Lent

The Freaks are Us

Hollywood has produced a terrific, though historically inaccurate, movie based on the life of showman P.T. Barnum. It is a singing and dancing extravaganza that is highly compelling, though the songs are of the pop variety. Even so, the opening sequence alone, which recapitulates the story of Barnum’s fictional life, is worth the price of [...]

Lent and the Great Paradox

As eighteenth century English writer Samuel Johnson might have put it, “Nothing concentrates the mind like knowing that I am dust, and to dust I shall return.” And nothing is a more bracing reminder of that reality than the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. Placed on the forehead in the form of the cross, [...]

Prepare Well in Advance for Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday is April 8, 2018, the Octave Day of Easter. Devotion to Divine Mercy has been growing worldwide for many years and was added to the calendar of the universal Church in 2000, the year St. John Paul II canonized St. Faustina Kowalska. St. Faustina Kowalska was a nun who, in the 1930s, [...]

Preparing for a God Encounter this Lent

Lent, the penitential season of prayer, self-examination, and repentance prepares us for the celebration of Easter and our heart’s deepest desire: an encounter with the risen Lord. Few songs convey that longing like Paul Baloche’s Open the Eyes of My Heart. Over half of the lyrics consist of the title appeal, followed by the reason: [...]

Escaping the Cross: The Ugliest Temptation

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Protestants are spending their Sunday mornings in football size stadiums. Not for sports, but to listen to their ministers preach the “Gospel of Success.” This new twist on the holy gospels renders the revelation of Our Lord as a guarantee of prosperity, good fortune, and freedom from pain [...]

A Spiritually Meaningful Lent After Mardi Gras

When I was a kid, my siblings and I always felt short-changed on Fat Tuesday. Lent loomed on the horizon, with no sweets for forty days until we got a motherlode of chocolate eggs for Easter. It seemed like we should be able to pig out on Fat Tuesday, since, obviously, it was our last [...]

A Question of Perspective

I recently took my nine-year-old son, Karol, to the National Gallery of Art here in Washington. I knew that a nine-year-old’s idea of a fun Sunday was not necessarily looking at art, but I thought he needs some exposure to it and we can do it in limited amounts, maybe once a month. Besides, I [...]

The Ballad of Judas Iscariot and the Burden of Lent

Lent is a burden and a blessing. It calls Catholics to crawl beneath the weight of themselves to the Cross of Christ and come face to face with who they are. No one will be content with that vision. Most would rather hide from themselves, burying their being deep beneath distractions and denials. Lent is [...]

It is the Story of Everyone

My grandfather—who loved telling stories and who, in his last years, would endlessly retell the same stories—was particularly partial to the story of the fellow who, condemned to hang for his crimes, was nevertheless permitted a bit of exercise the day before. “In that case,” the prisoner asks the judge, “may I just skip the [...]

A Lenten Meditation on an Unconventional Ash Wednesday

As I went to the local supermarket this Ash Wednesday, I was surprised by a table outside on the sidewalk with two men in clerical collars. The sign said it all: “Ashes to Go.” They were administering ashes to shoppers. I had already received my ashes from the priest at church, but I politely asked [...]

Discovering Our Own Sinfulness

Some people say we never hear about sin any more. Not true. It’s just that they are not the familiar sins listed in the Catechism: stealing, lying, missing Mass on Sunday—and especially nothing about sexual sin. Yet we do hear about sins all the time—in the news, on talk shows, and in every kind of [...]

While Only God is Good, Everyone Can Be Perfect

The sonorous start of Lent jolts with the reminder that man is dust and shall return to dust. It is hardly what we call news: before there were calendars and clocks or Donne’s tolling bell, Abel learned it when Cain struck him. Even the immortals of our civic pantheon and postage stamps were immortalized by [...]

Perfect Lenten Reading

Lent is the best time for spiritual reading focused on self-improvement, especially for those who have promised to give up or cut back on sports or entertainment, freeing up time in the process. For us who consider ourselves bad Catholics—or at least not-good-enough Catholics—there is always room for improvement. What sort of books make good [...]

How Little We Know Ourselves

The Lenten and Easter seasons call each of us to renewed reflection on our journey through life. Prayerful reading of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection is a sure way to strive for something Father George Rutler expressed so well—we are to let Jesus “make of our graves what he made of his own borrowed tomb: [...]

Prelude to the Passion

It is only in these last days of Lent—before, that is, the high moments of Holy Week that will mark the earthly end of his life—that the public appearances of Jesus become especially fraught, ever more heightened and dramatic. And it is always a toss-up, given the essential inconstancy of the crowds confronting him (all [...]

Is It Over Yet? Lessons for Lent     

“Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still Even among these rocks…” ∼  Ash Wednesday T.S. Eliot Can you believe it? It’s only the first week of Lent, and I’m already tired of it. When will this ordeal end? Surely there’s a door somewhere leading out of this desert. Does [...]

Lent All Year Round?

For several years, every Ash Wednesday, I witnessed a curious spectacle: an openly dissenting Catholic lesbian teacher I worked with attended her only Mass of the year, early in the morning, and sported her ashes on her forehead all day, in front of her classes. She fasted and abstained, and we noticed, totally confused but [...]

The Three Temptations of Philosophy

The Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent always features one of the Synoptics on the temptation of Jesus in the desert. This year, we read from Luke. Spiritual writers have long reflected on the meaning of the temptations—for bread, for goods, for worship—that those temptations embody. The temptations Jesus faced are temptations we all [...]

Films to Watch During Lent

Lent is a time for taking stock. It is a spiritual workout consisting of prayer, fasting and alms giving. We pray, read spiritual books, and give something to someone in need. But too often we get distracted, we forget to pray, and lose interest in the books we have earmarked for the season whilst suddenly realizing [...]

Lenten Meditations on Politics

Lent is a time of personal transformation, so it is a time of inwardness. It nonetheless has an outward-turning aspect. Man is social, and God is other than ourselves, so in addition to fasting to help us put our attachments in their place, Lent encourages prayer and almsgiving to increase our love of God and [...]

His Resolute Will Should Inspire Us

Pope Benedict XVI has designated 2013 the Year of Faith and this is, no doubt, because we need it. Our faith’s supreme object is, of course, Jesus Christ, and the constant contemplation of his glory will not only sustain our faith as we mourn this Culture of Death, endure the assaults on religious freedom, and [...]

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