5 Ideas for Lent

Ash Wednesday is next week and I, for one, am excited for it! For a lot of people, Lent is about “giving up” something, such as candy, or coffee or whatever. Other people consider the penances of Lent a drudgery. That’s too bad. Lent isn’t about giving up something and then becoming frustrated – or giving up – when you fail. That’s what New Year’s Resolutions are for! Now, I’m not saying not to give up something for Lent. There is an important place for sacrifice and denial, but Lent is WAY more than that.

5 Ideas for Lent

Lent is about renewal!

The beginning of a new year is a time when many people make resolutions to lose weight, to do “this” or don’t do “that.” August and September is the beginning of a new school year and a time when kids (and adults) resolve to make “this year better than last year.” Of course, technically, everyday is a chance for a restart. But Lent is unique. Lent is a time that is especially meant for a spiritual renewal, even more so than the Advent and Christmas Season. Lent is a time to recalibrate our souls and remind ourselves of what and WHO is important in life. And, it is a time to refocus and rekindle (or deepen) our relationship with Jesus and with the Blessed Trinity.

Therefore, the purpose of the “mandates” of Lent, prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving, is to help us go deeper into the truths of our faith and our relationship with Christ, NOT to give us yet “one thing to do or not do” for the next six weeks. Thus, I’d like to invite you to rethink your strategy for Lent this year. If you have been in the habit of giving up something for Lent and it hasn’t worked for ya, how about instead of giving up something, give yourself something. Here are five ideas of things you can give yourself for Lent:

1. Give yourself the gift of Confession.

If you haven’t been to the Sacrament of reconciliation in a while, now would be a good time to go. The Church requires Catholic to go to Confession at least once a year for a reason. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament of healing and an opportunity to encounter Christ in a very special way.

There are a lot of people who are afraid of going to Confession or who think it is a waste of time. “Why go to confession to a priest when I can tell my sins right to God?” However, confession is a gift from God that gives us special graces, allows us to grow in grace and to come back to Him when we fail. I strongly encourage you to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church in regards to confession. Do the research on why Confession is important. It is really a very important sacrament!

2. Give yourself the gift of the Eucharist.

If you aren’t in the habit of going to daily mass, now would be a great time to start – even if it just one or two days a week – or just on Saturdays. The readings for Lent are just as powerful during the week as they are on Sundays.

There is a lot of focus today about the community aspect of Mass which is important. However, we also must never lose sight of the purpose of the Mass. It is the center and source of our Christian Life! When we receive communion, we receive Jesus Himself. We take Him into our souls and our hearts. What an amazing and profound blessing and gift that is!

3. Give yourself the gift of prayer.

The rosary is a particularly powerful prayer and it is a wonderful way to meditate on the mysteries of Our Lord’s Life, Death and Resurrection. It is even better if you can pray together as a family. Also, many Churches offer the Stations of the Cross each Friday which is a beautiful way to enter one’s self into Our Lord’s suffering. If you can’t do that, try to just spend a few minutes or so reading the Bible and Lectio Divina.

There are also a lot of retreats and devotional booklets that are published for the Lenten Season. If that helps, pick one of those up and use it to help guide your prayer. Better yet, scrap that and just talk to God as you would a friend. He is always ready to listen! It may seem strange at first but we can, and should, speak from our souls and pour out our heart.

4. Give yourself the gift of reflection.

Prayer isn’t all about talking! It is also about listening and reflecting on what God wants to tell us. One way to do this is by jounaling. When you journal, you can certainly write down your prayers. However, you can also write down notes, scriptures, and insights that you get during prayer. You can paste prayer cards and pictures, doodle, and make it your safe and private place of encountering God.

To help you do this, last year I created a Lenten Prayer Journal. It is an unguided prayer journal sprinkled with scripture verses from the Mass readings, blank pages, and a section for specific prayer intentions. It is my heart’s desire that the journal be a comforting and “magical” place for you to grow in your faith and love for God.

(P.S. From now until March 1, 2017 – Ash Wednesday – you can get the printable pdf. version of the journal for only $5, regularly $12. Go here to purchase and download instantly. Go here for a free sample of journal. Go here for the paperback version of the journal on Amazon.)

5. Give yourself the gift of intention.

Finally, above all – no matter what you do the Lent – let it be intentional and focused. Be fully present to your devotions, family or whatever it is you are doing or not doing for Lent. That alone will transform your Lenten experience!

So many of us, myself included, live life too reactionary. We don’t take the time to think things through because we are too busy rushing from activity to activity and responsibility to responsibility. This year, take a few minutes to look at your calendar. What can you delegate, reschedule or remove so that you can give yourself some breathing room and mental space?

Now, let’s support each other.

Tell me, what are you doing for Lent this year? What are you going to do or not do in order to truly deepen your relationship with Jesus and renew your spirit this season? By putting it out there, it will help you stay accountable and give me the opportunity to pray for you!

As for me, I am focusing on the Nineveh 90 challenge. We are only a week in and it is proving to be a challenging and yet powerful experience. It is definitely helping me to be more disciplined in certain areas, that’s for sure! I still may give up something specific on top of this but I haven’t decided yet. 🙂

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Give Yourself the Gift of Confession this Lent

Give Yourself the Gift of Confession this LentGo to confession. Truly.

Church teaching requires that Catholics go to confession at least once a year. However, to grow in the spiritual life, the Church encourages Catholics to go at least once a month (when I was young, we were encouraged to go every two weeks). But this post isn’t about the theology behind confession or Church teach.

You see, I love going to confession. Besides the Eucharist, Confession is my favorite sacrament. (Crazy, I know!) Don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous sometimes when I go to confession. I sometimes think I don’t have anything to say. And yes, I often confess the same things over again. But that’s okay!

When we go to Confession, we don’t just have our sins forgiven. We gain grace and strength to live out our womanly vocation. Additionally, depending on the priest, we can get some really good insights and/or advice. Even if we don’t, we still encounter Christ in a very real and profound way in Confession.

Sure, just like the liturgy, it is great if get to confess to a priest who is on fire for his faith and truly a vessel of Christ. But, sadly, that just isn’t always going to happen unless we are blessed to be in a parish with priests who understand the value of the sacrament. We just need to remember that no matter what vessel Jesus decides to use, it is JESUS we confess to in the Sacrament. Years ago, I read in a book that when we go to confession we “whisper into the ear of Jesus.” That has made such an impact on me and to this day I try to remember that when I go to confession.

Over the years, I have gone to confession to some wonderful priests and there have been times when I left the confessional wondering if the sacrament was valid! One day I realized that I have a choice. I know the priests in the area that I like and I try to make a point of confessing to them. Of course, I realize that I am blessed to live in an area where there are several churches with at least two priests in the parish. If you live in an area where that is not possible, please don’t let that stop you from the Sacrament. The grace is still there!

So please, if you can, please take the opportunity to go to confession. Here is a little blurb on how to make a good confession, if you need it.

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Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carinival (July 20, 2014)

Sunday Snippets

Time for another weekly roundup over at RAnn’s place. Why not join us with your own posts?

This week I posted my weekly goals, a short meditation on the Sacrament of Baptism and shared our curriculum plans for the coming school year.

Question of the Week

Were there any religious sisters in your parish when you were growing up?  Are there any now?  Which community (ies)?

I was born in NYC and our parish, Good Shepherd, was run by the Paulist Fathers. We moved around a bit, and I don’t remember if (or what) religious communities were on our parishes. Eventually, we moved to the Hazlet and Keansburg, NJ area, which used to house a lot of Sisters of Mercy. Nowadays, there are only two or three sisters left there. After marrying Michael, we belonged to different parishes, some which did and some which did not have religious communities attached to them. In our most recent parish of Eatontown, NJ, the Filippini Sisters are there, and they are wonderful! In the parish we belong to now does not have a community of sisters.

See What Love the Father has Bestowed on Us

 

On Sunday, my cousin’s grandson, Adam, was baptized. It started with an adventure for some of us because there was a miscommunication, and somehow the wrong church was put on the invitation! But, once corrected, and we got to the correct church, the Mass was lovely, and the baptism was lovely, and of course the party afterwards was a lot of fun.

Gift of Baptism
During the Baptism, this scripture verse from 1 John 3:1 came to me:

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.”

The scripture reminds me that through the gift of Baptism we gain the privilege of becoming God’s children and a member of His Church. And that is exactly what it is – a gift. Baptism is done to us, not something that we earn or work for or do to ourselves. Through no merit of our own, God freely, and unconditionally, through Baptism, “bestows on us” His great love, wipes us clean from original (and in some cases, actual) sin, and initiates us as a member of the Church community. How awesome is that?! And the fact that we, as Catholics, are baptized as babies certainly emphasizes the gift aspect of the Sacrament for those who witness it. Doesn’t it?

Also, even more mind-boggling, through Baptism we become the children of God. We are God’s children! We belong to HIM through the gift of Baptism. The only thing that can separate ourselves from God is ourselves, when we reject Him through sin. Such a comforting, and convicting thought, that.

Sometime this week, try and spend a few minutes reflecting on 1 John 3:1, and the incredible significance of Baptism for yourself and your loved ones. I also encourage you to read what the Catholic Church teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

P.S. I have a question for ya: Do you know when you were baptized? If so, do you do something special (either spiritually or practically) to mark the anniversary of your Baptism? Do share in the comments below…

As for me, I was baptized February 14th, St. Valentine’s Day. I always thought that was pretty cool because it made me feel like I was God’s special Valentine or something. Silly, I know, but true. 🙂 As for marking the day, I make an extra effort to get to daily Mass on that day, and spend a little extra time in prayer, if I can.

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Image of Baptismal Font from Public Domain

What the Catholic Church Teaches about Marriage

The Lord has been putting it in my heart to do a little series on marriage* for a while, and since February is the ‘month of love’ with St. Valentine’s Day and all, I figured now would be a good as time as any to get it going. 🙂

In this first installment, I am going to talk about marriage as a sacrament based on Scripture and the Catechism. Then over the next couple of weeks I’ll talk about what makes a good marriage, loving your spouse and finally a post on submission (which always seems to be a hot topic!). So let’s get started:

Marriage as a Sacrament

Before we talk about marriage as a sacrament, let’s remind ourselves what a sacrament is. According to the Baltimore Catechism, a Sacrament is “an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.” The New Catechism states this a bit differently, a Sacrament is “an outward sign of an inward reality instituted by Christ to give grace.”

In the case of marriage, the outward sign would be the couple – husband and wife – itself. The inward reality, of course, would be Christ’s love for the Church.

As married people, we are a sign to the world of Christ’s abiding love for all people, the people whom He lived, suffered, died and rose again. We are a sign of the unseen heavenly realities of which our lives are directed. This is an incredible truth of our faith!

The Scriptural basis for marriage

You are probably familiar with many of the Scripture verses that relate to marriage, but let me remind you of one of them again. If you can, it may be nice to spend some time praying over this and the other verses during the month.

Genesis 2:21-24So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs, and closed up its place with flesh. the Lord God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, the man said: ‘This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.

This is one of several Scriptures. I encourage you to read Matthew 19:4-7, Mark 10:7-12, 1 Corinthians 7: 3-5, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5: 22-32, Revelation 19:6-8 for more verses, especially the ones pertaining to Christ and His Church.

What the catechism says about marriage

The catechism (articles 1601-1666) has some beautiful passages about the sacrament of marriage and I hope you will read them. There are a couple of powerful passages, however, that I want to point out:

“”The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.” (article 1601)

“”By reason of their state in life and of their order, [Christian spouses] have their own special gifts in the People of God.” This grace proper to the sacrament of Matrimony is intended to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity. By this grace they “help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children.” (article 1641)

The word covenant is worth noting here. Remember God’s covenant to Abraham? God made an everlasting promise to Abraham. In marriage, a couple makes an everlasting (until death) covenant to each other, before God, which in turn grants them their “own special gifts in the people of God.”

The Purpose of the Sacrament of Marriage

The church teaches us that the purpose of the sacrament of marriage is twofold: to help each spouse to grow in holiness and the “procreation and education of offspring (1601).”

Simple words, yet they aren’t always easy live out! I think that’s why we need the special graces afforded to us in the Sacrament of Matrimony. In the day in and day out of living, we can forget the gift and the grace of our marriage state. It’s worth taking time time to reflect on our special calling once in a while. We need the reminder that marriage, Catholic marriage particularly, is so much more than what the world view of marriage shows us.

Next week I’ll get more practical and will share my thoughts on what makes a good marriage. 🙂

(Linked to Saints and Scripture Sunday)

*Just for your information, I will not be touching on topics such as divorce, marriage vs civil unions, birth control or other “hot” topics related to marriage in this series. I may in the future, but for now, I want to use this series to be an encouragement and support for those who are discerning marriage or who already married and looking to deepen their relationship with their spouse. 🙂

How to Make a Good Confession

I came across a link on Twitter the other day and wanted to share it with you. It’s Father Z’s 20 Tips for making How to Make a Good Confessiona good confession.

Confession is a sadly misunderstood sacrament within and without the Catholic Church. It’s such a shame, too. The Sacrament of Confession (now widely known as the Sacrament of Reconciliation) is a tremendous gift from God to the Church.

I remember years ago reading in the book Pierced by a Sword (aff link) confession being described as “whispering into the ears of Jesus.” And, in faith, we know that is exactly what confession is. When we confess our sins we are whispering (or talking) to God through the priest, who is an instrument of God’s grace.

From personal experience, I can say that Confession is a very powerful and healing sacrament. I have often been deeply touched by God’s grace in the confessional and always come out strengthened in faith and ready to do battle for the Lord.

Anyhoo, getting back on point: Father Z offers very practical tips, from waiting in line patiently to how to confess any mortal sins. Do take a moment to check those tips out. 🙂

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