Catholic Inklings

Musings and sharings on my devotion to an ancient religion.

Tag archive: Prayer

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

When I was a kid, starting on approximately the day after Christmas, my Dad would begin a daily countdown to Lent.  He would get a bit excited. I always thought he did it to torture us.  Why did we need to be thinking about it so long?  Why the heck would he be so happy about it—Lent was miserable!  Plus, you know we weren’t picking what we were going to give up until Ash Wednesday morning and then would try to change it later that day when it got too hard.

When I was in high school, our Diocese used to provide what was one of the most formative Church experiences throughout my whole, entire life—Service to the Suffering.  Hundreds of high school kids would converge on the campus of St. Gabriel Parish throughout the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday).  We would gather for prayer in the morning and then be sent out to do charitable work—we’d go to Marlboro Institution to care for the buildings and grounds (every kid who went there has AMAZING stories), inner city Trenton to clean up back allies, a CYO camp to clean up, nursing homes to visit, and all kinds of other good work.  After the work, we’d return to the gym and observe the Triduum liturgies as a community of young people.  Liturgically correct?  No.  But, man if it didn’t mean something.  It made an indelible mark on the hundreds of kids (some of them non-Catholics and some exchange students that we brought with us) who were present.  We encountered Christ broken for our hurting world, and then encountered Christ made whole in the celebration of the Liturgy.  It was powerful.

Even with my dad’s excitement about it, my experience of Service to the Suffering, nine years of Catholic elementary school, and six more years of Catholic higher education, it wasn’t until I was working with the RCIA (the adults who are in formation to become Catholic) that I really “got it.”  I got why Dad was always looking forward to Lent (it wasn’t as sinister as I thought as a kid).

Lent is a forty day period originally designed to prepare those who would be baptized to train their ears to Christ’s voice, to echo it forward, and to allow Christ to root out of them whatever wasn’t worthy of a New Creation in Baptism. Forty is the allotted time for testing and preparation in the Bible–Noah’s Ark, Moses’s time before God called him, the people of Israel in the desert, Jesus in the desert… God really likes the desert apparently–probably because there are no distractions out there.

All Catholics renew our baptismal vows at Easter Mass, so Lent is preparation for us, too.  We’re called into the “desert” to confront temptation, acknowledge the things that tempt us for what they truly are, and discern what it is that we really want. It’s a chance to walk through our hearts with Christ; to see what distracts us from actual happiness and let it be crucified on the Cross and drowned in the waters of Baptism so that we can rise with Christ, renewed. At the end of the forty days, we are ready for something big–to live differently and boldly after allowing God to refine us.

LENT IS AWESOME.

My boss and I begin singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” as Ash Wednesday approaches. The prayers, Scripture readings at Mass, and liturgies throughout Lent and the Triduum teach us more about who we are as a church than any other time of the year. They expose the heart of why Jesus came to earth, why we need God, and what our lives can be when we partner with God. If we allow it, Lent can be life-changing.

Fast, pray and give.  Make a point to see suffering around you and do something about it.  Make a point to spend a lot of quiet time with Christ—and listen.  Give up something that you will miss and unite your discomfort with the people in our world who never have what you gave up for only forty days. Participate in the offerings of your parish; try Stations of the Cross, go to Bible Study, volunteer to help the poor, go to Confession, go to your diocese’s Chrism Mass and to your Triduum celebration. And pray for and welcome the Catechumens and Candidates who will become united with us in the Sacraments at the Vigil. Then, go ahead and try to tell me that it’s not the most wonderful time of the year. 😉

Family, Friends, People in Purgatory and Ethiopia | Catholic365

If there’s one thing that my Catholic Elementary School education taught me, it was to look outside myself in all situations, but particularly when there’s suffering involved. Having gone to a small school, teachers sometimes got recycled into different grades, causing me to have one teacher both in 5th and 7th grade. This teacher had a very specific way of incorporating prayer into our class time. After recess, we would pray a decade of the Rosary and do some intercessory prayer. And every day, there were stock things that we’d pray for and then we could add our own. My teacher had us pray for our “family, friends, people in Purgatory and Ethiopia” every day.

[Read blog on Catholic365]

Call Me Maybe | Catholic365

People can be so annoying. Pretty much everyone in the world has “friends” (or even family) who they never hear from…until they need something. Or there’s the person that every single time you run into them you get the “broken record” run down of everything going wrong in their life. You might see them coming and duck to avoid them, but they find you…oh, they find you…and they don’t take a breath. There’s no getting a word in here!

 

(Read blog on Catholic365)

Every Great Mother Teaches Her Children the Way Of Gratitude (and the Force)

Recently, when on the checkout line in the supermarket, I caught an older gentleman staring intently at me. I was wearing my “Every great mother teaches her children the ways of the Force” shirt. When I caught his eye he said, “The Force…like Obi Wan.”

“That’s right!” I said.

“I wouldn’t want to be raising kids now.” he said.

Well, that was all I needed to hear. I have an annoying condition called “Runningoffathemouth” that prevents me from being silent if provided an opportunity to sound off. Frankly, I’m not sure how I still have any friends…

So, I ascended my soap box and said something about how raising kids in any time period has its challenges; that it’s never easy. He expressed his concern about what parents are up against with the culture being so contrary to anything wholesome. True enough, I said, but the tone and boundaries a family sets, the context and values that are modeled are up to the parents to provide. The way we treat one another and those outside of our family will become the standard of how our children behave when they are away from us. We have the most significant impact on the worldview our children will adopt, and we give them a foundation…and truth, justice and the American way!

(Cue the breeze blowing my cape behind me.)

[Read blog on pbgrace.com]

10 Things I Want My Kids To Take To School

As I stood with my oldest son waiting for the bus to take him to his freshman orientation at half past ridiculous o’clock this morning, I was very much feeling like one of those creepy Old Spice moms. It was his first time taking a bus to school—he went to Catholic elementary, and we lived out of district, so I drove him every day—AND I worked right across the parking lot from where he and his brother were. We chatted a little as we waited for the bus, and he made a point (as he does) of making sure that I see how he towers over me now. I tried to hold it together when I saw the bus coming, but the sound I made startled the poor boy. I said a quick good-bye (kissing him before the bus arrived to make sure I didn’t embarrass him) and then bolted for the house to cry in my coffee like a jerk. He got on the bus like nothing, greeted the driver (politely!) and went about his day.

I was sucked right back to his first day of pre-k. We stood outside the school with the other kids and their parents, but back then, he would let me hold his tiny, pudgy hand—I couldn’t imagine the meat hooks he’d have now. When it was time to go in, that little, independent man said, “I don’t want to go in there.” I said, “You have to.” And, blurting out a little, “Okay!” he cheerfully ran inside—no kiss, no good-bye—just ran off to meet his destiny.

It’s bittersweet watching my boys grow up—I’m proud of who they are and what they are becoming, fearful of any pain or disappointment they may experience, suspicious (yet hopeful) of whatever girls might look at them, wondering if my husband and I gave them what they need to be good, holy people and anticipating how they will live out God’s calling for them.

So, I give them a little advice:

  • Know who you are, and be true to it. Don’t let other people decide your tastes, interests, values and goals. True cool comes from being authentic—don’t be a phony. Remember Milli Vanilli, and Jose Canseco. They are old people who failed on an epic scale. Google it. Peer pressure is for chumps—it’s just insecure kids trying to get you to be insecure with them. You’re strong—be strong.
  • Don’t gossip. Whether the information is true or not, harming another’s reputation is damaging to them, to the person you are trying to sway the opinion of and yourself. Would you want that news shared about you? Then, don’t share it about others. Would you want someone trying to decide your opinion of another instead of leaving that up to you? Then don’t do it to someone else.
  • Tell the truth. Don’t exaggerate, take responsibility for your mistakes and say only what is true. Consider President Nixon…or Miley Cyrus…train wrecks. Don’t be one.
  • Don’t say everything that occurs to you. Think about how it will affect others. Will it be hurtful, or build up the other person? If you are going to disagree with someone—is it important, or are you just showing off or being disagreeable for no reason? Did they say that Lord of the Rings is not the best book series ever? Defend it! Did they say that spring is the best season? Who cares! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
  • Life is not a competition. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, or has, or is wearing. Be content with what you have—I’m not getting you that stuff, anyway.
  • The second guy always gets the foul. If someone does or says something to you that you don’t like, respond—don’t react. Not only will you be the one to get in trouble for lashing out, you give up your freedom in that situation. Instead of choosing how you would like to respond and keeping a cool head, you are giving up your will and becoming what you didn’t like to begin with. Like a supervillain.
  • Guard your heart. Make one or two good friends—friends who will have your back and who’s back your feel comfortable having. Choose friends who will support you in doing good, will tell you when you’re wrong and who you can have fun with. You don’t always have to agree; it’s better if you don’t! Don’t give your heart—in friendship or in love—to someone who doesn’t respect you for who you are.
  • Thank your teachers. Boy, do they put up with a lot. And they show up every day to try and get something useful into your noggin. Be grateful for all the people who are there helping, teaching, cleaning the school, driving the bus—and let them know that you are grateful.
  • Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Or I wreck you. Or your dad, grandparents, or aunts, or uncles wreck you. We are in your corner and are always here to support you. And correct you. Because we love you.
  • Besides having us in your corner, more importantly, you have God. Don’t forget the help, guidance, unconditional love and perfect, free gift that God is to you. God is there for you. Include God in everything you do and you won’t go wrong.

None of this advice is anything they haven’t heard before—and it’s certainly not a complete list—but it’s stuff I pray they’ll remember when they are away from me. Most of me is really looking forward to the great things that will unfold for them as they continue to grow and strike out on their own. But, a tiny part of me will continue to drink slightly salty coffee many mornings as I remember the cuddly little monsters that they were when they were small.

Does Top Gear Stop Here?

Mondays are…well, Mondays. Garfield hates them; most people in the workforce hate them. But, for me Mondays were a good thing. Sunday is the first day of my work week, so there’s that, and I have karate Monday night. I love that. Then, I had the great joy of looking forward to a nice cold beer and some beautiful escapism while playing the jewel game on my phone and watching the eight billion episodes of Top Gear that would record on my DVR (I’m talking the British version here…).
This is probably going to be no more. Jeremy Clarkson, one of the three (but not my favorite—I love James May) members of the Top Gear group has assaulted verbally and physically a producer on the show and was fired. What now? This is too much to handle since “James May’s Man Lab” has inexplicably disappeared already. What now?

[Read blog on The Rogue website]

Listening Ears

Do you have trouble paying attention at Mass? Sometimes it’s hard—there are so many distractions around us, and inside our heads (cute babies, shopping lists, the ‘oh crud—did I remember to…?”). When we’re supposed to be singing a hymn, sometimes I catch myself looking at the notes and how some of them look like smiley faces. If we’re open to it, anything can become a distraction. And it seems like there’s a lot of “down time” in the Mass for that to happen—time when we are not speaking or singing…just sitting and the priest is doing his thing.

[Read blog on Catholic365.com]