My Post Election Hopes & Prayers for America

 

I hope everyone has a friend like Verlon; I liked him from the very start! The first time we met over twenty years ago, we passionately argued for over an hour about “how to drink correctly” when, after running out of the white alcohol he was drinking, he turned and asked whether he could continue drinking from my bottle of dark. I promptly looked at him, surprised, and proceeded to explain to him that one simply does not mix white alcohol – vodka or gin with dark alcohol like scotch or cognac – when drinking, without the risk of getting both very drunk and sick! After arguing through a number of dart games for over an hour, I noticed that no one else but the two of us was “goin’ at it.” After Verlon left, the remaining guys all chimed in about how k-k-krazy Verlon was and that he’d argue with God about life and never back down if given the chance! I knew at that very moment that we would forever be polar opposites like fire and ice…

Polar opposites seemed like an understatement regarding the two of us. Twenty years ago I was recently married, entering a Masters program for theology and a lifetime rabid Bears fan whereas he was a sworn single man for life, an aggressive and outspoken atheist and, arguably the worst of all, a Green Bay Packer fan!!! The crew that we hung out together with, eventually got to the point of telling us, when the other walked through the door, that “they weren’t gonna have all that fightin’ and arguin’ over the pool table or dart board today.” Little good their warnings did, for like fire and ice when brought too close together, we were always trying to melt, evaporate or put each other out! Though no longer an atheist (Praise the Lord!), he is one of the few native South side African American Chicagoans who have always been a hard core Republican – prompting me to often ask, “Where does one find a person like this at?”

Fast forward to the last few months leading up to this year’s Presidential election. Whereas age, family, work and – maturity- has virtually eliminated the “crew” as it was and also our ability/willingness to drink as in our youth, we still call to talk and fight vehemently over almost everything under the sun. The times we do get together to watch a major championship fight, playoff game, etc., we now do so and enjoy what we have gathered for – even though there is STILL a healthy dose of fire and ever burning emblems present! The love, friendship and respect that we have grown into, despite our radical differences is what I hope materializes for America as President Obama’s presidency ends and President Elect Trump prepares to take over.

I wish that the radical differences between Americans revealed in this election, were only as real as the surface level kind like those found in alcohol preferences and favorite sports teams. I wish also that the media stated primary reasons for these differences, generally presented as American discontent and disillusionment with the political establishment, were equally shared by most non Caucasian, liberal and Democratic Americans. Some Americans believe that these differences are grounded in much deeper reasons that have – more than a little – foundation in the historical evils and ignorances of racism, sexism and classism. Differenceby s and reasons which, when fermented and allowed many jell as one through the language used by President Elect Trump, seems to have a historical basis in hate, especially in light of and after an eight year Presidency the first African American President!

Like drinking differences and differences in professional sport teams, I hope and pray that Americans can come together to love, share and respectfully disagree with each others in the absence of real hate, like on SuperBowl Sunday each year. I hope, that regardless of the polar opposites and differing motivations for championing who and what we do, Americans will somehow work, celebrate and go forward together in love, like that realized by rabid football fans during SuperBowl week or even like alcohol lovers at a party. I hope that the world, which has rioted and protested in an unprecedented manner over the election’s results, will sit back happily stunned at the willingness of Americans to join together in true friendship these next four years – and in President elect Trump’s Presidency. I hope and pray that, despite what “the facts” seem to reveal or how they can be interpreted and presented, that President Elect Trump will govern respectfully for all Americans. My prayer is that all Americans can join as one, “disagreeing but not being disagreeable,” to truly join as one nation in love, respect and true friendship, like me and my friend Verlon. This may seem like a dream to some, but big dreams can become very real realities with prayer and lots of hard work. Lets fall on our knees praying together in hope, working hard in the mean time, to truly realize a ‘greater America and world’ in the language of Trump’s campaign slogan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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!

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

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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!

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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.

Tweaking A Common Lenten Plan of Focusing Only On Our Sins…

shutterstock_170948234How does one plan out a Lenten program and decide what disciplines or sacrifices to undertake? In over two decades of teaching high school religion, most of the students and adults that I encountered generally approached this very personal and touchy topic simply by first identifying their repeated sins and then often plotting a Lenten course of action to tackle them. This method seems both easy and practical, but upon further reflection and when compared to our planning in other important areas of our lives, we may find that it is wanting and can use some tweaking…

For instance, many have constructed and are currently living out some financial plan in their lives: long term for retirement or short term like for getting a new car or for summer travel plans or for paying off an outstanding debt, etc. Whether that financial plan is for a long or a short term financial goal, the important point to take away is that the plan/budget starts with a goal: some positive concrete outcome, item or achievement which guides, give hope and focuses that plan. While this plan should and must take into account our personal financial challenges (sins), it does not start with them or use them as an end and vision to guide our plan!

It is clear from this analogy, that what the aforementioned easy and practical, Western style point-and-shoot-your sin-away Lent plan lacks is a positive, hopeful and motivating Gospel centered goal that can focus us. Don’t get me wrong here – yes, Lent IS about acknowledging and repenting of our sins and bearing our crosses, but this is not ALL that it is about! At its core, Lent is about the vision of what, by grace and sacrifice, we can become here and now – this year, on our journey towards the Kingdom. Lent takes this Kingdom vision and, working backwards, concretizes it like a budget, identifying the areas we must discipline and what we must sacrifice in order to eventually live out that deeper and more authentic Christian life we have prayerfully envisioned. Restating the obvious, your Lenten goal is NOT TO GIVE UP X, Y OR Z, but to become more ________ as a person? To be able to do or be ________________ in a more Gospel centered way?

Trying to “bear the cross” without an appropriate Kingdom centered vision to sustain and support us may result in burnout or failure on the Lenten journey, as it surely can in life. A lack of or poor vision can lead us to loose focus or to give up hope when the going gets tough. With the right vision, we can literally post a picture or simply close our eyes and remember our dreams, imagining the possibilities to come and drawing from that Grace which is their source, to find the where-with-all to keep strugglin’ on the journey. In short, just as baptism invites us into a lifetime of bearing the Cross and continuing Christ’s mission to love via sacrifice by setting before us the vision of the Kingdom as our eternal goal, it is very helpful to also prayerfully envision exactly what our Gospel centered moral/spiritual goals are for Lent each year.

As you finalize your Lenten plans this year, the Strugglin’Catholic asks you to envision what you hope to achieve and who you want to become in and through our shared Lenten journey. Please, put a name on it, whatever it is… …and when the going gets tough, prayerfully let its vision draw you heart forward towards your Easter goal this Lent.

On Old Adages, the Examples of Prayer Warriors and the Lenten Season

planningIt’s almost time… The holidays have passed, the New Year – and its resolutions – has started, and we are now past a month into our shared 2016 journey. Once again, it is almost, time!!! “Time for what,” you may ask? If you guessed, “Tax season?” you are dead wrong but probably not too far off topic according to most American Catholics, for, in our liturgical world, it is the season for “o r d i n a r y t i m e” to end and for the inevitable – like death and taxes – to begin: our yearly observance of Lent. Yes, it IS, almost THAT time again…

Some bemoan, resist and fight this truth, holding on to “ordinary time” through Fat Tuesday until the very last second on Wednesday, when all are marked with the Cross of Ashes and reminded that from dust we have come and to dust we shall return… Still, there are devoted prayer warriors among us, who spiritually plan for and prayerfully await Lent, knowing from experience, that a little graced planning for this season will yield great spiritual graces and blessings, in the same way as planned short periods of intense, financial or health disciplining can often transform, redirect and empower our natural lives.

I’m sure some reading this have found themselves in one camp or the other over the years…and some like myself, have found themselves repeatedly in the moaning and fighting camp and only rarely, in the other camp with the warriors who have planned for and are ready for the yearly challenges of the Catholic spiritual boot camp called Lent. No matter what our past histories regarding the Lenten Season has been or where we may presently find ourselves this year, most can agree with the old adage “that a little planning will go a long way.” If this is true for the natural aspects of our lives like money, taxes and health, how much more true is it for our moral and spiritual lives?

In order to shine a bit of light on this topic, the Strugglin’Catholic is pausing a moment – BEFORE LENT – to briefly identify and list three insights of these secret prayer warriors, who plan for the Lenten Season… What can they reveal or remind us today, as ordinary time wanes and Lent approaches? Why should we follow their lead and really prayerfully try to plan Lent?

They model for and remind us that:

1. We can plan for and achieve, by God’s grace, true moral and spiritual change and growth. It is not achieved accidentally and haphazardly; it is grounded in much struggle, failure and prayer that is linked to living love in the community. Prayerful planning is necessary because at different ages and stages, what one needs to focus on varies and only through prayerful planning and reflection can one come to know how, what and where to discipline oneself. Prayerful spiritual planning is integral to moral/spiritual growth in the same way that it is to academic, health or financial growth and development.

2. Prayerfully planned spiritual disciplines and sacrifices, when integrated into one’s daily life and coupled with prayer, will often yield much better results than unplanned spiritual disciplines and sacrifices. As one prayerfully plans, graced foresight often prepares one for and can limits the adverse effects of being caught unaware or being completely stymied by the common mistakes that catch the unprepared. In short, one is better prepared for both the journey itself and and achieving the moral and or spiritual goal(s) envisioned of their plan.

3. Planning allows one to free the mind from thinking and to completely bring one’s heart into the Lenten journey. With prayerful planning a path is laid and most of the fundamental questions are answered, allowing one to restfully move past the myriad of rational “questions and doubts” about success, etc. and to then enter into the daily task of opening one’s hearts to being led by the Holy Spirit. Planning releases our mind from worrying while allowing our hearts to hear, rest in and be led by the Holy Spirit on our journey. I liken this to the way “something clicks” in a well-prepared rookie athlete that may lead them to stop thinking and to begin playing naturally within the new system, thereby fitting in with the team and sharing their talents at some point during their first professional year.

Here at the Strugglin’Catholic.com, we hope that in this final week before Ash Wednesday, you will make the time to prayerfully plan out this year’s Lenten season. As you prayerfully plan, remember that the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving can be lived out many ways: from adding specific times or increased times of prayer, prayers for others and the world, daily scripture reading or an extra Mass during the week, to fasting from specific language, words, unhealthy ways of thinking, imagining and being entertained with media. We can give our time; even when it is short, as a listening ear and good friend, and we can always give our prayerful hearts to another’s causes when we can’t stop and chat. No person is so ungifted, that they have nothing to offer during Lent, for all can at least pray daily for others. Another old adage comes to mind as we end this reflection on planning for Lent… Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Whatever your Lenten plan and journey turns out to be this year, we pray that as you struggle, it will lead you to a deeper love of the Cross and the Mystery of God’s Love found in It.