Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Last year:

So far, my Lenten commitments are coming along very well (and some of them were very serious!) How are yours coming? I wanted to share something that I found about how some of the early Christians celebrated Lent. It seems that during the early Centuries of the Church, those who were guilty of public sin would come before the Bishop and have the ashes put on their head. The Bishop would then throw them out of the Church for 40 days as a sign of their penance. After the 40 days, on Easter, they were brought back into the fold. As this was going on, many Christians began to think about their own lives and even those who had no public sin came forward to get ashes, because they realized we were all sinners and needed the time of mourning and forgiveness. I think this is a beautiful story about the need for humility among all of us. 

"Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris."

In other news, Lent is a time to pray especially for those preparing for baptism, confirmation and first Eucharist. Let's pray for those who will be baptized especially, but also keep those preparing for confirmation in our minds as well, wink wink.

I don't have much to add on to what I said last year.  Just keep on praying for those getting ready to receive these sacraments for the first time.  Yesterday in the daily Office of Readings, there was a reading from Pope Saint Leo the Great.  I'd just like to share part of his Lenten reflections today:

Dear friends,what the Christian should be doing at all times should be done now with greater care and devotion, so that the Lenten fast enjoined by the apostles may be fulfilled, not simply by abstinence from food but above all by the renunciation of sin.  

There is no more profitable practice as a companion to holy and spiritual fasting than that of almsgiving.  This embraces under the single name of mercy many excellent works of devotion, so that the good intentions of all the faithful may be of equal value, even where their means are not.  The love that we owe both God and man is always free from any obstacle that would prevent us from having a good intention.  The angels sang "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on Earth."  The person who shows love and compassion to those in any kind of affliction is blessed, not only with the virtue of good will but also with the gift of peace.

So, let's not forget that Lent is a season not just to give up things for our own benefit, but also a season of charity in which we should give to those who are less fortunate than we.  

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Last year:

Today being the day after Ash Wednesday, and the day before another day of Abstinence, I wanted to reflect a little on fasting. Of course, we have the example of Christ who did it and told us that the Church would do it after he was gone (Mt. 6:18, Mt. 9:15). We don't see it very often in Christianity (probably not at all among 99% of Protestants), but it helps us clear our mind to focus on God in prayer. It's been a wonderful blessing to me, and I'm hoping that everyone else who got to do it drew closer to God in some way. We should try to do it more often than just when required. Any thoughts or feelings on it?

You know, after a year (and especially after my Holy Week last year), I have only built on how much benefit I think fasting gives us.  I also see a correction from last year, maybe it should have said "90%" of Protestants ;)  

Seriously though, I highly suggest any religious person to try and fast more often.  I was reading and discussing a little about the gospel reading yesterday.  Many people think that the Gospel contradicts what we do on Ash Wednesday as Catholics.  After all, Jesus tells us not to show other people that we fast or repent but just to do it in secret so that our reward will be in Heaven.  This is one of those passages that is easily taken out of context by people.  Looking at the message, Christ is warning us not to let that be the reason we are doing something.  Don't do it for earthly glory or to feel "cool" or something.  I think there are some who go to Ash Wednesday because they think that is when it is cool to be a Catholic.  That's exactly the kind of thing I think Jesus is warning about here - and is the same problem we could have with wearing a cross or praying in public or carrying a Bible around with us.  We have to make sure we are doing things for God and not to please other men - for people like that "have their reward".

Maybe I got a little off topic sure to check out our first baby photo below :)


Well, here is the first photo of our baby sucking its thumb.  Still not sure of the sex yet, but wanted to share this and give thanks to God for having such a healthy pregnancy so far.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

As promised, I'm going to reflect my thoughts from last Lent and see how they have developed since last year.  Here were my last year Ash Wednesday thoughts:

Today is a wonderful day, Ash Wednesday. I hope everyone will pray for my wife and I during this season of Lent. Lent is such a wonderful time to be able to reflect on the year and to find something in your life that you can do to become closer with God for these 40 days (and of course hopefully for the rest of your life). As we approach Easter and start thinking about Christ's death and glorious ressurection, let's all take time to figure out how we can be closer to God and pray for one another.

Seraphina and I just got back from Ash Wednesday services.  Today's responsorial Psalm was from Psalm 51. I wanted to share it because I found it very emotional and think it's wonderful:

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. 

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness,
in your compassion, blot out my offense.
O was me more and more from my guilt and sorrow,
and cleanse me from all of my sin.

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

My offenses, truly I know them,
and my sins are always before me;
Against you alone have I sinned, O Lord,
what is evil in your sight I have done.

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
put your steadfast spirit in my soul.
Cast me not away from your presence, O Lord,
and take not your spirit from me. 

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Give back to me the joy of your salvation,
let your willing spirit bear me up
and I shall teach your way to the ones who have wandered,
and bring them all home to your side.

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

I hope it uplifts you as well!

Not to get into too many specifics, but last year during Lent I was really struggling with a personal issue in my life.  I used that time to really help myself work out that problem and move on with my life in a healthy way.  Lent gave me the opportunity to sacrifice that thing that was holding me back from my relationship with God and a better relationship with my family.  This year I hope to do the same thing with some other issues.  I always felt that was a better way to approach Lent than simply giving up sweets or something like that.  I can look back on last year and really see how much the Lenten season helped my spiritual life and look forward to seeing it do the same this year.  Also, during Lent was when I was introduced and began praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  I plan to rededicate myself to praying those prayers this season and help kick start my prayer life again.  I have not been to mass yet, not until later this evening, but I am looking forward to receiving the ashes and starting this lenten journey.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lenten Blog Plans

Happy Mardi Gras everyone.  Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and as such I want to continue what I did last year by blogging every day during Lent.  I thought this year would be an awesome time to reflect on all my posts last year during lent.  After all, last year I was in RCIA awaiting the sacraments, and now I have been partaking of them for a year.  So, each day I will post what I wrote about last year in my Lenten diary and how I feel or think my journey has led me over the last year.

The one limitation I will have is that sometimes I do not always have access to the internet.  Therefore, some days I might have to post several days worth of Lenten blogging at once, but I do plan to get through all forty reflections I had last year.  

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Catholic-Protestant Dialogue

I am reminded, and just wanted to think aloud about this for a minute - that frequently Catholic and Protestant dialogue breaks down and ceases to be productive when the issue of "sola scriptura" is not resolved.  As long as one side comes from the view that only the scriptures can tell us this or that (and usually involved in this view is that ones personal interpretation dictates what those scriptures ARE saying) and the other side holds that the Church is really the guardian of the truth, then it is hard to really discuss any other topics in great detail.

A similar situation happened one time when I was trying to study with a Mormon.  He wanted to talk about hundreds of issues, but I continued to say that unless we resolved whether or not the Book of Mormon held the authority of Sacred Scripture, then we would have a really hard time discussing things.

On the flip side of that, sometimes we should start discussions by talking about all the similarities between the two groups.  One way I like to study with Protestants is by reciting the Nicene Creed so that we have a huge bounty of issues that we can agree on, then try to get to the question of why we believe it. All in all, however, I really believe that the binding authority of scripture, the Church, or other sources has to be worked out in order to have a real fruitful discussion.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nuns and Priests

We should strive to live up to this kind of example by helping the poor, even to our own detriment.  

Monday, February 9, 2009

Prayer Revisited Cathedral Style

Seraphina and I went up to Pittsburgh and visited the Cathedral of St. Paul there.  I wanted to share a bit of the young priest's homily that he gave. 

He reminded us that in order to have a good relationship with God, we need to talk to him and listen to him.  In order to do this, we must have a better prayer relationship with him.  He suggested that we at least try to make 1 minute prayers during our days.  Specifically, he suggested a one minute prayer called the "PAL" prayer - where you praise God and give him thanks, then you ask him for his intercessions, then you listen to God in silent meditation to finish up the prayer.  I thought this was pretty neat, and at the end of the homily, he said that he was going to make sure that we gave God our one minute - so he held a minute of silence to allow us to pray.  It was wonderful, and a good reminder to try and keep on track of your prayer life.  

I'll pass on one more prayer suggestion he (and many of the Saints) have given before and one that is very hard for me to keep -  the first thing we should do when we wake up in the morning is briefly offer up our entire day to the Lord - Lord Jesus I give you this day and all the sufferings and joys that come along with it.  Once we do that, we are bound to focus just a little better on everything we do and keep the most important thing at center stage - God.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Salvation only in Christ

I've noticed a lot of blogs have been posting and commenting on an image that states that salvation is in Christ alone.  I just had a couple thoughts to blurt out about this idea.  In many ways, it reminds me of the discussions I've had here and elsewhere about salvation being in the Catholic Church alone - which makes since since the Church is the Body of Christ.  

Again we have to put into perspective exactly what this might mean though.  Does that mean that only those who are publicly practicing and self-acknowledged "Catholics" can get to Heaven?  Absolutely not.  First, because the sacraments are how we draw closer to Christ.  Many can draw closer through the sacraments in other Churches - notably the Orthodox Church, but also in Protestant Churches they have access to two.  

But, on top of that since we have a merciful and loving God, we cannot exclude, and we can actually hope that those outside of the Christian Faith altogether might have access to Christ in some mysterious way that we might not fully understand.  The native in the jungle who has never been evangelized, for instance, might have his own connection with the one true God which allows him access to the grace of Christ and perhaps Salvation.  

So, yes, I believe Salvation is only in Christ, but I also think it's a complicated issue that probably requires more thought and explanation than we sometimes put into it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lenten Resolutions

Just a quick note - but this year for Lent instead of giving up something that might not make you suffer much or that God might not care about whether or not you do, try doing some penance in the form of outreach.  Do a ministry of some sort to the poor - maybe volunteer at a soup kitchen once a week or even just do some kind of spiritual ministry.  Then you can really make some waves in the world as a Catholic.