Mardi Gras has come and gone. I hope you devoured those sumptuous desserts and succulent calories because now we forgo worldly gluttony for a spiritual one. For the next 40 days we take time out from filling our mind and soul with food, drink, TV, internet, magazines, and other activities that usually leave no room for God. And when we tapper off indulging in our worldly appetites, we make room to address the more important need, our spiritual one.
Dr. Manny Alvarez suggests 10 “easy” steps for our Lenten diet. And this diet has nothing to do with your waistline. Remember what Sister Margie Lavonis said in my previous article, Lent is more than just skipping desserts. So here we have a few short Lenten dieting tips:
1. Focus on loving God and all his greatness, instead of celebrities, action figures, “real” housewives or even world leaders that think they know best.
2. Be careful of wolves in sheep’s clothing, like politicians, promising you something but taking your liberties away.
3. Set up standards of morality at home. Enough with the casual cursing. Teach kids some etiquette and manners, and use yourself as an example.
4. Spend time with your family, telling stories, and listening to those around you. Because someday you will wish you had.
It’s that time of year again. Flowers start to grow, the grass turns green, trees get their leaves back, and we get ashes on our forehead. Yep, that’s right, on March 5th we kick off Lent with Ash Wednesday.
I read a great article in the Catholic San Francisco about how to prepare for Easter this Lent. Sister Margie Lavonis says it best when she wrote in her article, Lent: An opportunity to grow, that we shouldn’t “let this be just another 40 days of the year.” She talked about many of the same themes I routinely mention on RosaryMeds (has she been reading my work?). She touches on how our relationship with God needs a commitment from us, through prayer, to grow:
No relationship can deepen and grow unless we are willing to listen and share ourselves with the other person. God is no exception. During Lent, if you don’t already, set aside at least fifteen minutes of your time each day to be with God. Go to a quiet place, if you can find one, slow down and let God love you. Read and reflect upon some scripture each day and get to know the one who loves you unconditionally and who has given you all you have. I suggest using the Mass readings for each day and reflect on what God is saying to you. In fact, it would be good to try to go to Mass more than just on Sunday if you can.
She also covers some ideas for fasting and alms giving. Remember, it’s not all about giving up desserts and writing checks. I know it may sound cliche, but I’m really going to try to remember that it’s Lent every one of these 40 days leading up to Easter whether that means praying more, offering small sacrifices to God, or giving a little more of my time and patience to those who need it. How about you? Are you prepared to get prepared?
Can you settle down for just one minute? Seriously, how long can you go without feeling like you need to do some sort of activity? I don’t know about you, but I feel like I always have to do something. I feel anxious if I’m “unplugged” and not checking email, Facebook, and news feeds. I become bored easily without my cell phone, computer, magazines, books, and television. Fortunately, I have access to all sorts of media almost 24/7. But is that a good thing? The Catholic News Agency reported Pope Benedict’s words during a general audience of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square:
“Interior and exterior silence are necessary in order to hear that Word,” and yet, “our age does not, in fact, favor reflection and contemplation,” the Pope said March 7. On the contrary, “it seems that people are afraid to detach themselves, even for an instant, from the spate of words and images which mark and fill our days.”
The Pope’s words make so much sense to me particularly during this season of Lent. We tend to fill our lives consuming so much media and information that we do develop a fear of detachment from our technology. We feel lost without our gadgets. And while we don’t truly believe that our gadgets replace God, we sure sometimes act like they do. We get so worked up over an almost-dead cell phone battery or the internet acting sluggish. We can all probably think of times when we felt angry over missing a favorite TV show. And yet many times we don’t feel the slightest bit of anxiety over the sins we commit or not regularly receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We often have no worries about overlooking routine prayer and meditating on our relationship with the Lord. We spend so much time staying up to date with what our friends are up to and what goes on in the world, but often don’t take the time to check our status with God through reflection and contemplation.
The pope’s words remind me of the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary — The Assumption of Mary. Mary was assumed into Heaven and now acts as our guide on our journey to God’s heavenly kingdom. In asking for silence and meditation, the Pope echos Mary’s call to fasting and prayer. Fasting from food is a physical reminder that true happiness does not come from just satisfying our earthly needs. When we fast, we show ourselves that it’s not what the world offers that will ultimately make us happy. We push aside, even for just a little while, satisfying our physical desires so that we can concentrate on satisfying our spiritual needs. But we can fast from things other than food. We can fast from whatever prevents us from meditating and focusing on our relationship with God. As you probably guessed already, perhaps we need to fast from our computers, cell phones, and televisions. Lent may be half over, but we can all still find a little time to “unplug” as the Pope suggests.
pope and me (Photo credit: BoFax)
In this time of Lent, really challenge yourself to ask what separates you from fully receiving God’s grace. Conduct an examination of conscience and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But avoiding sin and receiving absolution only gets you half way there. Think about an athlete in training. An athlete needs to do more than just avoid a bad diet. He needs to focus on physical conditioning and perfecting his technique. Likewise, we need to be more than “not bad people.” We should take some time this Lent to focus and concentrate on how to best live as one of Jesus’ disciples and show the power and glory of God in this world. Lets take up the Pope’s challenge to unplug and focus on how we can best serve the Lord. Because now, more than ever, the world needs to see God’s love and glory by us living our faith. We need to prioritize and show the world that our faith is more important than TV and the internet.
And yes, I understand the irony of me posting an article on the internet discussing how we need to unplug ourselves from the internet.
The Gospel for April 10, 2011 is John 11:1-45. In this Gospel, Jesus performs the miracle of raising His friend, Lazarus, from the dead. This Gospel foreshadows Jesus’ resurrection which we pray in the First Glorious Mystery of the rosary. Both this rosary mystery and the Gospel remind us that there is more to our existence than this earthly life. God’s divine plan for all of us does not end with the death of our physical bodies. His plan also includes our souls living for all eternity in His heavenly kingdom.
News flash, we all have a terminal illness. I do not want to be a downer, but we all had this illness from the we were conceived. Our terminal condition is our earthly existence. No one will physically live forever. But we should not despair as Jesus said this in the Gospel:
This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.
While Jesus was referring to Lazarus, He might as well have spoken about the human condition and our mortality. None of our lives will end in death if we define death to be a transition to nothingness. Instead our souls will live for all eternity. We should recognize that reality and adjust our lives by avoiding sin and doing good works.
In addition to our final, physical death we also encounter little deaths throughout our lives. I refer to the death of our relationship with God when we commit mortal sin. When we sever ourselves from God’s grace our soul experiences a type of spiritual death. However, like how Jesus physically raised Lazarus from the dead, the Holy Spirit raises our soul from its death through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our return to God’s grace is just as miraculous, and I would say vastly more important, as if Jesus raised us physically from the dead as He did with Lazarus. Especially in this period of Lent, it is so critically important to do a little spiritual spring cleaning of our souls and go to confession. We all should experience the miracle of God rising our souls from their spiritual sleep. And we must pray for all those in this world who are spiritually dead through sin that they have the courage and humility to return to God’s grace.
In this Gospel reading Lazarus’ rise from the dead foreshadows Jesus’ resurrection. We remember Jesus’ resurrection in the First Glorious Mystery of the rosary. One of the central themes of this mystery is that our physical death is not the end of us. Rather, it is just the beginning of a new life either in Heaven or in Hell. I believe that our spiritual life is actually our real life as it is eternal. Our life here on earth, even if we live one hundred or more years, is nothing compared to eternity. So which existence is really the one where we live as our true self? Our current, temporary, and imperfect life or the eternal existence in the afterlife? When we pray the rosary, think about this Gospel, and meditate on Jesus’ resurrection may we remember to make the most of this short time we have in this life by being a testament to the glory of God. God desires all of us to be with Him in Heaven. Through Jesus’ resurrection, He showed us that there is so much more to our existence than what we experience in this world. Let us not become so obsessed and consumed by all the material wants of this life as they will all one day disappear. Instead, we should pray that we can endure and reject the temptations of this world and live for the greater goal of an eternity of joy and happiness in Heaven.
The Gospel for March 20, 2011 is from Matthew 17:1-9. It is about The Transfiguration which is also the Fourth Luminous Mystery. There is not much more I can add beyond what I already wrote about this mystery of the rosary. I want to point out that this Gospel not only connects to this mystery, but it also connects to the Gospel for January 9, 1979 on Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan. In both cases, God reminds us through a booming voice in the sky that Jesus is His son and that we should listen to Him. In this time of Lent, may we focus on listening to Jesus’ message, not because He is a prophet with some good ideas, but because Jesus is God made man. May we hear Him in prayer and find the strength to always do His will.
Sometimes showing strength to to God’s will is more than avoiding sin. For many of us, it might take just as much strength and courage to open our wallets to those who are in desperate need of help as it is to not avoid the temptation to do evil. This Lent, we have much opportunity to be a Good Samaritan to those who are in need and I urge you to help however you can. I am fond of Catholic Relief Services who are always responding to the major disasters around this world.
The Gospel for Sunday, March 6, 2011 is from Matthew 4:1-11. In this Gospel, Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days before rejecting Satan’s temptations. Tired, hungry, and physically weak Jesus had the strength to reject evil. Jesus shows this same spiritual endurance during His Passion, especially in the scourging at the pillar which we remember when we pray the Second Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary. May we learn that we too have the strength to endure life’s challenges and that we will find comfort in Heaven after we reject evil in this life.
“Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matthew 4:11) To me, this is the most interesting verse in this Gospel reading. The fact that angels needed to minster to Jesus after the 40 days in the desert shows just how difficult that ordeal really was. I think many of us have this idea that because Jesus is God made man and performed many miracles that spending 40 fasting must not have been very hard for Him. With that mindset we cannot relate with how Jesus faced life’s challenges and think it is unfair that He asks so much of us. After all, how are we to imitate Jesus without the advantage of being superhuman? But since angels needed to comfort Him shows us that certain aspects of life were no easier for Jesus than they are for the rest of us.
Like the challenges Jesus faced in His 40 days in the desert, the Second Sorrowful Mystery shows us the great hardship Jesus endured during The Passion. Jesus felt pain and suffering when scourged at the pillar as any of us would. But His faith in God gave Him the strength to persevere that torment. Likewise, our faith tells us that we have the same strength to endure hardship in this life. We have every opportunity to imitate Jesus by remaining faithful despite life’s challenges. As much as we would like to be spared hardship in this life, chances are that our physical and spiritual limits will be tested at some point whether that be illness, a tragic accident, or a crisis of faith. But this rosary mystery shows us that we all have the God-given ability to overcome any challenge and endure any hardship as Jesus did during His scourging.
May we remember that, like Jesus after His 40 days in the desert and all the pain and suffering He encountered in The Sorrowful Mysteries, we too will find joy and comfort in Heaven. In fact, the comfort that Jesus offers us will so dwarf our earthly suffering that it will make the worst times in our life feel like a momentary itch. But we also must remember that this consolation only comes to those who live according to God’s will. Remember, the angels ministered to Jesus only after He rejected the temptations of the devil. Likewise, we will find true joy and happiness once we reject Satan’s false promises and evils in this world. Especially in this season of Lent, as we prepare for Easter through fasting and prayer, may we remember that God gave us the gift to overcome any challenge this world has to offer. Let us remember to use this gift when we face difficult challenges in our lives.
As Fat Tuesday winds down we now turn our focus towards Lent. If you are looking to do something special this Lenten Season, you might want to try praying a novena. This is a prayer for a specific devotion you say for nine days. You pray novenas for specific causes or intentions.
One of my readers sent me a link to the Pray More Novenas website. It is a really good catalogue of novenas and you can sign up to receive email reminders. I know that novenas only last nine days but it’s amazing how hard it can be to follow through praying them. Reminders are helpful.
Read this article, “Ten Facts Most Catholics Don’t Know (But Should!).” There is some pretty interesting (although heated at times) debate in the article’s comments. This article reminds me of something I said in a previous article on Lent that to succeed in our endeavours (sports, business, personal faith, etc.) you need to understand the rules of the game. Enjoy!
I read this story on Catholic Exchange and then heard an interview on ETWN radio by the author, Gary Zimak. Gary was a “Mass once a week only” Catholic before he had some medical difficulties. That was a turning point in his life where he decided to learn more about the Catholic faith and educate others. He’s not a priest and does not hold a theology degree. He is just someone who got really excited about learning and teaching the faith. Wanting to explore my faith and share it with others was one of the main reasons why I started rosaryMeds. So Gary’s story really hit home. Maybe one of these days EWTN will interview me about rosaryMeds!
Read his article, “Ten Facts Most Catholics Don’t Know (But Should!).” Also, there is some pretty interesting (although heated at times) debate in the article’s comments. This article reminds me of something I said in a previous article on Lent that to succeed in our endeavours (sports, business, personal faith, etc.) you need to understand the rules of the game. Enjoy!
Almost a year ago a visitor left a comment mentioning the website “Come Pray the Rosary” (thanks Jack!). This website is a perpetual, online Rosary prayer session with others around the world. The prayer is set to video of various holy places and works of religious art. You can also leave prayer intentions if you like. You can pray alone and start at the beginning of a mystery instead of joining a mystery already in progress. I know that sometimes we all need a little “kick” to start praying and that is what this site offers. It may sound silly, but sometimes a voice set to a little video is the catalyst I need to get in that praying mood. Guided rosary prayer also helps us focus our minds since they have a tendency to wonder when we pray silently by ourselves (or at least I suffer from this at times).
Welcome to Holy Week! I hope you have had a productive Lenten season as you prepare for the glorious redemption of Christ our King. Personally, I prepared well during Lent in certain areas (my Lenten sacrifice, attending Stations of the Cross, etc.) and have not quite lived up in other areas (reading the Bible, fasting, etc.). But, like in other parts of life (and iterated many times in the Gospels) it is not how you start, but how you end that counts. So I hope to make this a very productive Holy Week. In that spirit, I want to introduce you to a little gem of a website called “Come Pray the Rosary.”
A year ago a visitor left a comment mentioning the website “Come Pray the Rosary” (thanks Jack!). This website is a perpetual, online Rosary prayer session with others around the world. The prayer is set to video of various holy places and works of religious art. You can also leave prayer intentions if you like. You can pray alone and start at the beginning of a mystery instead of joining a mystery already in progress. I know that sometimes we all need a little “kick” to start praying and that is what this site offers. It may sound silly, but sometimes all it takes is a voice set to a little video to be a catalyst to get into that praying mood. Guided rosary prayer also helps us focus our minds since we have a tendency to wonder when we pray silently by ourselves (or at least I suffer from this at times).
So you will now see a new link on the left-hand side of my website which will open “Come Pray the Rosary” in a new browser window. Give it a try if you are looking for new ways of rosary meditation and prayer.
Welcome to the middle of Lent! I hope it has been a good season for you to really examine and work on your relationship with God. I came across this article on Catholic Exchange and thought it correlated nicely with my idea of spiritual exercise.
Let’s face it, we are all weighed down to some extent by selfishness and assorted vices. Given a choice, very few of us will choose suffering over comfort. Many times, we don’t even realize how much we love to be comfortable. Fortunately, the Church gives us the season of Lent to examine our souls and remove the extra “weight” that keeps us apart from the Lord. Here are five simple steps that you can use during Lent to identify and eliminate some of this excess “poundage” from your life.
The article discusses examining ourselves, setting goals, and not giving up. Where have we seen this before? Oh yeah, losing Lenten “weight” can probably be seen as a requirement on becoming a Lenten Superstar! And if this Lent hasn’t been a period of deep reflection like you hope it would, don’t worry. You still have three more weeks of Lent. And like Jesus‘ parable of the workers in the field, God doesn’t care what time you get on board and follow Him just as long as you do.
So let’s attack these next few weeks with spiritual fervor and tenacity. Hands in… READY… GO LENT!