I wanted to share the piece from St. Augustine's confessions that I cited in the meditation on May 25, 2016. I encourage you to take it to prayer and enjoy it. If you have not had the opportunity to read the his famous "Confessions" I highly recommend it. 

 

From the Confessions of Saint Augustine, bishop
(Lib 10, 1, 1-2, 2; 5,7 CSEL 33, 226-227, 230-231)

Lord, you know me. Let me know you. Let me come to know you even as I am known.You are the strength of my soul; enter it and make it a place suitable for your dwelling, a possession without spot or blemish. This is my hope and the reason I speak. In this hope I rejoice, when I rejoice rightly. As for the other things of this life, the less they deserve tears, the more likely will they be lamented; and the more they deserve tears, the less likely will men sorrow for them. For behold, you have loved the truth, because the one who does what is true enters into the light. I wish to do this truth before you alone by praising you, and before a multitude of witnesses by writing of you.

O Lord, the depths of a man’s conscience lie exposed before your eyes. Could anything remain hidden in me, even though I did not want to confess it to you? In that case I would only be hiding you from myself, not myself from you. But now my sighs are sufficient evidence that I am displeased with myself; that you are my light and the source of my joy; that you are loved and desired. I am thoroughly ashamed of myself; I have renounced myself and chosen you, recognizing that I can please neither you nor myself unless you enable me to do so.

Whoever I may be, Lord, I lie exposed to your scrutiny. I have already told of the profit I gain when I confess to you. And I do not make my confession with bodily words, bodily speech, but with the words of my soul and the cry of my mind which you hear and understand. When I am wicked, my confession to you is an expression of displeasure with myself. But when I do good, it consists in not attributing this goodness to myself. For you, O Lord, bless the just man, but first you justify the wicked. And so I make my confession before you in silence, and yet not in silence. My voice is silent but my heart cries out.

You, O Lord, are my judge. For though no one knows a man’s innermost self except the man’s own spirit within him, yet there is something in a man which even his own spirit does not know. But you know all of him, for you have made him. As for me, I despise myself in your sight, knowing that I am but dust and ashes; yet I know something of you that I do not know of myself.

True, we see now indistinctly as in a mirror, but not yet face to face. Therefore, so long as I am in exile from you, I am more present to myself than to you. Yet I do know that you cannot be overcome, while I am uncertain which temptations I can resist and which I cannot. Nevertheless, I have hope, because you are faithful and do not allow us to be tempted beyond our endurance, but along with the temptation you give us the means to withstand it.

I will confess, therefore, what I know of myself, and also what I do not know. The knowledge that I have of myself, I possess because you have enlightened me; while the knowledge of myself that I do not yet possess will not be mine until my darkness shall be made as the noonday sun before your face.

Rules for Fasting and Abstaining During Lent

Everyone over 14 years of age is bound to observe the law of abstinence. Abstinence from meat is to be observed on all Fridays within the season of Lent and Passiontide and on Ash Wednesday.

On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, everyone over 18 and up to the beginning of their 60th year is also bound to observe the law of fast. On these two days, only one full meatless meal is allowed. Two other meatless meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one's needs; but together they should not equal another full meal. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, therefore, are the only days of both fast and abstinence.

If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the "paschal fast" to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily his Resurrection. It should be noted also that "the Fridays of the year outside of Lent remain days of penance, but each individual may substitute for the traditional abstinence from meat some other practice of voluntary self-denial or personal penance: this may be physical mortification or temperance or acts of religion, charity or Christian witness." 

Humility and a New Mind


“Repent and believe in the Gospel!” We hear it on Ash Wednesday, we hear it throughout Lent, we experience it at the foot of the Cross. What exactly does this “repentance” look like? In the Gospel there are two words used for repentance. There is Metamelomai which means to have a feeling or a care, a concern or a regret that leads to a sense of remorse. There is also Metanoia which runs deeper. It means “to have another mind,” to have a radical change whereby one turns from idols and from self-will and towards God’s will. This new divine perspective, this transformation from the mind of self to the mind of God, is the repentance Jesus calls each of us to during Lent. It’s the letting go of self so we can embrace Him, embrace His will, embrace His Cross. 


How do I do it? By growing in humility, be letting go of self-will through fasting, praying and almsgiving. Here is a prayer of humility that, when prayed sincerely and attentively, will bring many thoughts to mind, help you pray well and lead you to that metanoia
 

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.


From the desire of being esteemed...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled ...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored ...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised ...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted ...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved ...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated ...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated ...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten ...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed ...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged ...Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected ...Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
others may increase and I may decrease ...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Rafael Cardinal Merry del Va (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

 

4 Ways to Watch a Movie like a Catholic Culture Pro

By: Rev. James Searby, Guest Contributor

“What do you want to do tonight?”

“I don’t know, what do you want to do?”

“Not sure. We could watch a movie.”

“Yea sure, I could do that. What’s good?”

“I don’t know, let’s look and see what there is.”

Over and over, night after night we’ve had this same conversation. It’s the mantra of dull evenings, a tired dialogue spoken weekend after weekend, month after month. What will we watch? Since the 1950’s movie going has been a national pastime. From drive-in’s to megaplexes, large-screens to laptops, we’ve all sat in front of the blue screen and searched for an adventure to have, a tear to shed, a laugh to cheer; regularly we search for an authentic encounter with the drama of being human. In 1992, Bruce Springsteen noted that there’s “57 channels and nothin’ on”. Now the channels and possibilities are limitless from movie theaters and iTunes to Netflix and YouTube, we haven’t stopped asking that perennial question, “What’s good?” The question is, would I know a good movie even if I saw it? As a Catholic who loves culture, how can I watch a movie and be entertained and edified? Here are 4 ways to watch a movie like a Catholic Culture Pro that will put an end to the dullness and put the excitement back into movie-going.

 

1

Become an active audience member:
In theatre, it can be argued, the audience is as important as the cast. In stage productions, the director, actors, techs and the entire company interact with the audience in an active and living way. There is an exchange, an interplay between those giving the art and those receiving it. In the middle, a new and exciting creative life is being formed and lived out. While film is limited by the pre-created experience, it can still be full of vibrant life if we watch it “actively” and deliberately by mentally engaging the work rather than just passively watching it.

2

Approach the film like you would a book:
What is the plot? Read some reviews of the movie before watching it. Do you agree with them? Did the reviewer or critic see things within the story that you saw or did they miss the point? By considering the story before you see it you notice more and engage it in a deeper way.

Who are the characters? How do they play into the storyline? Are they believable and realistic or one-dimensional? In other words, are they truly human?

What recurring images, themes and symbols are there in the movie? How do they lend to the story. Is the director showing off, or are they trying to tell a story that speaks to the heart of the human experience?

Take notes. It might sound a bit nerdy but having a little journal or notebook to write thoughts, quotes, and ideas that come from the film for your own creative endeavors helps to make the experience entertaining and enlightening, much like highlighting favorite passages and moments in a novel.

3

Have a sense of the Dramatic:
Is the acting effective? Does it resonate with your experience of life? If you were playing this role how would you play it differently? (Have fun with this one. If the movie is really good, then get parts of the script online and do a reading with friends. This is a great thing to do with young people to help them grow in empathy and a deeper understanding of the human experience).

What is the “spine” of the film? The spine is the fundamental action or conflict in the story, the conflict that runs through the piece and holds it together.

What choices are being made by the characters and how does it affect their actions and the story as a whole?

How can you relate with this character or the choices and decisions they make? How would you have responded differently to the conflict?

 

4

What are the broader moral implications of the film? 
Is there a clear delineation between good and evil? In other words, does it show good as good and evil as evil or is it ambiguous and relative?

Does it glorify the good in man or the evil? Are evil characters the “hero,” or does it have true heroes and true villains?

Is truth celebrated and beauty elevated?

What good can come from this film? Can I glean lessons and points from the story that will invite people to have good discussions about the good, the true and the beautiful since these are what God is and to discuss them, whether it is overtly discussed or not, is to talk about God and godly things.

What are they selling? What’s the moral argument the filmmakers are making? Does it resonate with my Christian understanding of the world, the human condition and redemption?

If we stop being “viewers” and start being an audience who hears and is truly engaged in the artistic act of movie-making, we will be active participants who walk out of the theater or TV room better, more enlightened, and more edified than when we walked in, eliminating any apathy and making movie time impactful.

This post originally appeared on the Diocese of Arlington Website:

https://encourageandteach.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/4-ways-to-watch-a-movie-like-a-catholic-culture-pro/—

Find Fr. Searby on Twitter @FatherSearby

Follow @Bishop_Loverde on Twitter

Snowbound

It’s coming! You can feel it in the air and smell the snow looming. Traffic is panicked, grocery lines are in a frenzy. The blizzard of 2016 (or whatever fancy marketing name they will be calling it) is about to strike and we sit with bated breath and wonder how to weather the storm. For most of us it will be a time of hunkering down “for a long winters nap,” but we don't have to be bored and go stir crazy.  Here are some ways to make the snowbound lockup into a fruitful weekend (or perhaps week). 

Have a Retreat Day

It would be so easy to sit and waste time but what if we made one of the days (or part of one) into a type of homebound retreat? Here are some recommendations: 

  • Turn off the distractions and make an agreement with yourself, your roommates and/or family to have time for silence. 

  • Take the readings of the day (http://www.usccb.org/bible/) and meditate on them. Perhaps there is a favorite passage of the Gospel that you want to reflect on but never have time. Now you do. See my post on how to meditate on Scripture. http://goo.gl/IM6bku

  • Pray the Rosary and call to mind all of the people and intentions that you have been meaning to pray for over the last month. 

  • Listen to a talk or meditation that you’ve stumbled across. Meditations and homilies are listed on my page and there are limitless talks, homilies, conferences and meditations available online. Here are some sites to check out: 

  • Do some good spiritual reading. Here are a few recommendations, all of which are available for digital download (if you don’t have a kindle you can get an app on your iOS device or Android). 

    • Thirsting for Prayer by Jacques Philippe: http://goo.gl/AvCC1W

    • Time for God by Jacques Philippe: http://goo.gl/dbfF9g (and anything by this very good contemporary spiritual writer)

    • The Way by St. Josemaria Escriva. This spiritual classic is my favorite for meditation (and he’s very tweetable too). http://goo.gl/gIDo2q

    • Christ is Passing By by St. Josemaria Escriva. This is a series of his practical and inspiring homilies. http://goo.gl/2S5KII

    • Holy Simplicity by Raoul Plus. Looking to simplify your life and do so as a Christian? This is a good book for thought and reflection on this very important virtue. http://goo.gl/Hwda6r

    • Overcoming Lukewarmness: Healing your Soul’s Sadness by Francis Fernandez Carvajal. You know that spiritual sadness that can set in through life? Perhaps it’s the sadness experienced in the mid-twenties when the excitements of youth wane, or perhaps its the time of midlife when you ask that question, “is this all there is? Is this my life?” This book will very much help with that crisis. It also helps us when we are just simply lazy and complacent in the spiritual life and we really need a boost. http://goo.gl/BuACMC

    • The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. Amazing, especially in this Year of Mercy. http://goo.gl/hl5cAX

  • Take time to do nothing but put yourself in the presence of God and allow him to speak to you. Turn off the distractions, leave the cell phone in another room and just be in his presence. He has something he wants to tell you. 

Take Time for Self-Improvement

We want to grow. We all want to become better versions of ourselves and strive for an ideal self. That requires living a more examined life and being more throughly human. Take some time over the “snowliday” to reflect and make practical improvements. Here are some suggestions. 

  • Organize your life: I am sure there are closets, drawers, files, etc. that could use organizing. Take the time to tackle one thing at a time and allow stress to melt away with the snow after a few days.

  • Go paperless: scan old files, papers and documents. Be free.

  • Minimalize your wardrobe: If you haven’t used it in the last year then give it away, sell it or throw it away.

  • Do the deep clean of the house.

  • Get to inbox zero. It’s liberating and, once there, easier to stay there and not be overwhelmed. 

  • Take some time for reading and self improvement. Here are some books on the subject that I have been reading. 

    • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. This is the best book on living simply and productivity that I’ve read in a long time. I highly recommend it to everyone. http://goo.gl/GQ2D00

    • Manage your Day to Day: Build your Routine, Find your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind by Jocelyn Glei. http://goo.gl/5lyhP9

    • Getting Things Done by David Allen. http://goo.gl/nS6i95 This seminal work on task management and, well, getting things done, is a must read. I use the system daily and it helps greatly. 

    • Feeling & Healing Your Emotions by Conrad Baars, MD. This is a great book for understanding emotions and growing in a well adjusted life. I highly recommend it for parents, educators and priests particularly. Anything by this author is worth reading to help the reader and the ones they know toward a healthy psyche. http://goo.gl/ZMeVLW

    • The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. This is a phenomenal and practical book for all creative types. Do you feel creatively stuck in life? This book is a masterpiece. http://goo.gl/8BKgRU

  • Photograph your journals and other things in life and put them in https://evernote.com/?var=1 . If you don’t use this service I highly recommend it. It’s a one stop shop for all of your notes, documents and anything you want to remember. It is my digital brain and everything is easily searchable. If you are looking for a new way to work this is it. 

  • Take time to exercise and eat healthily. We need our comfort food, that is one of the joys of snow days, but lets not go overboard. Rather, eat healthy food and see the increase in energy. Perhaps this is a good time to learn to cook a new dish and share it with friends. 

Reach Out in Charity

During these cold and snowy days it is a good time to reconnect with family, friends and neighbors. Here are some ideas that might help to live & kindle charity and friendship. 

  • Write letters. This old art can be revived. Letters allow us to send a piece of ourselves to others, to touch their lives over distances and be present to them. Letters also help us to take the time to write slower, allowing us to think deeply and speak on a whole new level. 

  • Call family and catchup. 

  • Visit neighbors. There may be elderly neighbors in your neighborhoods. Visit with them and see if they need any help or just need company in a lonely winter. Perhaps they need something from a pharmacy or emergency help and their family or caretakers cannot get to them. Let’s keep our eyes out and serve them. 

  • Contact relatives you have not spoken with in some time. Maybe a wound can be healed or a distance can be bridged. What better time than when you have more time than usual? 

I hope these ideas help you. Let’s make the next few snow days into transformative days and next week will not only melt away snow but the stress, anxiety and coldness that this time of year can bring to our hearts and souls. 

Am I ready to get married? No, you are not...

“This is crazy! Have I lost my mind?” You keep asking yourself as you walk home. “What an incredible night. I didn’t think it could get any better and yet, it always does.” Your mind is reeling as you step into your apartment, throw down your keys and drop into bed. You’ve been dating for a while now and it just keeps getting better. The next morning, while holding on for dear life in a metro car driven by a conductor with brake issues, you replay every moment of last evening and it hits you. You’re in love! You can’t imagine life without the person, they are your best friend and have your heart, it’s theirs, it’s taken. You begin to ask the question. It’s a question that every heart asks at that moment. A question that will alter the fabric of your reality. A question that will answer the deepest need of your heart—the need to be loved and to love. You ask it with excitement and some fear, “Am I ready to get married?”

The Choice

This question is an important one to be sure of and the answer is even more important. Allow me to answer it for you: No, you are not. No one can ever be completely ready for marriage. In an age where we want certainty and risk reduction in every area of life, we also hope for it in our vocation.

Marriage is a lifetime of total self-sacrifice, radically loving your spouse (and, through that love, your children) in the day-in-day-out things of everyday life. There is never a break in that love, there is never a moment where it is OK to live a, “do whatever you want,” independence again.

In effect, certain so called “independent freedoms” are lost but real interdependent freedom is found. Is anyone ever fully “ready” to live the challenge of a faithful, fruitful, permanent and totally committed type of love? No way! That kind of love can only be learned by actually doing it and with the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage.

The formation is in the forming. Choosing that love in the small, seemingly insignificant moments of everyday life is what makes someone ready for marriage. It capacitates them. A married person is always in the process of being formed in love. So the question must not be, “Am I ready to get married?” The question must rather be, “Am I ready, willing and able to make the choice to choose to love in marriage?”

Here are some signs that you are able to choose this life.

Am I spiritually maturing?
Am I hardworking and responsible with my money and time?
Do I have the ability to think about others and serve them without always asking, “What’s in it for me?”
Am I able to deny myself comforts and conveniences?
Do I care about and listen to my significant other for their sake and their good or for my own?

Expectations Be Gone

Remember going on family vacations when you were a kid? Do you remember the expectations and possibilities that would swirl around your head? There would be new adventures, experiences, friends, transformations and transfigurations. In effect what we hoped for was—heaven. We all hold expectations for life, expectations that make us hope for heaven and expectations that make us think we will find heaven here. Such expectation can seep into our vocation as well.

We can come to believe that we will become the perfect version of ourselves, able to conquer any problem. Overcome any obstacle. Similarly, we can also say that we will find someone who has reached this very same situation and, when we do, all will be right with the world. We realize these expectations are impossible. Yet, we also very often operate on these expectations, searching for “the one.”

If we mix this unrealistic, idealized expectation into the fears of “readiness” for marriage it can create a perfect storm that leads away from commitment and makes us doubt every potential spouse. One sign of readiness for marriage is the ability to grasp that it is in the very choice and act of marriage that we become better versions of ourselves since we are made to love and be loved.

There’s a great scene in the film “As Good as it Gets” when Jack Nicholson looks into Helen Hunt’s eyes and perfectly iterates this point. He turns to her in his Nicholsonian deadpan and says, “You make me want to be a better man.” That is the answer to the expectation game. It is not in being a better man or woman that we find the hopeful, heavenly experience of life, it is struggling for a lifetime that we move closer to becoming it. As Shakespeare observed, “If men could be contented to be what they are, there were no fear in marriage” (All’s Well that Ends Well).


Baby Time

Some years ago, while working in the New York City entertainment world, I had the chance to spend some time with Robert De Niro. He came to a show and brought two of his kids with him. I’ll never forget the experience. Here was this iconic actor, a man at the top of his game, famous the world over, and he was holding his kids, checking their diapers and struggling to lull them into a more peaceful state. It was beautiful. Are you ready to do this, too? Are you ready to be open to the lively challenges of parenting? Since an essential purpose of marriage is having children, God willing, is this an aspect of marriage that you are willing to live wholeheartedly?

Children are beautiful and they demand our constant attention, constant love and constant selflessness. Children challenge their father and mother to love one another and then together, love their children with that unified, selfless love. They are the answer to our “selfie-world,” where relationships can too often become self-referential vanity fairs. Are you ready for that? Do you want that beautiful, selfless life?

If the answer to these questions is “Yes” then “Be not afraid.” There is a brash adventurer in every married man and woman. Are you called to be one of them? 

This post first appeared on Encourage and Teach on September 1, 2015. View the full text here.

Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Practical Ways to Enter into the Mass

Last week during our “Catholic Bootcamp” at St. Charles we spoke about practical ways to “get more out of Mass.” Here is a summary of those practical ways. What does it mean to “get more out of Mass?” I think of the countless martyrs who gave their lives to celebrate the Mass. From Soviet gulags and prison camps, to Mass rocks in the Irish countryside or Roman catacombs, persecuted men and women throughout the ages risked life and limb to be with Jesus, to participate in the Sacrifice of Calvary that is represented on the altar. They were willing to die for Him. That’s ultimately what we are striving for as we go to Mass, to die to ourselves so we can live His life. Mass is a dress rehearsal for death and resurrection and, just like life, we get out what we put in. When we put our whole self, we get Himself. 


Here are some practical ways to do that: 

  • The Mass is more than a sum of it’s external parts: 
  • Think of it as a blood oath. It’s salvation encapsulated. 
  • Live the calendar of the Church
  • Live the feast days, the holy days and the seasons of the Church more and moreCelebrate your Baptismal and Confirmation Anniversaries. Celebrate your patron saint’s day like a birthday. We are Catholic, we know how to party. 
  • Dress the part, dress for the occasion. Think of “dress down day” at school, or “casual Friday” at work, it’s harder to focus on those days. If we are too casual in appearance we will be casual in attitude. If we are attentive and well ordered in dress we will be the same in attitude. The Mass is the Divine Romance, let's dress for it. 
  • Sit in a different spot: Change perspective, sit near new people, put aside the "usual".
  • Keep the fast- Let's not be wimps. We fast an hour before receiving Holy Communion. Why? Because we are telling our Lord that we want nothing more than Him. It's our little Cross that helps us meet His greater one.
  • Ask your guardian angel and saint to help you focus and pray. They’re the pros after all.
  • Prepare by reading the readings of the Mass ahead of time. Meditate on them throughout the week. The U.S. Bishops have a great site for that: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092614.cfm
  • Pray and sing deliberately. Don’t have a good voice? Well God gave it to you so He must want to hear it. Joyfully give it back to him. 
  • Come early and silence the heart and mind to receive what God wants to give. Spend time with your friend. 
  • Calm your mind in the car: have silence or listen to some Gregorian Chant. Consider what you bring to the Mass: what sacrifices and work of the week? What joys and sorrows? What intentions and needs? Come like the ancient Israelites- with sacrifice and need. 
  • Give at the collection: This is a big way we let go. We cannot worship God and Mammon. What better way to tell Mammon to get lost and tell God He is the Lord of our lives? We prove our trust in him this way. It’s not a tip for religious performance, it’s our sacrificial self-gift to God. Will it be a great gift? 
  • During the offertory think of your guardian angel taking your sacrifices and prayers up to the altar during the procession. What are you offering? 
  • Pray for the people around you. Pray for their intentions, needs, deeper conversion and joy. Perhaps they are in crisis or struggling with temptation or in pain, they need our prayers. 
  • Pray for the priest who is saying the Mass. Pray he becomes a saintly priest. (I assure you, we need a lot of those prayers).
  • Listen to the invitations of the Priest: "pray brothers and sisters that my sacrifice and yours my be acceptable...", "lift up your hearts..." Live them truly. 
  • Really listen to what is being said- follow along in the daily Missal or use Magnificat. http://www.magnificat.com
  • Allow the emotions to come into it. We don’t have to be dower and disconnected. Allow the emotions to enter into the worship of God as well. What are the words of the Mass making you think? What are they making you feel? Being more and more aware of this helps us to be more intentional and deliberate in our prayer. 
  • Receive communion attentively. How are you approaching communion? What are you saying to Our Lord as you receive Him? After you receive Him? Be attentive to your posture and focused on this amazing moment of personal communion with Him. We can say to him what the father of the possessed boy says in the gospel: "Lord I believe, help my unbelief." 
  • Make a Thanksgiving after the Mass. While others are bolting out, be a witness and spend some time in thanksgiving. When we receive communion we are living tabernacles of his presence. We can spend time in prayer with him within, intimately.
  • Leave with a mission: We are his presence in the world- What is he asking you to do right away in the world? 
    • Share the message
    • Call, tweet, email, or text the message and share it. 
    • Go and bring Him in service to another- the elderly, the young, those on the fringes. 
    • Bring that prayer to the rest of the day and week
  • Stay and be social for a while. We can get to know people, hear the news and greet each others as the early Christians that were "known by their love for each other." 
  • Do Something: True social justice flows from Him, from His Love, not ourselves. We are not the gathered community that brings him down. He is the God that brings us to Himself and leaves with us and serves His people through us. 

 

The Whistling Gentleman

Many years ago now I was traveling with a group of priests through Ireland on a walking tour. One night we came upon a pub in the middle of the country. As we were preparing for dinner the pub owner excitedly burst into our rooms full of news. Apparently a former Irish whistling champion was in the bar and was warbling away. She reported, however, that he was "three in and might not last much longer," so we ran downstairs to meet him. This is what we heard...

Hato Viejo

Moped horns, crowing roosters and people greeting each other at the top of their lungs. These are the sounds of early morning in Banica and it was the signal to wake up. Today we began our work at Hato Viejo laying concrete floors & building an “enramada” (think an open air palm thatched roof for celebrations underneath). I will be painting the small but quaint chapel in the town and decorating its sanctuary. The team is in incredible spirits. Their enthusiasm and joy is contagious. These are people who have prayed their way here and it is making all the difference. It is beautiful to see our team forgetting themselves, laying aside comfort and convenience and entering into the mystery of this mission. They are living it. 
The houses are simple, concrete block structures mostly. There’s an occasional house made of tin or sticks tightly tied together. This is an outdoor culture. The people meander around from home to home, place to place, greeting each other and talking about the simplest things. There’s little privacy in their lives, everyone knows everyone else. Kids run through the streets together. They climb mango trees and sit, for hours, talking and talking. These kids are capable of carrying on conversations and being creative, it has not been bred out to them. They are especially curious and inquisitive. After some time in the warm sun I sat down in the chapel to pray. As I pulled out my iPad to read for a little while 3 curious 14 year old boys, two Dominicans and a Haitian, slowly began to walk up and see what this strange thing I was holding in my hand might be. They stared at me with absolute curiosity and awe so I asked them to sit and join me. We talked for hours. They wanted to share their thoughts, learn how the iPad worked (thank God I downloaded some cool apps before i left) and help me out for the rest of the day. These new "assistants” are teaching me more than I could teach them. We exchange words, they learn a little English, I learn a little more Spanish. But the biggest lesson is to watch them interact. As they worked with me one would try to do something and the others would watch and offer advice. If one failed the other stepped in and the former worker (the now veteran) would make commentary based on his now previous experience. If there was a victory by one, all celebrated. If there was a failure, all wanted to learn the better way together. This is a culture that celebrates the other, rather than competes against them.  They don’t rush anything but work deliberately without a hint of perfectionism. These kids are different. They do not sit around in cold and disconnected apathy with swollen thumbs and medicated hearts. They are alive. Their eager smiling faces, warm as the hot Carribean sun, gives hope.  
Here in this town children frolic in mud covered roads under the keen eyes of the entire village. When was the last time we heard the laughter of children in our streets or the sweet melodious sounds of music piped through cheap tin speakers wanting only a dancer to take up her rhythm and bring that music to life? These are streets teeming with life, neighbor helping neighbor. They are free from the fear of human interaction. Their fears are simpler. They rub against each other here. There’s no room for distance and foolishly rabid individualism in their lives. We have much to learn from these people. God has a great love for simple people. I can see why.  

The Market and Introductions

When I was a boy I wished I could travel back in time and see how life was “back in the day.” Today I did. 
We woke to the sounds of the town roosters dueling for superiority as the humidity settled in off the mountains. This country is incredibly lush, full of coconut, plantain and banana trees and the ever present hot Caribbean sun egging them on. It’s Divine Mercy Sunday and the people of Sabana Cruz are in the midst of their patronal novena in preparation for the feast of the Holy Cross on May 4th. It must be noted that May 4th was the feast of the Holy Cross according to the old Church calendar but, traditions are traditions. As we made our way to the church for Sunday Mass we banged along on the bumpy dirt roads in a bus full of people from the surrounding villages. Their joys and sorrows are tangible. These are poor people. They own nothing but they have everything- they have each other. The Mass was lively, joyful, full of Easter energy and they sang together with a unity that could rival any well rehearsed choir. They know each other.  They sing the same song. 
After Mass we made our way to the open air market. Market day is on Thursday and Sunday in Banica. Mangos, plantains, potatoes and cabbages flowed out of the cornucopia of the street market. The booths were filled with the daily needs of a small community, food and batteries, medicinal remedies, bullwhips and machetes. There were no touristy booths of woven fabrics for passers-by to take home to friends, these were the stalls of daily merchants and they sold the basics. It was like walking back in time, seeing the same foods and products that have been bought and traded for the last 300 years (minus the batteries). Not much has changed here and they like it that way. 
We continued to Hato Viejo, the town we will be working in throughout the week. This village with dirt floor homes and outhouses behind them is very poor. Children ran out to greet us with bright smiles and an enthusiasm that made them dance with laughter. The older ones had the curious look of any young teen, wondering who these Americans were and what they were about. The youngest ones ran together in little packs, some clothed, some not, but they all were dressed in joy. As we walked from door to door inviting people to celebrations and a soccer game my group turned down a side street, into a lonely dirt road. It had a depressed feel to it unlike the other roads in the town. There was a din in the air, as though a mandatory silence was required in order to be there. The looks on the faces of the people were more suspicious here, there was fear. As we rounded the corner the small store fronts of a mini-market were apparent and the proprietors greeted us kindly. The clientele looked different. I couldn’t place it but they didn’t seem to be like the others. Their facial expressions were more subdued and they didn’t greet us in the same way. As we began to walk down a steep hill I finally understood, we were walking down to the river, the river that serves as the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. These were Haitians coming to buy what staples they could in this poor village and they were not welcomed to stay. Ancient rivalries are rarely broken. 
Tomorrow we return to begin our work and the people of Hato Viejo are excited, and so are we. 

The Road Less Travelled

“There’s a good chance I could die right now.” I am sure this thought passed through the mind of every person in the bus today on the way to Banica. Getting into a bus, or on the road at all, in the D.R. is a bit like making a cocktail (Mr. Molitov’s type). It’s one part side show, two parts tragedy and , one part carnival- shaken over a screeching potholled death race at breakneck speeds. Needless to say, it was an adventure and that adventure had a soundtrack, 6 hours of non-stop  Salsa & Bachata music blaring through the speakers to give each of us a sense of the flavor of the place. And flavorful it is.

The Dominican Republic is as active, glorious and rythmic as her music and her people exude the same life-filled beauty dancing through life. As we boarded the buses after a worry free flight down, we entered onto the dance floor of the Santo Domingo streets and, as my grandmother always loved to say (in Greek), “once you get on the dance floor you gotta dance.” The way they drive, run across streets and live around those streets says something about these wonderful people. Like John Paul II (who is being canonized as I write this post) they are Witnesses to Hope- running into life as though thrown into the hands of their guardian angels, hoping they’re going to be caught no matter what. Men sit at road side tables playing cards and laughing, women run about in groups enjoying life and the company of their friends and the young run and play like the young in every other place. Vendors selling the most absurd things “conveniently” walk up to the cars in the hopes that you’ll need a duster on a stick, flowers or childrens educational posters. Who knows, you just might need that in the middle of insane traffic conditions. These guileless hucksters turn on the charm and wit in the hopes of hocking their wears to willing customers and unknowing tourists, with at least 5 of them at every intersection.

In the hot, humid Caribbean sun, families walk to market to buy the most incredible fruits and vegetables and children sprint about buying lollipops the size of their heads (a treat they have undoubtably been saving for over the last few weeks). Concrete block city homes gave way to corrigated tin shacks on dirt roads as we left the hustle and bustle of the urban metropolis and entered the countryside. Communities sprinkled the rough highway as we travelled west toward Banica, the blue Caribbean occasionally showed her beautiful face like a siren enticing us to her as we willed to travel on towards the mission. As we passed the small roadside communities we saw families and friends, vendors and villans, all thrown together like the crammed plantain trees that surrounded them, fruitful and chaotic. It’s an incredible country. Pirating Buccaneers got their start here and it’s no wonder. As we travelled through the countryside on the way to the mission you could almost sense their presence in this wild and unruly country. And yet, in the midst of it, there’s a peace and restfulness they share. We’ve arrived. Tomorrow we celebrate Mass together and go to the open air market on the border of the D.R. and Haiti. Tomorrow we get mixed into the milieu of their lives and learn this  “dance”.

*Note: Due to the internet connection (slow) I will not be able to post pictures of the trip until Saturday when we return. Please check back then for pictures I will add to these posts. Until then, I hope you enjoy the story. Please keep us and those we are serving in your prayers.  

Buen Viaje

Porters and attendants scurry about, bags are packed, goodbyes said, away messages posted.

image.jpg

Excitement is in the air as pastel clad honeymooners sprint to departure gates and beach bound vacationers idly sip Mojitos, eagerly awaiting their days of rest and relaxation. And in the midst of it all the missionaries sit at their gate playing cards and praying lauds. We don't know what to expect. The opportunities are limitless, the Holy Spirit can do as He pleases and it'll be amazing. The canonization of Pope John Paul II is very much on our minds. We pray the great Witness to Hope will help us do the same. And away we go. Boarding passes and passports in hand. 

 

image.jpg

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel, 

defend us in battle. 
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. 
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, 
and do thou, 
O Prince of the heavenly hosts, 
by the power of God, 
cast into hell Satan, 
and all the evil spirits, 
who prowl about the world 
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen..

Some Prayers of Deliverance

As I mentioned in the meditation last night ("Deliver Us from Every Evil"), here are some good prayers to pray daily for protection and deliverance from evil. I really encourage you to make it a daily habit to pray them for freedom and trust in God. 

Anima Christi

Soul of Christ, sanctify me; Body of Christ, save me; Blood of Christ, inebriate me; Water from the side of Ch rist, wash me; Passion of Christ, strengthen me; O good Jesus, hear me; within your wounds, hide me; let me never be separated from you; from the evil one, protect me; at the hour of my death, call me; and bid me to come to you; that with your saints, I may praise you forever and ever. Amen 

Prayer for Inner Healing 

Jesus, please come and heal my wounded and troubled heart. I beg you to heal the torments that are causing anxiety in my life. I beg you, in a particular way, to heal the underlying source of my sinfulness. I beg you to come into my life and heal the psychological harms that struck me in my childhood and from the injuries they have caused throughout my life.

Lord Jesus, you know my burdens. I lay them on your Good Shepherd’s Heart. I beseech you—by the merits of the great open wound in your heart—to heal the small wounds that are in mine. Heal my memories, so that nothing that has happened to me will cause me to remain in pain and anguish, filled with anxiety.

Heal, O Lord, all those wounds that have been the cause of evil that is rooted in my life. I want to forgive all those who have offended me. Look to those inner sores that make me unable to forgive. You who came to forgive the afflicted of heart, please, heal my wounded and troubled heart.

Heal, O Lord Jesus, all those intimate wounds that are the root cause of my physical illness. I offer you my heart. Accept it, Lord, purify it and give me the sentiments of your Divine Heart.

Heal me, O Lord, from the pain caused by the death of my loved ones. Grant me to regain peace and joy in the knowledge that you are the Resurrection and the Life. Make me an authentic witness to your resurrection, your victory over sin and death, and your loving presence among all men. Amen.

 

Prayer for a Spiritual Canopy 

Dear Lord Jesus, please forgive me for all the times I have not submitted to your will in my life. Please forgive me for all my sinful actions, making agreements with the enemy, and for believing the devil’s lies. I now submit to you as my Lord, dear Jesus. Now I break every agreement that I have made with the enemy.

Lord Jesus, please have your warring angels remove and bind to the abyss all demons and their devices that had access to me because I believed their lies. I now ask you to establish a hedge of protection around me, over me and under me, and seal it with your blood, Lord Jesus Christ.

I now choose to put on the full armor of God and ask that you cleanse me and seal me, body, mind, soul and spirit, with your blood, Lord Jesus Christ. Please have your warring angels bind up and remove all demons, their devices, and all their power from within this protective hedge and have them sent to the abyss.

Please have your warriors destroy all demonic, occult or witchcraft assignments directed against me including all backups and replacements. Please have your warriors remove all trafficking people and send them back to their own bodies and seal them there with your blood, Lord Jesus Christ. Please have your angels stand guard over me and protect me from all the attacks of the enemy.

I highly recommend this book for a continued discussion on this topic. 

Having a Deeper Understanding of the Mass: Part 3

We must love the Mass, we must love the Mass because it is at the Mass where we meet our best friend every time. It is at the Mass where we live the mystery of our salvation and where we receive the graces needed to bring those graces out into the world. When we worthily receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist then he lives in us and we live in him and we bring him out into the world, into the midst of our ordinary lives, and through us the world encounters Him. When we do this the ordinary moments of life become extraordinary because they are moments lived with our best friend and he’s the one that makes them extraordinary. 

These thoughts are not meant to be exhaustive. There are greater and holier men and women who have written wonderful things about the Mass. I am simply writing this so you can, hopefully, come to love the Mass a little bit more so that, when you go experience it, you can enter into it more and more. As we enter it more we see that our friend has never left us, we see what he has done for us, we live the love he offers us, and we are changed from the inside out to be the person we were made to be- a friend of God.

The Mass is the perfect act of worship. We worship God in many ways. Sometimes we pray, at other times we sing (perhaps), we worship him in our work when we do it well and offer it to him or in our play. Think about that. When we go out and have fun whether on a sports field, at the beach or just hanging out with friends, yes- even playing a video game- we worship God (if we unite those things to him). By using the body, mind and soul he gave us we offer him praise. In prayer we worship him in a particular way by speaking words of love to him and by thanking him for the gifts he gives us. But it is at the Mass where we do all that to perfection. 

At Mass the worship is directed to Our Father in heaven through Jesus in the Holy Spirit. Like the priest says before we stand for the Our Father, “through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours almighty Father, forever and ever.” We thank the Father, we worship the Father because he sent his Son for us. We worship the Son because he freely chose to hand himself over and totally give himself for us. We worship the Spirit because he enlivens us and gives us the fire of God’s love for us. 

Having a Deeper Understanding of the Mass: Part 2

The Mass is the most awesome thing we can ever do. It is, as it is called, the Source and Summit of all Christian worship and life. It is the source because everything that we do, all the good, all the grace filled moments, Everything comes out of that Eucharist. It’s also called the summit. Think of climbing a mountain. When we reach the summit, when we reach the top of the mountain we can go no further- we have reached the goal. Well, the goal of life is heaven, it’s a unity with God. The Eucharist is the very top of life- it is the living of the meaning of life- being in communion with God (that’s why we say “I’m receiving communion). It is a “foretaste of heaven.” 

Sadly, many people don’t understand the Mass. Many of us grow up going to Mass on Sundays (I hope we can say- EVERY Sunday) but most of us probably don’t know why or what is going on at the Mass. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once spoke of the Mass and used a really great analogy. Imagine you are watching a football game. Let’s say that you are really into football. You know the stats on the players, you know the scoring system and how points are gained. Let’s say you know a lot about the team you are watching and you’re a big fan. One Sunday you are sitting on the edge of your seat and your team just advanced the ball down the field. It’s the 4th down and your team is on the goal line with one more possibility to score the winning point. At that moment, as the commercial break kicks in you go running into the kitchen to grab a drink and some chips and your grandmother, who is over visiting, is in the kitchen. You turn to her and say, “grandma- you gotta come see this, it’s awesome!” Curious, she comes running into the family room to see what all that screaming and commotion is about. The commercial ends and you are there, the moment is about to happen. The ball is snapped, the Quarter back takes the ball, hands it to the running back and he leaps over 2 guys to make the winning touchdown. You jump up and scream, you run around the room, slug your brother in the arm (a necessary ritual) and you hug your grandma. At that moment she looks at you with that look like, “you’re a nut.” You look back at her, “grandma, what’s that look for?” “Look?,” she says as she takes another peek at the replay, “your crazy. What’s the big deal?” You are stunned, “big deal? They just won and that was an amazing play,” you say to her. She laughs at you and shuffles out of the room and goes back into the kitchen. 

Your grandmother did not enjoy, did not experience, the drama of the moment because she didn’t bring any knowledge with her. You know the team, the players, you know the rules and the whole purpose of the game. She, on the other hand, does not know any of that (of course I generalize, there are, in fact, many grandmas that do like football) and because of that she did not get anything out of the game. 

That is the same with the Mass. It is the most awesome, stunning, mysterious event ever and yet, if we don’t bring any knowledge of the Mass to the Mass then it can seem pointless and boring to us. Many times we go to Mass and just sit there waiting for that one weekly hour to be over so that we can get to doing what we want to do. But if we knew what was going on in that sanctuary and on that altar then we would be in awe. We have to bring knowledge to something in order to truly enter into it. This little “blog” (for lack of a better term) is meant to do just that, to help you learn and understand what is going on at the Mass so that you can enter into it and truly love it. Enough of the boredom, enough of the wasting time doing something we know nothing about. Now is the time to learn and to enter into the mystery! 

Having a Deeper Understanding of the Mass: Part 1

Imagine for a moment you’re at the airport. You know the scene, the hustle and the bustle, the announcements, the people saying hello and goodbye, the bags wheeling by you being tossed and turned here and there as people look for their friends. As we imagine this consider your closest friend (and I do hope you have one of those). You’re there at the airport and your best friend, the friend that you’ve grown up with and spent countless good times with is about to leave, they are about to move away and you know that you won’t see them for a very long time. As you grab a cup of coffee with your friend you promise to write and promise to call but deep down you know that you will not really BE with them for a long time. I think it’s safe to say that we all know a feeling like this in one way or another and with that feeling, perhaps that personal memory, we know that we feel sad, very sad. It can actually be one of the hardest things to do, to say goodbye and hope, deeply hope, that we will actually be able to see them someday. 

As you say goodbye to your friend they turn to you and you look at each other in that awkward moment and they hand you something. You look at it and wonder, it’s wrapped up in a plain wrapping. They look at you and say, “this is something of mine, I want you to have it and every time you look at it I want you to remember me. I’ll see you, goodbye.” With that they give you a hug and turn around to walk to the gate and you wonder, perhaps even through teary eyes- “will I see my friend again?” 

When your they handed you that package, when they gave you that thing that meant so much to them, that was a little piece of who they are, they gave it to you so you could remember them, so that you could somehow be united to them over the distance. Friends do that for us, they give us something to remember their friendship. It’s a way we can be united to them even though they are not there next to us. 

Well, Jesus Christ is our friend. Think about that for just a minute because it might be a thought that you have not really pondered too much. The Son of God, God himself, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, became a man so that he could make you a friend of God’s. We were separated from God, torn away from a friendship due to sin- a sin that you and I inherited the moment we were conceived because when we were conceived we inherited a human nature, a nature that was effected by original sin. He came to heal that wound and to offer himself in a way that no human being could offer themselves. He came to totally give himself to the Father- no holds barred- he totally gave Himself and when he did that he made it possible for us to give ourselves and for man to be friends with God, best friends in fact. 

Now, the Son of God came at a particular time in history and in a particular place and he knew that he would be limited by doing that and would not be able to walk out and meet every single person in history. So, right before he left He turned to the Apostles at that supper before his passion and death and said- “take this all of you and eat it, this is my Body which will be given up for you.” Our Lord could have given them (and us, through them) something that was near and dear to him, something that would help us to remember Him but he did even better- he gave us HIM. Knowing that he would suffer and die to save us and make amends for all sin He gave us the Eucharist. He gave us the gift of his very self. He gave us the Mass and said that when we do this He is there with us and we can consume Him. Imagine your friend at the airport saying to you, “I am not really leaving you, I am going away but I give you this and it is me and when you eat it I will live in you and you will live in me. I will NEVER leave you, I will always be with you and when you eat it you will experience our friendship and it will effect everything you do and you will never be alone again. I am closer to you through it then if I were standing right next to you” We would be blown away, we would not even know what to say. We might even doubt him or look at him like he was a little odd because it was just too incredible to imagine. Well, that is what Jesus did. He gave us the gift of himself and when we take and eat, when we “do this in memory” of Him we are brought back to that Last Supper, we are brought back to the foot of the Cross, we are brought back to that moment at the tomb when the stone rolled back and he stepped out and beat death and made heaven possible for us again. At the moment the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, time is literally bent and we are brought back to that time and place. He gave us the Eucharist so that he can always be with us, changing us, living with us, loving us, journeying with us so that someday we can enter into heaven where we will never be away from him again. 

What Should I Do for Lent?

What should I do for Lent? It’s the big question we ask ourselves every year. Begin by asking these questions: 

  1. What habits do I have that get in the way of a healthy spiritual life? 

  2. What distracts me from living a deeper interior life? 

  3. Where do I lack balance? 

  4. What takes an inordinate amount of time out of my life? 

  5. What am I overly attached to? 

An answer to these questions might be a good indication of what to do to live Lent well. Here are some other ideas for how to live Lent and carry the Cross with Our Lord more deliberately and generously. Creativity is good but be honest with yourself and ask the question: “will this sacrifice help me love God more, forget myself more and love my neighbor better?” 

Prayer

  • Take one of the Stations of the Cross daily and meditate on it. Here are some good resources to use:

  • Daily Mass

  • 30 minutes in Eucharistic Adoration weekly

  • Say the Rosary daily: http://ow.ly/uec7q

  • Make a daily visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the nearest church. 

  • Make a weekly confession

  • Learn how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and choose an hour a day to pray. 

  • Do 15 minutes of Spiritual Reading a day. Some good books for Lent are: 

  • Pray a family rosary with your family or housemates. 

  • Pray a particular prayer for the Holy Father each day

  • Pray a Memorare for the Evangelization of your parish each day. 

  • Pray for your enemies and those you dislike each day. 

  • Read the life of a saint each day. 

  • Listen to a homily, podcast or reflection in the car while driving (rather than news and music) 

  • Do Lectio Divina every day. (See blog post) 

  • Do mental prayer (conversation with God) using a prayer journal daily. 

  • Pray the Angelus at noon daily. 

Fasting

Now there are many that give up things like chocolate, candy and drinking and that’s all well and good but perhaps the real question to ask yourself is: “how much of that do I actually eat or drink?” If giving up drinking alcohol or eating chocolate is that challenging to do for 40 days perhaps there are some deeper questions that need to be addressed. If so, that would be a truly amazing challenge to face. If not, then what would really be a sacrifice? What would really help you keep the presence of God in your day by sacrificing that thing? Many also commit to give up sinful acts and habits. That’s awesome of course, but do so by doing even more to sacrifice yourself. Here are some ideas: 

  • Giving up TV for all of Lent

  • No Netflix or iTunes 

  • Give up one small thing at every meal (veggies don’t count)

  • Give up coffee (ouch) 

  • Give up watching sports 

  • No radio in the car or commute

  • Disconnect from Facebook and social media

  • Drive in silence

  • Stop multitasking and do one thing at a time and offer it for an intention. 

  • For those that do not exercise: Exercise daily. 

  • Walk slower- be present in the moment and allow that moment to be given to God. 

  • Give up a comfort you have at home (keeping the heat a little lower than usual, etc)

  • Commit to having an accountability partner if you have an internet or pornography addiction. 

  • Quit or heavily reduce smoking if you are a smoker. 

  • Give up using foul language (helps keep the presence of God mindful for sure). 

  • Cook dinner instead of going out. 

  • Deny one of your senses on a different day of the week: 

    • Hearing: no music, putting the phone on do not disturb more often.

    • Seeing: stop checking the computer and phone for info constantly

    • Touch: take a lukewarm shower, not using the most comfortable clothes or blankets, etc.

    • Smell: dealing with those uncomfortable scents of life without complaint or whining about it. 

    • Taste: giving up sugar, salt, a favorite condiment, fasting from a meal for the sake of a friends’ conversion, junk food, etc. 

  • Any concrete way of reducing technology’s hold on your life. 

 

Almsgiving: Serve others, give to others, focus on others. It’s that simple- live for others. 

  • Talk to that person that annoys you with joy. 

  • Joyfully put up with the idiosyncrasies and faults of your roommates, coworkers or friends without any complaining. 

  • Give some extra time to organize the office, apartment or home without looking for accolades or repayment. 

  • Increase the amount of money you give every week to the parish

  • Increase the amount of money, service or goods you give to the poor. 

  • Write a letter to family members and old friends daily. 

  • Visit the elderly- especially those in your neighborhood or apartment. 

  • Go through the house and minimalize your life. We need very little. 

  • Give something away everyday. 

  • Volunteer to teach or tutor someone. 

  • Read a story to your children a few nights a week. 

  • Write a letter of thanks to people who have influenced your life the most. 

  • Call relatives or people who you have neglected. 

  • Ask your family members, roommates or friends about their day and really listen- no self referential comments. 

  • Invite your friends to prayer

  • Invite friends to an event at the parish. 

  • Invite a friend to come to confession with you and then go out afterwards for a treat. 

  • Ask a friend that has trouble exercising to go workout with you. Make it enjoyable for them. 

  • Clean up the kitchen after roommates without being asked. 

  • Help a group in your parish fundraise.

  • Find out who is sick during the season and offer to help them, especially the chronically or terminally ill. 

  • Visit yours or friends elderly relatives. 

  • Offer to babysit for friends with kids so they can have a date night together. 

  • Start a Bible study with your friends. 

  • Tithe (giving 10% of your salary to the church as an act of trust in God and real self sacrifice). 

  • Shovel snow or do errands for unhealthy or elderly neighbors. 

  • Do a chore around the house without being asked. 

  • Hone a skill that you have that could be used for the sake of others for free or offer your professional expertise pro bono to a charitable organization or your parish. 

  • Help a young person start a part time business. 

  • Patiently teach someone who is technologically challenged how to use the computer or the phone better and more efficiently. 

  • Help a friend organize their house, garage, attic, life…

  • invite someone you know is lonely to coffee or dinner. Listen to them. 

  • Go to the fringes- find those that need to hear the Gospel and speak to them about God. 

Why Lent?

The last parades are rolling down St. Charles and the Krewes are in rare form in the revelry that’s Mardi Gras. Tomorrow we begin our purgation, our transformation; tomorrow we begin the great season of Lent. But what’s it all about? Why Lent?
A Scribe once approached Jesus with an honest question (Mark 12:28-34), “What’s the greatest commandment?” He needed to know. He wanted it in a nut shell. Jesus, appreciating the guy’s honesty, quotes scripture: “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And then he adds, "The second is this, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Plain and simple, that’s what it’s all about. 
So why Lent? It’s where we learn to live that commandment with epic generosity. If that commandment is the meaning of life, then lent is a time to embrace the meaning of life in its entirety. 
So what should I do to live the commandment?   

Pray: If the first commandment is to love the Lord with my whole self then I begin by doing what people in love do- I communicate with Him. I make Him THE absolute center of my entire life. 

Fast: If I should love my neighbor as myself then I have to properly love myself. Fasting helps me to discipline my passions and desires so my will can thrive. Love is an act of the will, not an act of desire. 

Give Alms: When God is loved above all, and I know His love for me, and self love is properly ordered, I can then love my neighbor with that same love I’ve received. 

This whole journey leads us to Holy Week- the moment when Jesus lived his commandment to perfection on the Cross. Lent is how we take up our Cross and follow Him. We are walking to Calvary during Lent. Let’s walk generously.