The poverty of Lent

Here is another Lenten reflection question for you: What do St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis, and belonging have in common? It was almost six years ago, in March 2013, that Pope Francis famously, and perhaps controversially, said that he wanted a “poor church for the poor.” Not surprisingly, this raised an eyebrow or two. Many online commentaries excoriated the pope as an opponent of capitalism, socialist-in-religious clothing, or another South-American-reactionary-liberation theologian. Equally, many have concluded that Pope Francis wants Catholics to devote greater attention to poverty-alleviation social programs. Both miss the deeper meaning Pope Francis attaches to poverty. Continue reading

I hope you were able to celebrate Ash Wednesday this year. If you blinked, it has already passed us by; it is quickly receding in the Lenten “rearview mirror.” If you blink again, it will be Holy Week and the “best of intentions” will have to wait for another year. So… what is your plan for Lent? And I ask about “your plan” because each of us are called to be intentional in our life of prayer and to create a place and space in our life to be in relationship with God. This is especially true in the Season of Lent. Now that Ash Wednesday has passed, what is your Lenten plan to make room in your life to be filled with God’s grace? How about a Lenten checklist to help you get started? Continue reading

Lent and McDonald’s

Did you know that nearly one quarter of McDonald’s Filet-of-Fish sandwich sales take place during Lent, when many fast-food customers are abstaining from meat? “That’s exactly what the McDonald’s operator who first put the cheese-topped sandwich on his menu had in mind back in 1962. When Cincinnati McDonald’s franchise owner Lou Groen noticed that his heavily Catholic clientele was avoiding his restaurant on Fridays, he suggested to McDonald’s owner Ray Kroc that they add introduce a fish sandwich. That led to a wager between Groen and McDonald’s chief Ray Kroc, who had his own meatless idea. “He called his sandwich the Hula Burger,” Groen said. “It was a cold bun and a slice of pineapple and that was it. Ray said to me, ‘Well, Lou, I’m going to put your fish sandwich on (a menu) for a Friday. But I’m going to put my special sandwich on, too. Whichever sells the most, that’s the one we’ll go with.’ Friday came and the word came out. I won hands down. I sold 350 fish sandwiches that day. Ray never did tell me how his sandwich did.”

The Filet-of-Fish won, the rest is history, Groen’s restaurant thrived, and since then, the sandwich has been McDonald’s fixture, all year long.

Clark, Paul (February 20, 2007). “No fish story: Sandwich saved his McDonald’s”USA Today.

Lenten practices

1 “(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. 2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, 4 so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. 5 “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you…. 16 “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you. Continue reading

Examine and Examen

It has been a busy start to the year with lots of parish activities, lots of ministries, and… well… just lots of life. It is hard to believe that Ash Wednesday is this week marking the beginning of a penitential season for the faithful. I find that most of us have lost the core idea of “penance.”  Most will answer that “penance” is the prayers and actions that the priest gives you at the end of the Sacrament of Confession. And indeed, that is true. But that is really just the “period at the end of a sentence.” The older, deeper meaning of penance might be better described as the period “at the end of chapter” in the story of one’s life. Continue reading

Making room…

Lately, during weekday Mass celebrations, I have been asking people, “So…how’s your Lent going? Are you getting there?” It is just under three weeks until we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. So…. how’s your Lent going?

A lot of the time people tell me that they have given up such and such for Lent and they are still good, sticking to the plan. That is a good thing. But I wonder, and often ask, “does that make room in your life for God?” Continue reading

Temptation and Technology

The playwright Oscar Wilde once wrote, “I can resist anything except temptation.” The humor of the remark is mixed with a sad recognition that we fail so often to resist the temptations that come our way each day and from every direction. Of course, there are temptations and then there are temptations writ large. What are people’s greatest temptations? Why? What are their “favorite” sins — indicated by frequency and repetition? Why do we so often find ourselves in the same position as St. Paul?  “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15). During this Lenten season, each of us is called to name our temptations as part of a moral and ethical struggle in trying to live a holy and righteous life. Then once we name that temptation, we begin to unfold and inspect, to then start to answer what it is about this temptation that becomes especially alluring. Such are the first steps to healing. Continue reading

Lenten Advice

Every year, as Lent approaches, parishioners ask for advice: What should I do for Lent? I am always happy to help a sister or brother in Christ to make Lent a time of spiritual growth. Maybe this year you might want to “upgrade” your source of Lenten advice. Well, who better to pick for as your Lenten spiritual director than Pope Francis? Here is his advice for a Lenten period of deepening your spiritual life. Continue reading

Forgive: be set free

Forgive him (or her)? Forgive myself? How could God forgive me? These are all questions we have asked ourselves at some point. We who were raised in the Christian tradition in which forgiveness is intrinsic to our faith. We, who as children, freely asked for and so easily received forgiveness. Sometime between our childhood and our teen/adult years, we learned to savor and recall moments of hurt or regret. Regrets that continue to haunt us and enter our lives, our dreams unwelcomed. Memory of hurt too often recalled, nursed, leading to thoughts of how such egregious actions can be balanced out in an uncaring universe. “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” Sounds like a quote from a Shakespearean tragedy, but it is all too modern, a blithe saying speaking to something as old as humankind. Continue reading

Your Lenten Plan

giving_up_4_LentSo… “What are you giving up for Lent?” Isn’t that always the question?  As if that is the reason for the season.  Growing up, everything I remember about Lent circled around the acts of self-denial – what food, entertainment, or habit one would give up and how hard it was to deny oneself of that thing.  It was not always made clear that the denial was meant to help one think about God and Christ’s sacrifice. Continue reading