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Lent

Lent (90)

Wednesday, 25 March 2020 05:16

Wednesday of the fourth week of Lent

Written by

The soul thus "stripped" of self and "clothed" in Jesus Christ has nothing more to fear from exterior encounters or from interior difficulties, for these things, far from being an obstacle, serve only "to root it more deeply in the love" of its Master. -  Elizabeth of the Trinity



Lord God, our Father,

you have announced also to us today

that your Son came among us

to be our life and joy.

He has been with us

as your living Word and our bread of life.

May we grow in his life

and, like Mary, by his word bring a message

of liberation and happiness

to those in search of life and meaning.

We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.


Tuesday, 24 March 2020 08:03

Tuesday of the fourth week of Lent

Written by

Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; and the victory lies in this - your faith. Carmelite Rule - 19



 



14 Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.



15 Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.



16 Hear me, O Lord; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.



17 And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily.



(Psalm 69:14-17)


Saturday, 29 February 2020 10:04

Thursday of the first week of Lent

Written by

Many and varied are the ways in which our saintly forefathers laid down how everyone, whatever his station or the kind of religious observance he has chosen, should live a life in allegiance to Jesus Christ - how, pure in heart and stout in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of the Master. Carmelite Rule [2]



 





 




Let's pray



Merciful Father, look up on 



us, this family,



and help us to overcome our own ego, selfishness



and fix our eyes toward You only



and desire You only. Amen.




 



 





 


Wednesday, 26 February 2020 10:53

Sunday of the first week of Lent

Written by

"Each one of you is to stay in his own cell or nearby, pondering the Lord's law day and night and keeping watch at his prayers unless attending to some other duty." ~ Carmelite Rule [10]



 





 




God, our Father

by the celebration of this Lent,

a Sacramental sign of our conversion,

grant us, your faithful people,

the nourishment of recognizing the mystery Christ,

that we may be a testimony of your love,

We ask this through Christ Our Lord.




 




Tuesday, 02 April 2019 09:56

Lent Is All About Repentance

Written by

Lent is here. Not exactly the favorite time of the liturgical year for most people.  Lent calls us to slow down and take stock, to evaluate our progress on our pilgrim journey back to God, our progress in our ascent of Mount Carmel. Lent challenges us to remember that we are dust and unto dust we shall return.



          Lent is a period of fasting and penance. This is true. It is good to fast and to do penance. Fasting and penance remind us of our sinfulness, our falling short of the mark, our distance from God. Fasting and penance, or other Lenten observances, remind us of our need for continual repentance, continual conversion.



In the old days before the second Vatican Council, most Carmelites did not look forward to Lent because it was a period of fast and abstinence. Except for Sunday, Carmelites fasted every day during lent and abstained from meat three days a week. But the first and third readings for Ash Wednesday tell us that Lent is not really about what is going on on the “outside,” about external performances, though these can play a role, as mentioned above. Lent is really about what is going on on the “inside,” about inner repentance or conversion.



          In the first reading for Ash Wednesday from the prophet Joel, who lived around 375 B.C.E., there is a great locust plague, which Joel interprets as the final attack by God’s enemies against Judah. So he calls for repentance or conversion to turn back the plague. This call for repentance or conversion is the traditional biblical summons to “turn around.” The Hebrew word used here (shub or metanoein in Greek) is the command a General gives to his troops to do an about face, to turn one hundred and eighty degrees, to make a total change in direction.



          So repentance or conversion in the scriptures is not just a matter of performing some external practice or religious observance, e.g. fasting or abstaining, saying extra prayers, or even charitable giving, though these are not excluded. Joel tells us that true repentance demands that we rend our hearts, not our garments. Repentance is to “return to me (God) with your whole hearts.” And so repentance or conversion in the biblical sense (shub, metanoein) is a radical turning around, i.e. one which goes right to the root (radix) or heart of a person, the very depths of a person, the depths in which lurks the sarx, usually translated “flesh.”  Sarx is the old person of which Paul speaks, the insecure self which is in love with itself, fascinated with itself, tripping over itself, seeking to seize divinity so as to secure its own existence and autonomy. The sarx is the old self which resists abandoning itself and living according to a new self, the Pneuma or Spirit. Repentance involves putting off that old self and putting on the new.



          The Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday from Mt.6 shows us that for Jesus also repentance means much more than mere external observances. Jesus tells us to be on guard against performing religious acts for people to see and to applaud. We are not to be like the Pharisees, the hypocrites, who change merely the appearance on their faces. When we give alms, we are not even to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. We are to keep our deeds of mercy secret, pray in private and comb our hair and wash our face so that no one knows that we are fasting.



          Lent is a season of great opportunity. It is a season which reminds us, however, that Lent is not just a period of forty days. Lent is a dimension of our lives which must be present every day. Lent is not so much a temporal season as it is a way of being. Lent is a kenotic or self-emptying way of being to which we are all called every day. One’s whole life, and not just forty days, is to be a life of rending our hearts, of questioning and purifying that “old self,” which can and often does create “on the outside” the subterfuge, the illusion of dying through penitential observances but “within” remains filled with deceit and hypocrisy. Within, despite all the externals and observances, the “old self” remains just the “old self,” the self which runs from and hides from a true turn of heart, a true repentance, a true abandonment to God.



          During Lent we must not deceive ourselves, much less attempt to deceive others. What is most important is not what appears, what others can see, the external observances. What is most important is what occurs within the “old self,” in the depths of our being. What is most important is our dying to the “old self” so that we can rise through the power of the Holy Spirit to the “new self,” the new creation, which the Father through the power of the Spirit fully achieved in raising Jesus from the dead.  



          There is something very Carmelite about the season of Lent, especially when Lent is seen as not just a forty day period but as a way of being, the way of kenosis, of self-emptying. Carmelite spirituality is very much a desert spirituality, a spirituality of continual self-emptying, of being empty before God (vacare Deo) as the Reform of Touraine says, so as to be filled with the Spirit of the Risen Christ.  



April, 2019

Fr. Donald Buggert, O.Carm


Professor Emeritus – Washington Theological Union

 



 


Image:
Lent Is All About Repentance
Friday, 29 March 2019 20:39

Shall we cross the desert?

Written by

“A voice cries out in the wilderness ‘in the desert prepare

the way of the Lord.’ Make straight in the wasteland a highway

for our God. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain

and hill made low ”  Isaiah 40: 3-4



Their hearts must have sunk. When the Jewish people saw where their homeland, they must have let out a collective gasp. In the quotation above from Isaiah, the Jews are facing the frightening prospect of freedom. Soon, the Persian king Cyrus will come and liberate them from captivity in Babylon. He will free them from their enslavers, so that they can return to Jerusalem. You would think they’d feel overjoyed. You would think they’d feel exhilarated.



Nevertheless, as they awaited their liberation, the Jewish people probably felt a little uneasy. For they had become comfortable living in slavery. The Babylonians were not a particularly cruel people. Moreover, the Jews were getting enough to eat. They were starting to make some money. Sure, being home in Jerusalem sounded wonderful. After all, Jerusalem was where God dwelled.



Unfortunately, in order to get home, the Jews would have to cross the desert. Trudging across miles and miles of waterless wasteland, the sun would scorch them by day. Bitter winds would bite them at night. There would be scorpions hiding under rocks, bandits lurking in the hills.



“In the desert prepare the way of the Lord.”



Yes, the Jewish people wanted to be home with God. They just didn’t want to go through the desert to find him. It’s a dilemma we all experience. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we all want to be home with God. We all want the peace and joy His presence brings. However, we just don’t want to do what it takes to receive that peace and joy.



For like the Jews in Isaiah’s narrative, a vast desert stands between us and God. In this arid wasteland, hostile forces surround us. Our prayer feels as dry as a desert wind. Our workplace seems a hideout of corporate snakes and secretarial scorpions.  Feelings of depression, fits of anxiety hover over our heads like marauding birds.



So, at all costs, we try to avoid journeying too far into our desert. As a result, when sadness over a spouse’s infidelity overwhelms us, we distract ourselves with shopping. When nervousness over an upcoming medical exam shakes us, we numb ourselves with food.  Seeing an enemy in the next pew, we move away in order to avoid the awkward encounter. No, we don’t journey through the desert of our live. For we have a hard time believing God waits at the other side.



In his great poem The Divine Comedy, Dante describes the soul’s journey from hell to heaven. Interestingly, the journey starts not as an ascent but a descent. Heaven comes only after the poet has first plummeted to the bottom of hell. Similarly, God waits on the other side for those who delve deeply into the painful parts of their lives.



                              “In the desert prepare the way of the Lord.”



If we want to find resurrection come Easter, we must first walk through our desert this Lent. We must face our fear and talk honestly with an alienated neighbor. We must take time and feel the loneliness over the loss of a parent. We must stop rationalizing and accept the guilt for having betrayed a friend. It’s a scary prospect since it means staying present to our pain. Usually, the discomfort of the desert sends us scampering back to Babylon. We scurry back to Babylon and savor the sweet enslaving distractions of television, work and company.



Don’t seek distractions. This Lent allow time for quiet prayer. Move through the desert of your heart. We can do it. The dryness, the desolation won’t destroy us. After all, the desert didn’t destroy the Israelites. For as Isaiah later promises, the same loving God who awaited the Israelites at the desert’s end would also accompany them in the wasteland. Indeed, Yahweh walked with them. He shielded them from the sun, drove away the jackals.      



 Likewise, if we journey into our desert, we will find God walking with us. God give us the strength to face our loneliness and the courage to see our sins. As Isaiah declares, Yahweh makes crooked ways strait. He levels the mountains of fear. The valleys of depression He fills so that our journey becomes smooth.



                    “In the desert prepare the way of the Lord.”



The desert in our hearts is never as bad as we fear. If we make the journey, we will find God walking with us through the beginning, middle and end. Still, it’s easy to talk the talk. This Lent we need to walk the walk.



 



March 2019

Fr. Timothy Ennis, O.Carm


Image:
desert
Monday, 03 April 2017 17:00

Lenten Meditation

Written by

Monica Traynor, TOCarm.

It is St. John who tells us that Our Lady was present at the Crucifixion. (How she bore herself, what she said — if, indeed, she spoke at all, is not recorded. We are free, therefore, to meditate on what may have been her thoughts...

“My Son, my Son, hast Thou forsaken me?

Bone, blood and soul formed from out of me, Grew then in time with me to perfect Prime,

Now broken hangs, dishonoured and despised-

Long have I prepared for this, since aged Simeon spoke;

Often witnessed death, assisted those who died. But never, until this,

The leaden weight within my limbs,

The deep disturbance and dismay of soul I cherish now.

Fiat, I said, Fiat still I say;

This precious wound I bear,

I will not seek to cure,

So do not offer me relief.

But give me John,

And Peter and the rest,

And each and every one who sins,

Who by his sins disfigures you afresh,

That I may clothe all these my sons As I have clothed You.

My Son, my Son, depart from me,

Fulfil with me Your Father’s Will.’



Monica Traynor, TOCarm.


Image:
Lent

Sam Frizell

All over the world, people are giving up on things, like their New Year's Resolutions, failed relationships, and fixing the WiFi router.



But believe it or not, some people are actually giving things up as a form of religious penitence and holy atonement.



That's right: Lent, the season of renunciation, is upon us. It's the 40-day period when the adherents of many Christian denominations, including Catholics, Anglicans and Calvinists, forego some quotidian pleasure from Ash Wednesday (that's today) to Easter Sunday, to honor the forty days when Jesus fasted in the desert and endured temptation by the devil.



Open Bible used Twitter to track some of the main things that people are giving up for their Lenten fasts. Top of the list? Chocolate. Not a big surprise there, but second was Twitter. Apparently, using Twitter to denounce Twitter is definitely in vogue.



Out of 50,899 tweets during the week of February 15, 2015, there were 2,343 chocolate-related tweets, 2020 twitter-related tweets, followed by 1,789 abdications of social networking in general. School came in fourth, and alcohol rounded out the top 5.



Granted, many of the Lent-related Twitter posts are likely facetious, so the list is to be taken with a grain of salt. But it does open a window into our collective guilty pleasures and greatest shames. (One of which appears to be "boys.")


Image:
Lent 2017

Christopher J. Hale

Christians around the world mark the beginning of Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. This ancient day and season has a surprising modern appeal. Priests and pastors often tell you that outside of Christmas, more people show up to church on Ash Wednesday than any other day of the year—including Easter. But this mystique isn't reserved for Christians alone. The customs that surround the season have a quality to them that transcend religion.



Perhaps most notable is the act of fasting. While Catholics fast on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during the Lenten season, many people—religious or not—take up this increasingly popular discipline during the year.



But Pope Francis has asked us to reconsider the heart of this activity this Lenten season. According to Francis, fasting must never become superficial. He often quotes the early Christian mystic John Chrysostom who said: "No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great."



But this isn't to downplay the role of sacrifice during the Lenten season. Lent is a good time for penance and self-denial. But once again, Francis reminds us that these activities must truly enrich others: "I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt."



So, if we're going to fast from anything this Lent, Francis suggests that even more than candy or alcohol, we fast from indifference towards others.



In his annual Lenten message, the pope writes, "Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience."



Describing this phenomenon he calls the globalization of indifference, Francis writes that "whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God's voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades." He continues that, "We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people's pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else's responsibility and not our own."



But when we fast from this indifference, we can began to feast on love. In fact, Lent is the perfect time to learn how to love again. Jesus—the great protagonist of this holy season—certainly showed us the way. In him, God descends all the way down to bring everyone up. In his life and his ministry, no one is excluded.



"What are you giving up for Lent?" It's a question a lot of people will get these next few days. If you want to change your body, perhaps alcohol and candy is the way to go. But if you want to change your heart, a harder fast is needed. This narrow road is gritty, but it isn't sterile. It will make room in ourselves to experience a love that can make us whole and set us free.



Now that's something worth fasting for.


Image:
Pope Francis - Lent
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 20:19

Why to go Confession?

Written by

Fr. John Flader

A gift from Christ

Some years ago when I was chaplain in a university residential college, a student who had recently returned to the practice of confession after a long time, came to me and said: “Father, please pray for a friend of mine. We are going away on a study weekend, and I am trying to get him to go to confession during this time. I told him that if he goes, I personally will do 500 times the penance the priest gives him.” Needless to say, I was astounded and we quickly calculated how long it would take him to say 500 Rosaries, in case the confessor proposed a generous penance! When I caught up with the student again in the middle of the following week I asked him how it had gone with his friend. He said, with an obvious look of joy on his face, that he was doing 100 times the penance. Intrigued, I asked him what had happened. “The offer of 500 was only valid for the weekend”, he said with a smile, “but he went to confession today.” When I asked him what the penance had been, he answered with a look of relief: “an act of thanksgiving”.

I relate this anecdote because it highlights both the great joy experienced when someone goes back to confession after a long time and the resulting eagerness to share that joy with others by encouraging them to go as Well that joy is experienced by too few, as far fewer people go to confession than was the case 50 years ago. The queues of people waiting to confess their sins in years by, are today to be found in few churches. So much is this the case that Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia in 1984, bluntly stated that “the Sacrament of Penance is in crisis.”

Great treasure

This situation is most unfortunate, because, in my opinion, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the greatest treasures of the Catholic Church. It is a gift from Jesus Christ, indeed his first gift to the Church after the resurrection. On the afternoon of that first Easter, when he appeared to the Apostles in the Upper Room “he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit; when you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven, when you hold them bound, they are held bound’.” (Jn 20:22-23) If Jesus himself has given us this gift we would be most ungrateful and even foolish if we did not make use of it. Having heard many thousands of confessions over the years, I can attest to the fact that the ministry of the confessional is one of the greatest blessings for the priest as well as for the penitent. It is a forum in which one experiences the grace of God acting in a gentle yet powerful way, always leaving the penitent with a great peace and joy.

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