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

Getting there…

hopeblock1Lately, 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

So… what are you giving up for Lent?

giving_up_4_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

Busy Lives

Busy-LivesMay the grace and peace of the Risen Lord be with you. He is risen, Alleluia! Alleluia! I trust these words find you well, blessed, and part of the Easter people celebrating our awesome and loving God. As an Easter people we will not just celebrate one day – we are about to begin a whole season of Easter from now until Pentecost Sunday on May 24th. In that same period, your life begins to accelerate with a Parish Picnic (April 12th), Confirmation (April 26th), First Holy Communion (May 2nd), Mother’s Day, final exams, graduations, summer vacation and camp planning, getting ready for college, and a whole list of things around the home and office.

Life can be breathless. Sometimes we need to take a breath and see how far we have come. To ponder our successes, our failings, all the hurdles we jumped, disasters we dodged, and things that got accomplished. As strange as it might seem, the Easter Season can be a time to think about Lent. At the beginning of the classic refrain of Lent is “What are you giving up?” One parishioner who loves chocolate considered giving it up entirely for Lent. I asked, “Will that bring you closer to God?” The response was, “Not really. I just end up being cranky and miserable for all of Lent.” I am pretty sure that was not the hoped for result. Within the tradition of prayer, alms giving, and fasting, there needs to be a path that makes room in your life for our God who is ever close to us.

So…, we have journeyed through Lent and arrived at Easter – it is an important marker on the bigger journey of life. Back in the day, before GPS, this is when a ship at sea arrived at the end of one leg of the voyage, and we would take navigation fixes to verify our position. If the Lenten leg of the journey was to make room in your life for God, what was the result? Are you closer to God? Did you make room for God? Did that “making room” result in some transformation or conversion large or small? Were you filled with God’s presence and shaped by God’s grace? We have journeyed through the mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection in the celebration of Holy Week – and now He is risen.

I think a great Easter season question is this: “What began in Lent, will you continue to let it grow? And where is this all taking you?” Life with God in heaven is the answer in the long-term, but it strikes me that a nearer term goal might be centered in the way we look at all this. If Lent was the period in which we “made room for God,” I would suggest that the next segment of this transformation is “we should make God the room.”

What I mean by this is that God should be not merely the reference point but the whole context out of which we operate. God is not merely the source of our existence, he is the substance of our existence, the very life we have, and without God we would be lifeless, even if we are alive. Put another way, if Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.

Remembering Rightly

christ+in+the+wildernessSeveral summers ago we did a special summer Bible study on biblical covenants. We traced and discussed all the covenants between God and his people – beginning with Adam, continuing with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and reaching its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Covenants: the memory and the promise that we will hold God alone and above all things, He will be our God, and we will be his people. Covenants are the means by which God builds his people. Continue reading

Being Intentional

SwimmingSomeone asked me why I get up most mornings for 5:30 swim practice – wouldn’t I like an extra hour or so of sleep, or maybe be able to stay up a little later the evening before? Extra sleep – sure. Stay up a little later – maybe. But the basic reason I get up so early is because I am intentional about having some semblance of a balanced life and that includes physical exercise. Once I am back at the parish, the course of the day may go as planned…or not, but I am free to respond without wondering if I can squeeze in a workout later in the day. It is liberating, even if a little bleary-eyed. Continue reading

Glory in the Midst of Bad News

There is someone in Tampa that clearly enjoys the Tampa Bay Times. Most mornings – recently at least – they help themselves to the copy intended for the friary. At the crack of dawn, one of the friars makes the daily pilgrimage to the Florida Ave. curb to retrieve the newspaper. Sometimes we are rewarded for our journey; some days not. But even the days when the paper has been absconded, perhaps that too has its own rewards. When our newspaper takes flight it also carries away the bad news with it. I know, I know – it’s not all bad news, but… At least for a while we get a respite from the next report of death, doom, despair, flood, fire, famine, pestilence, poverty, and plague. Continue reading

Thomas Merton on Christian Self-Denial

This is from Fr. Dan Horan, OFM at his blog Dating God.  I thought it was another take on the classic Lenten question: “So….what are you giving up for Lent?” One point of Fr. Dan’s insight is that ultimately self-denial needs to lead to new life.

“No one can really embrace the Christian asceticism mapped out in the New Testament unless he [or she] has some idea of the positive, constructive function of self-denial. The Holy Spirit never asks us to renounce anything without offering us something much higher and much more perfect in return … The function of self-denial is to lead to a positive increase of spiritual energy and life. The Christian dies, not merely in order to die but in order to live. And when he [or she] takes up his cross to follow Christ, the Christian realizes, or at least believes, that he is not going to die to anything but death. The Cross is the sign of Christ’s victory over death. The Cross is the sign of life. It is the trellis upon which grows the Mystical Vine whose life is infinite joy and whose branches we are. If we want to share the life of that Vine, we must grow on the same trellis and must suffer the same pruning.” — Thomas Merton Continue reading