A Lenten Reflection: Keeping Lent Simple

Image of Jesus on the crossWhen I was younger, I approached Lent like the new year. I made a series of “resolutions” I would carry out during the season, such as reading the Bible more, reading through the Church Fathers, putting money in a jar for the poor every time I swore, or avoiding eating any meat, or all four. I remember when I first discovered Lent as a non-Catholic in 2000, I gave up meat for all of Lent, and I was very concerned because I thought the fine folks at the Ohio University Dining Hall accidentally gave me chicken nuggets instead of my requested fish nuggets (good thing I didn’t give up trans fats for Lent!).

I found that these disciplines were good, and that my list of Lenten goals and “giving up” did usually get accomplished, but I didn’t necessarily come out of Lent closer to God for it. I maybe came out a little healthier, or perhaps more familiar with the Church Fathers. Both are good things. However, in the last few years I have thought about the value of keeping my Lenten discipline extremely simple. Picking one theme, something that brings me closer to God and neighbor, and just focusing on that, giving something simple all of my attention.

This year I have decided on generosity. The entire life, death, and resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the generosity of God, who became one of us to save us, even though throughout all of human history we humans turned our back on his efforts at reaching out to us.

My dad jokingly calls me “Betty,” the name of my grandma, who was tight. She grew up in the Great Depression and this affected her view of giving to others. She didn’t exactly have an abundance mentality. They probably haven’t found a gene for tightness, but if there is one, I may have inherited it.

I am naturally frugal. Even now, I keep the heat in my house ridiculously low, preparing my daughter to comfortably tolerate any future ice age or apocalypse that lacks heat. I have set a goal to do an act of generosity a day that I normally wouldn’t have done. It could be giving extra time to a student or even playing with my daughter when I have a lot of other work to do.

And, I am praying the Prayer for Generosity of Saint Ignatius Loyola before bed.

Sometimes simple things can have a large effect. The effect for me so far has been for me to see how great generosity feels, and how much a little generosity to others can have a big result, in their lives, and in mine. One person’s generosity of time or money can spread through a community and impact it positively. I am not saying a few extra minutes with my daughter, or extra patience with a student will transform my community to become more like Christ, but it will definitely help.

What Are The “O” Antiphons of the Advent Season?

Lone Purple Advent CandleToday is December 17th, which means for Catholics and many other Christians in the Western world, it is time for the “O Antiphons” of the Advent season to begin.

The “O Antiphons” are antiphons (a short prayer, Scripture excerpt, etc) used before the Magnificat (the song of Mary from Luke 1:46-55) at Vespers (Evening Prayer) during the last seven days of Advent in the Catholic Church.

They are called the “O Antiphons” because the title of each begins with the address “O”. Each antiphon is a title of Christ, derived from attributes in Scripture. They are:

December 17: O Sapientia (Wisdom)
December 18: O Adonai (Lord)
December 19: O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)
December 20: O Clavis David (Key of David)
December 21: O Oriens (Dayspring)
December 22: O Rex Gentium (King of the nations)
December 23: O Emmanuel (With Us is God)

In the Catholic Church, they are used during Evening Prayer from December 17 to December 23 inclusive.

If you are interested in these Antiphons, we have them all listed on our Advent Prayers page.

Some New and Exciting Stuff Is Coming

This is just a post to say some new and exciting things are coming to ChurchYear.Net. Stay tuned and have a happy Summer and Ordinary Time!

John Paul II and John XXIII Canonization Today

Divine Mercy imageToday, Divine Mercy Sunday 2014, April 27th, John Paul II and John XXIII have been declared saints, in a ceremony at the Vatican.

John XXIII was pope from 1958-1963. Despite being elected as a “caretaker” pope, he called the Second Vatican council, which greatly shaped the Church that Catholics know today.

John Paul II was pope from 1978-2005. He was pope when I became Catholic in 2004. His charismatic presentation of the faith, along with his fidelity to Apostolic Teaching played a big role in my becoming Catholic.

Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, ora pro nobis.

Make 2014 A Great Year With Prayer

A grave marker with a woman prayingBy many accounts, the world was pretty depressed in 2013. Wars, the still “recovering” economy, government spying, natural disasters, and more have created a general attitude of “blah” for many in the world.

I am not dismissing the negative impact the world around us can have. Despite years of economic and technological progress, human problems still remain. Nonetheless, I think as Christians we are called to not lose hope and remember our ultimate goal is to become more like Christ and develop a closeness to God.

I am not advocating a retreat from modern life. I am saying that the best relief from the troubles of the modern world is to spend time in prayer (including the sacraments).

Prayer is a deep connection to God that is available anytime, anywhere. When I was little at a “Vacation Bible School” event, the leader told us children something that impacted me spiritually more than just about anything I heard as a child. She told us that we could tell God anything. I remember feeling liberated to know that. The same is true as an adult.

I would add to this that we can experience the presence of God anytime as well, anytime we enter into prayer (whether it be vocal, meditative, or contemplative). It is a delight indeed to be able to experience the presence of our Lord “at will,” if we take advantage of it.

Why Saying “Happy Holidays” Doesn’t Bother Me

Red and Green Christmas bulbsTis the season for the “Christmas Wars” in Western society.  Supposedly there is a “War on Christmas” in American society, as the government and liberal culture stamp out any public celebration of Christmas.

While this may be true to some extent, one phrase that usually becomes the rallying point among Christians is the phrase “Happy Holidays.” It is seen as a more politically correct replacement for “Merry Christmas.” Some Christians will only shop at stores that require their employees to say “Merry Christmas.”

First, let me say I celebrate Christmas. And, I don’t care for rampant multiculturalism that squeezes out our cultural history. However, I also recognize that in our secular country not everybody is Christian, and if someone tells me “Happy Hanukkah” I’ll say thanks and wish them the same. To me, that is the decent and cool thing to do.

Now, let me say that as a Catholic, there are two reasons why I don’t mind “Happy Holidays” and even prefer it. 

First, we are in the Advent season; It isn’t Christmas until December 25th. When I wish someone “Happy Holidays” I mean that I hope they have a great Advent, and once it arrives, Christmas season. The only phrase that pithily says that is “Happy Holidays.” While stores that say it may not mean it this way, I think it fits.

Second, what does “holiday” mean? It means “holy day.” Even though the intention may be the opposite sometimes, when you are wished “Happy Holidays,” that includes a whole host of holy days, from St. Nicholas to Holy Family.

So, next time someone wishes you “Happy Holidays” relax and let it be a reminder to enjoy the rich selection of holidays that we celebrate during this time of year.

Yes, The Pope Is Catholic

saint francisLately, Pope Francis has been making waves due to a few controversial comments, especially regarding gays in the church and abortion. Basically, he’s been accused of downplaying or changing Catholic teaching on core subjects.

In case anyone is worried, yes, the Pope is still Catholic. While there are certain hot button issues that face the Church (and many of these are very important), it doesn’t mean those are the only topics a bishop can discuss.

Just because Francis would prefer to talk about other things doesn’t mean he lacks belief in any other part of Catholic teaching. Nor does it mean the Pope thinks they’re unimportant. The hot button issues of our age have been debated and taught a lot. Almost everyone in the world knows where the Church stands on them.

Can most non-believers articulate where the Church stands on loving your enemy? What about Catholic teaching on the poor? Or war? Likely, those issues are a little more muddled in the minds of other Christians and those who lack any faith.

No Pope or bishop will be able to promote the entire Catechism throughout his reign. He will certainly have his own emphases. There are lots of faithful Catholics in the world promoting Church teaching on various topics, including life and sexuality. The previous popes have also done a great job emphasizing these issues.

Now, Pope Francis is choosing to discuss other topics, ones which might have a big impact on drawing people into the fold who might otherwise never give the Church a chance. Then, the catechesis on all issues can begin.

Picking the name Francis was probably a good indicator of how his reign would be. St. Francis of Assisi, fully and traditionally Catholic, nonetheless made sure that the Church would be exposed to a different perspective from the topics of the day.

So, yes, the Pope is Catholic. Catholic means universal and discussing long held, but previously de-emphasized topics doesn’t make him any less of a Catholic. In fact, it might make him an even better one.

Thank You Pope Francis For Reaching Out

Attribution: presidencia.gov.ar

Attribution: presidencia.gov.ar

I don’t get into polemics much on this blog, because I want this to be a place of edification and prayer. I have had my fill of arguing over things that don’t really matter to 99% of the population.

This post may be a little polemical. I want to thank Pope Francis for his skill in reaching out to people that aren’t evangelized. While this has caused some consternation about his supposed orthodoxy from some Catholic conservatives, many non-Catholics are excited about the approach Francis is taking.

Personally, I like the tone of this papacy. Francis, I am convinced, is perfectly orthodox in his faith and practice. However, he has a knack for framing the faith in a way that makes sense to secularists and other non-Christians.

He reminds me of another guy who boldly reached out to non-believers, so much that many religious people of the time shuddered in fear and anger. Yeah, he reminds of Jesus.

We live in a hugely secular time, when the influence of the Christian faith is waning, at least in the Western world. Pope Francis seems like the right guy for the job, even if that means angering some of the self-proclaimed “righteous remnant” within the Church.