Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lent Revisited

“What are you giving up?” Any Catholic who grew up in the “pre-Vatican II” era would immediately know what this question is referring to—especially if you attended a parochial school taught by nuns. It means, “What are you giving up for Lent?” The answer of most school kids back then was somewhat the same—candy, soda, or television. Although the good sisters suggested that giving up fighting with our siblings would be even better, I personally thought that was just a bit too much to give up.

Isn’t it true how easily we can get attached to things. Now that the cell phone has become mainstream and no longer a status symbol, I know there are some of you who might get more than annoyed if you had to give it up! Soon kids will be asking, “What was life like before cell phones. I mean, how did people contact you when you weren’t home?” How true it is—we quickly become best buddies with comfort and convenience; yet as you know, there is always a price we must pay.

Lent is a time to look at our attachments—and not only material things or objects—but attitudes. As our doctors can now scan our bodies looking for problems, this is the time to ask for some help to “scan our souls” and to look deep within for things which can be suspicious and maybe malignant. No doubt, some of our readers are quite comfortable with such examinations and are quick to get at the problem area. Some, for example, have a spat with their spouse; yet they never allow the sun to set on their anger. Instead, the whole affair ends with an apology and a goodnight kiss. Others, however, refuse to admit any guilt and spend years in a cold war. These couples have become quite comfortable with their illness.

Have you ever had something—an article of clothing, for example—that spends most of its life hanging on for dear life in a dark closet or buried in some overstuffed drawer? Maybe it was a gift from grandma or a hand-me-down which once belonged to dear ol’ dad. While our prized possession serves no other purpose but to take up space, the chilling thought of getting rid of our family heirloom borders on sacrilege or treason. Of course, occasionally we take out our treasure and try it on; it is stretched here and it sags there, and it may be just a bit threadbare at the elbows, but besides the broken zipper and a few missing buttons, it looks almost new! Maybe, just maybe, you will wear it in when the weather warms up a bit.

Friends, today we enter the liturgical season of Lent. Lent is an old English word, “lengthen,” which means “springtime.” Lent commemorates the time Our Lord fasted and prayed and was tempted in the desert; therefore, it is a time characterized by prayer, reflection, fasting and abstinence. Our interior attitude or spiritual posture is expressed in the somber violet which is worn by the priest and which decorates the sanctuary. Lent is, in essence, a time to look inside ourselves and open that interior dark closet and overstuffed drawer. It is a time to ask ourselves if we have become accustomed and attached to what is obviously ugly and outdated.

If you are serious about spring cleaning your soul, you must be honest and objective. This is why an extra set of eyes and expert advise is always helpful when making decisions about what stays put and what is put into the garbage. This is but one reason we have the sacrament of confession—we don’t have to do the dirty work alone. This means, instead of going to confession with our wrinkled and weary list of sins, we go in “with a pen and pad,” which means an attitude of openness and a desire to get the job done right. This task begins and is made easy by asking a simple question: “Father, can you help me make a good confession?”

Maybe if we ask for help, we may not only find more junk than we expected, we just might find more room within us for peace and joy. So there they hang—uglier than grandma’s kelly green sweater or dad’s plaid jacket—guilt, shame, anger, lust, resentment. So, what are you giving up this Lent?

God bless you,

Fr.Glenn Sudano, CFR
Most Blessed Sacrament Friary
Newark, NJ

re-posted from the archives

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What to do for Lent?

At the beginning of Lent Christian homes are full of conversations about what to do or "give up" during this annual penitential season. Let the medicine match the malady. If you have a cold you do not take chemo therapy. If you have cancer you do not take an aspirin. Why not take a look at those faults and weaknesses that you usually pray about and confess. Then think about a devotion or practice that would directly impact those things.

The New Testament often quotes a famous passage from Isaiah 40, "A voice of one calling in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low' ..." So let us level those mountains of pride and fill up those valleys of doubt in order to make a path in our hearts for the grace of the Lord!

God bless you,
Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
St. Joseph Friary, New York, NY

Papal message for Lent 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Letters of hope and consolation #2

As we all get older in age there is something that happens universally to almost everybody; we become forgetful.   Some of those things we forget might be trivial, while others may be more serious.  Regardless of whether something is trivial or serious forgetfulness poses a serious danger.  Though it might be a blessing to forget some of the bad things that have happened to us the opposite can occur; we may also forget the good things that have happened to us.  By forgetting the good things we have experienced in life we become more susceptible to doubt, skepticism and fear.

One of the greatest dangers in the spiritual life is forgetfulness; forgetting what God has done in your life, how he has spoken to you in different stages of your life, forgetting those moments where God felt close to you, where the presence of God was undeniable, or those moments when God spoke to you through a friend, a spouse or where you had a profound experience of him in prayer or meditation.  Everyone has had these or similar experiences with God.  Do you remember yours?  How many times have you and I “forgotten” these experiences because of the busyness of life or because we are experiencing a dry period in our spiritual life?  Because you may have forgotten all the graces God has poured out on you over the years you now doubt his love for you and his nearness to you.

The reality is God is speaking to you every moment of the day; however, every moment will not always appear as a profound encounter with him.  If we are honest most of the moments of our day and our experiences of them are routine and “ordinary.”  Yet God is still active throughout your day since it would be impossible for him to disappear from your life even for a second.

So what can you do to help prevent this forgetfulness?

A practice that you might find helpful is to record your experiences of God in a journal.  Every time you have a profound experience of God write it down in a journal so that you never forget it.  In this journal you could write words from Scripture that spoke to you in a certain moment, something a friend shared with you that touched your heart or any experience that helped remind you of God’s love and his nearness to you.  Then when we are in the “desert” or just going through difficult times we can open our journals and be reminded of how faithful God has been to us over the years.  By remembering God’s actions in our life we become less likely to forget all that he has done for us, which gives us confidence and peace about the present moment and all that God might be asking of us in the future.

God bless you,
Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock CFR
St. Felix Friary, Yonkers, NY

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Letters of hope and consolation: #1

The mercy of God is not an abstract theological principle.  It is the fruit of our Lord’s passion and death.  In other words, it is the logical progression of selfless love.

This mercy has found us, not because we deserved it or because we earned it.  It is God’s free unmerited gift to us.  It is his way of saying to each of us individually, “You are no accident, you belong to me, and nothing can separate us from each other.”

Is this hard for you to believe?  Essentially it means that God sees something beautiful inside of you that you cannot always see, feel or even believe.  It means that God is not content with remaining on the surface, but dives deep into the depths of our soul to rescue that image of beauty with which we have been created.

Accepting God’s mercy then is not about us.  It is about affirming those unfathomable “riches and wisdom and knowledge of God,” (Rms 11:33) that is within us.  It is about placing our hope entirely on him who has proved himself over and over again to be for us and not against us.  Even if nobody ever recognizes the beauty that is yours God will never forget it.  He sees you and rejoices and nobody can take that away from you.

God bless you,
Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock CFR
St. Felix Friary, Yonkers, NY