Tag Archives: Lent

Pray, think and then speak

April 11, 2014

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By Kristen Soley

Fasting from unkind words is a fruitful opportunity that is borne of love. For many of us, this can be far more difficult than simply passing on that decadent chocolate dessert or seconds on our favorite entree.Pray think speak

Have you ever witnessed an exchange such as this: One child exclaims, “Oh look, the sky is clear and blue today!” Sibling responds, “No, there are some clouds, see? Hello!” Or, “I just finished this coloring page, look!” Sibling responds, “That character is blue, not red.”

A good rule of thumb is pray, think and then speak.

There are a plethora of reasonable responses to any situation or statement. Positive feedback and / or silence are oftentimes the most difficult.

Ephesians 4:29 has this wisdom, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (NASB).

We should employ this in all of our exchanges because it benefits everyone. If your spouse misspeaks on a trivial matter, pray, think and then speak. Don’t correct your spouse, especially in front of others. We all make mistakes. “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31, NASB).

If your response doesn’t benefit the person or situation, help the person avoid sin, or build up the kingdom of God in some way, remain silent. When you take this approach, watch and enjoy the transformation in your home and relationships.

Mother Teresa encourages us to use words that “enlighten and inspire, bring peace, hope and joy; and to refrain from self-defense and every word that causes darkness, turmoil, pain and death.”

Fasting from unkind words is a powerful way to build up the kingdom of God. And we can achieve it if we simply pray, think and then speak.

Soley and her husband, Nate, live in a small town where they home-school their seven children, who range in age from 12 to 1. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, she worked in information technology for a consulting firm in the Twin Cities. The family attends St. Mary parish in Waverly. Soley has a website, kristen.soleyfamily.com, and blogs at kristen-soley.blogspot.com.
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The Prodigal Father

March 6, 2013

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Liscensed under Creative Commons

Liscensed under Creative Commons

We all know the story of the prodigal son.  It seems to pop up in the liturgy this time of year and I have worn a crease in my bible in that spot so that it falls open to that story often.  Every time I read it I am brought to reflect on “who am I?” in the story.

There are times when I see myself as the one who ran off and enjoyed the pleasures of life and spent my life carelessly, but this time when my bible fell open to Luke 15, the resentful son seemed to look a lot like me.   Recently I was confronted with a disappointment in my life.  We all have them.  It could be that you are passed up for a promotion, or that your friend gets a new car, or that you weren’t invited to a social gathering or it could date back to being the last one picked on the playground some 30 years ago. We may have been wronged and we may want justice, but like the resentful son I can sometimes whine and only see my point of view.

It takes looking at this from the Father’s eyes for me to see myself.  I like to call him the Prodigal Father because it is from that perspective I need to see.

1prod·i·gal

adjective \?prä-di-g?l\Definition of PRODIGAL

: characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure : lavish

The word Prodigal means to spend lavishly.  The father in the story does spend extravagantly, but not in a wasteful way.  He spent lavishly on the wayward son by hosting the big party, but he also spent lavishly on the son who stayed home and worked dutifully.

‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.~ Luke 15:31

Everything is there for me too.

God spends lavishly on us.  A small detail in the Cana wedding story opened my eyes to this.  In that story the servants fill the water jars to the brim.  Have you ever seen a container filled to overflowing?  The liquid seems to fill the space above the confines of the cup or jar. There is sort of a surface tension that holds it in the glass.  It is so full it can’t be contained but it doesn’t spill over! That is how I imagine Gods love for me and how I have to try, time after time, to remember to love others and myself.

There is another point to the story that also caught me this time around.  The Father doesn’t hesitate to point out the bad behavior of his elder son.  He does so with so much love and an invitation to join the party.  This gives me cause to reflect on how we might rightly handle the injustices we face.  By seeing it from the father’s eyes we can see clearly that a behavior or situation may be wrong or need correcting, but if we can approach it with lavish love it goes a long way.

I am, once again, resolving to be the prodigal Mother, wife, employee and friend and spend lavishly when I feel like pouting.  I invite you, even in this season of Lent and self-denial – Spend Lavishly!

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Most popular stories of March 2012

April 2, 2012

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Image licensed under Creative Commons license.

Were you looking for fish fries last month? You were not alone.

Fish Fries and Lenten Dinners 1,122

Gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit 1,084

Investigation under way concerning alleged misuse of archdiocesan funds 579

Papal address to Minnesota bishops focuses on marriage, family life 478

‘To the thresholds of the apostles’ 393

Lent 2012 381

The Hunger Games 380

Archdiocese hires communications director 339

Archdiocesan chief financial officer announces plans to retire 331

Music adds rich worship experience during Chrism Mass 310

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“Do Not Be Afraid!”

March 25, 2012

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March 25th marks the date of the Annunciation. It is the day that Gabriel proclaimed the good news to Mary that Christ would be born within her. This year – because the date lands on a Sunday – we are celebrating that feast on March 26th.

I don’t normally see this blog as a place for my personal stories but this day is special  – so bare with me.

It was on March 25th some nine years ago Christ was born within me too.

In 2003 my children were attending a Catholic school.  As part of the Lenten practice, they were offered the sacrament of reconciliation as part of their school day.  Though I was a cradle Catholic and my children attended Catholic School, I had not visited that sacrament since my Confirmation. For me that was when I was in 4th grade!  Prompted by what I now understand as the Holy Spirit, but at the time felt like the guilt of expecting my children to go to confession when I didn’t go myself – I made an appointment to visit the new priest at our church.  The objective of my appointment was to argue with him the teachings of the faith.  Filled with misconceptions and pride,  I descended on this poor priest as if I would be able to convince him to “set the church right.”  At that time I rarely went to Mass, never prayed and and I certainly didn’t know that the date of my appointment fell on the feast day of the Annunciation. I didn’t know what a feast day was and I would have had to look up the word “Annunciation” if I even knew how to spell it.

I would have then called myself a Pro- Choice Catholic! (Who knew that 6 years later I would be working on the Archbishop’s staff as the Respect Life Coordinator.)

What happened at that meeting changed my life.  As Father patiently waited out my arguments on contraception, abortion and the anti- woman establishment that I saw as the Catholic Church, he offered some education, but most of all he offered me compassion.  At one point I remember getting up to leave – I didn’t want to hear what he had to say.
Out of no where he said to me, “Sharon, what are you afraid of?” The words hit me like a ton of bricks.  I sat back down, cried for 5 minutes and entered into a confession – a real confession; a confession of my life, of all my fears and my pain.

When angels appear in the bible – it seems they always start out with the phrase “Do not be afraid. ” Our common idea of angels is  cute little cherubs or gentle looking young men with wings.  But angles – must be awesome – and I don’t mean in the way that we say pizza is awesome.  Fired by the Holy Spirit and carrying the message of God – they appear to us as something we ARE afraid of. Is it the wings of fire, glowing with bright light or with a voice that booms of an orchestra or organ?  What is it that we are afraid of?

Ultimately, I think we are afraid of the message that they bring; the message of knowing ourselves and of seeing ourselves as who we really are.  We are afraid because we cannot comprehend the idea that if anyone knew the real us – the us that only God knows – that we could really be loved in return.  We also are afraid of what God may ask of us if we accept that love and try to return it.

On the day that the angel Gabriel came to Mary and said “Do not be afraid” Mary carried Christ within her for nine months. She carried her love for Him through his death on the cross.

Was she afraid of what God might see in her heart?

Was she afraid of what saying yes to God might mean?
I don’t know, but her  “Fiat” meant that not only would she carry God within her womb, but that God would carry her and would always be with her.

I realize now just how unprepared  I am to carry God within me to anyone. I realize how unqualified I am to work for Life.  I realize how unworthy I am to even receive the Eucharist at Mass. But when I say ‘Yes” I don’t have to be afraid, because like Mary – God carries me too.

So this Lent, I ask – how long has it been since your last confession and “What are you afraid of?”

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Can even the music of Lent divide Catholics?

March 23, 2012

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A wonderfully interesting online discussion has been going on all day today about people’s favorite music for Lent.

Simcha Fisher in her regular blog for NCRegister.com noted that Lenten music doesn’t get the props that Christmas music does. She named some of her favorites, and offered an opinion, which all good commentary should: She refuses to even call “Ashes” a hymn.

Eventually she asked, “What Lenten music do you hope to hear this year?” What a great way to get people engaged in things spiritual.

Comments keep coming

Fisher’s post went up at 7 a.m., and by 8:07 “Christina” had chimed in with her favorites, including “Were You There” and “Calvary,” noting that the Negro spirituals seemed especially appropriate for the season. She add a couple other hymns as well.

Now by 5 p.m. CDT there are an additional 30 comments — including one by your humble servant — and a disappointing flavor has tainted the cyber-discussion for me.

Please noted the language. I wrote “tainted” — not “ruined.” It’s still a good, engaging activity.

But when we’re talking about sacred music, do we have to take sides?

Our church is divided enough; do we have to paint our musical taste red or blue, too?

Here’s what I mean.

Many of the favorites early on mirrored blogger Fisher in leaning to the classical or serious music genre, so much so that a relatively early commenter wrote:

I know it’s not politically correct to say this on the NC Register, but I love listening to the Godspell soundtrack during Lent.  Flame away!  I’ll bonk you over the head with the singing nun’s big acoustic guitar.  ;)

Really? Do one’s hymns of choice now have to be PC? Later that same hour, that writer got some support:

I was going to say Godspell too! *ducks*

I don’t know why…but I like it. I try to go all deep and pretend to be moved by the solemn old hymns of yore, but the truth is, I like showtunes!

Not at Mass, of course. But at home or in the car…Godspell it is!

Love the way this commenter admits to pretending to like old hymns, by the way.

Choosing sides?

Later in the day another comment share the opinion that Negro spiritual’s seemed less than authentic in a suburban setting, while still another seemed ashamed to write, ”

Does liking “Were you there?” put (me) in with the Thomas Kincaid fans?

And yet another noted, after suggesting a work by a modern composer,

“I approach all modern hymns & religious music with a grand dose of cynicism and disdain, but this knocked me flat.”

So there. Everybody has an opinion, and this is a great way to share it.

But am I the only one who sees some holier-musically-than-thou airs leaking into a non-verbal chat session?

Fisher asked what puts YOU in the right spiritual mood for Lent – it was not an invitation for anyone to judge what is or isn’t appropriate for someone else to appreciate.

And no one should feel embarrassed about what music they like, especially not sacred music.

Personally, I’ve got a shelves full of both classical cds and rock ‘n’ roll, and I’ve just recently discovered John Rutter. But one of the best ways I pray is singing a Michael Joncas’ setting of the “Our Father” — when I’m alone in the car, of course! That way nobody can hear me when I don’t hit the key change exactly right.

New music versus old music isn’t something Catholics should be taking sides on. American Public Media’s “Composers Datebook” has a great tagline to that effect: “Reminding you that all music was once new.”

 

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Laetare Sunday: A Joyful Pause In A Somber Season

March 16, 2012

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Roses symbol for love and joy and Mary from Holy Trinity in Huron SD

A Joyful Sunday.  The Fourth Sunday of Lent is also known as Laetare Sunday.  Laetare is a Latin word which means “rejoice” or “rejoicing.”  Other nuances of the word include joyfulness, gladness, cheerfulness, and happiness.  This elated or jubilant mood is a striking one-day departure from the somber, sorrowful, penitential tone of the other days of Lent.

A Joyful Beginning to Mass.  The word “Laetare” is taken from the first word of the Entrance Antiphon at Mass:  “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her.  Be joyful, all who were mourning” (a translation of Isaiah 66:10).

Joyful Symbols.  Certain exceptions from normal Lenten practice are permitted on Laetare Sunday:  “In this Mass, the color violet or rose is used.  Instrumental music is permitted, and the altar may be decorated with flowers” (Roman Missal, 106).  Rose is the liturgical color for joy.  Instrumental music is a joy to hear.  Beautiful flowers bring joy to the heart.

Joyful Anticipation.  There are multiple reasons why the Fourth Sunday of Lent is cause for joy, the most important of which is the proximity of Easter.  On Ash Wednesday Easter was a long way off, six and a half weeks, but on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Easter is only three weeks away, and as the greatest of all Christian feast draws ever nearer, joy increases.  Joy is also on the upswing because the amount of time left with the rigors of the Lenten discipline, penitential practices like fasting, abstinence, and self-denial, is more than half over.

Joyful Readings.  The Scriptures texts for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year B, are a series of joyful messages.  This first reading from 2 Chronicles is the joyful proclamation by King Cyrus of Persia that the Babylonian Captivity is ended, the temple in Jerusalem could be rebuilt, and those held in bondage were free to return home.  The second reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians begins with the joyful statement, “God is rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), and it emphasizes that salvation is God’s gift to us through the power of Jesus Christ.  Finally, the gospel proclaims the joyful good news that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16) … “so that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17).

Joyful Conversion.  It is with great joy that the catechumens who are preparing to receive the Easter sacraments celebrate the Second Scrutiny on the Fourth Sunday of Lent.  Also, it was an ancient custom on this Sunday to ceremoniously present the Apostles Creed to each of the catechumens to highlight the tenets of the faith in which they were about to be baptized.  The thought of the upcoming Easter Vigil and the reception of the catechumens into the Church is cause for great joy for the catechumens themselves and the entire community.

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Now trending on Google, “lint”

February 22, 2012

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At the time of this posting Google’s trending list of words most searched is as follows:

1.    kombucha tea
2.    ash wednesday
3.    brady quinn
4.    lent
5.    fat tuesday
6.    chris brown and rihanna
7.    king cake
8.    lint

Five of the top eight are Lent related. If you count “lint” which I am really hoping is just a function of typing too fast. It would ruin my day if millions of souls were going online to search out how to more prayerfully enter into “lint”.

Google’s customers are clearly interested in Ash Wednesday and Lent today. Google’s doodle? The 155th birthday of Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, the discoverer of electromagnetic waves (see picture above).

It was a great blog controversy when the search giant chose Earth Day over Good Friday last year so I don’t think anyone expected them to put together a doodle of sack cloth, ash and fish today. But pulling out a 155th birthday anniversary of a little-know scientist feels like a stretch. Perhaps to have something in place to avoid the more obvious Christian holiday? This in spite of the millions of searches for Lent and other Lent-related topics. Mr. Hertz, with the help of the doodle, didn’t crack the top 20.

I have no standing whatsoever to tell Google how to run it’s business but I think the question is worth asking. What do you think?

“Is Google purposely avoiding Christian holidays?” Or maybe the better question is “Why is Google avoiding Christian holidays?”

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Confession – Penance – Reconciliation: Call it what you will, it’s not that hard to go back

February 21, 2012

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An examination of conscience made easy

You don’t rob banks. You haven’t killed anyone. You go to Mass weekly.

This Lent, try going to confession anyway. Or the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Or Penance if you’re an old fogy like me. No matter what you call it, you’ll be glad you got up the courage.

Let’s even make it easy — here’s a quick list of questions to ask ourselves — you remember, an “examination of conscience.” These are some good things to talk to the priest about. Think of them as places in your life’s journey you want to improve, and your conversation with the priest is inviting him to help you do that.

  • Have I made time for my relationship with God — for Mass and prayer?
  • Have I failed to forgive?
  • Have I shown others anger way out of proportion?
  • Have I been a gossip, spread rumors, been critical of others without really having all the facts?
  • Have I been jealous or envious of other people?
  • Have I been a bad influence on others, even an enabler of other’s sins or addictions?
  • Have I failed to use the talents God’s given me because I’ve been lazy?
  • Have I made excuses for my own addictions or over-indulgences?
  • Have I given in to temptations that I know are sinful?
  • Have I missed chances to use my gifts and talents to help others?
  • Have I failed to see Jesus in the eyes of others?

The grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation will do you good, and you’ll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders, even if the total of your sins don’t add up to much.

And need a daily tug on your sleeve? Click here to sign up to get one e-mailed every day during Lent.

 

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Partying–and Preparing for Lent

February 17, 2012

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Mardi Gras in Honolulu, Hawaii. Photo/madmarv00 Licensed under Creative Commons.

In many places around the world, Carnival or Mardi Gras celebrations will be in high gear this Sunday, as people live it up during the final days before Lent starts. I wasn’t aware that for centuries the Church has called it Quinquagesima Sunday, the last of three Sundays before Lent that were designated as a time to prepare for the penitential season.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is named for the custom of slaughtering and feasting on the fatted calf as the last indulgence before fasting and abstinence begin on Ash Wednesday. It’s the climax of Carnival (which means literally, taking away flesh) a festive season starting at Epiphany in many countries.

In England the day before Ash Wednesday is called Shrove Tuesday–the final day of Shrovetide (taken from the word “shrive” which means to confess). It refers to the week before Lent when the laity was encouraged to go to confession, according to the Anglo-Saxon “Ecclesiastical Institutes.”  Germans celebrate Fastnacht, the eve of the fast.

Even centuries ago, Carnival and Mardi Gras revelry tended to get out of hand and the Church tried to check the excesses, especially in Italy. In the 16th century, Forty Hours of prayer was established on the final days of Carnival, partly to draw Catholics away from dangerous occasions of sin and also to make reparation for sins committed.

In 1747, Pope Benedict XIV granted a plenary indulgence for those who participated in Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament during three days of Carnival.

This leads me to Quinquagesima Sunday. The Latin word for 50th, it marks exactly 50 days before Easter. In the past, it was observed as the third of a three-week countdown starting two weeks earlier with Setuagesima (70th) Sunday followed by Sexagesima (60th) Sunday, referring to the approximate number of days until Easter. The numbers are more symbolic than actual mathematical realities.

This isn’t meant to be a lesson in Latin ordinal numbers (Lent itself is called Quadragesima meaning 40th) but to make us aware of the time period we’re entering.

Something like Carnival was probably already going on when Greeks in the early Church practiced a pre-Lenten penitential season to get in the right frame of mind for Lent. Early Christian communities followed the Greek tradition when they named the three “gesima” Sundays for the start of their Lenten fasts. When Pope  St. Gregory the Great made the practice of Lent uniform in about 600, he marked these Sundays as reminders of the approach of Lent so Catholics could prepare. Clergy wore violet vestments on these Sundays.

While the Church no longer observes the  “gesima” Sundays as part of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite,  they are still found in the 1962  Roman Missal and are observed as part of the Extraordinary Form. They’re a good reminder that we should start thinking about Lent now so it doesn’t take us by surprise before we’ve had a chance to prepare mentally and spiritually.

There’s nothing wrong with killing the fatted calf on Mardi Gras but it’s even better to be ready for what comes on the day after: an opportunity to grow closer to the Lord through prayer, fasting and almsgiving as we prepare to commemorate His Passion and Resurrection.

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Should we keep ashes on our forehead all day on Ash Wednesday?

May 17, 2011

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CNS photo/Dave Crenshaw, Eastern Oklahoma Catholic

A few people I know have pointed out what seems like a contradiction related to Ash Wednesday.

In the Gospel for that day we’re told to avoid drawing attention to ourselves when we do good works: “[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people might see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 6:1).

But then immediately after that, the priest marks a cross on our foreheads with black ashes. Even though it often ends up looking more like a black smudge than a cross, it’s hard to disguise the fact that you’ve received ashes on Ash Wednesday.

If you go to Mass in the morning or during the day, you have a dilemma: Do you keep the ashes on your forehead and let everyone know you just went to church or do you wipe them off so as not to draw attention to yourself?

It all depends on your motivation, according to Father John Gallas, pastor of SS. Peter and Paul in Loretto, and Father John Paul Erickson, director of the Office of Worship in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“It would be a mistake to think that Jesus forbids or even discourages the outward and public show of religion,” according to Father Gallas. “In Matthew 6:1, he is not discouraging the outward show, but the interior pride that can undermine it.”

We can reveal our faith in different ways such as by wearing a crucifix or even by taking a stand on a moral or ethical issue, he said. This fulfills another thing Jesus says in the Gospel: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Receiving ashes isn’t a good work but a visible sign of sorrow for our sins, Father Erickson said. In the Old Testament, penitents wore sackcloth and ashes to publically atone for sin, he said. The king of Nineveh ordered all residents to wear them after the prophet Jonah foretold mass destruction, and King David wore sackcloth and ashes after committing serious sin, he added.

According to Father Gallas, we wear ashes as a sign of the need for repentance. “The ashes help us accomplish our duty of giving public witness as Catholics, they remind us that people see us as Catholics, and that in our baptism we were marked for Christ.”

Europeans Catholics may avoid the question of whether or not to wear ashes because the tradition there is to sprinkle them on the head rather than mark a cross on the forehead. That’s how Pope Benedict has received them.

Receiving ashes on the forehead is one way we enter into the penitential nature of Ash Wednesday together. Prudence should dictate whether we keep them on or wipe them off after Mass. Ashes aren’t anything to hide but they’re nothing to boast about either.

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