Saturday 1st November 2014

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

The Time Of Lent . . . A Path To Holiness

March 11, 2014 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By MOST REV. DAVID M. O’CONNELL, CM

(Editor’s Note: Bishop David M. O’Connell heads the Diocese of Trenton, N.J. This message to his flock on how to make a good Lent is reprinted here with permission. All rights reserved.)

+    +    +

When I was a boy growing up in a Catholic family, Lent was a big deal. Ash Wednesday was the beginning of a special time of the year unlike any other. My Mom, like her German mother before her, would make doughnuts on the Tuesday before — “Faschnaut Day” — clearing out kitchen cabinets and the icebox to make way for the forty days of sacrifice and penance that stretched out ahead of us. Those doughnuts were great and very different from the kind you get at doughnut chain stores today. They were sinkers . . . you could build a house with whatever was leftover!
All of us in the family had to make the “big decision” by that Tuesday…what were we going to “give up” for Lent? For my Dad it was easy: cigarettes or beer; for my Mom, some special treat she enjoyed; for us kids in the house it wasn’t so easy. Candy or desserts were usually at the top of the list. No matter what we chose, however, the point was always clear: We had to make a sacrifice during Lent and we had to stick to it until Easter! Add to that the required fasting and abstinence, and you know what? We survived. Lent didn’t kill any of us.
As with so many traditions in the Church, Lent evolved over the years. People began to emphasize more “giving” rather than “giving up.” The sober and serious tone of the forty days of Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday, became lighter and less intense. Sure, the Church continued to accent the penitential nature of Lent but it did so in different ways, stressing things that were more positive rather than negative. The obligation to sacrifice something ceased to be the first or most immediate item on the lenten agenda.
I am a great believer in the “both/and” rather than the “either/or” approach to life. And, so, for me Lent is a holy season of penance when I feel called, as a Catholic, by the very nature and purpose of Lent, to both “give up” and to “give” something.
In my own prayer and reflection as bishop of the diocese, I recognize my responsibility to guide the faithful of the diocese — clergy, religious, and laity alike — in living out our Christian life in pursuit of holiness. Lent is a time to intensify the pursuit of holiness as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s own Passion, death, and Resurrection, the central mysteries of our Catholic faith. And, so, together — bishop and clergy, religious and laity — let us focus our attention on the call to holiness that is at the heart of our lenten journey and at the heart of our life’s journey.
Each weekend we profess our common belief in “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.” I discussed these “four marks of the Church” at length in my first pastoral letter as bishop. There, I reminded us of the Scripture passage that says: “As He who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy because I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:15-16).” The Church gives us the season of Lent as an aid in that process.
And here’s the motivation:
“. . .the Church’s call to holiness is rooted in Christ’s own invitation to be holy in imitation of Him. The holiness of the Church is not merely a reflection of but, rather, an identification with the very holiness of God. Can the Church be anything less than what God calls her to be in imitation of Him?” (Pastoral Letter, August 28, 2012).
That is a strong motivation to give Lent, and the growth in holiness it offers, our best shot. Yes, “giving up” something and making sacrifices are an important part of the lenten experience in the Church but if they don’t lead us to deeper holiness, a closer, life-altering identification with Jesus Christ and His Gospel, they are empty gestures. It’s like going on a diet for a while. We’ll lose some weight for sure but if we don’t make up our minds to change our eating behaviors or if we lose our motivation, the weight will only return and more.
Lent and its sacrifices should connect us on a deeper level with the Lord Jesus Christ, should lead us in a more profound way to a closer identification with Him who suffered and died on the cross for us. Giving up. Sacrifice. Every individual Catholic has to decide this Lent “what more can I do, can I give up for Him?” Lent should help us say, “With Christ, I am nailed to the cross. And the life I live is no longer my own. It is the life of Christ who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2: 19-20).
And the other part of the lenten “both/and” equation — giving something — needs to be addressed. As with sacrifice and penance, our lenten “giving” must lead us to holiness in Jesus Christ. He is the reason why we give. It is His face we see in the face of others. “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me” (Matt. 25:40).

Give Some Of Your Time

As bishop, I would like to offer a thought on something that can bring the “both/and” of Lent together for us and that is: time. Giving up my time so that I can give my time to others and grow in holiness.
As a boy, time seemed to hang heavy on my hands. I had a lot of it. I often wasted it. From what I hear from parents, that is not as true today. But as I grew into adulthood, time seemed to move more quickly and became more valuable, more precious.
Perhaps this Lent, whether we are young or old or somewhere in between, we can give some prayerful thought to “time” and how we can use it in our pursuit of holiness.
First, give time to God. Slow it all down and make time for God in prayer. Who could be more important than making time for the One who created us, who loves us as we are, who cares for us every moment of the day, who promised to be “with us all days” (Matt. 28:20), who will call us home after this life is done?
I mean, really. I can make time for just about anything else. Why can’t I find time for God? Why can’t I give up some time for Him?
1) Go to Mass. Less than 20 percent of Catholics in the Diocese of Trenton go to Mass every Saturday/Sunday. What else is so important, more important than giving up an hour or so once a week to hear God’s Word, to receive Him in the Eucharist, to bring our children and families to the Lord, to reflect on what is truly important in life, to join other Catholics in what the Second Vatican Council calls “the source and summit of the Christian life”?
It takes time but, honestly, not that much. Can I go to the gym or exercise later? Will the mall or grocery store still be there when I leave church? Will things that I need or want to do around the house disappear if I go to Mass for an hour once a week? Aren’t there several times each week when Mass is offered in my parish or another parish close by so that I can still do these other things?
Let me recommend that this Lent is a time for the decision to commit ourselves to give time to God and to get to church. Mass is not an option for the Catholic, it is an obligation and for good reason. We are faithful to other obligations. Why not give up some time to be faithful to that one? Lent is the perfect time to reconnect.
2) Personal prayer. One of the easiest things we can give up is the distractions that push God away. Prayer isn’t difficult. It is as simple as closing our eyes for a moment or two and just remembering that God is present everywhere, especially within us. God gives us everything and we are so blessed. Stop and say thanks.
We also have many challenges and concerns in life, things that even cause us suffering and heartache. Offer them to God and ask His guidance and help. We may feel alone at times. Remember that God is always with us. We sin. Ask God’s forgiveness. Go to Confession even if it’s been a long time. Why hold on to sins like they are some hidden treasure? Let go.
The old saying is on target: “Live as though everything depends upon you but pray like everything depends upon God.” Say prayers that you know. Pray in your own words. Give up a little more time for God this Lent.
Second, give time to others. Everyone is busy. Everyone has things to do. But everything that we are in life, everything that we have in life bears the “fingerprints” of someone else. Our parents; our children; our friends; our neighbors; our co-workers. Do we give them enough time? Could they use or do they really need just a little bit more time?
1) The elderly, especially elderly parents or members of the family. Would it hurt to call or visit them, to give them some time? Sometimes they just want someone to listen or to talk to them to remind them that they matter. Is our time so important that we cannot do this?
2) Our children. The world in which we live is sometimes a scary place. Our children don’t come with a set of instructions. There are forces out there willing or, worse, eager to drag them down or lead them along the wrong path. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Relationships. Bullying. Peer-pressure. A little more love and attention — a little more time — could make all the difference. They may act like they don’t want or need us. But they do.
3) People we know who are sick or alone or struggling. How about a call or visit to them or just making the time to sit down and write them a note or letter or even an e-mail?  Are we that busy, too busy? It only takes a few minutes of our time.
4) On a larger scale, have we ever thought about giving our time as a volunteer to those with special needs? Not all our time, no, but some of it. The poor. The hungry. The homeless. The sick.  Lent may be the time to give time as a path to holiness.
The Scriptures tell us that there are two great commands: Love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus Christ tells us that “the command I give you is this: Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Love takes time. Are we willing to give it up? Are we willing to give it? This Lent is the time to give an answer.

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Cardinal says church under Pope Francis is a ‘rudderless ship’

VATICAN CITY (RNS) American Cardinal Raymond Burke, the feisty former archbishop of St. Louis who has emerged as the face of the opposition to Pope Francis’ reformist agenda, likened the Roman Catholic Church to “a ship without a rudder” in a…Continue Reading

Angola: Catholic Priest Refutes Criticism of Church Practices

Lubango — The Southern Huila province?s Lubango city emeritus archbishop, Zacarias Kamwenho, rejected as false the claim that Catholic Christians worship images. Speaking on Sunday in the Muxima Diocese, in Lubango, the archbishop explained that Catholic Christians worship God instead,…Continue Reading

Ave Maria School of Law Wins Its HHS Mandate Case in Federal Court

The Obama Administration has suffered another defeat in its quest to force Catholics and people of faith to pay for abortion-causing drugs, as required by the HHS Mandate. Today the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida came down…Continue Reading

Catholic Educators Appeal to Obama Administration for Relief from HHS Mandate

Today a coalition including The Cardinal Newman Society, leaders of Catholic schools and colleges, and the expert attorneys of the Alliance Defending Freedom told the Obama administration that its latest rule mandating insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including abortion-causing…Continue Reading

Toronto schools hosting ‘LGBTQ’ conference for students as young as 11

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is hosting three student conferences within the span of eight days for the purpose of LGBTQ activism.  The conferences, which have been organized in collaboration with Jer’s Vision, will take place on October 28,…Continue Reading

The Synod and the Media: Culpable Naïveté or Shrewd Calculation?

Upon becoming director of media relations for the American bishops in late 1969, I quickly made a crucial discovery about my new employers. With just a handful of exceptions, the bishops were painfully naïve about the news business, yet convinced…Continue Reading

Chaldean Catholic patriarch suspends 10 priests, including 1 from El Cajon

SAN DIEGO – The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church has suspended 10 priests, including one from El Cajon. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako issued a decree a month ago, demanding the priests return to Iraq or be suspended. Wednesday…Continue Reading

Retired Pope Says Interreligious Dialogue No Substitute For Mission

VATICAN CITY – Retired Pope Benedict XVI said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures, and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as “lethal to faith.” He also said the true motivation…Continue Reading

California Forces Churches to Directly Fund Abortions, Churches Refuse to Comply

To the dismay of California’s people of faith, the California Department of Managed Health Care has reclassified abortion as a “basic health service” under the Affordable Care Act and ordered all insurance plans in the state to begin covering surgical…Continue Reading

Relax. God’s Still In Charge.

It’s an enormous challenge to maintain pristine doctrinal purity while at the same time respond to the experiential, personal, and difficult needs of married couples and families. Behind every arcane discussion of gradualism and natural law there are parents and…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: The “Relatio Synodi” Is “A Significant Improvement Over The Text Of The ‘Relatio Post Disceptationem'”

In a third short interview with CWR, conducted by e-mail late yesterday, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, offers his impression of the Relatio Synodi, comments on reports that the Synod has…Continue Reading

Synod Final Document Reaffirms Church Teaching

The final document of the Extraordinary Synod was released Saturday as the Synod Fathers voted to approve all 62 paragraphs, but with three paragraphs not receiving the normally required two-thirds majority vote. The three paragraphs, which in the past would…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope: Seek The Unity Which Is The Work Of The Holy Spirit

pope628

(Vatican Radio) On Friday Pope Francis met with members of the “Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowship.” The group is in Rome for its Sixteenth International Conference, which has for its theme “Praise and charismatic worship for a New Evangelization.” The Holy Father touched on several themes in his address to the group, beginning with the idea of…Continue Reading

Pope At Mass: Christian Life Is A Continuous Battle Against The Devil

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis described Christian life as a continuous battle being waged against Satan, the world and the passions of the flesh. His comments came during his homily at Mass celebrated on Thursday morning at the Santa Marta residence. He stressed that the devil exists and we must fight against him with the armour of truth. Pope Francis’s reflections…Continue Reading

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Writes Personal Ordinariate Of Our Lady Of Walsingham

ben1

(Vatican Radio) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has sent a message to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which was established for former Anglicans in England in 2011.  The message was on the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict’s apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which was released on November 4th 2009. The Pope Emeritus was responding to a letter he received…Continue Reading

Pope At Audience: The Church Visible And Spiritual

pope650

(Vatican Radio)  “Often, we hear people say: the Church doesn’t do this …the Church doesn’t do that!’ ‘Tell me who is the Church? – ‘Well the Church is the priests, the bishops, the Pope …’ We are all the Church! All of us all of us Baptized! We are the Church, the Church of Jesus’”. This was the message at…Continue Reading

Reconnecting With Mary . . . The Holy Souls

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY November is the month traditionally associated with the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and the feast day associated with them, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, “All Souls’ Day,” falls on November 2, just after All Saints’ Day, which commemorates all those in Heaven, whether well known or unknown. On November…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Does Contraception Lead To Abortion?”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 21 of The Facts of Life, “Contraception,” e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + We have seen that contraception fails frequently and so often leads to abortion.…Continue Reading

Pass-Fail Grading: For The Professors’ Benefit?

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK S.M. writes to offer some observations about the proposal to introduce a “pass-fail” grading system for freshmen at Princeton University. The possibility of doing that was discussed in the October 9 edition of First Teachers. He sees the idea as a “form of grade inflation that is solely intended to accomplish…Continue Reading

Contemporary Culture Encapsulated In A Single Sentence

By DONALD DeMARCO It is remarkable how much a single sentence can reveal about the temper of a culture, even when its author is trying to be withholding. Jacalyn Duffin, a historian and practicing hematologist, is the author of History of Medicine (University of Toronto Press, 2000). It is a 243-page tome that was produced…Continue Reading

Synod Document Of October 13, 2014

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach and cofounder of NFP International. This commentary appeared on his blog [johnkippley.com] of…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Sacred Scripture And Sacred Tradition

By DON FIER Over the past three weeks, our primary focus has been on God’s supernatural divine Revelation. We’ve examined how “by love God has revealed Himself and given Himself to man [and]…thus provided the definitive, superabundant answer to the questions that man asks himself about the meaning and purpose of his life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 66). We’ve…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Regarding our recent column on advanced medical directives and particularly the Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST), A.M.V. of Florida writes to say that the American Life League provides individuals with a document called the “Loving Will,” which corresponds to Catholic teaching. She said that this document was “crucial with my mom’s situation” when she was admitted…Continue Reading

Temples Of The Holy Spirit

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Feast Of The Dedication Of St. John Lateran In Rome Readings: Ezek. 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 1 Cor. 3:9c-11, 16-17 John 2:13-22 Today we celebrate the feast of the dedication of a church building that many people have never heard of and also have no idea of its significance. In Rome, there are four major basilicas; the…Continue Reading

Message Of The Extraordinary Synod Of Bishops . . . We Ask You To Walk With Us Toward The Next Synod

(Editor’s Note: Below is the text of the concluding message of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, held October 5-19. This message was released on October 18. (See Fr. Kevin M. Cusick’s column in this issue, p. 2B, and the front page for reporting and commentary on the separate final document of the Extraordinary Synod.) + + +…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Redefining Marriage: Not About The Kids And The Picket Fence

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Following the Extraordinary Synod and the rollback on confusing language about same-sex attraction and the divorced and remarried in the final version of the Relatio Synodi document, the predictable reactions are coming in. Those who continue to hold Church teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman are labeled as “bigots,” while…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Wolfgang

By CAROLE BRESLIN October 31 has come to be yet another Christian holy day corrupted by our secular society. All Hallows Eve, Halloween, is now celebrated with emphasis on evil and horror. Corn mazes with frightening objects around the corner, haunted houses to terrify even the bravest of persons, glorification of vampires, and decorations of death and witches — these…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anthony Mary Claret

By CAROLE BRESLIN St. Anthony Mary Claret has something in common with at least three other saints. Like St. Peter Claver, he was born in northeastern Spain — over 200 years later. Like St. Pio of Pietrelcina, when he heard Confessions, he frequently could read the souls of the penitents, asking them about a sin that they had not confessed.…Continue Reading

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading