Holy Week is here ... Lent will soon be done
But am I any different than when it all began over 40 days ago?
That was my musing this morning. Did my Lenten sacrifices - prayers, almsgiving, and fasting - transform me? Did they prepare me for the coming Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday)? Most importantly have the readied my heart to rise again with Jesus on Easter -- a new creation in Christ?
Lent and the expectation of the coming of Spring, maybe because I live in a seasonal location, have always co-existed in my heart. Lent starts often in the harshness of winter - cold, long, dark nights. Easter arrives after daylight savings and (usually) the last snow fall. Flowers and trees are budding, maybe even flowering, and there is an emerging from the cocoon like feel to the world.
But have I changed? Has this time of no television, extra prayer and attention to participating in the Sacraments, awoken something in my heart. What will my spiritual practices look like going forward?
Three Quick Lenten Takeaways (from Lent 2016 & 2018)
Your Turn: What are Your Takeaways from Lent?
MORE OF THE WONDERFUL EXPLAINED SERIES
Adult Coloring and Prayer
STILL MY FAVORITE ...
This is my favorite for a few reasons:
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My Worry Remedy
This summer, my daughter discovered The Andy Griffith Show on Netflix. As I watched a few of the black and white episodes with her, it made me nostalgic for a more simple and peaceful time. As the show progressed into color I noticed the story lines began to reveal the reality of life. There has always been and this side of heaven, there will always be, something to threaten the peace Jesus came to leave us, even in the most idyllic settings.
That does not mean we should wave our anxiety flags in defeat. A faith in Christ comes with hope, as St. Peter declared, “a living hope.” When troublesome times arise, it is easy to become frightened and worried. Jesus counsels us as to the worthlessness of worry when he says, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”
Worry changes nothing, including the inevitable of a fixed life expectancy. Trust me on this one: I’ve tested it out one too many times! As if Jesus’ words were not clear enough for us to see the frivolousness of a life of fretting, Padre Pio advised, “Pray, hope, do not worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
As someone who struggles daily with anxiety, I find comfort and strength in the many beautiful traditions and devotions of the Catholic faith. When I worry, I tend to be paralyzed by my thoughts. My worries, fears, and concerns can spin round and round on the hamster wheel of my thoughts for hours and days! These are just 5 of the many devotions I have found to break anxiety’s spell on me. Not only do some of these devotions give me healthy and helpful actions, but they also renew my thoughts so I can once again focus on Christ and live in hope.
Once considered the prayer of grandmothers, old-fashioned and even a chore to pray, the Rosary is finally getting the respect it deserves. For a worrier, the familiar prayers offer encouragement and the feel of the beads through my fingers brings comfort. Often, I use my Rosary as a “Spiritual Abacus,” praying each bead for a special intention such as a sick friend, a hope for my child, or in thanksgiving for a blessing! As my wise friend Michael once told me, “Prayer isn’t the least you can do; it is the most you can do.”
SACRED HEART OF JESUS
This devotion won my heart with its 12 Promises. Nothing soothes a worrier’s heart like healing, protective, security-offering promises from God. Those Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus given to us through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque are:
Seven years ago, our family was blessed to welcome a little girl via adoption. We were so thrilled when we received her photograph in April and were informed we’d be able to travel and bring her home in 6 to 8 weeks. That quickly expanded to 6 months! The wait was agonizing, often triggering my negative-Nelly thoughts until I would be convinced something would prevent us from becoming her forever family. This is when I discovered the calming effects of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The boys and I made it a habit to pray the Chaplet every day at 3 o’clock during our long wait and received many incredible insights and blessings. By the end of 2009, Faith become a permanent part of our family, as did this special trust-producing prayer.
Time in our quiet chapel with Jesus has done more for overcoming my anxiety than any other remedy I have attempted. No matter how wound up I arrive, Jesus always has a way of straightening me out. Whether I spend my time in quiet contemplative prayer, engaged in spiritual reading, or engrossed in Scripture; this time apart from the busy world always brings me peace. Some of my Adoration visits have been wrought with tears, pleas, groans, and sighs; yet Jesus never leaves me in that knotted state. This ‘foretaste of Heaven’ as St. Teresa of Avila referred to Adoration as always gives me the hope I seek in the most troubling and unsettling of circumstances.
The Miraculous Medal is what is known as a Sacramental.
“Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.” ~ Catechism Catholic Church 1667
A Miraculous Medal has been around my neck since 2007 and has been touched upon the relic of many a Saint. My anxiety always subsides when I reach up and feel the raised imprint of Our Blessed Mother, the Queen of Saints, and remember she along with many other friends in heaven (my Saint Posse) are bringing my prayer intentions to Jesus.
As a blogger and podcaster (formerly radio show host), I am blessed to receive a plethora of good Catholic books to review. As an avid (ok, veracious) reader this incredible benefit courtesy from excellent Catholic Publishers and Authors has been one of my favorite social media evangelizing surprises! My "free books received for consideration of a fair and honest review" pile [consider this my legal disclaimer] has been growing as the Summer gets closer. Today, I have grabbed a few gems in hopes of inspiring your warm weather spiritual reading.
As a kid, my family always took the Summer off from Church. Despite the commandment to keep the Lord's Day or the Church's teaching that missing Mass is a grave sin. Jesus never takes a break from us, how sad that so many do not desire to repay that incredible fidelity with our own! The grace we foolishly discard that we so desperately need to navigate not only our relationship with God but just be a part of this crazy world!
In addition to making time to spend with Jesus in prayer, opening the Scriptures daily, and keeping my Sunday commitment to spend Sunday (or Saturday evening) with the Lord in the Eucharist, I will also keep my heart filled and my faith growing with good Spiritual Reading.
Here are a few of my recommendations for Summer 2017:
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras
Pope St. John XXIII
“Our greatness, our glory is found in our serene daily efforts – without excess – marked by profound love for Jesus. In our daily effort to carry out the duty Providence has assigned us, we should give more attention to doing the little things well rather than trying to accomplish great works.” Secret to Happiness: Wisdom from John XXIII (Classic Wisdom Collection, Pauline Books and Media).
My affection for Pope Saint John XXIII began sometime late in 2008, after discovering a new movie on his life from Ignatius Press Studios staring Ed Asner. Honestly, my decision to watch was based purely on curiosity as to whether or not Ed Asner (of Mary Tyler Moore fame) could pull off playing the role of a pope. I knew very little about recently canonized Saint John XXIII but was quickly drawn into this recounting of his life, ministry and papacy. For the record, Ed Asner performs incredibly believably in the role of a humble, holy and witty John the 23rd! At the end of the movie, Mr Asner had not only won himself a new fan girl but also had a new one for the affable pope.
In an effort to learn more about the real Pope John XXIII, I took to the internet. After being raised Catholic in a marginally Catholic home, and disconnecting for several years; I “reverted” back to practicing the faith in 2005. My knowledge of the Catholic faith, especially of the early Church and the papacy, was extremely limited. After reading so much about John XXIII's incredible reign as pope, I wanted to experience his spirituality in his own words. I picked up Journal of a Soul: Autobiography of Pope John XXIII; and our spiritual love affair bloomed. The only thing about this fabulous book I did not like was the size!! While it is a blessing to have so much of his personal thoughts and writings to contemplate, it is a wee bit bulky for my pocketbook or 'adoration reading materials' bag. **Although, the majority of the spiritual reading I bring with me for my Adoration Holy Hour can be found on smart phone or iPad; I still love bringing books and novena pamphlets with me. These help me from straying off my reading and into social media on those days my resolve is weak!
Secret to Happiness
This is true of many of my favorite books by the Saints and classic Catholic thinkers and writers – hence my love affair with the Classic Wisdom Collection from Pauline Books and Media. Therese of Lisieux, John Paul II, Francis de Sales, Luis Martinez, and so many others!
In Secret to Happiness: Wisdom from John XXIII , my spiritual journey with this dear Pope continued. As often happens when you seek guidance from the Holy Spirit; the theme and teachings contained in this book came at the most perfect time. Struggling with envy and self-absorption, especially in my work, I found in Pope St. John XXIII the perfect words to guide me forward to God and away from these sinful inclinations. John XXIII shared his own battle with these topics – which given how humble and obedient to God's will he always appeared -- brought me great comfort and hope!
Words of Wisdom
Along with the reminder to focus on my daily work, to be diligent and mindful of the importance of even the littlest task if done for the glory of God (as expressed in the opening quote of this piece), Pope St. John XXIII gave me additional words of wisdom. Another of my favorite lessons came in his discernment of how to reconcile his desire to be a saint with confusion on finding the path God had for him to accomplish this goal. This goal of sainthood, I will remind us, is God's will for every man and woman, not just popes! He wrote, “Well then, I do not want to become a saint by defacing an original painting in order to become an unsatisfactory copy of someone else with a character markedly different from my own.” This statement hit a bulls-eye on the jealousy with which I had been wrestling. As I watched other people succeed with projects that brought them recognition or perceived holiness, I longed for those same opportunities. I was convinced that if I could be blessed with the same chances, my road to heaven and pleasing God would be fulfilled.
John XXIII taught me not to try to rework the masterpiece of another to fit me, but to allow God – through the submission of my will to His – to mold me into the original work of art I was created to be. I was not created to be a carbon-copy; evidenced by my unique fingerprint and dental imprint (perhaps I need to watch a little less CSI – regardless the point still remains). “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139). Jealousy and self-love have no place in the work of sanctification; His love and grace are sufficient to bring us all to sainthood, if we allow Him to accomplish His great work within us.
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras
First Appeared onAssociation of Pauline Laity Blogspot, 2016
#ASeekingHeart Podcast Revisit