Tag: Lent

Living Out Christ’s Hope

Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of joy in the Christian life; Christians should not be sad, melancholy or nostalgic. What is it that makes sadness so tempting? And what is it in Christianity that exposes it as a lie?

 

Fallen humanity is in a state of dilemma: there is a very real, unavoidable sense in which man is not quite at home in this world.

Generally, the notion of home provokes thoughts of a place of fulfillment, and contentment—a place to rest at the end of a long day. And yet, regardless of where we are on this earth, or when, that sense of fulfillment of which we sometimes get a glimpse lacks a sense of finality; it never stays.

When man is happy he wants to stay happy, when he loves he wants to love forever. And yet, change is the very nature of the temporal world and diminishment the nature of the finite goods we accumulate. Multiplying these goods certainly adds to their quantity, but there is no point in the equation that the finite goods become enough; what man ultimately longs for seems to be a different kind of thing.

Even those nonmaterial goods we have—relationships, education, health, experiences, beauty—are subject to change and can ultimately disappoint us, at least in so far as they will never be entirely good, or good forever.

 

Nothing in this world is capable of fulfilling the human desire for happiness, because what man desires is infinite.

And so we are left with the fact that man desires what he cannot achieve in this life. As Christians we are first called to recognize this, our own fallen humanity—to see this dilemma in truth. But then we must respond in truth, and it’s the way we are called to respond that will lead to a life of joy.

The Christian answer is one that speaks to the paradoxical sense of longing that exists in man for something he has yet to experience in full. In the words of G.K. Chesterton:

The modern philosopher had told me again and again that I was in the right place,

and I had still felt depressed even in acquiescence. But I had heard that

I was in the wrong place, and my soul sang for joy, like a bird in spring.

The knowledge found out and illuminated forgotten chambers in the dark house of infancy.

I knew now why grass had always seemed to me as queer as the green beard of a giant,

and why I could feel homesick at home (Ethics of Elfland, 284).

 

This is what Christianity tells man: that this world is not his final destination, not his home.

Man is status viatoris, a wayfarer; and if man is on his way, that implies that some goal exists towards which he is journeying. Christianity says that man is right to feel the restlessness he does, for he is not yet at the place of fulfillment. What distinguishes the Christian is his hope in the promise given by Goodness itself, namely God, that his happiness will in fact be fulfilled.

Hope is a theological virtue—a habit, a practice, that is ultimately achieved by our cooperation with God’s grace. When we practice hope, we are able to live in joy because we recognize the good things in this world as really and truly good—they sacramentally echo some “place” towards which we are on a seemingly backwards journey towards. And yet, it is this ultimate reality that satisfies all of our desires—eternal, complete, self-sufficient Goodness—God Himself; He is the only being who meets the description of the standards for our happiness, and He has created us to live in friendship with Him.

 

The theological virtue of hope is our source of sustenance for the journey.

The answer that hope provides the Christian aptly solves the problem of humanity and in doing so it brings further meaning to our current lives and this world of unrest. We are fallen creatures, and when plagued with this restlessness, we are often all too eager to disorder our desires. By grace, hope gives meaning to our uneasiness in helping us to attend to it faithfully and hence be driven to God so that our eyes may stay fixed on our true goal. Furthermore, living the virtue of hope puts all of our desires for worldly goods into proper order and perspective, which will actually allow them to be pursued more truthfully, and therefore flourish all the more.

When we attempt to force a godlike role upon some contingent good—whether it be a possession, a job, a person—we ruin our chance for ultimate happiness and destroy the potential for that good to grant us its respective fulfillment. It is through hope that we are able to live in joy, seeing the good in this world, and it is because of hope that we want to transform it. In darkness of melancholy and despair, this world is a foretaste of hell—absence from God; in the light of hope, it is a foretaste of heaven.

In the Garden at Gethsemane, we hear Christ voice His fear, His recognition of sin and what it will entail for Him in asking, “Father, if thou art willing, let this cup pass from me.” And yet His hope in His ultimate end remains: “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” As His followers, we must both recognize the difficulty of human condition—we must look to the Cross—and yet we must remain steadfast in the hope of what has been promised us—the Resurrection of Easter.

 

Every time we attend mass, we echo Christ’s hope

We admit, “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof”—since we truly are beings who fail Him daily and are, on our own, not fit to have the Divine dwell within us. Nevertheless, we hold on by the grace of hope to the promise that by the power of His word, we are to be healed from the condition that plagues us, to finally be granted access to that which alone can finally and forever satisfy—the very life of God Himself. And what but that could make mortal man more full of joy?

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you.” Ephesians 1:18

 

 

Bethany Wall studied Theology and Philosophy at DeSales University. An ardent lover of reading and writing, she is likely to relate at least one situation in her life per day to something said by G.K. Chesterton or C.S. Lewis. She is utterly thankful for good coffee, good conversations, and good music (especially anything involving a banjo).

What Should I Give Up For Lent?

“Why do we fast, but you do not see?

Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”

Isaiah 58: 3

We abstain from meat on Fridays, have designated days to fast, and offer up our own sacrifices during the Lenten season. Sometimes, it can feel like it all goes unnoticed by God, and maybe we will not be encouraged to take it very seriously. We might think that we have to do something really hard for God to notice and be pleased. I used to approach Lenten fasts as an extremist, pushing to see how much intensity I could handle. Though a lot of good still came out of my fasts, I was missing the point.

 

What is the point? Does God notice? Is He pleased?

At the start of Lent, Ash Wednesday, we receive ashes. We recall the words God spoke to Adam, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3: 19).” It is a humbling reminder that we have not created ourselves—that we are not in control of the amount of time we have on earth. This should not be confused as a command to lie in the ashes and remain in a pit of despair—as we must also remember the words from the Psalm, “He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap (113: 7).” We have been raised up, and we are to live in the light—His Light. The ashes are a reminder of where we come from, but also that we are now called to mission.

Throughout the Lenten season, we discipline ourselves to remember this calling.

 

Fasting is a concrete action to represent the sacrifice of our personal wills, making room for the acceptance of God’s Most Holy Will.

Abstaining from meat on Fridays and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday keeps the Church united in our shared mission—to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28: 18-20). As we all have a different role within this mission (1 Corinthians 12: 12-31), we are also called to make personal sacrifices. These will not look the same, because we struggle with different personal sins—different obstacles that prevent us from fulfilling our mission. Lent is a time of purification. Weeds are removed so that the flowers have room to grow. How can you make your fast transform your life beyond Easter Sunday?

 

Looking at the seven deadly sins, I have proposed some ideas to help strengthen your Lenten sacrifices.

Lust 

    • Give up social media after 10 PM. Color a picture, pray a rosary, or read instead.
    • Give up chocolate. Pray for self-control in desires of the flesh every time you crave it.

Gluttony

    • Give up snacking in-between meals. Write a meal plan, and stick to it.
    • Give up chocolate. Offer up a prayer of thanks for what you have every time you crave it.

Greed 

    • Give up Netflix. Donate the money to your parish or a non-profit organization.
    • Give up chocolate. Make a fun treat to share with a friend or family member.

Sloth

    • Give up the snooze button. Get on your knees and offer your day up to the Lord.
    • Give up chocolate. Get through your to-do list without focusing on rewards.

Wrath 

    • Give up breaking the speed limit. Choose to be patient, and offer up frustrations.
    • Give up chocolate. Pray for someone who annoys you every time you crave it.

Envy 

    • Give up comparing yourself to others. Write a letter to someone who has inspired you.
    • Give up chocolate. Use the money to give a gift to someone you do not think deserves it.

Pride

    • Give up doing what you want. Set aside time to discern what the Lord asks of you.
    • Give up chocolate. Eat something you do not prefer.

 

Regardless of what you gave up, the Lord can transform you through it.

My point is not that you have to give up chocolate—I did not, myself—but God can transform you through the littlest sacrifice if your heart is in the right place. Will you let Him change you, or will you just wait anxiously for Easter to arrive? The point of fasting is not to sacrifice now and indulge later. It is also not supposed to make us intolerable to others as we are burdened by what we cannot have. Make a joyful sacrifice. Be renewed.

 

Give the Lord your chocolate, but do not keep from Him your heart.

 

 

Mikayla Ruth Koble is a Catholic writer and speaker for COR – Cats on Rockets, a non-profit ministry she co-founded in 2016. Originally from North Dakota, Mikayla has moved around the country and landed in Michigan. Wherever she goes, she seeks to lead others to an encounter with God’s Love and Power. To learn more about COR or get in touch with Mikayla, please check out www.catsonrockets.org!  – See more at: https://arrayofhope.net/strong-in-him/#sthash.pjzcqJSp.dpuf

The Beauty and Importance of Detachment

For the common, average Catholic, Lent calls to mind 40 days of “not being able to do something.”  This sounds like such a drag.  To the non-Catholic, Lent can be seen as yet another big “NO” from the Church.  However, this mindset is one of the most common misunderstandings about the beauty of the Church’s teachings.  The world would have us think that this practice ties us down when in reality it breaks us free. 

 

This breaking free is known as “detachment.”

St. John of the Cross speaks a great deal about detachment in the spiritual life.  In one of his writings, Ascent of Mt. Carmel, he writes:

As long as this attachment remains, it is impossible to make progress in perfection,

even though the imperfect be very small.  It makes little difference whether a bird

is tied by a thin thread or by a cord.  Even if it is tied by a thread, the bird will be held bound…

it will be impeded from flying as long as it does not break the thread.

(St John of The Cross, Ascent of Mt. Carmel, Book One, 11.4)

St. John of the Cross illuminates a commonly overlooked part of anyone’s spiritual life.  When someone makes the decision to follow God, and ultimately surrender to His will, that person must be willing to truly surrender ALL to the will of God.  As human beings, this frightens us a little bit.  The fear creeps in as to make the Christian believe that giving everything up will lead to unhappiness, much like the idea of making a big Lenten sacrifice leaving us miserable and bitter.  However, if we look at the above quote, those fears can be put to rest. 

 

Is a bird more free and happy when he is able to fly or when he is stuck tied to a thread? 

There are things that tie us down in our lives and the first step to becoming detached is to identify those threads and cords that keep us from flying.  Some are obvious while others are a little tricky to put a finger on.  It will take some time to identify and let go of these burdens, obstacles, and hurdles, however, it can be done. Lent is a perfect time to look at ourselves and find out what are the things that keep us tied down. 

Lent is a great time to look at the vices and “little gods” in our lives.  When we become attached to something through a human desire—food, chocolate, coffee, internet, alcohol, working out, shopping— it is easy for other things to creep in and take the place of God in our lives.  Detachment and sacrifice go hand in hand. By sacrificing these little things and detaching ourselves from them, we learn to not become slaves to our desires and when we are not slaves to our desires, we can allow our desire for God, our desire for Heaven to grow.

 

The Lord calls each and every one of us to sainthood.

 He calls each of us to strive for holiness, to be all that He created us to be, and to ultimately be with Him forever in eternity.  He created birds to fly.  He created you for greatness, for holiness, for Heaven.  However, we know that there would be no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday. There would be no resurrection without the crucifixion.

 

 

Matthew Higgins is the Assistant to the Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Newark. He received his Master’s degree in Systematic Theology from Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University. His 10+ year ministry experience includes Junior High Faith Formation & Youth Ministry, Young Adult Ministry, and Campus Ministry. He has also spoken at various youth retreats, parish events, and conferences for college/graduate students at both Catholic and secular institutions. Above all, Matthew is proud to be a husband and father.

 

A Must Do Before Easter

We are well into Lent now and we are getting closer to Easter. What a beautiful time for our souls to be purified as we grow deeper in our relationship with our Lord through sacrifice and service.

 

Lent is a time for conversion, forgiveness and healing.

During this time, God gives us the chance to acknowledge the ways we have been away from Him and helps us to shift our focus towards Him. What better way to do so than through the Sacrament of Confession. We must take advantage of this free grace that God wants to give us, especially during this Holy time of Lent. 

Reconciliation is a sacrament and the sacraments are given to us by God as ways to help us to grow in holiness on our journey to Heaven.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Christ’s love is shown in the fact that He seeks the lost and heals. That is why He gave us the sacrament of restoration, in which we are freed from sin and strengthened in our physical and spiritual weaknesses.”  (1420- 1421) 

Going to Confession can be difficult at times and is not always easy. Maybe you have some reservations or fears about Confession. Maybe you haven’t gone in years or maybe you have a hard time letting go. Are you shameful and think that you could never be forgiven? These are all natural human thoughts, but we must not allow them to overpower us and keep us from healing. Surrender it all to God.

 

Don’t lose hope! You can be forgiven

We have a God who is merciful and all loving, a God who is bigger than all our fears and insecurities. He looks at you with pure delight and love. You are worthy of His mercy and He desires to forgive you and heal your heart.  

Confession is like ripping off a band aid. No one likes to do it and it stings a little no matter how fast or slow you rip it off. But once it is off, the wound is healed. This is us in the confessional. It hurts to bring up all of our past mistakes and tell the Priest our sins, but afterwards we are fully healed of our burdens. Everything we carried before is wiped away and our souls are renewed and made pure. 

 

We are no longer bound by the chains of sin, but we are made free. 

When you turn from sin and turn towards Christ, something in your heart changes, and it changes for the better. Your soul is reawakened, your eyes are opened to God’s loving embrace, and you are healed.

I encourage you to go to Confession before Easter to cleanse yourself of your sins and allow our Lord to wrap you in His merciful arms. My prayer for you is that you may come to recognize our loving Father through the Sacrament of Confession. 

 

Lauren Costabile is a Catholic speaker, singer and film creator. She is the social media/ artistic director for Array of Hope as well as a performer in the Array of Hope Concert Event.  She actively spreads the gospel to young people and families through music and witness. She creates inclusive films that educate and raise awareness for those with disabilities, promoting the dignity and value of all life. She loves all things gluten free and strives to use her gifts and talents to spread joy and make our world a brighter place.  

What’s the Point of Penance and Fasting?

Understanding the need for fasting in the spiritual life

Ask any Catholic about Lent and usually the first thing that comes to mind is fasting. But do we understand the need for this discipline in the spiritual life, especially during Lent? One thing that should be clarified from the start is that God does not need our sacrifices and penance.

God, being infinite goodness and love itself, needs absolutely nothing outside of Himself. He doesn’t need our penance in the sense that they add nothing to Him because He is infinite love, goodness, beauty, and truth. But we need our penances and sacrifices because it unites us to Him.

 

So what’s the point of penance?

Penance is the renunciation and denial of self to the pleasures of the world that empties us of our disordered will and appetite within our fallen human nature that leaves little room for God within our heart. Cleansed from original sin through Baptism, the effects of our fallen nature still rear its ugly head through our tendency toward sin, also known as concupiscence.

 

 Fasting and penance are the means of conquering our tendency toward sin

Sin is something that we all experience and which primarily comes to us through the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Satan, as a fallen angel, who was transformed through pride, would never dream of denying himself to allow God to reign within his heart; thus, he was left to himself apart from God and there was no longer any place in Heaven for him and his followers. The irony is that it’s in the refusal to deny ourselves through pride and the other deadly sins that we facilitate the ultimate self-denial, which is a denial of the only one who could ever fulfill the desires of our hearts and bring us to the happiness we so desperately seek: God. 

Fasting becomes an extremely potent way to practice the sort of discipline necessary to increase our capacity for God through self-denial. We need look no further than the one who reveals man’s very identity and destiny: Jesus Christ.

 

Jesus is our ultimate example

Jesus, God incarnate, showed us during His earthly life the way we are to walk in the spiritual life so that we may be united to the Father. Before Jesus started His active ministry, which ultimately found its fulfillment on Calvary, He was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to pray and fast for 40 days and 40 nights, experiencing the temptations of the evil one. If Jesus, who was guiltless, entered into these temptations and severe penances, then we should long to do the same. It is through the imitation of His life that we experience a profound intimacy with Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Trinity. 

This Lent, amidst your penances, cultivate a deep and abiding love in your soul by raising your heart to God in moments of self-denial. When things get tough or you feel tempted to turn away from your Lenten promises, gaze upon a crucifix and see what true love looks like.

 

Mike Grasinski is an ardent lover of study and teaching. He has a B.A. in Theology and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Theology. He loves all things truth and has a deep joy for writing and studying. Specific pursuits include: Mariology, Church history, lives of the saints, fundamental theology, moral theology, mystical theology, scripture studies, and medieval philosophy.

Why Do We Give Up Things for Lent?

“What did you give up for Lent?” is a fairly common question asked during these forty days.

Unfortunately sometimes people can become trapped in one of two thought processes in their choices to “give something up.”

 

For some, Lent is the same every year.

“I give up chocolate because that’s what I always do,” or “I will go to Stations of the Cross each Friday at church.”  While these sacrifices are good and I am in no position to judge an individual’s intentions, there may be something lacking in repeating the same thing each year.

 

For others, some try to “outdo” last year’s sacrifice. 

For instance, one year I gave up all types of drinks other than water, the following year I fasted every single Friday, the next year I gave up meat.  For me, I took the sacrifice a little too far.  Not only was it extremely difficult to follow through with the sacrifice, it made me bitter and unpleasant at times, causing others around me to have to make the sacrifice of dealing with my attitude.

 

Neither of these approaches call to mind to true purpose of the season of Lent.

The first doesn’t challenge the individual enough to step outside his or her comfort zone.  The second puts the individual’s focus solely on the act itself and the degree of difficulty.
In fact, just the other day, I was asked, “What did you give up this year; you are usually pretty intense…” I was a bit taken back by that and thought to myself,

 

What are you trying to prove?

Have I been trying to prove something myself, to others, or to God by what I give up? While I questioned my intention for this year’s sacrifice, I ultimately came to the realization that I focused on something that was becoming a vice in my life—coffee.  In the months leading up to Lent, I realized that I was becoming more tired and more reliant on that boost of caffeine that comes with a cup (or 6) of coffee a day. Therefore, my intention was not to “wow” God but to rather have Him “wow” me.  By detaching myself from something different, I challenge myself to break free of a certain human desire.

 

The purpose of Lenten sacrifices

Lent is not meant to be a personal diet plan or a way to show off how much one loves Jesus through his or her sacrifice. The fasting and abstinence that we partake in are meant to draw us deeper into a relationship with the Lord by undergoing some form of sacrifice, some form of suffering.  Our intentions for choosing a sacrifice must be rooted in that truth.  After all, sacrifice and suffering connect us to the One who sacrificed and suffered all for us.

 

 

Matthew Higgins is the Assistant to the Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Newark. He received his Master’s degree in Systematic Theology from Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University. His 10+ year ministry experience includes Junior High Faith Formation & Youth Ministry, Young Adult Ministry, and Campus Ministry. He has also spoken at various youth retreats, parish events, and conferences for college/graduate students at both Catholic and secular institutions. Above all, Matthew is proud to be a husband and father.