Lent is Here

I’m ready for Lent.  I’ve been ready for weeks.  The world seems so depressing lately, and life seems to be going so fast that I’m ready to focus on quiet and getting closer to God.  I’ve already somewhat started.  On Sunday we went to another parish in the neighborhood because the time was more convenient. I discovered that their daily Mass schedule would enable me to get to daily morning Mass.  I may be somewhat late many days, but if I push my kids to be ready for school just 10 minutes earlier it could work.

So for the last two days I’ve been able to go, and even though I came in during the homily today, I felt a strong sense of peace.  I did not go up for Communion today because I was so late, but just being there made my day more calm and peaceful.  On some days I might even be able to stay for Adoration.  I have felt the Lord calling me to these things, but did not think my schedule allowed it.  Frankly, I just did not try hard enough.

So, for Lent I’m going to try to get to daily Mass a few times a week if not every weekday and go to Adoration once a week.  These are things I should be doing anyway but lapsed out of the habit.  I’m also going to continue reading The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila.  I have been really surprised at how readable she is.  I was given the impression that she was SO difficult and only those really deep in a prayer life would benefit from reading her works, but I’m enjoying it.  Perhaps I’m just shallow and the true benefit is over my head but so far, so good.

I’m also going to start, and this time finish, the absolutely wonderful book by Pope Benedict XVI Jesus of Nazareth .  Now that a second volume has come out I need to finish the first.  The parts I read before were incredible and I want to study it in more depth.  I have the study guide for it I just need to focus.  To complement all this I really need to remember the Friday Stations of the Cross.  In years past I have completely forgotten to go each Friday.  This year I’d like my kids to go with me and experience it.  I would love to take them to the nearby parish that has it outside by torch light.  It is very memorable.

For a few years, once I had gotten past the extremely shallow “giving up chocolate” stage, I gave up things like the radio during Lent.  Normally, I would listen to it while I was running errands in the car, or at home during the day.  So I would listen to the few minutes of the news and then shut it off.  I found giving that up to be very conducive to prayer and I liked it.  Then the radio in my car gave up the ghost and it was permanent.  Last year I started to listen to podcasts on my iPod while in the car, and at the moment I’m listening to Scott Hahn CD’s from my parish library.  I think that while I still may listen to them, I will cut down somewhat so I can perhaps pray the Rosary, or just sit in the quiet with the Lord.  My time in the car is very fruitful for me.

What about the computer you say?  Are you not going to be giving up time on the computer?  Facebook?  Well, honestly I can say that since I have started working from home I’m not on it as much as before.  That is why I have not posted very often.  I work all day on the computer and going to it for fun is just…not as fun.  So, no I’ll not really be reducing Facebook etc. because I have already.  I would also like to share Lenten resources with you over these 40-some days and I would not be able to do that if I did not continue posting on Facebook and here on the blog.

Here are a few websites I’d like to share with you that you might find helpful for Lent:

Catholic Culture’s Personal Program for Lent
EWTN’s Lenten Reflections & Stations of the Cross
Pope Benedicts XVI’s Letter to You for Lent 2011
James Akin’s All About Lent
and last but not least
RC.net’s Readings & Meditations for Lent including excellent sermons by the Early Church Fathers & Readings for reflection and study.

I will have more coming soon.  I wish you a prayerful and blessed Lent and that you grow deeper in love with the Lord, realizing His great sacrifice for us.

A Sharp-Edged Sword

This morning I was reading the Mass readings from Isaiah about the Suffering Servant.  Four passages in Isaiah are designated as “Servant Songs.” These are poems which the early Christians saw was a foreshadowing of Jesus.  They are Isaiah 42:1-7, 49:1-7, 50:4-9, and 52:13-53:12.  In this case, I was reading Isaiah 49: 1-7.

1 2 Hear me, O coastlands, listen, O distant peoples. The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
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3 He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me.
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4 You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory.
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Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, Yet my reward is with the LORD, my recompense is with my God.
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For now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, That Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; And I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength!
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5 It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
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Thus says the LORD, the redeemer and the Holy One of Israel, To the one despised, whom the nations abhor, the slave of rulers: When kings see you, they shall stand up, and princes shall prostrate themselves Because of the LORD who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.

I was particularly struck by verse 3:   “He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me.”

A sharp-edged sword.  It’s not what we usually think of Jesus.  Loving, gentle, guiding Jesus.  Our light.  This Jesus is a polished arrow, a sharp-edged sword….a King.

Usually, when I picture Jesus I see the Sacred Heart or the Divine Mercy, which are “soft,” gentle pictures – but really he is a strong figure.  He is more like the “Pantocrator” above, which is a 6th Century icon from Mt. Sinai in Egypt.  I have this picture, on wood, in my home and it is my favorite picture of Jesus.

If I think of Jesus as a strong, confident King – along the lines of King David – I find that I have a greater reverence to Him.  It seems to be easier to follow this Jesus.  He has everything in order.  His battle plan is ready.  He is my leader and I am in his service.  He has a mission for me that only I can do.  One that He has created from before I was born.  I need to be faithful and strong in the face of the enemy.  I also need to show honor, reverence and adoration to my King.

It is hard to follow a wimpy Christ, but when I think of my Savior and my King as he is – the Creator of the world, who holds the world and it’s creatures in the palm of His hand – I know that I have a strong leader.  A leader who I can follow, and to whom I am also accountable to.  It is harder to try to escape my duties or make excuses to a King who is a Sharp-Edged Sword.

It Is Still Lent

It seems sometimes that Lent lasts forever, or maybe it is just the trials everyone seems to be going through this Lent, that it appears that way.  Since Lent feels like it is lasting a long time, I thought I would give you a few more Lenten resources that could be helpful to you:

Eric Sammons at The Divine Life blog posted this wonderful speech given by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Houston/Galveston at the Convocation of Houston Baptist University
What is great about this is the excellent unpacking of John 14:6 (”I am the way, the truth, and the life.”)  I found his scholarship and faith riveting and enjoyed watching it very much.

Edward Pentin at the National Catholic Register has a link to a beautiful panoramic virtual tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the church that marks the place of Christ’s death and resurrection.  The detail and clarity of the tour is marvelous and you might find it helpful in meditation.

I wish I could remember where I found this in my travels online, but here is a link to the National Gallery of Art in Washington where they have a beautiful exhibition until the end of May called “The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture, 1600–1700”  Click on Exhibition Highlights to see a beautiful slideshow of this sacred art.  These stunning works would also be wonderful for meditation and each has a brief explanation that is very helpful.

7 Quick Takes – Vol. 3

1.  This week finds us in the midst of a strep throat mini-epidemic in our house.  The 6 year old was really sick last week.  His dad wound up going to the urgent care center on Sunday, and while they did not test him for strep he probably has it, plus double ear and sinus infections.  Today, the 14 year old has a sore throat… I’m just waiting for it to get me…we’ll see.

2.   A friend of mine recommended this blog post to me and I found it to be so beautiful and profound.  It is about the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb which is a French contemplative order that enables girls with Down Syndrome to answer their vocation to Christ.  It is good to be reminded that those who are disabled in some way still are people, they are not a faceless victims of a disability that have no worth or meaning.  They are people who have deep feelings, and a soul with the capability of donating all to Christ.

3.  Discover the beauty of the earth with the new photo NASA Blue Marble.  If you click “All Sizes” on the upper left you can enlarge it and take in the lovely aqua water of the Caribbean, the beautiful mountains and deserts of the West, and the Polar icecaps.  What a marvelous planet.  You might also find the photos from the Goddard Space Flight Center breathtaking as well.

4. There are two new books out by Catholic blogging moms that you might want to check out.  CatholicMom.com Lisa Hendey’s  The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul and Rachel Baulducci of Testosterhome has How Do You Tuck In a Superhero?: And Other Delightful Mysteries of Raising Boys.  Both sound lovely – by two lovely ladies.   Pull out your credit card right now!

5.  Back in November, a wife, mom and blogger in her 30’s named Anissa Mayhew, suffered a stroke.  I first learned of her on Twitter.  She has been in the hospital or in a nursing facility since then.  This past weekend she finally came home.  I urge you to take a look at the blog Hope4Payton that her husband has used to chronicle their difficult journey.  This is an amazing family.  Her husband is a tribute to all husbands, and it is wonderful to see them all home again.

6.  Well, how is Lent going for you?  I’m trying to be more patient with the kids and not get annoyed when interrupted.  I find myself slipping, but catching it first is a challenge.  I have been reading more.  I have got a great deal out of Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel-On Prayer from Fr. Thomas Dubay.  Abstinence is not so great.  Last Friday, I completely forgot it was Friday and gratefully and happily accepted that bacon and egg on an English muffin my non-Catholic husband handed me.  Groan.  I realized it later.  So, if you do it unwittingly is it a sin?  I did not make a conscious choice to eat that bacon.  I forgot.  So, I’m figuring that is not a sin.  But I just completely forgot God that morning….yeah…real great, that one.

7.  I’m looking forward to a Moody Blues concert my husband is getting the four of us free tickets to.  Now, they were big when I was a toddler, but I’m sure they will be fantastic, as long as we don’t freeze to death.  It is outside on the water I think (we do live in a warm climate, but lately it hasn’t been so warm.)  Too bad it is not date night, cuddling on the bay while listening to great music would be very romantic.  Listening to complaining children…not so much.  But it will be nice to expose them to real live music.  Wish us luck.

OK, you’ve read my ramblings, now go see more 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

You Should Go to Confession

Lent is a time of cleansing.  A time of introspection.  A time of forgiveness.  All of these are manifested in the much neglected and maligned Sacrament of Reconciliation.   

I have met lots of people who neglect going to Confession.  Here are the reasons they give for not going:

  • They don’t think their sins are bad enough.
  • They “forget” to go.
  • They have better things to do on a Saturday afternoon.
  • Posted times are not convenient.
  • They are not comfortable with making an appointment, “Father is really busy.”
  • They are uncomfortable telling their sins to someone.
  • They don’t trust priests anymore.
  • Excuses. excuses. excuses.

YOU need to reconcile with Christ.  You sinned – You need forgiveness.  You fell, and Christ is there to pick you up and help you get on with your life.  You have a great gift in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Christ created this gift for you.  So, find a church on Saturday with a priest you like and can feel comfortable with, make an appointment, or even corner a priest when you see him.  Unless he looks like he is about to pull his hair out at that moment, I have not known a priest to turn someone away who wants to go to Confession.  “Hey Father, do you think you have the time to hear my quick confession?”  I do think that it is best though, if you have not been for a LONG time, or have some serious sins, that you make an appointment, or at the very least make the time on Saturday.

You can do this.  There is nothing to be afraid of.  If you have not been for a long time you will have such a burden lifted.  You will feel lighter and the graces you get from Confession will give you the strength to continue on.

Here are some websites to help you:

The Archdiocese of Boston has a fantastic website on Confession for this Lent.  It is very good and will have everything you need.  The Light is On For You

This is my favorite Examination of Conscience  from Catholic Parents Online that will help you remember your sins.  Pray for the grace to see all your sins first.

Feeling Bad About Confession Fr. Dwight Longenecker writes about how it is not necessarily the sins you feel bad about that are the worst.

From Perfunctory Penitence to Compelling Confession In Four Easy Steps at the Archdiocese of Washington’s website.  Msgr. Charles Pope discusses that just a superficial telling of sins is not enough. To be really effective you have to go deep into the why’s of the sins you are committing. This is very helpful in advancing your walk with God.

Here is a quick little guide to the Seven Capital Sins & Their Contrary Virtues

Another Great Lenten Recipe – Simple Shrimp Scampi

Here is another of my favorite recipes that works well for Lent – Simple Shrimp Scampi. I originally found this in Cook’s Illustrated magazine years ago. It makes a very elegant dinner for guests, though I would not serve it on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, since it is not a very penitential meal. I would suggest you follow the recipe exactly.

Simple Shrimp Scampi – Serves 4

1/4 Cup Olive Oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs large shrimp (21-25 count per pound) peeled, deveined and rinsed (I use quality frozen shrimp, defrosted)
1/4 cup fresh minced parsley
2 Tbsp lemon juice
salt
Cayenne Pepper (used very sparingly – I pretty much wave it over the shrimp)

Heat oil & garlic in 10″ skillet over medium heat until garlic begins to sizzle. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until fragrant and pale gold, about 2 minutes. Add shrimp, increase heat to medium and cook stirring occasionally until shrimp turns pink – about 7 minutes. Be careful not to overcook or they will become tough. Remove from heat, add parsley, lemon juice, salt to taste and cayenne pepper to taste. Serve immediately. The recipe recommended to just bring the skillet to the table, serve with rice or rice pilaf, and crusty bread that you can use to sop up the juices right from the pan. I like to serve it with a green salad that has fruit in it, asparagus or broccoli.

2016 Update: I still love this recipe but I usually now serve it with my go-to rice which is Brown Jasmine Rice. I use it for everything now, but use a different proportion than what is on the bag: 2 cups water to 1 cup rice, otherwise it seems crunchy to me, plus 1 T olive oil and some salt. Or, if I’m pressed for time, I serve it with angel hair pasta. The brown jasmine rice is just fantastic but a bit pricey. I just found that Trader Joe’s has their own for a good price but I haven’t tried it yet.

Zucchini Bread Recipe – Great For Lent

I thought I would share with you a recipe for Cheesy Zucchini Bread. My mother received this recipe from a friend over 30 years ago, and it is one of my favorites. It is more like a casserole than a bread. It is great for Lent, but I make it year round. The wonderful thing about this recipe is that it is extremely versatile. I have taken it to breakfast or brunch events served with fruit. I have served it as lunch for friends. Mostly, I serve it for dinner, usually with a side dish of rice pilaf, or pasta and sauce. I serve it with pasta so that the zucchini-phobic among us (aka Children) have something to eat.

Cheesy Zucchini Bread
3 Cups Zucchini with skin, sliced very thin
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 C grated cheese (Romano, Parmesan, or Cheddar) I just use the canned Parmesan
4 eggs, beaten (you can also use egg-beaters)
1 Cup Bisquick (I use the Heart-Smart Bisquick)
1/2 cup oil (like Canola)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1/8 tsp salt

Slice zucchini in food processor or use a mandolin. Chop onion and garlic. Blend all ingredients in a large bowl, add zucchini. Pour in greased 9×9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy.

Lent, Lent and More Lent

I’ve got some more great Lenten resources for you.

What Do the Ashes Mean? by Fr. Saunders

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops Lenten Website

Listen to our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI’s Ash Wednesday Address to you. It is short, but lovely to listen to his kind and gentle voice. Thanks CatholicMom.com for providing the video.

Deepen your spiritual life by watching the brand new EWTN YouTube Channel. It was just released today so they have lots of videos to put up but be sure to check in frequently for the best of Catholic programming.

Ash Wednesday Fasting & Church Teaching by Jimmy Akin

Do some great reading for Lent:  Vivificat! has posted a huge list of free classic Catholic books you can save to your computer, or e-book reader, to read at your leisure.  They are mostly .pdf files.  What a fantastic resource.

And still more…..Why 40 Days of Lent?  by Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio

Here is this year’s (2010) Lent, Holy Week & Easter Calendar of Important Days:

Feb. 17:
Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent)

Fridays
All Fridays in Lent (observe abstinence from meat and a good idea to participate in the Stations of the Cross at your parish)

March 28:
Palm Sunday (the final Sunday of Lent, and the beginning of Holy Week)

April 4:
Holy Thursday (the final day of Lent, remembering the Lord’s Last Supper)

April 2:
Good Friday (commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ)

April 3:
Holy Saturday (Easter Vigil Masses may begin anytime after 8pm on Sat. evening)

April 4:
Easter Sunday

May 16:
Ascension of the Lord (culmination of the Easter season)

May 23:
Pentecost Sunday (the descent of the Holy Spirit)

Fasting & Abstinence Info

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and it is a day (along with Good Friday) that we need to fast and when we do eat, eat no meat.  We all have questions occasionally about this, so here are some websites with info that might help you: 

Women For Faith & Family has a great page with all the details and also a wonderful page devoted to special info on Lent & Ash Wednesday

Colin Donovan, STL at EWTN also explains the guidelines at their Fasting & Abstinence page

If you do Facebook, you might be interested in this Facebook page,  Catholic Lent:  It’s More Than Just Giving Up Chocolate

St. John Chrysostom on True Fasting

Finally, here is why we abstain – Faith Facts – Life in the Fast Lane:  Why Catholics Abstain

What Are You Giving Up For Lent?

OK, are you going to wimp out and choose giving up chocolate for Lent – again? I’m not sure when giving up chocolate became the “in” thing to do for Lent but honestly, how superficial is that? Of course, maybe that is the point. People choose chocolate because, even though it is difficult to give up something we love so much, it is really easy. We don’t have to face doing something that might really be a sacrifice… something that might really help us to face our sins or get us closer to God.

For several years I have given up listening to the radio during Lent. I would check into the news in the morning and at noon, but then shut it off. This was really hard at first because I enjoy it. Over time though, I got over my discomfort and looked forward to the time of silence, and it encouraged me to talk to God, if only to break the silence. This has helped me a lot and has spilled over into the rest of the year. I’m not at all hesitant to bring on the silence and it helps me focus on whatever I’m doing.

Now that silence is easy, I need to move onto something else that will not only be a sacrifice but also help me to grow. Some choose something that is not actually a sacrifice but an addition to their life, like spiritual reading or praying the Liturgy of the Hours, but those are easy for me and I enjoy them. Others commit to daily Mass or weekly adoration. Daily Mass is not possible for me at this time in my life because of scheduling conflicts. Weekly adoration is more something I want to do all year round, and I have been lax for quite awhile. So while I will do that, it is not really a sacrifice.

This year, I have chosen to do something really hard and I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull it off, but it requires great generosity and patience on my part and I’m sure many graces from the Holy Spirit. I’m going to try to tolerate interruptions without a poor attitude. Part of this requires me to really pay attention to my kids. What you say? Pay attention to your kids? Suck up interruptions? Yep. Sounds easy to you? Good for you, but it is hard for me.

I hate to be interrupted. Just when I get on a roll with something, boom…”Mom, I’m hungry!” “Mom, come look at this!” “Mom, I need help in the bathroom.” “Mom, I need to you watch me – I’m going outside.” “Mom, What are we going to have for dinner?” Can’t you hear the heavy sigh?

Well….so can I. And I don’t like it. I don’t like my attitude – the heavy sigh, the occasional eye roll, the annoyed voice, “What do you need now?” “Go away, I’m trying to do something right now.” “NOW what?” What it shows to me is that I have a lack of generosity, a self-centeredness, an impatience that is deeply ingrained. So what is that Pride? I don’t know, but I don’t like it.

I’m sure you are like so many of my friends. “What do you need sweetie?” “Oh here, let me help you?” “Sure I’ll watch you outside.” “Let me get the popcorn, we’ll watch the movie together.” “OK honey, let’s go to the park and kick a ball around.” Yuck. The last place I want to be is the park or the ball field. I don’t want to watch another children’s TV show. I want them in the back yard so I don’t have to worry about cars or child abduction. But unfortunately, bikes only get ridden in the front yard. I’m sure you enjoy all those things, but to me they are an annoyance, something that I’m forced to do, and that keeps me from doing the stuff I want to do – inside – like cook dinner or OK, I’ll admit it – be on the computer. So, I’ve decided that I want to work on this during Lent, and that will be a real sacrifice – and a real learning opportunity.

So what do you want to give up for Lent? What do you think you need to work on to improve you and your relationship with God. If you need some sort of help with ideas, check out:

Great Ideas for Lent from the St. Michael Society: Need some ideas for Lent? We’ve got a few.

I found this to be very challenging and helpful:  Giving Up Something for Lent — What the Denial of Self Really Involves  It was written by Dr. Richard P. Bucher, a Lutheran minister in Kentucky.


Here are a couple of more articles about preparing for Lent and Mortification:
How Can I Better Prepare for Lent This Year?    
Lent and Mortification – What is Mortification Anyway? 

I’d really like to hear what you are planning on doing this Lent.