The Joy of the Resurrection is Coming!

The Joy of the Resurrection is Coming!

“Even now return to me with your whole heart for I am gracious and merciful.”

Gospel Antiphon, Tuesday the 3rd Week of Lent

Often when I am teaching as a catechist, I find myself saying, “In Catholicism it is rarely either/or.  We are a both/and faith!”  I was reminded of one more example of this truth this morning during my commute into work.  Fr. Michel Mulloy and Andy Shaw were interviewing another priest on Real Presence Live about Laetare Sunday.  Laetare means Rejoice and so on this Sunday, a bit more than half way through the somber season of Lent, the Church invites us to rejoice.  One of the interviewers rightly commented that it seems incongruous to rejoice amidst the penances, the fasting and the focus on the suffering and death of our Savior that marks Lent.  And I get that, but I also think about the many instances in life when joy is intermingled with great difficulty, suffering or sadness.  Take for instance the loss of a loved one.  There is much sadness at this time, but often there is also joy and laughter as family members gather, share memories and reconnect.  I recently read an interesting article on Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in which the author proposed that one of its causes was the loss of the camaraderie a soldier experiences in the midst of his or her military service.  In the midst of very difficult circumstances deep bonds are often formed between soldiers and this article proposed that the isolation and loss of that after service contributes to the syndrome.  This is another example of goodness amidst difficult circumstances.  So I think in one sense we can see our liturgical life simply reflecting the reality of the rest of life, that rejoicing in the midst of this serious, grave, and solemn season isn’t unique to Laetare Sunday. 

Perhaps too, the Church desires to remind us of the reason for our Lenten practices, namely that all we are doing and experiencing during Lent are ordered toward Easter.  Our fasting, almsgiving and prayer should be helping to free us from the bonds of sin that hold us, to empty us of those things in our lives which prevent us from fully experiencing God’s love and mercy, refocusing our minds and hearts on those things that are most important and expanding our hearts to more fully give and receive love.  All of these things bring us joy and are cause for rejoicing.  Mother Church, in her wisdom, gives us this Sunday both as an acknowledgment that we can already begin to feel the good fruits of our hard work and also an encouragement to keep going — to persevere.  All the hard work of Lent is worth it!  The joy of the resurrection is coming!  Let’s prepare well so that we can truly experience the grace and love poured out to us at Easter.   


The use of rose vestments on Laetere Sunday probably stems from an ancient papal tradition of blessing golden roses which would be sent to Catholic heads of state in Europe on the Fourth Sunday of Lent.
Photo by Providence Doucet on Unsplash

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“Only for today” Let’s Live This Catholic Way of Life More Deeply

“Only for today” Let’s Live This Catholic Way of Life More Deeply

Grant O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.”

from the Collect for  Ash Wednesday

The Homilist at the Mass I attended on Ash Wednesday shared that it struck him that the Collect for the Mass talked about Lent as a campaign of Christian service.  His calling attention to this point caused me to reflect on this season of Lent and how it might be seen as a campaign of Christian Service through the lenses of our Stewardship Pillars.

Generous Hospitality: Invitation, Welcome, Fellowship.  This is perhaps the most obvious of the three.  The practices of Welcome and Invitation are acts of service to another.  For example, we offer others a warm welcome, we extend an invitation to them to participate in an activity at the parish or into a ministry.   Fellowship, the third aspect of Generous Hospitality, also has a strong element of service.  Someone is typically working hard to create the space for fellowship to happen.  Someone is cooking a meal or preparing a place for people to gather, etc. 

But I think we can take this one step further and perhaps should in the season of Lent.  A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting with Sr. Lorane, a Benedictine Sister at St. Martin’s Monastery.  She said,

“Benedictine hospitality has an element in it of giving of your heart to the other.  Also, when guests are welcomed into a Benedictine monastery, St. Benedict asked that they be welcomed into the life of prayer and work that is the religious life. They are invited to experience the monastic life.”

When we extend Generous Hospitality in our homes and in our churches, we are encouraged to have the same mind; to give something of ourselves to the one we are welcoming or inviting, a giving of our time, our full attention, our knowledge, a part of who we are and to know that we are welcoming them more fully into the life of the parish family. We want them to feel as if they belong.

Lively Faith: Prayer, Study, Formation.  Prayer as Christian service could mean that we take the needs of others to prayer.  To be more intentional about lifting others and their needs up to the Lord would be a good practice for Lent.  But I felt challenged to think about how often I pray with only my own needs and desires in mind.  I am challenged by the fact that prayer is the foundation of a relationship between two persons, myself and God.  How often is God the focus of my prayer?  How often is my prayer other-centered, rather than self-centered.  No relationship can be deemed a mature one if my only focus within the relationship is, “how is this person meeting my needs? What is this person doing for me?”  I am challenged to spend time in prayer this Lent with the mind just to be with Jesus, to spend time with Him, to love Him.  Study for its own sake and for our own spiritual growth is good, but perhaps this Lent we could explore ways to extend our learning to others, either by teaching or by inviting others to learn alongside us.  Formation involves the development of virtue in myself and others.  What virtue might I strengthen that would free me to be of service to others?

Dedicated Discipleship: Intentional Love of God and Neighbor.  Lent offers us a beautiful time to be more intentional, to not leave our charity to chance, but to make conscious decisions to express our love of God and others.  One resource I have found helpful in my own life is St. John XXIII’s Decalogue:

Only for today, let’s look for an opportunity to live This Catholic Way of Life more deeply. And tomorrow let’s do the same and so live well through this 40-day “campaign of Christian service” offered to us by the Church.

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“I Used to Think My Mom Lived in the Laundry Room!”

“I Used to Think My Mom Lived in the Laundry Room!”

Last October, the Chancery staff retreat was led by Deacon James Keating of the Archdiocese of Omaha.  One of the stories he told us has come to my mind recently as we approach the season of Lent.  He shared:

When I was a small boy, I used to think my mom lived in the laundry room.  Caring for a large family, she seemed to always be doing a load of laundry.  One morning, I came down to the kitchen.  As I drew near, I heard my mom’s voice from the laundry room, “Jimmy, don’t touch the cookies!”  She had been up early and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies were on the counter.  I inched over to them.  I looked longingly at them.  I smelled them.  Finally, I climbed up on the counter to sit next to them.  I looked carefully at the full plate, picking out the biggest one and thinking, “that is the one I will choose when she gives me permission to have one.” 

Suddenly, I heard the sound of her coming up the steps.  Panicking, I leapt off the counter.  The plate of cookies came down with me, crashing to the floor, shattering the plate and sending cookies in all directions.  When she entered the room, I was standing in the midst of the mess with my head down.
                “Jimmy, did you do this?” my mom said.
                “No.” I whispered, head down.
                “Jimmy, did you do this?” my mom said again.
                “No.” I whispered once more, my head still down.
                Tiptoeing through the mess, she came to me, and lifted my chin.  My eyes darted back and forth.  I was reluctant to look into her eyes.  Finally, unable to resist “the mom stare”, I looked at her.  With her eyes locked on mine, she said once more, “Jimmy, did you do this?”
                “Yes.” I said as the tears welled up.
                She hugged me tightly and while I was secure in her arms and enveloped in her love, she whispered to me, “Don’t ever lie to me again.”
This, he went on to say, is precisely how the Lord deals with us.  He does invite us to own up to the mess of sin and chaos which surrounds us.  Gently, he asks us, “did you do this?”   However, he ALWAYS does so within the embrace of His great love for us. 

As we prepare to enter the season of Lent, the Church invites us to repentance, to a metanoia (a complete change of heart, a turning around – away from sin and towards the Lord).  I find myself asking this question, “What am I going to do for Lent?”  But, I believe the better question is, “What does the Lord want to do in me this Lent?”  Deacon Keating’s story inspires me to have the courage to stand in the midst of the shattered plates and scattered cookies in my life and to look Jesus in the eye and have the courage to receive the truth of the brokenness in life and take responsibility for my part in it.  Most importantly, though, it inspires me to allow myself to be received into the loving arms of Jesus and allow Him to hold me tightly.  And then to listen as he reveals to me the real root of my sin and the way out of it. 

In the coming days, let’s make room in our lives for some silence and invite the Lord in.  Not to ponder, “What am I going to do for Lent?”, but instead, “Jesus, what do you desire to do in and for me this Lent?”

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stay@terrasancta.org

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A Testimony to Morning Prayer

As we were preparing for our February meeting, several of us in the newly formed Serra Club were sharing with each other our goals for Lent. Stephen Wesolick, the president of our new Serra club, and his wife Lisa were sharing about their desire to pray the rosary each morning at 5 AM together. This was going to be a true sacrifice for the Wesolick’s because they are not morning people.

In mid-March Stephen, along with Fr. Adam Hofer, drove young men to Winona, MN to IHM Seminary for their semi-annual live-in weekend, an opportunity provided by the seminary for young men to see and experience seminary life. It was amazing! We took nine young men to experience seminary life from the Rapid City Diocese. I knew of Stephen’s goal for Lent – to get up at 5 AM to pray the rosary with his wife Lisa. I told Stephen that I would be willing to stand in for Lisa and pray the rosary with him, to encourage him in his Lenten resolution. The three mornings that we were at the seminary, Stephen and I prayed the rosary, read scripture together, and asked for Our Lady’s intercession for an increase of vocations to priesthood and consecrated life in our diocese.  We also prayed spontaneously for the needs of our families, our communities, our church and world.

Last week I ran into Stephen and Lisa at Pastoral Ministry Days and I told Stephen how I missed praying with him early in the mornings at the seminary. He invited me to come over to their house some morning at 5 AM to pray with them. This past Tuesday, I took Stephen and Lisa up on their invitation. I thoroughly enjoyed praying with this couple early in the morning. Their Lenten discipline and faithfulness as a couple inspired me.

After our prayer time together, they invited me into their kitchen for homemade muffins that Lisa made the night before.  We sat around the kitchen table eating muffins, drinking coffee and visiting with one another. This was truly an encounter with the Lord for me.

I asked Stephen and Lisa if they would be willing to share their blessings of their Lenten journey and they graciously said yes.

“Lisa and I started doing this, along with scripture reading and spiritual meditation, for Lent this year. We completed 40 days and are looking forward to continuing this beyond Easter. I have read that it takes 66 days to make something a habit, so we are almost there!

We have received many graces from offering our prayers and petitions daily to our Blessed Mother. I have personally experienced the renewing of my mind in conformity of our Lord’s will (Rom. 12:2). I am more patient throughout the day and persevere easier through challenges. Lisa and I have drawn closer to each other and to God because of our early morning time together. We feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and upon our tasks. Where we primarily thought about or anguished for our loved ones before, now we offer them up for protection and mercy in an intentional and focused way — and we are seeing many blessings as a result. The Word of God is becoming more alive in new dimensions with each reading, and I am receiving special revelations as never before. We have added a special veneration to St. Joseph, the protector of the family and defender of the faith, and we are experiencing his intercessions in new and bold ways. We are also comforted by the daily reading of Psalm 23, which assures us that God’s goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives. Finally, our daily devotion has directed us to focus on that which is true, honorable, pure, pleasing, excellent, commendable and worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8). It has been a truly powerful experience, one for which are immensely grateful.” -Stephen and Lisa

I am always amazed of the Lord’s generosity and abundant blessings that he pours upon us to fulfill the desires of our own hearts. Stephen and Lisa shared their desire of their hearts with the Lord before Lent and the Lord surprised them both with many new graces, strengthening them to continue their Lenten practice into the Easter season. When our Lenten journey is fruitful it gives us the desire to continue to build on those things which draw us closer to Jesus. How fruitful was your Lent?