Posts Tagged ‘Stations of the Cross’

A “Used-to-be” Lent

Thursday, March 20th, 2014
This time of the year, these forty days of preparation for Holy Week and Easter, I often hear folks over fifty-five or so reminisce about how Lent“used-to-be.”“Remember the tuna casseroles and grilled cheese sandwiches?”

“I used to long for Sunday when I could have a piece of the candy I had given-up for Lent.”

“Did I ever love the Stations of the Cross on Friday.”

“Remember how tough it was not to eat between meals?”

“I can still recall dad reminding us to make a good confession before Easter.”

“Mom used to love her sodality meetings, and dad his night of cards and a couple beers at the Holy Name evenings at the parish, but those were all cancelled during Lent.”

“Remember the ‘rice bowl’ to help feed the starving sitting on the kitchen table where we’d put our pennies saved from buying treats.”

“And remember how we used to so enjoy Easter, after forty days of sacrifice and penance; it was like we were entering a new life and the sun of spring with Jesus risen.”

A lot of that these days, what I call “used-to-be Lent.”

Because, I wonder if we’ve lost it . . . has Lent become a thing of the past?

Now, don’t get me wrong!  I don’t want to go back to the “under-pain-of sin” mandatory fast and abstinence of pre-1967 Catholic life – – although I sure remember Pope Paul VI, as he lifted mandatory fast and abstinence (keeping it only on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent), expressing confidence that mature Catholics would now freely embrace penance and self-denial.

Nor do I suggest that there aren’t a good number of Catholics who still take Lent very seriously with their acts of sacrifice, more fervent prayer, and added deeds of service and charity.

Yet, I am still moved to wonder if, as a Church, we have lost the wonder of Lent, that these forty holy days have gone the way of holy days of obligation, fasting before communion, and no meat on Friday.

And all our kids hear about is how Lent “used-to-be.”

So, for instance, I’m at a great parish in the archdiocese and notice that they’re having a big dance on . . . the first Friday of Lent!

So, I’m at a huge banquet for over a thousand men, mostly Catholics, where the liquor flows and the steaks are medium-rare on . . . a Friday of Lent!

So, I’m at Mass in a parish where they sing the Gloria and have alleluias all over the place on . . . a Sunday of Lent!

I admire how our Jewish neighbors take their “high holy days” in the fall so seriously, especially the days of penance, fasting, and contrition . . .

Our Islamic neighbors fast all day and deepen their prayers for a month at Ramadan . . .

And here, my Catholic people write me for a “dispensation” on one of the six measly Fridays we’re asked to abstain from meat (big sacrifice these days!), if they even bother with the dispensation at all.

Am I being too gloomy here?  You know me well enough to realize I’m hardly puritanical or a crab.  All I’m asking is:  have we lost Lent?  Is it all now nostalgia, a museum piece, in the attics of our souls, as we tell our kids and grandkids how Lent “used-to-be”?

Lent didn’t just used to be . . . it’s needed now more than ever!

Let me ask you, is there anything different at all in your life, in the rhythm of your family and home, in your parish, this Lent?

Is it too late to get it back?

Young People in Rio – Thanks!

Monday, July 29th, 2013

You did it again, dear participants in World Youth Days . . .

This was my sixth one.  Before each of them, I debate, should I go?  It’s so much trouble, travel, time; it will be unorganized and so jammed; there will be a lot of walking, waiting, and inconvenience . . . is it worth it?

Yes!  Monday morning, home safe and secure, after a glorious week in Rio, yes!   It was worth it!

You young people in Rio, you worked a miracle:  you made me young again!

Our Catholic faith is “ever ancient, ever new.”  At World Youth Days, you young people show us that the wise, tender, loving, grandmotherly Church, with teachings and traditions timeless, is also a dazzlingly beautiful young bride who enchants all of us.

In Rio I marveled at you:  standing in line waiting for us priests to hear your confessions, that dramatic occasion of the conversion of heart we all crave;

Kneeling silently before the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist;

Singing and embracing as you walked for miles in wind, rain, and chill (it was their winter);

Attentive at the three catechetical sessions I was privileged to lead, thoughtful in your questions and testimonies, so joyful and reverent at Mass;

And you got stronger, more and more enthusiastic, instead of fatigued and bored:  1½ million lining the Holy Father’s motorcade that “welcome ceremony” on Thursday; swelling to 2 million for that moving Stations of the Cross Friday; a crescendo of 3 million for Saturday’s vigil and Sunday Mass.

Copacabana, the three mile stretch of stunning beach, Rio’s jewel.  For carnivalé, Mardi Gras, it’s known for revelry and actions, I hear, less than noble.  Last week, it was the scene of prayer, virtue, friendship, Christian discipleship, solidarity in values and searching, exuberance in cheering the man who simply described himself as an “old pilgrim” among the young, Pope Francis.

You raised none of the “issues” flowing from ideologies or problems in the Church:  nothing about women’s ordination, priestly celibacy, same-sex marriage, the HHS mandate, even immigration or abortion.

You concentrated, not on issues, but on a Person:  the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ, your thirst for Him, your desire to know, love, and serve Him in His Church. He is the way, the truth, and a life! He is the answer to the question posed by every human life.

Today, back home, I’m tired, hoarse, coughing, sneezing, and out of clothes.  But, I am young again in my faith . . .

. . . thanks to you, Young People of World Youth Days in Rio! See you at the next one.