Ash Wednesday

 

 

 

Last year I wrote about Ash Wednesday and I thought I’d share that post again.

 

Ash Wednesday Symbol

 

“What are you giving up for Lent?” Ah yes, it’s that time of year again and that is the question I am sure to hear frequently. Many Catholics are still stuck in their childhood understanding of giving up something for lent (chocolates, soda, or some other food item) for no other reason than ‘hey, it’s Lent and it’s what we do.’ I thought this same way for most of my life and it has only been during the last few years that I have taken the time to begin to educate myself on what Lent truly is.

The name Lent is taken from the Old English word for spring, lencten. The word Lent (much like the word Easter) is only used in English speaking countries; most other languages use a word that is derived from the Latin term Quadragesima (the forty days”). In Spanish it’s  cuaresma, Portuguese- quaresma, French- carême, Italian- quaresima, so on and so forth.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Jesus’ temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning.” By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.  –CCC540

lent_icon-728505

During this time we are all called to fast, give alms, and to pray more. By fasting we give up something. That might be the television, internet, some type of food, a vice, or something else that we enjoy doing. By giving alms we are giving something to others. That might be money, possessions, or time to a charity, or some other way in which we can give of ourselves above and beyond what we do the rest of the year. By praying we are “lifting our hearts to the Lord,” and I know that we could all spend a bit more time in prayer than we do on a regular basis.

Earlier today I found an entry at the USCCB’s blog written by Msgr. Richard Hilgartner that I highly recommend you take a moment to read for yourself. It can be found here.

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I am Switzerland

Dear family, friends, and strangers on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate,

I am formally declaring my position of neutrality on this matter.

Yes, I am Catholic. Yes, I believe and hold firm to all of the teachings of the Church. And yes, I believe in sacramental marriage which is between a man a woman and God.

However, we do not live in a society that accepts nor understands God’s laws. Our job as Christians is to educate people of God’s laws, and we are to do so with un-judgemental love, charity, and by example. We cannot force someone to believe what we believe, but we are to educate them about the whats and whys of them.

Our government is not a theocracy and it does not cater to any one religious or nonreligious viewpoint. And at the same time it should not force people of any religious affiliation to go against its moral views. For example – the government should not require people to pay for another’s abortion, abortifacient, or contraception if they find such things morally offensive.

From my viewpoint there are two types of marriage: a civil marriage and a sacramental marriage. A civil marriage is a contract recognized and issued by the government that grants a couple certain legal rights and it can be broken via divorce. A sacramental marriage is also recognized by the state with the same legal rights, but it is also a covenant between a man a woman and God that can never be broken.

Am I okay with the state issuing civil marriages? Yes. Am I okay if the state decides that same-sex couples should be granted a civil marriage? Yes. Should the state force religious institutions to perform or recognize civil marriages? No.

What frustrates me the most about this topic is the lack of love and respect from both camps.

Many of the people who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman say hateful things about people who are attracted to members of the same gender. I’ve seen and heard many hateful, unloving things from this group. It makes me feel as if they have forgotten that we are called to “love your neighbor as yourself.” – Mark 12:31  That doesn’t mean you have to agree with nor accept everything that others think or do, but you must love them. And last time I checked loving someone does not include name calling or violence.

Now those who are in support of same-sex marriages are equally guilty of saying and doing unloving things towards those who disagree with them. I often hear from this group that they want tolerance and acceptance, but the actions from some in this group say differently. Several months ago, the owner of Chick-fil-A stated that he was against same-sex marriages, and instead of accepting that this is one man stating his own personal opinion (which he is entitled to even if you disagree with him) many of this group went off and boycotted, staged sit ins at the restaurants and said vile things about this one man.  If you want others to tolerate and accept your choices in life than you too must accept and tolerate those who disagree with you.

I’ve known people who have ended long-standing friendships over this and witnessed strained family relations as well. This is sad.

There are so many terrible things wrong in this world and the simplest way we can make life in this imperfect world a bit more bearable is to show each other love. We all have our crosses to bear, and they are equally difficult to each of us.

I’m not saying that we should always get along, and I’m not saying that we have to like everything that our fellow-man says or does. What I am saying is that we are all equals and we should treat each other with the love and respect that we want shown to us.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you”  –Matthew 7:12

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday Symbol

“What are you giving up for Lent?” Ah yes, it’s that time of year again and that is the question I am sure to hear frequently. Many Catholics are still stuck in their childhood understanding of giving up something for lent (chocolates, soda, or some other food item) for no other reason than ‘hey, it’s Lent and it’s what we do.’ I thought this same way for most of my life and it has only been during the last few years that I have taken the time to begin to educate myself on what Lent truly is.

The name Lent is taken from the Old English word for spring, lencten. The word Lent (much like the word Easter) is only used in English speaking countries; most other languages use a word that is derived from the Latin term Quadragesima (the forty days”). In Spanish it’s  cuaresma, Portuguese- quaresma, French- carême, Italian- quaresima, so on and so forth.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Jesus’ temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning.” By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.  –CCC540

lent_icon-728505

During this time we are all called to fast, give alms, and to pray more. By fasting we give up something. That might be the television, internet, some type of food, a vice, or something else that we enjoy doing. By giving alms we are giving something to others. That might be money, possessions, or time to a charity, or some other way in which we can give of ourselves above and beyond what we do the rest of the year. By praying we are “lifting our hearts to the Lord,” and I know that we could all spend a bit more time in prayer than we do on a regular basis.

Earlier today I found an entry at the USCCB’s blog written by Msgr. Richard Hilgartner that I highly recommend you take a moment to read for yourself. It can be found here.

Forgiveness

“To err is human; to forgive divine.”  –Alexander Pope

The hardest thing for people to do is to forgive. Everyone has a difficult time forgiving others. Sure, some things are easier than others, but we are called to reach out and forgive other for ALL things.

Almost two years ago on Divine Mercy Sunday, I heard a remarkable homily. It’s one of the few that have stuck with me. The key thing that really resonated with me was when Fr. Iweh said true forgiveness is when we are able to forgive as if the (whatever “it” is) never happened.  For us humans forgiving is hard enough, but can we truly forgive someone without holding grudges?

Before I go any further let me say this. I’m not saying that if someone were to hurt another that we should put ourselves or others in a situation where they too could possibly be hurt. For example – if someone is abusing someone else verbally, physically, and/or sexually we are not obligated to keep those people n out lives. BUT we are obligated to forgive and not hold any grudges against them.

This is no easy task, nor is it something that will be possible instantly. In some cases it might be years before we are able to give true forgiveness.

The key thing I think that many people forget is that when we forgive someone it does more for us than the person we are forgiving. Once we decide to let go of our hurt feelings and stop holding that drudge can we truly begin the healing process.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t go out of my way to hurt others. Yet, I know that I have. I hope that everyone I have inadvertently hurt has been able to forgive me and aren’t bearing any grudges or ill feelings towards me. Not because I want them to have nothing but rosy thoughts about me but because I know that holding that grudge and hurt feelings keeps the wounds open, festering, and at times ay even feel as if someone is pouring salt on the wounds. Holding onto the pain and hurt eats at us and can steal the joy from our lives.

Perhaps you have experienced a hurt that has cut so deep that you don’t know how you could ever forgive the offender. My suggestion to you would be to take it to prayer. Talk to God, tell Him what is going on, that you are tired of hurting but you don’t think you are capable of forgiving the wrong doer. Then ask Him to give you the grace needed to be able to forgive them.

 

Meditations on the Our Father

Everyone knows The Our Father. Most of us (myself included) often just rattle this off very quickly and don’t really think about the words we are saying. It wasn’t until several years ago when I was able to go to weekly adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (if you don’t know what that is, I’ll have more on that later) that I began to think and meditate on the words.  While I sat with Jesus during this hour I began to read the catechism of the Church and I love the way it is set up. It begins with the Profession of Faith and breaks that down one line at a time and then it does the same for The Our Father.

Since this time I have tried to really meditate on the words whenever I say this and other prayers.  Most days the only time I have to spend large amounts of time meditating and praying are after everyone in my house has gone to bed. Last night I took about an hour to pray just one Our Father and I thought I’d share a bit of what such a meditation is like for me.

Our Father

Father, Dad, Daddy, Abba…. You are our God, our Father, our Creator. Even though you may be God you are approachable and wish to have a relationship with us. I know that I can turn to you for anything just as I can always go to my earthly father.

Who art in Heaven

You live in heaven and I hope to one day be with you. But before my journey here is done, please help me to love all of your creation – not just the humans but also all the animals, plants, the rocks, water, stars, planets, and more. Once there was a time when I was very connected with nature and all of your creation, please help me to attain that connection again. I hope that I can express to my children the great love you have for us and all of your creation and that one day when our journeys on earth are over that we will be able to walk with you and all of those who have come before us and be able to continue the work you have set for us. I know that you have a job for each of us here on earth, and once we reach our home with you and join the communion of saints that our work will continue.

Hallowed be Thy Name

Holy is your name.  Your name is unknowable; it is sacred, holy and a mystery. Just as many things about you and our world they are a mystery and we must take that leap of faith and trust you.

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done

On Earth as it is in Heaven

Father, please come and heal the wounds of our world. We have gone astray and most people are living in and for the world. People are putting their trust and faith in the latest gadgets and other worldly goods and have all but forgotten you. Many say that we should only do our “religion thing” on Sunday while at Church and not the rest of the week. Oh how far we’ve strayed! Help me to recognize and to live according to your will and to show others the way by being an example in this world.

Give us this day our Daily Bread

This line use to always confuse me Father. As a child I always felt as if I was just saying the same thing twice and I would just gloss over it. After reading several articles and books I came to know that the word “daily” is translated from the Greek word epiousios. It is only used once in any surviving manuscript and that is in the Greek version of Saint Matthew’s Gospel and it’s meaning has been the source of many debates throughout history. The early Church Fathers used the definition of super-substantial or super-essential. So this line should be rendered ‘Give us this day our Super-substantial Bread.’ (CCC 2837) The Bread of life, the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, the source and summit of our faith. Father, even if I am unable to partake of the Lamb’s Supper everyday please allow me to receive you through spiritual communion so that Christ may dwell in me and I in Him.

And Forgive Us Our Trespasses, As We Forgive Those Who Have Trespassed Against Us,

Or as I sometimes like to say, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.” Father, help me to be quick to forgive others for any and all slights they have done. Forgiveness is a very difficult thing for me at times. It’s always so much easier to blame others for their shortcomings than to see my own. I’m not perfect nor is anyone else. If I want to be forgiven for my errors than I must first ‘man-up’ and be able to forgive others. Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, and lead ALL souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Amen.

And Lead Us Not Into Temptation,

But Deliver Us From Evil.

Father, please save me from all the evil in this world. Give me the strength and the courage to not give into the things that tempt me every day. I know that I won’t always succeed. I’m not perfect….far from it. I fall into the mud puddles of sin just as much as everyone else, but I pray that each day I get better at navigating around them and end each day cleaner than I did the last.

Being True to Ourselves

We are in the final push before school starts here. Granted, Sasha is only entering Pre-K, but we are enjoying this last bit of summer and school shopping as well. *sigh* Until the time that all the crazy things around here calm down, new and original posts will remain light.

I did however find a very good commentary by Melinda Selmys from the National Catholic Register on how we as Christians are called to just be ourselves that I wanted to share.

True Christians Must be Themselves

God is not interested in a uniform humanity.

This is a very hard truth, because most of us can sympathize with Dmitri Karamazov’s complaint: “Man is too broad; I would narrow him.”

It’s hard to relate to people who are very different from ourselves. The problem is not merely that the heart is too constricted to look without judgment, but that there becomes a very deep fear that we will be judged.

This is the psychological wellspring of judgmentalism.

The heart goes out into the world, bearing its personality, talents, loves, and it finds itself criticized. The impetus to kick back in self-defense is very strong.

Consider, for example, how the highly intelligent child who is called names on the playground armors himself with a contemptuous disregard for the opinions of his name-callers. This disregard can develop over time into a hard shell of disdain no longer directed only at those who hurt him, but at the entire mass of humanity, who are seen as stupid and incapable of thought.

Many Catholics experience the same thing with regard to their faith. They go out bearing the gift of the Gospel and are stoned outside of the gates of the City of the World.

Suddenly ashamed of that which is truly good within their hearts, they often feel they have only two comfortable options — join in the laughter and sacrifice something beautiful within their souls or wrap up their goodness in a shell of contempt and look down their noses at the unrepentant sinners.

Judgmentalism, then, becomes a protection for virtue.

But this kind of protection suffocates the good that it is meant to protect. The intelligent man is nowhere more stupid than when he talks of the stupidity of others. The virtuous man is nowhere more evil than when he talks of others’ sin.

There is a third way: authenticity, the Way of Truth.

“For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world: to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37).

Christ gave himself as a gift to the entire human race. He did not worry about public opinion, but did make himself into a gift that people would feel blessed to receive.

He was authentically himself, yet when people decided to crucify him, he did not cry: “Yokels! Infidels! Philistines! Sinners!” He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

This is the Christian calling. We must make ourselves into a sincere gift of self for the entire human race. It is tempting, however, to try to become a different kind of person to avoid risking one’s pearls in the swine pen.

Catholics may do this by adopting the superficial characteristics of a particular saint or holy stereotype. I recall a highly intelligent friend, a bookworm with a Shakespearean tongue, trying to become a holy simpleton via St. Francis. The experiment was self-evidently ridiculous, and he soon gave it up and went off to get a doctorate in theology; yet many others do the same thing in ways that slip more easily under the radar.

Think of the Catholic woman who surrenders her interests and talents to conform to a shallow stereotype of the good wife and mother. Or of Father Anonymous, who stifles his quirky personality to present a blandly pastoral persona to his parishioners.

These people are trying to be good and set a good example, but they are making themselves unhappy and their outreach sterile; few things are less appealing than a cookie-cutter saint.
If the Church wishes to breed true saints, then Christians must strive to receive the gifts of all with joy.

As God explained to St. Catherine of Siena, “I distribute the virtues quite diversely; I do not give all of them to each person. … I shall give principally charity to one; justice to another; humility to this one; a living faith to that one. … And so, I have given many gifts and graces, both spiritual and temporal, with such diversity that I have not given everything to one single person, so that you may be constrained to practice charity towards one another” (Catechism, 1937).

Those who have the virtue of orthodoxy, of wisdom or of obedience are called to make of this a gift.

It is not a license to look down on the confused and the dissenting. Nor is the gift of use to anyone if it is offered Jonah-like, as though to say, “I know you’re not interested, and you don’t have ears to hear. But at least I’ve done my bit. Let your blood be upon your head.”

Nor will the Church be of any use to the righteous man if he doesn’t recognize himself also to be poor in other virtues, to be a pauper who must receive from the hands of those who lack his own virtues or have the virtues which he himself lacks.