On Scrubbing the Floors of Our Souls

dsc_0648c

Please jar your memory and remember, if ever, the last time you got on your hands and knees to scrub a floor.   What was the occasion that forced you to do it? Perhaps it was finding that great apartment – in the right neighborhood and at a great price – that just happened to be really filthy or seem to have an unforgiving odor!?! Maybe it was the need to clean up that unexpected vomit from a small child, etc. If you are like most people today, it took something very bad to force you to get on your hands and knees and to scrub that floor!

In a lot of ways, scrubbing the floor on one’s hands and knees is kind of like going to Reconciliation: unfortunately, often something very bad that has to happen in order to force us to this sacrament! When that very bad something occurs, like floor scrubbing, there is simply no other way to get that “confidently eat your dropped food off the floor” kind of clean soul back, restoring us to that original state – unless one breaks down and goes to the sacrament of Reconciliation. For some sins, there is simply no other way to completely and confidently remove both the sin and its smell from the soul- simple prayer just won’t work!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to new school ways of cleaning: Swiffer mopping, or the more common repeated mopping without ever scrubbing – they have their place and role in our fast paced world! But Swiffering or repeated mopping can never clean as scrubbing a floor can. In fact, repeated use of these methods can actually blind us from seeing and smelling the slow build up of dirt over time.

How is scrubbing the floor like reconciliation? Well, unless you are using a machine, one will have to get on their knees to do both – a humbling physical act in itself. Since both are generally not our first chosen means of cleaning, we generally have to be forced – even if by circumstance – to do so. Both floor scrubbing and reconciliation requires that one’s person gets very close to the dirt – as it were – owing it! Like scrubbing the floor, reconciliation requires that you wet that dirt with tears from reflection, humility and repentance; it also requires that you scrub it clean through an oral confession to another. To claim and confess our sins with our own words is truly an act of scrubbing! I doubt whether those who ridicule or never utilize the sacrament can often acknowledge or confess their sins to significant others in relationships, for where else can they safely practice this essential act to restore relationships? Practice doesn’t often make perfect but often makes permanent; those not practicing may be fracturing their significant relationships by never acknowledging and repenting of their sins before others.

Like reconciliation, scrubbing the floor requires that you wipe up the wet mess made by the tears of humility and the scrubbing of oral confession – by completing the process – with a penance. Finally, just like the sigh and unquestioned knowing of “ah, its now clean” felt deep within after an act of scrubbing the floor, the absolution given by a priest can consistently console and give certainty regarding one’s forgiveness in ways that simply falling down on our knees rarely does – especially regarding serious and repetitive sins! Many non-Catholics and Catholics who dismiss this sacrament are also ignoring and dismissing the VERY REAL psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects of healing and restoration that the sacrament can bring to the soul!

Scrubbing a floor is always a very tough and dirty job, just like truly cleaning our soul.

            If the truth be told, repeated mopping of the floor is an incomplete cleaning at best! One should start with a clean mop (and who does?) and also remember that mopping cleans best the uncluttered and open portions of the floors and stairs, but often ignores and simply can not reach all the little nooks, crannies, corners and molding surrounding the floor and staircase. Here, mopping refers to our humble prayers of forgiveness and our contrite praying of the Penitential Rite at the beginning of Mass.

Like a grand set of stairs in the foyer of a beautiful home, mopping cleans the treads that we step on, which upon a cursory glance, can make the whole staircase appear to be clean. But if you continuously mopped this beautiful set of stairs, which is your mind, heart and soul – over time you would find that that mopping and Swiffering – as the sole means of cleaning – is simply insufficient.

Over time that beautiful set of steps would revealed themselves, with just a cursory glance, to be not just dirty, but in fact, filthy. A visitor to the home would easily notice what the homeowner is often blind to: the grime in each of the once 90° corners that now has become curved and rounded with grimy and embedded dirt. The molding on the steps, once clear and distinct, setting the steps apart and distinguishing them in their unique beauty, now blends in with the treads due to years of encrusted pet hair, dust and dander that has disintegrated those once clean lines and now leaves a mopped clean center tread that is surrounded by imbedded crud.

We have all seen steps like this – once beautiful, but now due to years of mopping – they are a testament to sloth and uncleanliness. The owners who have always mopped and never scrubbed, have become blind to – or worse they simply ignore – the built up dirt!!! In their slothful or willful ignorance, the owner is now also unaware of the subtle smell that emanates from the stairs – a smell that the occasional visitor is confronted with when s/he enters the home!

The years of mopping have transformed that once beautiful staircase; it no longer reflects or appears to be worthy of its once unique beauty and what is worse, it now appears unable to be restored. If new owners moved in, they would certainly tear it up and rebuild the staircase rather than work to reclaim and restore it. Such is often the case of regularly mopping and Swiffering to clean of our souls.

If we only pray for forgiveness and prayerfully enter into the penitential Rite at the beginning of Mass, but never scrub our souls of those great and repetitive sins through the sacrament of Reconciliation, we stand a chance of becoming so encrusted with and blinded by sin, that we too may smell of fifth and appear as a lost cause to the visitor with a keen eye.  It’s sooooooooooo good that our loving God doesn’t rip up our staircases, but grants us until our last breath, the chance to scrub our souls clean and restore them through this sacrament!

My mother, the cleanest woman I have ever known, required that we scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom floors weekly, but she also allowed us to mop the basement and our bedrooms – except when we Spring Cleaned each year. Yes, we need both: the regular mopping/Swiffering of our private and public prayers for forgiveness plus the Grace and restoration that comes from the scrubbing that the sacrament of Reconciliation provides.

By utilizing all the grace filled methods given to us as Catholics, we can truly be cleaned and purified. We need not just run in place like on a treadmill, but in our running we need to actually get ahead – growing in holiness – to become the Saints that we are called to become!

Follow my mother’s cleaning plan and please, Spring Clean at least once a year… get on your knees and scrub the floors and stairs of your soul!

Martyrdom, Anyone?

A famous quote attributed to Tertullian states that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”   This quote speaks to how the real life sacrifices and martyrdoms that are faithfully suffered by Christians, often breathes new life, hope and charity into the community of believers. It testifies to the transformative power of God’s grace and love to draw others into the faith after witnessing another’s faithful suffering unto death.

Regarding Christian missions and ministry, martyrdom is rarely if ever one’s first or the most popular choice! Martyrdom in the classical and literal sense, leads directly to one’s bodily death and is usually accompanied and associated with much torture and long-suffering. Even after decades of Christian service and sacrifice, who can confidently say they would choose martyrdom, especially if their executioners gave them an opportunity to continue living for simply publically denouncing/renouncing their Christian faith (this is called apostacy)?

As Catholic American, few if any of us will find ourselves confronted with literal martyrdom and the challenge of apostacy, as many of our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters often do today.   Even so, as an America Catholic the reality and call to martyrdom may still eventually find its way into our lives as we journey towards the Kingdom of God. In as much as sin, evil and death is an inescapable part of human life, the path of martyrdom – even if not a literal death – will almost always somehow find its way into our lives via some form or another. What are some of the ways that martyrdom can surface in our lives as Americans?

Supporting a holy and just social issue: People actively work for just and holy social issues may find themselves experiencing some form of martyrdom because of their work. It can materialize in the form of quietly discontinued friendships or as a limiting of professional or academic opportunities by those who misunderstand or are outright opposed to their chosen social cause or issue. Some may even find themselves digitally or legally targeted and in the cross hairs of their opponent’s hired guns…

Living with illness: Living with and caring for a loved one with a serious illness or struggling to live with an illness oneself can also result in an experience of martyrdom. Caring for the ill requires a very real time, economic and emotional investment. Some illnesses in themselves – like cancer, mental illness or AIDS – carry the additional burden of misunderstanding and stigmatization, and can result in a very real loss/death in many different ways.

Specific kinds of vocational/work: Specific work choices, especially those service vocations requiring an inordinate amount of time, sacrifice or danger and which can spill over into the personal and family lives of the participants may yield martyrdom – especially in one’s personal and family lives. Common examples include the police officers, firefighters and physicians – people choosing these service vocations often experience a very real martyrdom, often in their personal relationships.

Faithfully living out Christian family and marital lives: Any Christian marriage and family seeking to publically live out and proclaim their faith in our contemporary secular society will undoubtedly experience some form of martyrdom at the hand of those who eschew, misunderstand or feel threatened by the religious and spiritual aspects of life.

Consistent and dedicated work at growing spiritually: Finally, any person who seriously embarks on and consistently undertakes the spiritual journey, seeking to grow in holiness through daily prayer, meditation and service will almost always experience a real personal martyrdom of their ego, as the Holy Spirit works to transform them from simply being good people to eventually becoming holy (and yes there is a difference). Responding to God’s call to grow in holiness will necessarily bring us personally to the Cross, which few, even those on the journey – willingly embrace.

It is easy to see how each of these life choices can result in a very real social martyrdom, martyrdom in personal relationships and even a personal/private martyrdom in one’s person.

Unlike the often short but horrific reality of literal martyrdom, these forms of martyrdom are often experienced over a long period of time and can extend to almost our whole lives.

Yes, the Gospel’s call to love, serve and bear the Cross awaits us daily. Whether immediate or long term, this call and invitation more often results in the martyrdoms of those who are willing to accept it.

Yes, our common call to bear our Cross is a common call to martyrdom.

Martyrdom, Anyone?

Being Single, Religious or Married – Is there and easy way out?

1420673299

 

As a single Catholic man in my early twenties, I remember first hearing God’s call. Up until that call, God was a warm and fuzzy possibility, whom I occasionally praised and worshiped at Mass – when it fit into my schedule (like never) – and to whom I prayed only in my dire need…   Despite a lifetime of random teachers, preachers and ‘old folk’ telling me – often out of the blue – that God had a plan for me, I often ignored this truth and their prophetic words and like most early twenty-something’s, focused on finding and living out my own plan for life.

However, when God busted into my life and unquestionably confirmed both His reality and call to me, I was forced to sit down and reevaluate the plan I had chosen for myself. God didn’t spell out His plan for me at that time; God simply called me to work and prepare my heart and soul for it and to trust that more direction would be given later. This preparation was necessary, for apart from Moses and maybe a few others, God’s plans for us are almost always invitations, which we can freely accept or deny; they are rarely ultimatums eliminating our free choice. As God knew, I had a lot of work to do if I was to accept His plan for me.

As a Catholic man, part of my reevaluation included realistically examining the possibility of entering the religious life and becoming a priest (it’s okay to STOP laughing now for those who know me best). In considering the religious life, the realities of lifetime obedience to the church, becoming a person of prayer, and both living a life of celibacy and the seemingly monotonous and routine life – at least from the outside and as a layperson –of the clerical and religious life, were important factors in quickly discerning that it was DEFINITELY not for me!!! As God’s call clarified itself, I found that it did include the married life for me.

I remember looking back after this process and happily proclaiming to all how ecstatic I was that the religious life was not for me!!! No lifetime of obedience to the church… No having to become a man of prayer… No life of celibacy (I was oblivious to chaste living at this time)… And no monotonous and routine religious life! In retrospect, I bet God was laughing hilariously at my conclusions, as I didn’t have a clue at what really lay ahead of me in pursuing a Catholic marriage and family life! Yes, I was blissfully ignorant about all that the married and family life entails – especially from a Catholic perspective – and yet I was joyously excited at being called to climb this Mount Everest, despite the multitude of less-than-perfect and even outright horrific marriages I witnessed growing up.

Now, looking back over 30 years later and with over 25 years married, I too am laughing hilariously at my conclusions regarding both the married life and the religious life! As an early twenty something-year-old, who can accurately know which vocational choice is truly the most difficult? Who can really know what their capacity is to develop the specific virtues and character that, by grace, is required to successfully live any vocation in accordance with God’s will?

Over 20 years of working in Catholic high schools and worshiping in Catholic parishes has blessed me with the graced acquaintances and friendships of many nuns and priests over the years. In this period, apart from a few stragglers and ne’er-do-well nuns/priests that one occasionally encounters, the overwhelming majority of the religious that I have met and come to know are not only happy about having accepted God’s call in this manner, but notwithstanding all the crazy realities in our church during the last three decades, they will still testify to this day that they would make the same decision again if given a second opportunity.

After 25 years of marriage, I’m unsure if I’d find this same majority in the testimony of those who chose marriage (whether still married or divorced) that I’ve met in this same period.  One thing I can say in retrospect now, is that both vocations require the same things if we are to successfully live them out based on our Catholic faith.

Whether one is called to the single life LIKE JESUS (which is so often disparaged and misunderstood), the married life or the religious life – the requirements are basically the same in order to grow in holiness and fulfill God’s plan. What are these requirements?

Striving to live in obedience to the church’s teaching [Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, Jesus’ Laws of Love]. This struggle reveals our true selves and begins the process of transforming our hearts and very selves, by grace, into the persons God calls us to be. Obedience to God’s Law prepares us to successfully address the very real concerns of this life in a holy manner as it also orients and prepares us for eternal life in God’s Kingdom by creating a holy character in us.

 

Striving to become a person of prayer. Without a real and sustained prayer life, one simply can not truly come to know either oneself or God. Without the real work of developing a prayer life, our faith life and religiosity gets stuck at the level of servile and fearful obedience, never really progressing to experience or live from the very real grace of God’s love.

 

Striving to live a life of chastity and or celibacy.  In disregarding, ignoring or only trying half ass to live out the faith’s core beliefs in the most intimate and fundamental areas of our lives – our sexuality… our economics… our friendships and vocational choices using our unique gifts and talents – one will often ultimately abandon the spiritual journey as meaningless. Why? Because without entering into this personal ethical struggle, many of the faith’s core truths will be misunderstood or not experienced at all (like the fact that God love you right now just because you are you, not because of what you think you are doing for God, etc.)… Furthermore, without entering into that common Christian experience of very real failure, it is difficult to really know and experience what believers talk about when testifying to being saved by Christ!

 

Striving to enter into, endure and progress during the monotonous routines of life! I suspect even the life of an emergency room physician can become routine, especially when the drudgeries of family life – like child rearing [OMG!!! … WOW!! Regarding the constant needs of these crumbsnatchers… And I thought priests had it bad!] – and our own unique set of marital struggles [“…Damn, this @#!$%& again?!?!”] recur again and again, albeit in new ways sometime, as the years pass. If this is not a long, slow carrying of the Cross to Calvary, then I am unsure what else other than Christ’s actual journey, comes close.

 

My, oh my… In retrospect, how very wrong I was about WHAT is really required of any vocation: the single, religious or marriage and family life! Thank God that Our Savior writes beautifully poetry from the often crazy, twisted and immature lines we write for ourselves!

Yes, God’s invitation invites and requires our free response to it. Thank God, that the Blessed Trinity will provide all the graces needed for whatever journey we are called to embark on.

 

If in this reading, you are at one of life’s various crossroads – I pray for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you in your discernment as you go forward… However, please KNOW that the Cross awaits you however you respond to God’s invitation! In our unique Crosses, we are transformed, saved and set free! Yes, God will and can write straight from our crooked lines… Our prayer here at the Strugglin’Catholic.com is that by prayerfully entering into, accepting and being transformed by the various Crosses God has placed in your life, you too will begin to see and proclaim that unique and beautiful poem of love that God is writing through you in the Book of Life!

On John the Baptist & Contemporary American Beheading

speaking-truth-to-power

 

John the Baptist, who was imprisoned by Herod, was executed and martyred after a drunken Herod promised his beautiful stepdaughter anything that she wanted at the conclusion of her seductive dance before his friends at a banquet. In rereading the story (MK 6:14-29), one quickly realizes that Herod did not hate John the Baptist or want him killed – he realized John was a holy man and despite being “very much perplexed, he liked to listen to him.”

 

It was actually his wife, Herodias, who intensely hated and wanted John the Baptist killed because he publicly proclaimed the faith’s truth – that Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife – was immoral! When her daughter shared Herod’s drunken promise and asked for advice, Herodias seized the opportunity to silence her detractor, John the Baptist, with execution.

In this story, a simple but powerful truth is revealed to any who will courageously seek to witness or proclaim the faith publically. John suffered mockery and ridicule, imprisonment and martyrdom – not for being a specific religion or denying another religion, but simply for courageously speaking an unpopular truth of the faith to power.

Jesus, John the Baptist and the Apostles were all born into a world very much like ours – where their religious values regarding marriage and human sexuality were not those of the mainstream culture. Multiple ways of understanding and living out human marriage and sexuality were practiced in the Roman world as it is today. Another historical reality shared between then and now is the way that the powerful and ungodly can use their power to ruthlessly punish and destroy those who courageously speak the faith’s counter cultural message of truth regarding marriage and human sexuality. As in the past, those who are courageous enough to speak these truths to the powerful – are often unaware or ignorant of those whom they have really offended and who have really ordered their execution.

Today in our secular and media driven world, these Herods’ and Herodias’ come in many different forms and can be found everywhere – not only outside but also inside of our Catholic Churches and institutions. Their undercover actions to silence and kill those courageously speaking the faith’s truth about marriage and human sexuality to power also takes many forms: from unjust lawsuits, firings and black listings to financially break and hush up the faithful who are poor and middle class, to all out media campaigns and public relation offensives against monied, orthodox and Christian individuals and institutions who publically take counter cultural stands proclaiming Christian truths regarding marriage and human sexuality. This is a fact: all who, by grace, courageously speak truth to power in history will suffer martyrdom – whether rich or poor.

In today’s secular world, there are a lot of John the Baptist walking around…

Since secularism allows all possible dialogue and discussion points in the public arena except those dealing with/grounded in faith, articulating Christian truths and arguments regarding marriage and sexuality – even if allowed Constitutionally – are simply ignored and omitted at best in public– if not openly disparaged, mocked or worse. When the worst parts of secularism surfaces, America’s freedom of speech simply no longer applies to stating Christian truths regarding marriage and human sexuality, which – even when stated simply and lovingly – are often still equated with the language of threats and hate.

For some, to believe in the traditional Christian teaching regarding marriage and human sexuality also means that that person is also completely incapable of living in a loving and respectful relationship with those choosing alternative lifestyles. This is an utter lie and a deceptively unhistorical belief which, in part, rests on highlighting the evil uses of religion historically and framing all possible future religious dialogue soley in terms of this very real but unfortunate lens. Note: we tend to do the very opposite with science and technology, ignoring its role in two World Wars while still proclaiming its ability to help and build humanity…

The reality of religious radicalism, hate and terrorism in our world shakes all of us to the core, yet equating whole religious traditions or any religiously grounded countercultural public dialogue with hate, ignorance and extremism is to choose – consciously or unconsciously- to ignorantly embody these very characteristics out of fear and to run from the real work of true change and growth through respectful dialogue and sacrifice. Such views often also fail to acknowledge that these same religious beliefs have given us the greatest examples – both individually and institutionally – of loving humanity that we have in history.

Yes, there are a lot of John the Baptists around today…

…even in this great country with its legal and historical traditions of free speech… As John the Baptist and many of today’s faithful have found out, courageous and faithful speech is not free – especially when aimed at the powerful. Speaking Gospel Truth comes with a cost, here in America as it did in Jesus’ times.

The downside of secularism for Catholics and Christians today, is that many Christians are willfully bludgeoning their Gospel call to evangelize in America, fearfully unable or unwilling to express the faith’s truths publically because of the very real risks. Like John the Baptist, they realize that there is a cost for courageously speaking Gospel truth to those who are powerful. I’m not sure this is the kind of America that the majority of Americans really wants for anybody…

John the Baptist and all who courageously follow in his steps are examples for us to follow today. Their example prepares and empowers us for that day, when we too will choose martyrdom, risking all by lovingly speaking the Christian truth about marriage and human sexuality in the face of very real power. By the grace we’ve received at baptism and the continuing power that we receive through the Eucharist, my prayer is that we can – in a loving manner – acknowledge, grapple with and publically dialogue about these hard truths regarding marriage and sexuality that God has challenged us with.

Yes, it is difficult and risky for most to speak and proclaim the faith’s truth about marriage and human sexuality publicly in America today…  Until you can do so lovingly in public, I propose starting with  Barry Sanders’ suggestion and accepting that initial challenge of seriously reflecting on, praying about and striving to live the faith’s truths about marriage and human sexuality in one’s own life…

Divine Kisses as God’s Response to our Struggle to Pray

divine kiss

From the day a person not only commits to but actually, by grace, begins strugglin’ to integrate prayer into their life – seeking to live a prayerful lifestyle – many will often begin to see and experience anew God’s Truth and the Spirit’s Fire at unsuspecting times amidst their daily life routines.

These sweet divine kisses can come at any time and place: in the car or shower, in dialogue with the clerk at the gas station, children or significant others, while reading articles or while enjoying an entertaining advertisement… They are often most noticeable in events like those momentary and unexpected smiles, gestures or acts-of-kindness that we may receive or witness while out and about.

These and other very real experiences are powerful reminders of how our God listens and responds to our prayers as witnessed to in Scripture. They also witness to the Gift of the Spirit filled, New Life in Christ that can be nurtured, developed and lived out in part, by committing to live and integrate prayer into one’s life.

Be mindful of the importance of these divine kisses: by their sweetness we can learn how to hear God in our mind and heart. This learning to hear God coupled with our free and open response to it throughout the day (praise, thanks, etc.) is that (inner dialogue which replaces our self dialogue] which becomes a fundamental part of a very real life “relationship with God.” This is the life/relationship believers with an active prayer life may speak so plainly about amongst themselves and others, some who are quietly wondering what they have missed, why they don’t experience this or Is that person crazy?

Of course, God is not content on just revealing God’s Self to us so we can simply sit back and chill with the experience, God also desires that we also learn how to trust, follow and be led by the Holy Spirit, truly “letting go and letting God lead “by these same divine kisses and inspirations…” But that, is a Strugglin’Catholic.com reflection for another day…

The beginning to hear and eventually seeking to always listen to and be led by these divine kisses actually transforms the very way we think, act and live in this world. As the commitment to prayer becomes a habit and eventually part of our character, these divine kisses will continue to illuminate our minds and inflame our hearts while guiding our decision making and lifestyle choices in such a manner that, “they will know you are Christian by Your love” because all you do will increasingly be animated by and grounded in Gospel love.

Pray daily. Struggle to pray throughout the day. Seek to live in an intimate relationship with God.

Praise Him for the divine kisses and learn how to let them lead you in your lives.

 

 

On the Blessings of Ordinary Time

Most of the Liturgical Season is surprisingly "Ordinary!"

And so we start ordinary times…. To come to an appreciation of what ordinary time exactly is, let’s take a moment to look back on the last six months in the Church. Since the beginning of the liturgical year with Advent in December, we have been in some kind of special liturgical season most of the last six months: December and part of January was Advent and Christmas seasons. Counting backwards from now, May and April was Easter season and Lent spanned from the beginning of March. We have had only a little over a month and a half of ordinary time. Gone now are the extra and special longer Masses, the special sacrifices and the periods stressing preparation (Advent) or purification (Lent) or celebration (Easter) with their colorful vestments and unique music.

What is so special about ordinary time?

Well… Each year, the liturgical calendar gives us this long stretch of ordinary time, in part, as a gift to just spiritually be… to spiritually relax and enter into the Spirit’s gifts that have been recently given to us…   Ordinary time is our time to search, explore and integrate that New Gospel Life we have recently received during the last six months with the people and communities of our lives…

What special graces and experiences of holiness can accompany these seemingly quiet and ordinary periods routine?

For me, perhaps it’s how the Spirit can often fill my quiet, semi-disciplined summer routines with a relaxed but Graced, everyday-still-going-about-my-spiritual-business type of attitude – even without all the feasts, celebrations, long-term commitments and spiritual disciplines that are usually necessary to keep me spiritually on track. It is as if the Pentecostal Spirit, built up over the last six months of special seasons, now quietly leads and carries me forward as I journey through the summer and into the fall.

I’m sure you too have experienced the many “special graces” given during ordinary times… Reconnecting with friends and family around barbeques and reunions are invitations to both celebrate shared joys and to forgive past festering wounds… Sharing summer days and festivals with others or taking a summer “art or dance class” can restore or even foster new friendships in our lives. Even becoming a short term couch potato (as students often do) or spending quiet times in the yard gardening can empower, clarify or transform our inner visions and lives, bring us to a fall with a renewed vigor and purpose.

Here at Strugglin’Catholic.com, we are praying that during this summer, the Spirit will continue to lead and guide you in your struggle to live the Gospel. Our prayer is that of the Church: that by grace, we ORDINARY people living in ORDINARY time with REAL LIFE CHALLENGES, can live EXTRAORDINARY lives of love and grace daily.

May the Love of Jesus be on your lips and the motivating love in your heart this summer!

 

Seeing & Finding the New Life and Fruits of Our Lenten Journey

God's Handiwork Yields New Life for Easter!
God’s Handiwork Yields New Life for Easter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Lent draws towards an end, we at the Strugglin’Catholic.com wanted to remind our readers to make the time to reflect on this year’s Lenten journey and experiences. Hopefully, between now and Palm Sunday, you will be able to prayerfully reflect on what this year’s Lenten experience has been for you.

Since many of our Lenten journeys often begin with choosing something to give up, one can start -but definitely not end- with an evaluation of whatever one’s specific Lenten sacrifice(s) were for the year. These kinds of evaluations can take a myriad of forms: from what one’s daily struggle has taught or revealed about oneself, to whether or not this year’s Lenten challenges has really touched and changed one’s hearts. One can examine and quantify how one has grown regarding the development of a specific virtue/goal or how one has learned to better fight and control a specific vice/problem. In whatever form one’s review may take, it is very important not to get caught up in trying to identify and label whether this Lent was a success or not, but rather to prayerfully uncover the various ways that one has grown, changed and has been empowered by the Spirit via one’s Lenten journey.

 

The Strugglin’ Catholic.com also suggests an examination of this year’s Lenten journey in light of the three Lenten disciplines: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Because most of us are novices at them, it is important to identify and catalogue any growth we have been gifted with in these three core areas of the spiritual life. Important points to note include how one’s prayer may have changed – length, depth, breadth, form(s), times, etc…. Regarding almsgiving, has God called you to a new ministry, inviting you to give yourself away to a new community or has God made specific requests of your gifts and talents? Finally, do we have a clearer picture of what God desires us to fast from and why? Have we deepened our understanding of what fasting is and how it can empower one’s body, mind and prayer lives, etc.?

 

 

Seeing and understanding the bigger picture of how the Holy Spirit is changing and empowering us can be difficult and elusive, especially when we have been busily strugglin’ on the Lenten path. Here at the Strugglin’Catholic.com, we are encouraging all to slow down a bit more that normal as Holy Week approaches, and to prayerfully reflect on the Lenten journey to date. Our prayer is that in your reflection, the Holy Spirit will lead you past any memories of Lenten failures and struggles and will open your hearts and minds to see and experience the blossoming of God’s handiwork and New Life both in your life and those with whom you live.

What To Do When Easter Comes Early!

wallpaper-crocus-flower-buds-violet-primrose-snow-spring-flowers

Upon entering this second week of Lent, we at the Strugglin’Catholic wanted to slow down a bit to address an uncanny and often rare Lenten challenge that some can attest to: living/doing Lent when Easter has already come for you that year!    Occasionally, as the Strugglin’ Catholic strives to live and do Lent over the years, she may encounter a break from the Lenten routine of suffering and discipline, as God’s grace blesses her with an early Easter and an apparent “holy waiver for Lent” that year… As we enter the dog days winter and Lent, let’s remind ourselves of these rare occasions and also how we can better respond to them in our lives.   What are some ‘common examples’ of an Early Easter event in the lives of our family and friends?

 

Examples abound, including the birth of a new child, being restored to health after years of suffering, getting the financial aid/grants/scholarships to go to school, a new job, getting married, finding one’s first home or the right retirement community, changing a career path, finding new love, celebrating birthday parties, etc.

 

If one prayerfully reviews their life of spring times, most will surely find that a planned or unexpected early Easter Gift has been received at some point in one’s life. The Grace and Joy of these sacred periods can make living out a repentant Lenten spirit all but impossible, as one is all aglow with Resurrected Life!

 

For those who are now strugglin’ with the rare challenge of an Early Easter (lol), the Strugglin’ Catholic suggests the following:

… It is okay!!!!! Even though it is Lent, you can go ahead, celebrate and start living in and out of this Rare Gift and New Life!!! But do so moderately and in a manner so as to not hinder or challenge the ongoing spiritual journeys of others for whom Easter is still far off.

… If you feel this Early Easter Gift was long “over due” and has been accomplished by long suffering and perseverance in prayer, that you now commit yourself to pray and live with the same or even greater humility that colored your journey leading up this year’s Easter Gift!

… That you do not abandon this year’s Lenten discipline’s because of the Early Easter Gift received, but rather, after a brief and moderate celebration, that you press the “reset button” and return to some form of Lenten discipline, but now with a renewed focus, attitude or motivation: i.e. returning to morning prayer or daily psalm reading, but now with a new focus on praising or simply being with God, etc. or finding creative ways to tithe with the time, money or talents received from your Early Easter Gift…

 

For the majority of Catholics, who are still journeying towards Easter and New Life this year, the Strugglin’ Catholic suggests…

… That on our Lenten journey, we allow ourselves to see, attend to and celebrate the Early Easters given to us through the lives of our family and friends! It is often easy, during Lent, to miss common opportunities to taste the Easter New Life awaiting us, like at birthday gatherings or reunions (especially if the weather is bad)! Let us anticipate our Easter New Life by strugglin’ to get up and get out, accepting those invitations to gather in God’s Spirit this Lent! In so doing, we will be opening ourselves up to the Holy Spirit and letting Its New Life draw us forward to that Easter New Life that is awaiting us.