Tag Archives: Lent

Some Almsgiving Options During Lent – and Beyond

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Originally posted on http://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com on February 24, 2008.

Since it’s Lent, and I have yet to give a good Lenten post, what better day to take care of that than a Sunday? Last year, I put together this post on some of the actual practices during Holy Week. I also addressed our plan for giving to charities here. Giving alms is one of the key Lenten practices, but it is an important part of the Christian life at all times. And while that post discussed a strategy to both challenge your giving levels, but in such a way that you can accommodate it, it did not discuss the charities and/or causes we donate to.

To be a good steward is to give prayerfully, and not recklessly. Supporting a cause that, for example, supports embryonic stem-cell research is not consistent with Catholic teaching. Thus, this giving would actually further an intrinsically evil act. As such, it is not simply the act of giving that counts, but to whom and what you are giving.

This post is certainly not meant to imply that there are not a myriad worthy causes. But this post is to provide a list, links, and information we support (where applicable). Our resources only go so far, so we do not support every single worthy organization that we come across, but I have also included the ones that are on our list of next in line to receive support, should finances allow.

First and foremost, we support our home Parish. I encourage everyone to do the same. If not Catholic, then the church you attend. But this really should be the “first fruits,” because it directly supports the mission of the Church where you are – and where God has placed you for a reason. There are a few circumstances where people are not satisfied with how their parish operates, or perhaps a new priest brings a more liberal theology, etc. In these cases, I still am a supporter of staying a member of the Parish, in order to help bring about change in the right direction. But if you feel giving needs to be re-directed, then give what you would have otherwise given to some other faithful parish or worthy cause. Better yet, though, if you can earmark your funds towards a project in your Parish that you do support, that may be an option as well.

Secondly, we support our Diocese’s Annual Appeal, as well as its We Belong to Christ Capital Campaign. It is very important to us to humble ourselves and trust our Bishop in obedience when he says we need to support this. Read the rest of this entry

Of Lent, Lenten Practices, Holy Week, and the Triduum

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Originally posted on http://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com on April 9, 2007.

I feel guilty for not posting during the last week on the Holiest week of the Church year.  As I wrote that first sentence, I recalled the old jokes about Catholics and guilt.  OK, so I don’t feel really, really guilty.  I just feel a little guilty.

But Holy Week has now passed us by and we have embarked upon the 50 days of celebrating the Easter Season!   Woo hoo!    Hey, you non-Catholics can tease us Catholics all you want about our 40 days of Lent and giving things up and not eating meat on Fridays,  but what you fail to realize is the unabashed partying that takes place after all that.   (“Unabashed” and “partying” probably need a more refined, Catholicized, interpretation in this reading.  But still…)

I didn’t really post all that much on the Lenten Season.  I had hoped to get around to it, but life often throws you in another direction.  For me, that direction was my Dad, my kids, my sudden interest on Global Warming and Earth’s cycles, my CD project, and so on.  But I would like to take a little time to reflect on the last 40 days leading up to and culminating in Easter, which is not as much about the Easter Bunny as some may think, and probably more to do with the Resurrection of Christ than many wish. 

We try to give things up as a family and as individual members of the family during the Lenten season.  I try to be careful to be low-key on those things so as to not be building myself up.  But that will not be a concern this year.  If I’m being honest, I don’t think I made Lent the season it was intended to be this year as much as I would should have.  I’m human, and while that is a reason, it’s not an excuse.   But still, our whole family did manage to use the season to get a good confession in – as I think everyone should.  We said more complete Rosaries and/or Divine Mercies as a family, and we greatly curtailed our dining out.  All in all, the season still looked a little different.  In reality, it probably looked more like it should look!  Many people in the world have it a lot worse every day than I have it on my worst day during Lent, that’s for sure.

Holy Week was a little more trying this year because of the situation with Dad.  He offered his own “passion” for the week with the Passion of Christ as best he could, I think.  The Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil are always very enjoyable to me.  I know some people can’t get past the amount of time these services last (although the same people can sit and watch a stupid movie for two hours with no issues) but I hope most people take away the lessons of those days.  Holy Thursday, for any non-Catholics who may be interested, is celebrated in the Catholic Church as a celebration of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.   Of course, that’s the summit of it, but there are other interesting elements involved in that night. 

Normally, the tabernacle in the front of the Church houses our Lord in His Eucharistic presence, and so we genuflect as a sign of reverence.  This becomes commonplace for us and we sometimes forget why why do what we do.  Holy Thursday reminds us, because on that night the hosts are removed from the tabernacle and it is open.  Thus, no genuflection takes place, just a simple bow to the sanctuary.  Also, during the Mass there is a “washing of the feet” ceremony where the Priest washes the feet of the Parishioners.  I always welcome a good explanation of the sign of humility involved with that ritual.  In Christ’s time, this was the ultimate lowering of oneself in complete servitude to another.  The other thing about Holy Thursday that is special is the stripping of religious symbols (or covering them) in the Church.  All crosses/crucifixes are covered, the altar is stripped bare, holy water is emptied, etc.  This is because Holy Thursday marks the beginning of our Lord’s passion.  We will uncover all these things at the Easter Vigil in celebration of His Resurrection.

The Triduum is interesting in that the three days, Holy Thursday – Good Friday – Easter Vigil are all considered to be one continuous and long Mass.  Holy Thursday begins with the Priestly blessing, we have the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist, but there is no profession of faith and no final blessing.  On Good Friday, there is no Mass said.  It is, in fact, the one day of the year where it is not permitted.  Instead, we have a service where we read John’s account of the passion and a veneration of the cross.  The veneration in a large church like ours takes a long time, but it is a wonderful opportunity to symbolically take your burdens and place them at the cross.  We do have communion with Eucharistic hosts consecrated at the Holy Thursday Mass, but no prayer of consecration is said, and thus it is not a Mass.

Finally, the Easter Vigil is the wonderful, high point of the Christian year in the Catholic Church.  The church starts out dark with only a single candle (a large candle that will burn all year, called the Paschal candle) lit.  From this candle, symbolizing Christ as the Light of the world, all persons in the church will receive a flame to light the candles they are holding.  When all is done, the church lights up and the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection begins!   The Vigil is lengthy, but very much worth it.  It is the night that many, many catechumens fully enter membership into the Church.  Any people that have not received a Christian baptism (non-Catholic but Christian baptisms of proper form are valid) are baptized.  Children are baptized.  People receive their First Eucharist.  People are confirmed.  It’s a wonderful celebration.  The readings, the Eucharist, the litanies, the candles, the entrants into the Church…   All point to Christ, and it is a fitting beginning to the Easter season!

Now, in our family, we used to attend the Vigil before, oh, the fourth kid or so.  As the kids get a little older we will go back to that, but for now we’ve attended Mass on Easter Sunday.  That’s very nice, too, but not as large a celebration as the Vigil.  (The early Vigils used to be the only Easter celebration, and would go all night! Now, people complain if they go past a couple hours…)   This year my two daughters and I joined in the music at the 10:30 Mass, so that was nice in a different way.

Of course, the Easter tradition with the kids just wouldn’t be complete, though, without a visit from the Easter Bunny.  That tricky bunny does have a knack for hiding the baskets of the older kids in the most difficult places!

Ash Wednesday’s Here? How’d That Happen?

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Originally posted on http://digitalditribes.wordpress.com on February 21, 2007.

Life’s pace never ceases to amaze me.  I know in my head that time goes along at a steady beat, but it just doesn’t seem like that’s the case.  Months and years become a blur.  Kids grow older and you find yourself thinking, “You shouldn’t be saying things that make you sound like an adult.  Stop it and go do something stupid so I can send you to the corner.”

So, as I reflect on the fact that it is Ash Wednesday, I’m thinking “How is it Ash Wednesday? I thought we just celebrated Christmas!”

But, nevertheless, I am incapable of slowing down or stopping time.  And so I must accept that we are now entering the Lenten Season and all that goes with it.  And, as with most things, I have a few random thoughts on this day.

The first is that I need to focus.  And it is my hope that everyone focuses.  What I mean is, an honest answer to the question “Why do we do that?”   It is so easy to refrain from eating meat on Fridays and getting ashes on the head today, and fasting today and on Good Friday, and so forth, without ever asking the question “What are we doing?”

Indeed, more than once us Catholics have been criticized for being overly ritualistic.  This criticism is unfounded in Scripture, however, as we observe Christ keeping the Passover and observing the Jewish laws and customs.  In fact, Christ even directed people to do what the Pharisees told them to do in obedience, but not to follow their hypocritical example in other ways.   There is humility in obedience, and humility in following the “laws” that our Church lays out for us.  And, it is true that Jesus relaxed certain laws, and had the authority to do so as the fulfillment of the Law.   But to suggest that this makes Church Law a sham is ill-conceived.  For one thing, Paul – a bishop of the Church – tells us to hold fast to our traditions.  Not to mention, we Catholics do believe that Christ established the Church to direct and guide us in His name.  Christ relaxed laws that had served their purpose to prepare the way for Him.  Also, many laws had lost their meaning, and people were going through the motions without thinking about their greater meaning.  This only shows us that certain rituals, obligations, or laws can occasionally be changed to meet the spiritual needs of the people.  These would not be doctrinal positions on faith and morals, but disciplines that help us live according to those doctrinal positions.  It also shows us that people have always had a problem with remembering that there is a reason they do what they do.

And therein lies the rub.  If there is one aspect of these criticisms that I do appreciate as being fair and on point, it’s the fact that too many people never think about why they are doing what they are doing.  And if that is the case, then people may be falling into a ritualistic trap of thinking they are saved by just doing things they are told.  While that certainly is obedient, it lacks the fullness of the beauty behind these rituals.  It also leads to the risk of loss of faith by just looking at these things as pointless rules that are placed in our path for the sole purpose of making our lives more difficult and taking the fun out of everything.  We should all understand the fact that such is not the case.  And if anyone reading this doesn’t understand that there are actual spiritual reasons behind the actions, then I encourage you to contemplate what those reasons might be, and then use this season to find out more aboout it.

Why do I get ashes placed on my forehead in the shape of a cross?  Think about it.  We are mortal.  The very words spoken as the ashes are applied should shake our sense of mortality.  Yet, the cross is a reminder that our mortality in one sense is no different than the mortality of Christ on the cross.  And with it comes the promise of Resurrection.  And why abstain from meat?  Why fast?   And why do we do what we do at Mass?  Why do we genuflect before the tabernacle and kneel during the consecration?  The list goes on.

Today and the next 40 days are a great time to reflect on the “why” of our worship both at Mass and in our daily lives.  There is real meaning to it, and it is beautiful in its constant theme of drawing us to divest oneself of the world and draw closer to Christ.  It is not the kind of detachment that says the whole world is bad.  It is a detachment that says, “All this will pass.  God will not.  Respect creation for what it is and as a temporary gift on your way to salvation, and don’t become too attached to it.”

I’m also always struck by the constant theme I see, and seem to be bringing to this blog: the need for balance.  For example, we read the Scripture today that tells us to not gloat about our fasting, and admonishes us not to go moping around drawing attention to ourselves.  And if we brag about our sacrifices, we have already received our reward.  Then, we receive ashes and our told to go out and display them for the world to see.  What gives?

Again, things are easily misunderstood, and context and balance are everything.  These things are about the heart.  Bragging brings glory to self.  And if you are wearing your ashes to draw attention to yourself in a way that makes you feel proud, then you should wash off those ashes.  But if you are “proud” to be a witness for Christ, and wear your ashes as a simple tool of evangelization and solidarity with Jesus, and offer this up for God’s glory, then by all means you should wear them until they fade.

May you all have a blessed Lenten Season.