Pope Francis An Example Of Lenten Humility

Popr FrancisWhen Pope Francis emerged onto the balcony at the Vatican, I didn’t know much about him. I have been pretty busy and haven’t had time to personally research every “papabile” cardinal. Immediately after Jorge Mario Bergoglio, I began researching him. What I found was a humble guy, who, in my opinion, is the right person for the job.

Right or wrong, the Church’s reputation throughout the world is pretty negative at the moment. I think many outsiders see the Pope as that “rich white guy” who lets priests do bad things, who tells people to do one thing, while doing something else. Again, I don’t think this is the case, but as we say in psychology, “perception is reality.”

The humility and “down to earth” nature of Pope Francis is just what the Church needs, and quite frankly, it should come as no surprise since he is reallt imitating Christ in the process. I understand the “beauty of holiness” and the sacramental nature of reality. I too am enriched by the giant cathedrals of Europe and the ceremony of the Church. However, I also know that all of this has to lead us back to one person: Jesus. And Jesus reminded us about the importance of simplicity and the danger of attachment to possessions.

When Pope Francis carries his own bags, asks a blessing from the crowd before giving his, and his custom of taking the bus instead of a limo, reminds me of what Jesus would do. It also reminds me of what we are trying to do this Lent.

I have no predictions of this papacy. I am impressed with the humility of Pope Francis and hope that we can all use this as an inspiration for Lent, as we imitate the “servant of the servants of God.”

Habemus Papam – Pope Francis

The Catholic Church has chosen a new pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina. He has taken the name “Francis.”


An Idea For Lent: Treat People Better

If you look at the life of Jesus, he reserved his indignation for a few particular types of people, mainly the Pharisees. The Pharisees, chief interpreters of the Mosaic law during the period, made people’s lives more difficult and burdensome, by emphasizing little rules that the Pharisees themselves didn’t even bother to follow.

I think many of us Christians forget this. Jesus made people’s lives better. He healed them, fed them, and spiritually liberated them from oppressive rules that hindered them. A great example is when his disciples ate grain on the Sabbath. Jesus reminded his accusers that the Sabbath rest was made for us, not us for it. In other words, following all sorts of crazy rules about the Sabbath pretty much gets rid of its original point: to provide mankind with a day without work.

I worry that sometimes Lent can become a time for all of us to get a little crabbier and meaner. After all, we are denying ourselves things, and going without food in some cases. The great saints recognized that Lent is not about diet or even food, but about leading us to love God – and neighbor – more perfectly. If our Lenten disciplines do not lead us to become more loving, and more like Christ, then they are a waste of time, no different than trying out Slim-Fast or any other restrictive diet.

I suggest remembering the person of Jesus this Lent, particularly he genuine humanity. Yes, he was fully God as well, but let’s not forget that as a true human, Jesus treated people right. He celebrated with them, and wept with them. He met people where they were, and aside from his dealings with Pharisees, he always recognized that people are more sick than lost, in need in compassion, not judgment.

I am not suggesting that I have everything figured out, and this is just as much a call for me to improve as it is to our readers. May everyone continue to have a blessed Lenten season 2013.

Pray For The Future Pope

Pope Leo the GreatRight now there is a lot of speculation about which cardinal will  become pope. Honestly, I haven’t really been following the whole thing. I am left to trust the Holy Spirit at this point. I am not trying to sound holier-than-thou, by suggesting this.

The reason is that I honestly feel the Church needs a special kind of leader right now, and as a human, I would have difficulty choosing the right man for the job! The Church is plagued with scandals, and the morale of the laity is pretty low. I think Benedict has tried hard and implemented some good reforms, but one man cannot effectively get rid of the rot, at least not immediately.

I love the Church and am not suggesting God has abandoned us! I am suggesting that the Holy Spirit will choose the right man for the job. Whatever we do, we must pray for the new pope, and the cardinals as they choose him. This is especially important during this Lenten season. Please check out our prayer for a new pope.

Lent is Not A Diet

cup of coffeeA good Orthodox friend of mine always reminds people “Lent is not a diet.” And he is right.

For many, Lent is about making fairly small dietary changes. All Catholics are expected to give up meat on Fridays (the flesh of warm blooded animals), and others make their own changes, like giving up sweets or coffee. And there is nothing wrong with this. But it isn’t about going on a diet. While consuming Omega-3 fats from fish is healthy, we don’t avoid meat on Fridays simply to boost our brain power.

Lent is about becoming more like Christ, cultivating the fruits of the Spirit. So, if you are not eating meat, but a total unloving jerk, then you are missing the point. I know some Catholics that go “all out” during Lent, and the result is that they are messes by the end of Lent, which is to say, they get the “diet” part down, but not the “become more like Christ” part.

Lent is not a diet. Lent is a time to become more like Christ. If your Lenten disciplines are about calories, animal flesh, etc, and don’t go beyond that, I suggest doing some introspection and change your plans.

Breaking News: The Pope To Resign

I was shocked to read this a few minutes ago!

Pope Benedict XVI, elected in 2005, has resigned as pope. His resignation will take effect on February 28th. He has done so because of weakening health and strength. This rarely happens, and hasn’t happened since 1415. I can’t help but wonder if there is something else going on here. I am Catholic and not a conspiracy theorist at all, but I am just curious if we won’t know more in the coming weeks.

We pray for the continued health of Benedict XVI and for the election of the next pope in the coming weeks.

Thoughts on Respect For Life

An angel face on a graveI am a little late writing this to coincide with the anniversary of the Roe V Wade decision, which made abortion legal by supreme court decision. Prior to that, abortion laws were relegated to the states, and most states banned them.

The older I get, the more respect I have for human life, and all life really. I know the Christian arguments against abortion, and I get them and embrace them. I am sure you know them too. However, I don’t even have to base my thoughts on any Christian dogma or principles. I mainly base them on my humanity. I am always amazed at the greatness and majesty of life. That we can experience consciousness is a gift. To deny anyone else this opportunity just seems naturally wrong.

The human impulse, at its best, is to preserve life at all costs. I see images of firefighters saving kittens, soldiers transporting teier comrades to the base no matter the cost, and so forth. At its worst, the human impulse is to kill, destroy, and make war. Which impulse does abortion fall under? Even if abortion is possible to do, does it make it the best human endeavor? Even The Buddha considered abortion to be one of the five kinds of evil Karma, placing it up there with killing one’s mother or father.

But, isn’t abortion a right? You are not going to find someone who is more interested in preserving rights than I am. I don’t get into politics on here much, but let’s just say my political beliefs emphasize liberty as long as nobody is physically harmed. And that is why abortion cannot be a “right,” not God-given at least. I understand there is debate about “personhood” but I will say that I believe what is growing inside a mother is a life, and therefore it is the job of the government (even a limited one that I believe in) to protect that life.

Let’s pray for an end to abortion,  and to anything else that takes away the value and dignity of human life.

Saint Anthony Of Egypt – January 17th

Saint Anthony battling demons by MichelangeloToday we celebrated our school Mass for Saint Anthony of Egypt, a well-known Christian hermit. Anthony spent most of his life alone in the desert, praying, fasting, and battling demons.

I first discovered Anthony around the time I became interested in the liturgical year. I have great memories of reading the story of his life by St. Athanasius. I was inspired by the dedication and commitment Anthony had to Christ. According to Athanasius, Anthony kept retreating deeper and deeper into the Egyptian desert to escape the crowds that would visit him. He set up a “home” near a small oasis, and lived by eating very little, and sleeping on the floor of a cave. He lived to be over a 100 years old, and was an ardent defender of the Trinity against the Arians.

I am a very extroverted and social guy, yet when I think about Saint Anthony, I often desire his life. Anthony heeded the literal words of the Lord, and sold everything he had. He left everything behind to spend all day in prayer. While I don’t think I could take the Egyptian desert, I often wonder what life would be like to retreat to the foothills of Kentucky.

However, there is no need to retreat anywhere to find what Anthony found. Soon after Anthony, monastic communities sprung up. Many communities today offer chances for retreats and getaways that allow believers to focus on prayer and fasting in the same vein as Saint Anthony.

Saint Anthony the Great, pray for us