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

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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.

Spiritual Dryness and Pregnancy

I’ve been in the middle of a spiritual dry spell since at least early January, but it probably goes back a bit further.  The only moments I’ve felt close to God have been during the RCIA classes I help teach and Sunday Mass.  My prayer life has become all but not existent.   It’s been a very blah time for me, but I hope that this period is just temporary.

I’ve wondered why I’ve been experiencing this dryness and I have had a few thoughts on it. One of the reasons that I have thought about is how this pregnancy is going. I haven’t been sleeping – I went four solid nights a few weeks ago sans sleep.  That was no fun.  My hip girdle is where I’ve experienced all of my key problems.  I have been having a lot of pain that has made walking on certain days all but impossible, and on my “good” days I can’t walk or stand for very long before I can no longer tolerate the debilitating pain.  About the only position I’ve found any comfort in is sitting, but not for too long or my back begins to hurt.  I know all of this will pass, and all of my joint pain will disappear within a few days of the little one being born.  All of the pain and lack of sleep is what I think may be one of the key contributors to this dryness.

I can’t focus on reading scripture, prayer, writing much of anything these days, and let’s not even discuss my keeping up with my house.  I’m drained.

And yet, I know that God will get me through this and I will be stronger and wiser on the other side.  I will still try to focus on all the above, I may fail miserably at all of them, but I am doing my best.

About a week ago I found a beautiful prayer that I keep coming back to over and over again.

OURLADYPERPETHELP

Dearest Mary, I look to you now for the help of your maternal love.
You understand my trials as an expectant mother.
You bore Jesus in your womb.
You know the doubts and anxieties that beset me; you know the bodily suffering I endure.
Like you, may I turn all these sorrows into joy.
You overcame anxiety by a loving trust in God; you overcame doubt by gentle resignation to His will.
Your motherhood lifted your mind above earth and kept it close to God.
So speak to Jesus now with me, beloved Mother, as I seek prayerfully to learn to bear the trials of motherhood with joy.
Mother of Perpetual Help, Pray for me!

Father Robert Barron posted this very timely video today.

One of the key scripture verses I keep coming back to is Philippians 4:6 – “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”  It is very difficult to thank God for pain and discomfort, and yet I am.  I have been “offering up” my pain for others.  Here is a great explanation of what I mean by “offering it up.”  And while I may feel miserable, I know that this pain can and will be used by God and for that I am thankful.