What does it mean to worship? How does one worship God or a god?
To know that one of the letters I wrote meant so much to its recipient. I’m just a conduit for the love of Christ.
It was hard to believe this morning that it’s been six years since I went through the Rite of Election. When I watched the catechumens today be blessed by the priest so that they could later in the day receive the Rite of Election and become Elect, I suddenly remembered my own election within memories I had subconsciously forgotten about. In fact, this Lent I’ve barely thought about my conversion at all, which is strange because all previous Lents have rekindled memories of my Lenten journey while I was in RCIA. I’m not sure why this year has been different so far.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been Catholic so long now? It’s really weird that its been almost 6 years. Or maybe it’s because I don’t feel converted? Maybe it’s difficult for me to see any kind of progress from who I was to who I am? Maybe I don’t see evidence of a life changed by Jesus Christ?
Maybe I feel like this Lent has already been mildly unsuccessful. I thought on Ash Wednesday that this was going to be the most joyous Lent yet, but I haven’t experienced that, yet. Maybe I need to give it more time. Perhaps what it comes right down to is that I don’t feel elect. I don’t feel special. I don’t feel chosen. I don’t feel holy, set apart. I don’t feel known. I feel like a stranger. Again. Even with all I just said, it’s difficult to explain the feeling.
But maybe this is what Lent 2015 is supposed to be all about. Maybe God is going to use this Lent to show me that I am chosen. Maybe that’s where the joy will come from. Maybe my letter writing campaign is the source from which it will flow. So maybe that’s what I will make my prayer be for this Lent, and maybe it’s something you need to add to your prayers too, I don’t know.
God, please help me, help us, to see how you have chosen us. Help us to experience the fact that we are elected, that we are special, that we are chosen, holy, and set apart. Help us know that we are known, and help us to know you in return. Don’t let us feel like strangers in your house, but as the sons and daughters that we really are. Amen.
Inspired by the homily at Ash Wednesday Mass, I changed my self-imposed Lenten penance from sleeping on the floor to a 40 day letter writing campaign: 1 letter each day (except Sundays) to someone important or influential to me. I wrote a letter when I got home from Mass yesterday and then one today after work. I’m pretty excited and I have my list of 40 recipients written up, but not in any kind of order. There are quite a few letters that are going to be tough to write for as many different reasons. Those will probably all be pushed to the last couple weeks of Lent.
All-in-all, Lent has been pretty great so far. Yesterday was the first Ash Wednesday that I haven’t spent the whole day being distracted by how hungry I was. I suppose that is one of the fruits of regular fasting, your body becomes accustomed to it. So while everyone was like:
I was all like:
“I do this every Friday anyway.”
But seriously, I’m not holier than you or anything like that.
I’m just really looking forward to Lent this year. It’s always my favorite part of the liturgical year, but this year I think it is going to be so much more joyful, which is really what Lent is supposed to be!
Let’s all pray together that this will be a season of taking up our crosses and walking more closely and intimately with Jesus, which can have no other effect than pure joy!
So I mentioned these canonical requirements yesterday for Catholics of the Latin rite, but I’m going to repost them today. This graphic is borrowed from the FOCUS blog (visit the blog if you get a chance), and revisit this graphic if you need a quick reminder during Lent. It will be located at the top of the side bar!
Have a fantastic Ash Wednesday!
Its next to impossible to google search for a mardi gras picture and find one suitable for a Catholic blog header. Just like Valentine’s Day just a few days ago, it seems that the world has forgotten that mardi gras is about Christ, that is, its existence is based solely on the fact that Christians have a Lenten season. So you get face palm Jesus for your header.
Anyway, today is Fat Tuesday, or in French, mardi gras. Back in the day, when Christians were giving up meat for Lent, they would have to eat all their meat on the day before Lent because it would spoil before Easter. Hence, the existence of Fat Tuesday.
Today we should all take a moment to figure out what we are “doing” for Lent if we haven’t done so already. I’ve been thinking about it for awhile, and up until a few days ago I was simply going to add in another day of abstinence to my current fasting/abstaining practices, which are to fast on Wednesday and Fridays, and to abstain on Fridays. I was simply going to abstain on Wednesdays also. But it seems kind of “cheap” at this point considering that its not really going above and beyond what I’m already doing. I thought about removing coffee, but as my coworkers can attest to last week (when I ran out of coffee and was too lazy to go buy more), it was more of a penance for them, than for myself.
So I think that I’m going to do again what I did a few years back: I’m going to sleep on the floor during Lent and offer it in prayer for those who don’t have a place to lay their head, like the Son of Man.
I encourage you not to simply give up pop or give up sweets or something like that. I mean if that’s a strong vice in your life, go for it, but I think that there are probably better things that we Christians can do to 1. prepare our hearts for Jesus and 2. unite ourselves to the members of the body of Christ and those who are “Jesus” to us.
And don’t forget that canon law in the United States of America requires that all persons aged 14 and over must abstain from meat and items made from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all of the Fridays during Lent. Additionally, every person between the age of 18 and their 59th birthday must fast (1 regular sized meal and 2 smaller meals that do not total 1 full meal, with no snacking) on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Pregnant women are dispensed from these regulations.
And as a bonus reminder canon law requires that ALL FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR (excepting Fridays on which a Solemnity falls) Catholics are required to abstain from meat, unless they substitute another penance in its place.
Have a Holy Lent!
This morning’s 6:45 Mass was offered for my mother. I knew it would be. I was the one who scheduled the Mass intention many months ago. But it was strange nonetheless to hear her name at Mass this morning. Maybe it’s because I really haven’t heard her name in a very long time. Maybe it’s because saying a name is kind of sacramental. It makes something invisible present to your senses. I say the word “pencil” and it seems real, even though all that occurred were vibrations in the air. The same with my mom’s name. She became real to me again, even if for a brief moment. It was tough, one of the tougher moments in recent weeks.
I hope that the infinite merits of the one, continuous Mass of Jesus Christ on Calvary has aided my mother in final purification, and if for good or for bad, she is not in a state of purification, I hope that the infinite merits of the Mass aided someone in their sanctification.
How many of us when we consider Mary conjure up an image of a docile young woman? Maybe she is crying over the dead limp body of Jesus. Maybe she is kneeling before an archangel, quietly submitting to God’s will. She is likely wearing a flowing white or blue robe.
But do we ever conjure up an image of a warrior?
Do we ever really consider that Mary really is a fighter? Do we ever connect her universal motherhood to her being a soldier? Well we should. The Church teaches that Mary is the Christian par excellence. Where we are soldiers of Christ, she is more so. Where we fight evil, she does so to a higher degree. We would do well to consider more often that Mary is warrior.
967 By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity. Thus she is a “preeminent and… wholly unique member of the Church”; indeed, she is the “exemplary realization” (typus) of the Church.
968 Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. “In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.”
969 “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation…. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”
970 “Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men… flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it. “No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church
I share this passage from the Catechism because it alludes to the fact that Mary is more than a timid woman gently whispering prayers to God. She is everything the Church hopes to be. One of those things includes conquering the enemy. She is tasked with assisting in restoring supernatural life to souls. How can she do that without wrestling directly with evil? She is not only an advocate, but a helper. She helps us fight. She helps us wrestle the demons in our lives. And like every creature that belongs to, and is in the service of, God, her power comes directly from Christ, the guy through whom all that was created was made. Talk about power.
I hope that all of this makes sense. And I hope that why I share it makes sense. Catholicism is often portrayed as this gigantic machine of wimpy, docile, quiet, pious drones. We fold our hands, pray quietly, and prostrate ourselves before God hoping that he will have mercy on us. And this is true. We must prostrate ourselves before him. But we weren’t made for that purpose. We are brought low, to be lifted up. We are brought low so that we can effectively serve in his army. Catholicism is a faith of warriors, not of weak, mindless automatons.
I could write further, but I would veer off topic rather quickly. Just remember how strong Mary really is. So the next time you pray your rosary, instead of thinking of Mary holding an infant, maybe think of her little bit like St. Michael, wearing armor with a sword and a shield, and maybe a viking helmet, with a devil trembling at her feet as she is about to cast the filthy beast into the pits of hell.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
P.S. Here is an article about this very topic, written a number of years ago by another more versed in this topic than I.
I’m choosing not to go into great detail about this, but I’ve withdrawn my application for a job with FOCUS. I’ve been praying about my testimony this weekend, and contemplating some of the interview topics, and I’ve concluded that FOCUS just isn’t the right job for me and I am not the right person for FOCUS. Even if FOCUS feels differently and were to offer me a job, I would unhesitatingly turn it down. So why waste my and their time and resources going to Illinois for an interview?
I’d like to extend my thanks to those that have been praying for me while I’ve been discerning this decision. I am confident that this is the right decision, and I look forward to continue supporting FOCUS and am looking forward to some of the new challenges and opportunities that are coming around the corner at my current job.