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Scott P. Richert

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Lent Recipes: Lenten Recipes for Busy Families

Wednesday April 16, 2014

During Holy Week, Catholic families often find themselves with very little time to think about the dinners they must prepare.Baked spaghetti casserole © Stephanie Gallagher, licensed to About.com, Inc. Especially once we enter the Easter Triduum, church services take precedence. The Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday is usually right around dinner time; traditionally, the Good Friday service takes place at 3 P.M., so there's not much time to prepare a meal after it has finished. And those who keep the traditional fast (including abstinence) on Holy Saturday will want something easy to prepare for supper, before the Easter Vigil starts.

But don't despair: In this final week of Lent, Stephanie Gallagher, the Expert at About Cooking for Kids, has come to our rescue. Her selection of Lenten Recipes for Busy Families will not only appeal to the culinary tastes of children (and perhaps even make them forget that they're not eating meat) but ease the burden on parents, because they're so easy to prepare.

You can find Stephanie's recipes, as well as recipes from other About.com Food Experts, in Lenten Recipes: Meatless Recipes for Lent and Throughout the Year.

(Photo of Baked Spaghetti Casserole, © Stephanie Gallagher, licensed to About.com, Inc.)

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Novena of the Week: The Divine Mercy Novena

Tuesday April 15, 2014

During Holy Week, there is really only one choice for the Novena of the Week: the Divine Mercy novena.The Divine Mercy The Divine Mercy novena began as a private devotion which Our Lord revealed to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska. Our Lord asked Saint Faustina to recite the novena starting on Good Friday and ending on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, the Octave of Easter (the Sunday after Easter Sunday). The words of the prayers were dictated by Christ Himself to Saint Faustina, and Saint Faustina recorded in her diary Our Lord's instructions for each day's prayer.

To make it easier to pray the Divine Mercy novena, I have set up an e-mail reminder. Simply sign up for the e-mail course on Good Friday, and you will receive the prayers for the novena each day between Good Friday and Divine Mercy Sunday. The e-mail course includes additional links each day related to the prayer for that day.

Pope John Paul II had a great devotion to Saint Faustina, whom he canonized in 2000, and to the Divine Mercy, and over the past decade, the practice of the Divine Mercy novena has grown by leaps and bounds. In 2011, on Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI presided at the beatification of Pope John Paul II; on Divine Mercy Sunday 2014, Pope Francis will preside over the canonizations of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII. That makes participation in the Divine Mercy Novena all the more significant.

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.

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Thought of the Day: How Christ Redeems Us

Monday April 14, 2014

The Church teaches that we must believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved, but many people have a hard time understanding why Christ's saving act does not automatically apply to all, whether they believe in Him or not. As we prepare to enter the Easter Triduum, in which we commemorate Christ's Passion, we can perhaps better understand the Church's teaching if we look at how Christ redeems us, as explained by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae (Part 3, Question 48, Article 4):

The Passion of Christ is the cause of the forgiveness of sins because it is an act of redemption. Since Christ is himself our head, he has, by his own Passion--undertaken from love and obedience--delivered us his members from our sins, as it were at the price of his Passion. . . . For as man's natural body is a unity, made up of different limbs, so the whole Church, which is the mystical body of Christ, is reckoned as a single person with its own head, and this head is Christ.

In other words, we are saved not simply through Christ's Death and Resurrection, but in Christ. We are redeemed by being members of His Body, as Saint Paul explains in Colossians 1:18-23. And, as Saint Paul explains in that same passage, that Body is the Church. To fail to believe in Christ is to place ourselves outside of the Church, outside of the Body of which Christ is the Head--and thus to place ourselves outside of the redemption that Christ won for our sake.

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The Final Week of Lent: Holy Week

Sunday April 13, 2014

Lent is finally coming to an end, and we begin Holy Week with the triumphal procession of Palm Sunday, when Christ entered Jerusalem and the people laid palms on the road before Him.Russian icon of Christ's entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. (Photo © Slava Gallery, LLC; used with permission.) Five days later, on Good Friday, some of those same people were likely among those who cried, "Crucify Him!"

We can learn a lot from their behavior. "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak," and even as Lent draws to a close, we realize that, like those who called for Christ's Crucifixion, we all too often slip and fall into sin. During these last days, especially during the Easter Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, we should redouble our efforts with prayer and fasting, so that we may be worthy to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday.

That, too, is the theme of the Scripture Readings for Holy Week, as Saint Paul urges us in the Letter to the Hebrews not to give up hope but to continue the fight, because Christ, the eternal high priest, has instituted a New Covenant that will never pass away, and for our salvation, He has sealed it with His Blood.

(Russian icon of Christ's entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Photo © Slava Gallery, LLC; used with permission.)

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Praying Our Way Through Lent

Saturday April 12, 2014

Over the past several weeks, most Catholics have probably sung "These 40 Days of Lent" at least once. This beautiful hymn compares our Lenten fast to Jesus' 40 days of fasting and prayer in the desert at the beginning of his ministry (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-15; Luke 4:1-13).

Most of us are pretty good at the fasting part--we give up something for Lent, and we generally stick to it. But fasting and prayer go hand in hand--by eliminating distractions, we free up time that can be spent in improving our prayer life.

When it comes to prayer, we all get a little bit rusty from time to time, as everyday cares keep us occupied. Sometimes we find it hard to get our conversation with God started. That's where the traditional prayers of the Church can help us. By reciting a prayer from memory, or praying it with the help of a prayerbook, we can "jump start" the conversation, before moving into the different types of prayer, expressed in our own words.

As we prepare to enter Holy Week tomorrow, there's no better time to get serious about our prayer life. Make sure to carve out at least a few moments in the morning for an Act of Faith, an Act of Hope, and an Act of Charity.

A few additional minutes of prayer each day from Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday will make your celebration of Easter 2014 all the more meaningful.

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Lent Recipes: Mexican Food

Friday April 11, 2014

As Lent draws to a close, our Lenten abstinence does as well.Papadzules, tortillas stuffed with eggs and vegetables, © Chelsie Kenyon, licensed to About.com, Inc. We have only two more Fridays (today and Good Friday) before Easter 2014. But if you have enjoyed the Lent recipes that I have featured here over the past several weeks, why not use them throughout the year, to fulfill your obligation to practice a form of penance on Fridays?

For today's Lent recipes, we leave Europe, but we don't leave the Old World entirely behind. You will find some overlap between Spanish Lent recipes and Mexican ones, but the Mexican recipes for Lent offered by Chelsie Kenyon, the Expert at About Mexican Food, may look a bit more familiar. Many staples of Mexican restaurants in the United States, such as cheese enchiladas, chile rellenos, and chilaquiles, make perfect Lenten foods. But Chelsea also includes some delicious side dishes and wonderful desserts—for those of us who haven't given up dessert for Lent!

You can find Chelsie's recipes, as well as recipes from other About Food Experts, in Lenten Recipes: Meatless Recipes for Lent and Throughout the Year.

(Photo of papadzules, tortillas stuffed with eggs and vegetables, © Chelsie Kenyon, licensed to About.com, Inc.)

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Thought of the Day: Speaking Evil

Thursday April 10, 2014

In Thought of the Day: Our Neighbor's Reputation, I quoted a passage from The Backbiting Tongue, in which Father Bélet pointed out that it is possible to do wrong by telling the truth, if it harms our neighbor. Later on in the same chapter, he quotes St. John Chrysostom, one of the four original Eastern Doctors of the Church:

Do not tell me, "I would be a slanderer only if I lied. I am committing no slander if I tell the truth." Error! Speaking evil of others, even if the evil be true, is always a crime. Surely the publican was really a publican and a sinner; but he left cleansed of all his defilements because he was scorned by the Pharisee. You want to correct your brother? Weep, pray to God, warn him by speaking to his heart, advise and exhort him. That is how Saint Paul acted.

St. John Chrysostom refers here to the Parable of the Publican and Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14), in which the pharisee attempts to justify himself before God by comparing himself favorably to the publican, while the publican prays humbly in the words that give us the Jesus Prayer: "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner."

The Jesus Prayer is a good practice to adopt for Lent, as is the Prayer of Saint Ephrem the Syrian, the third verse of which complements the quote from St. John Chrysostom: "O Lord and King, grant me the grace to be aware of my sins and not to judge my brother . . . " When we backbite and gossip, we do just the opposite: We judge others, while ignoring our own sins.

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(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Sentries

Wednesday April 9, 2014

Sentries on the door of Castle San Miguel, Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Hanceville, Alabama. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

(Sentries on the door of Castle San Miguel, Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Hanceville, Alabama. Photo © Scott P. Richert)

"Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion. For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee" (Psalm 147: 12-13)

That which goes into a man, Christ said, does not defile him; it is that which comes out of a man that is sinful and wicked. In a world in which no one seems to be able simply to be alone with his thoughts, it is harder than ever to do what the Bible and the Church Fathers urge us to do, if we wish to grow in grace: to keep a watch over our lips, and to guard the thoughts in our heart.

Gossiping, backbiting, other forms of idle chatter—all of these stand ready to trip us up, to undo all of the spiritual progress we have made through prayer and fasting. And when they do, we have only ourselves to blame, because no one else can guard our thoughts and restrain our tongue.

God will give us the grace necessary to remain silent, if only we will accept it. No heroic action is required to cooperate with that grace—just the embracing of quietness, a little bit of charity toward our neighbor, and the turning of our thoughts toward God.

"From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord. Because with the Lord there is mercy: and with him plentiful redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities" (Psalm 130[129]:6-8)

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Team OLA, Day 22: Ups and Downs

Tuesday April 8, 2014

Back on the hills this morning, without Stephen to push me as he did last week, I find myself running more slowly, though not intentionally. Of course, after a 5K race on Saturday, a 5-mile training run on Sunday, and a couple of miles of trying not to trip over the youngest Rockford Wildcats, who are still trying to master straight lines, on Monday, I didn't really expect this to be my fastest interval training.

The important thing, of course, is that I'm out here, on a near-perfect morning—45 degrees, a light 8 mph wind—pushing myself up the hills of Sinnissippi Park. The best and the worst part—depending on the direction from which you approach—is an 80-foot rise over less than a quarter of a mile, on switchbacks. It feels great on the descent, so long as you don't overextend your stride, but it's not nearly as much fun on the way back up, especially on the sixth and final interval.

And by "not nearly as much fun," I mean, of course, no fun at all.

Radically different experiences, over the same terrain, from different directions: Here in Lent, especially, that sounds all too familiar. How easy it is to run headlong downhill, to fly through the twists and turns of the descent, to gather speed until we hit the bottom.

But when we turn around and try to head back up—not even to rise above where we were, but simply to get back to the point from which we fell—it takes so much more effort. It's work that we have to do, of course; but as we're climbing that hill—especially if we've climbed it many times before—we may be tempted to wonder why we even bother.

In this sixth interval, I have my head down, my arms pumping, just trying to maintain a decent pace as I ascend the hill one last time while realizing that I'm slowing down nonetheless. And then, as I finally top the hill and turn to the east, I lift my head to be dazzled by a brilliant orange-and-yellow-and-red sunrise. My stride lengthens and my breathing slows as I drink in the beauty of God's creation.

The reward is worth the effort—and not just on this run.

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Novena of the Week: Offering of Oneself to Christ in the Eucharist

Tuesday April 8, 2014

Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday, the day on which we celebrate the institution of the Mass, the priesthood, and the Sacrament of Holy Communion, is just nine days away.Bishop Thomas Doran elevates the Host at the consecration during the 125th anniversary Mass at Saint Mary's Oratory, Rockford, Illinois, December 5, 2010. (Photo  Scott P. Richert) So it seems appropriate to commemorate the Eucharist in our novena of the week. I've chosen a very moving prayer by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, at whose beatification Pope Benedict XVI presided on September 19, 2010.

An Offering of Oneself to Christ in the Eucharist is a fervent prayer to unite ourselves to Christ and a recognition that we belong to Him by His sacrifice for our sake. If you can, say this after receiving Communion or in front of the tabernacle; otherwise, offer this prayer to unite yourself with the intentions of all the Masses being offered throughout the world each day.

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.

(Bishop Thomas Doran elevates the Host at the consecration during the 125th anniversary Mass at Saint Mary's Oratory, Rockford, Illinois, December 5, 2010. Photo Scott P. Richert)

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