Tuesday March 11, 2014
"Did you pray to Saint Anthony?" Most of us Catholics who are of a certain age heard those words over and over again, if not from our parents, at least from our grandparents. My grandmother, it seemed, was always looking for any reason to recommend a prayer to Saint Anthony to find something that was lost.
Saint Anthony of Padua, a doctor of the Church, received his reputation as a divine lost-and-found because of the wonders that he worked both in his life and after it. Our novena this week recalls those miracles; in a Novena to Saint Anthony for Any Need, we don't ask the good saint to help us find a lost item, but to obtain for us the graces that we need to live a Christian life. As we enter the first full week of Lent, this novena is especially appropriate if we find, as we so often do, that our determination is flagging.
(Saint Anthony of Padua holding the Infant Jesus.)
If you have a favorite novena that you'd like me to choose as Novena of the Week, or if you'd like me to suggest a novena for a particular intention, send me an e-mail, and I'll work it into the rotation.
The Novena of the Week:
Monday March 10, 2014
Do you ever have the feeling that something was just a bit different at Mass? Did you have that feeling yesterday? The Catholic Church often signals changes in liturgical seasons with, say, a change in the color of the priest's vestments. Sometimes, however, the change is a bit bigger.
During Lent, we get a few of those changes. The priest wears purple vestments, to signify repentance; and we omit the Gloria (or Glory to God) in the first part of the Mass. We also quit singing the Alleluia before the reading of the Gospel. Do you know why Roman Catholics don't sing the Alleluia during Lent?
More on the Missing Alleluia:
Sunday March 9, 2014
Today is the First Sunday in Lent, and our Lenten fast is but a few days old. Yet these first few days are often the hardest, and we greet this Sunday, which offers our first rest from our Lenten sacrifice (fasting being forbidden on Sundays) with relief. Refreshed, we can face tomorrow with renewed commitment to our Lenten journey.
If we should find ourselves being tempted, however, despite our best efforts to control our temptations, we might take some comfort in the words of St. John Chrysostom, offered in a commentary on the Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent (Matthew 4:1-11, in the traditional lectionary), in which the Devil tempts Christ at the end of His 40 days in the desert:
For the devil had despaired, seeing Christ fasting for forty days; but perceiving that afterwards He was hungry, he began to hope again; and so there follows: and the tempter coming . . . If therefore you have fasted, and you suffer temptation, do not say to yourself, "I have lost the fruit of my fasting." For if your fast has not availed that you be not tempted, it will yet avail that you be not overcome in temptation.
Comforting words, from a saint and doctor of the Church who knew a thing or two about fasting.
Saturday March 8, 2014
Since Lent comes around each year, it's hard sometimes to think of it as a spiritual journey. After all, journeys start in one place, progress, and then end in another. Yet the liturgical cycle keeps bringing us back to the starting point. If everything that goes around comes around, have we really made a spiritual journey?
The answer lies in how we make our travels. If we treat each Lent like "there's nothing new under the sun," then chances are that it will never amount to much of a spiritual journey. Our goal each year should be not only to end Lent a better person than when we began it, but to begin each Lent a better person than we were when we began Lent the previous year.
One spiritual exercise that can help us greatly in this goal is to read the Scripture readings that the Church has selected for each day of Lent. In the Office of the Readings, part of the Liturgy of the Hours (the official daily prayers of the Church), the Church presents the story of the Exodus of the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt through their entrance into the Promised Land.
It's a fascinating story, filled with miracles and intrigue, the wrath of God and His love. And it's comforting, too: The Chosen People constantly backslide, blaming Moses for leading them out of the comfort of Egypt into the midst of the barren desert. Concerned with day-to-day life, they have trouble keeping their eyes on the prize: the Promised Land.
We find ourselves in the same position, losing sight of our goal of Heaven, especially in the busyness of the modern world, with all of its distractions. Yet God did not abandon His people, and He will not abandon us. All He asks is that we keep on walking.
Scripture Readings for Lent: