Sundays in Lent – 4th Sunday – Laetare Sunday

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“But Lent is not a self-improvement program, nor is it a self-denial challenge, with badges to be earned for each day or week I manage not to eat chocolate. Lent is a time for us to be open to G-d’s refashioning of us.”

From Daily Reflections for Lent: Not by Bread Alone 2018 by Michelle Francl-Donnay

Typically I try to write my weekly reflection based on the Scripture readings for today, and I usually wait until after I’ve finished posting to read Michelle Francl’s reflections that I read daily. I don’t want to use someone else’s words as the basis for my feelings. Sometimes it’s inevitable because Lent is so universal sometimes the feelings and emotions brought up within each of us are also universal, and so we can’t help that sometimes we sound repetitive of someone else’s feelings and emotions. However, when I read these two sentences, it hit me so hard as much of her writing does, how she reaches into my mind and pulls out my thoughts. I’ve found someone whose voice I can recognize and understand.

My husband is not a practicing Catholic, and my children are “officially” Jewish even though we have always celebrated both religion’s holidays. I have been more religious than anyone else in my family for as long as I can remember. I grew up, not so much in a temple but in a shul where I learned the holidays, the songs, the traditions of being Jewish, and that is what I’ve followed with my own kind of care. Since becoming Catholic, I’ve become more religious, but it is a personal journey. Sometimes I involve my family, but often it is individual for me. For much of it, they simply don’t understand, and for the most part, that’s okay. When things come up, questions, I do my best.

Lent is hard.

Not the sacrifice or the willpower, but the simple answers of why are not so simple. Does G-d really care if you fast? I don’t think so. Like any other religious experience, it is individual, and it is between me and G-d, but ultimately it is up to me to do the thing and find the answers to the thing.

I gave up bread, so when I have a tortilla I’m asked why I’m eating bread (I really despise gatekeepers). Tortillas are bread nutritionally, but not bread for the purposes of eating bread. I won’t go into what is and isn’t bread, but I’m the one that gave it up and as long as I’m not parsing the definition, I know what I gave up and what I didn’t.

I don’t need a pat on the back when I don’t eat bread and I don’t need a hug when I do. I might include it in reconciliation or I might not.

Sometimes I do think that Lent is a self-improvement program. I can be a better person is I can take control of things. This is a good time to start. That would be great if this were New Year’s or the first day of spring. I have to continuously remind myself that the point of Lent is to grow closer to G-d. To eliminate what is standing between G-d and myself. If I give up bread and lost ten pounds (or thirty like the last time), that is not the focus. It’s a pleasant side effect, but how is not eating bread bringing me closer to G-d. Would giving up chocolate bring me any closer? Or soda? How are these things keeping me from G-d? Are they merely distracting me from Him?

I don’t know all the answers. I can only keep asking them, and hoping that through some discernment and prayer that I will receive those answers, or at least part of them like a puzzle piece to be placed and examined.

It is not self-improvement or self-denial, but for me, it is both and it is neither. It is many things at once, and it is only getting through it to the other side that I can find what I was looking for or see what I was being shown all along for the first time, and then I have the entirety of the Easter season to look back on it and contemplate some more, possibly seeing some of the things I may have missed in the rush to get through the Lenten sacrifice.

[Today’s Readings: 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23, Psalm 137, Ephesians 2:4-10, John3:14-21]

Sundays in Lent – 3rd Friday

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Pilgrimage

Whitefriar Street Church, also known as the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Dublin, Ireland was one of those places on the map that i expected to see from the outside, take a few pictures of, and move on down the street. We were on a very limited time clock, one of the only ones on this trip. The map wasn’t even a real map; it was a tourist map – not every street and not to scale. The boys were going to search out the comic stores of Dublin, and my daughter and I were going to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Dublin item n my bucket list.

I had done no research and so while I rushed to the Cathedral, I had no idea that we couldn’t get in without a ticket and we didn’t have the time to wait in line for one, having arranged to meet back at Starbucks and then drive north and back to Belfast.

In hindsight I would have skipped the Dublin cathedral and spent some actual time in Downpatrick in the north. I had dismissed it, clinging to my childhood stereotype that St. Patrick was of the south. I seem to always make the mistake of lack of research despite mounds of research.

Before heading to St. Patrick’s, we, my daughter and I, stood on the corner adjacent to the Starbucks which was adjacent to our hostel to get our bearings and plan our foray through the streets of Dublin. It was then that we heard the bong of a church bell.

We quickly realized that on the corner directly across the little alley where the hostel was, was a church, and upon further investigation discovered that it was the very church I had wanted to see.

Right place, right time were both on my side as we entered to gape at the first of sixteen shrines, a life size depiction of Calvary. It was beautiful and sad, thrilling and literally breathtaking and haunting and everything all at once. We stepped around and into the small alcove that was St. Albert’s Shrine and holy well dedicated to him, and as I contemplated taking a cupful of water from the shrine in my hand I was made aware that mass was about to begin.

Mass. In Dublin. Among sixteen shrines. I couldn’t pass this opportunity by.

For today’s pilgrimage I’m going to show you what I saw. They have a beautiful church with a guide to each of the shrines as well as a 360° virtual tour.

I found the mass fulfilling, the shrines inspiring, lighting the candle prayerful. I love that technology allows me to share this with you.

March: Blustery, Green, Wet: Recipe

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One of my favorite comfort foods, and perfect for the cold, unpredictable days of March is Sherpherd’s Pie. I have always called it Shepherd’s Pie as has my mother-in-law who is actually from Ireland, but alas over the years I have been informed (many times) that what I make is not Shepherd’s Pie. The last time, in fact, was when I was in Northern Ireland and our cousin, Christine, made this for us one night for tea. Shepherd’s Pie is made from mutton, or sheep. What I make, and what she made for us is better known as Cottage Pie, which is basically the same thing except substituting beef in the place of mutton.

I used to make this with ground beef, but after seeing my mother-in-law in the kitchen, I began to use leftover roast beef, which is traditionally how it is made.

It is a great leftover dish, both made from leftovers and to eat as a leftover, but I’ve yet to have it last more than a meal and a half.

The ingredients I use are:

Leftover roast beef, cut into small chunks or diced. Uniformity is not necessary.

Leftover gravy, 2 TB Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup HP sauce (found in the international aisle of your supermarket) or you can use ketchup.

Leftover sliced carrots, peas, anything really. If you have no leftover vegetables, use half a bag of frozen peas and carrots.

Mashed potatoes.

Cover with cheddar cheese and sprinkle with bread crumbs, although the bread crumbs are optional.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350.

Scoop and eat. It goes well with dinner rolls, Yorkshire pudding, salad.

It is delicious and filling.

Sundays in Lent – 3rd Wednesday

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Using the following passage, journal about what it’s saying to you. My mind immediately jumped to politics but then switched over to getting the kids out the door for school. Mediate on it for about five minutes and then start writing.

“However, take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.”

Deuteronomy 4:9

Sundays in Lent – 3rd Tuesday

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Read the Psalm for today’s readings and meditate on what it is saying and asking of you by way of compassion and kindness. I think that we all could use more of both in our lives, and this psalm is perfect for a reminder of that, and a way to include G-d in how you go about your day with more kindness and compassion.

Psalm 25

Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.

R. Remember your mercies, O Lord
.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your kindness are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.

R. Remember your mercies, O Lord
.

Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
he teaches the humble his way.

R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.