with great joy, and I continue to be.
My massaversary is more than simply a date on a calendar or a memory of long ago. It is present, it is here, it is now, and I am welcomed with great joy whenever I enter the church and cross my self with the holy water from the font in the gathering space.
Even in an empty building, I am welcomed because Christ is always present.
I will try to put words on my feelings in small ways as the week continues on, and as the Lenten Journey ends and Easter begins.
As we celebrate Holy Week, we are still looking back on Week 5 of Lent. Last week was another busy week. My labyrinth (photos below cut) had to be continued on the back of my card. I wrote about our church’s soup ministry during Lent and that had some profound close moments and memories. Even though I missed rosary last week, I had dinner with my family and sometimes that has precedence. I’ve been working on Felicia Day’s book, Embrace Your Weird, and it’s really forcing me to look inward which is perfectly in tune with the Lenten desert.
Also, last week’s Last Supper retreat was so much more than a one day experience. It really brought so much out of what the retreat house means to me. It was something of a spiritual experience in just being there, amid the familiar faces and places. It was wonderful.
Now I prepare myself for the Triduum – the last days of Christ and the beginning of eternal life. We need to walk through the fire so to speak, carry our crosses and come out on Easter Sunday reborn. I’m looking forward to it.
Publishing these in the middle of the next week gives me time to reflect on the week that’s passed, reevaluate my journey and see what changes need to be made in my spiritual life. It’s a when, not an if. There are usually a few. I think I’ve put writing in the center of the labyrinth since even my spirituality involves an excess of writing, but I feel that there must be more that I’m looking for when I get to the center. I may take a walk later this week (or more probably next) at one of our local labyrinths.
I’m also a little stuck on the exercises in Felicia Day’s book Embrace Your Weird. She suggests filming yourself. (Not going to happen.) But I still need to step back and watch myself with new eyes and then answer her questions. This guide is for fostering creativity, but I find that the parts of my life are so interconnected that I can’t help but reflect on my faith and spirit. I’ll pick it back up this afternoon when I get home from my errands. I think I’ll do my daily readings then as well.
I still haven’t been able to answer what it is I’m being called to, although I feel the tugging.
Yesterday as I began to look at the new week’s labyrinth I realized how important mass has been to me in more than a spiritual way. You’ll see the picture next Wednesday, but this is what I wrote yesterday morning:
“I do notice that the days I go to mass are filled with other things. Whether it’s errands or prayer or publishing/scheduling here. I am invigorated to do more. I also haven’t felt that for some time.” And in parentheses I added, “This is a busy week though.”
I know I’ve had to push myself to do some things since the fall, and it hasn’t been easy. Of courses, the pandemic hasn’t helped. Like, at all. October has always been an unsettling time for me. What should have been a fully joyous time led in a few short weeks to a devastating time and unconsciously I’ve held that uneasiness yearly. I only recognized it when it was brought up to me and I try to lessen the difficulties by being aware and looking inward. When my priest died this past October, let’s just say that did not help my spirit.
As I write this, I’ve only just realized that his death and my mother’s are exactly two months apart (seventeen years apart though). That’s some coincidence. Or something.
My parish church announced this weekend about the forthcoming appointment of our new pastor, and I didn’t realize the stress and anxiety that I’d held inside myself. The ease I feel now that the appointment is certain is palpable. I’m sure it helps that I am familiar with this new pastor, and I’m looking forward to my continued journey in the faith and the church. I do think that this news has had a positive effect on my spirit and may have given me the punch in the arm I needed to return to my previous level of interaction (in several parts of my life).
Just as it takes one thing to stop us in our tracks or put us off the path, sometimes all we need is that one little (or major) catalyst to jump start us. This was one of them.
I also have two workshops/lectures, one day of reflection, another class, an interfaith meeting, and preparing for a retreat at the end of the month, plus my oldest son’s twenty-fifth birthday. And I’ll be cooking three meals this week, which is a lot for me lately. (Real meals, not hot dogs or pasta. Possibly more on that Friday.)
Here, in the middle of this second week of Lent, I feel an optimism, a hope that my Lenten journey will continue to be meaningful and will set the path for the rest of the year after we mourn the Crucifixion and celebrate the Resurrection in the days and weeks to come.
Have a peaceful and blessed Lent. May the week land gently.
As similar and routine as each Lent can be, each Lent is also unique in the felings it conjures up. The different readings, the different reflections, the different books chosen for study in this year as opposed to the last one. Further down you’ll see my first two weeks of the Lenten Labyrinths that I’m journaling with over the next thirty some odd days. There are two for the first week because I wasn’t thinking and began on Ash Wednesday and then began another one on the first Sunday. Looking at it each day lets me think intentionally about what I’m doing during this Lenten season.
Today is Wednesday, so there was a soup delivery from my parish earlier today. Funny story: I was sitting in my dining room on hold with my insurance company, and I hear my husband. I ignore him because I’m on the phone, then I hear banging on the door. I look up and out my kitchen door and I see a mass of grey hair, thinking my husband got locked out, although I can’t figure out how since the last time I saw him he was in his office. I get to the door and it’s Tom from church with the soup, standing in my mudroom. (I usually put out a garden table on Wednesday, but I forgot and it’s snowing, so he came in the unlocked (for the kids) door.) I thank him profusely and take my bags of very hot soup.
I sat in quiet contemplation, savoring each spoonful of hamburger barley soup, thinking (or is it praying over) the people in the parish center kitchen stirring and dividing the soup into individual plastic containers. I taste each vegetable and I dip the bread until it practically disintegrates in the hot, tomato-y broth. Each bag has a necklace with a cross and a medal of St. Peregrine. I do not know this saint, but I will spend some time this afternoon reading about him and studying what he is known for.
I think about how food brings us together even when we’re apart, and I look forward to this quiet, solitary ritual every Wednesday until Holy Week.
What are you pondering this first week of Lent, the first moments entering the desert?
A little over two years ago I discovered labyrinths. I happened upon one at a local church and it immediately drew me in and down the proverbial rabbit hole. I was fascinated by it. It wasn’t just the shape, the circular path, but also in this case the courtyard it was in. There were windows set in stone walls with worn wooden benches separated by narrow walls giving it a medieval structured look. Opposite the entrance to the courtyard were a pair of French doors and around the boundary of the space were a variety of plants and flowers. The first time I was there was a bright sunny day, but on my second visit when I actually prayed with the labyrinth it was much colder and overcast. It didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for my hour in the labyrinth and meditating in the courtyard.
I started reading about them, and in an unexpected coincidence I met a woman in my writing group who used to teach a workshop about labyrinths. She loaned me a few of her books for my reading that semester.
The first thing I learned in my studies is that labyrinths and mazes, though the words are often used interchangeably, are not the same thing. Mazes are meant to be a little confusing, they dead end and may have more than one path to get to the center and the goal or treasure. Labyrinths usually have one path to the center and then either a second path out or a reversal of the original path and the treasure is in the journey through the labyrinth rather than a golden prize.
Here we are in the first full week of Lent. I think we’re all getting used to the idea of what this year’s Lent entails. As I mentioned last week, I am trying to organize my thoughts around the Lenten pillars of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving and incorporating those pillars with the tripod of my way through Cursillo of piety, study, and action. Something the priest said at Monday’s mass stood out to me, and that was that we are all presbyters, as opposed to proselytizers. Public prayer, not conversion. That was the word [presbyter] used in that day’s Reading from the First Letter of Peter, and defined in Father’s homily as someone who prays in public. We may recognize that word as the basis for Presbyterian, a Protestant sect of Christianity.
If we are all called to be presbyters as Peter exalts us to “tend the flock of G-d in [our] midst” [1 Peter 5: 1-4], how do we reconcile that with Jesus’ call to not be like the hypocrites and go to our rooms and pray in private [Matt 6.6]?
How should, how can we pray in public and not become like those hypocrites?
As I set this aside earlier in the week, I thought about the ways in which I was praying in public and yet hoping to avoid hypocrisy. I am definitely thinking more about prayer and ways to be closer to G-d during these forty days leading up to the Easter Vigil. I spent time discerning what actions and tasks were important to me and which ones I needed to give up to make my time more effective and positive, not only for me, but for those people I would be working with.
Sometimes prayer is a conversation between yourself and G-d and sometimes it is contemplative, thinking on a scripture passage or meditation. We ask for things – petitions, we ask for things for others – intercessory prayer and sometimes we just sit in the quiet and hope G-d can understand what it is we’re seeking even if we don’t necessarily know.
On Wednesday night, I participated in a centering prayer group. We met on Zoom. I had been to a workshop on centering prayer last month, and this was a good opportunity to put what I learned into practice with others. While we were each in our own spaces and muted, we were also all together, hearing the same reading, listening to the bell that started off our quiet, contemplative time, the screen sharing a single candle if we chose to keep our eyes open to see it. Solitary and in group at the same time.
Private and public.
Admittedly, I had some trouble focusing. My house was empty and silent. The group was silent, not even a buzz from the lights or clock in the room, no airplanes flying low overhead like they’d done all morning. And still, I needed to continue to draw on my sacred word to bring me back to my prayer. By the time, I felt settled, the bell rang and it was the end of the twenty minute sit (what the prayer time is called).
It reminded me of those early days of the pandemic, when the sun was out, the snow was gone, and the cold was bearable. I would take out my camp chair to the front lawn and just sit. On occasion I took a photo of the trees or the sky. I’d write in my journal. I’d pray the rosary.
But often, I would just sit, noticing each flutter of a breeze, each chirp of a bird, and before I even realized it, an hour had passed. I’d unconsciously been doing centering prayer a year ago, but didn’t have the language to name it then.
One way I can be a presbyter is to take my chair outside (when my lawn doesn’t have the mounds of snow that it currently has) with my prayer book and journal, my pashmina and just sit. Let myself be drawn into G-d’s world and let the nearby church bells lift me from my reverie and gently bring me back to this world refreshed.
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.
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.