21 Should you say to yourselves, “How can we recognize that a word is one the LORD has not spoken?”, 22 if a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the word does not come true, it is a word the LORD did not speak. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not fear him.
Even saints at times may have spoken presumptuously. Let us meditate on the words of Padre Pio,
“Love and fear must go united together, fear without love becomes cowardice. Love without fear becomes presumption. When there is love without fear, love runs without prudence and without restraint, without taking care where it is going.”
This is the great beauty of the Holy Spirit for it tells us when even a very holy person speaks not every word they speak comes from God. We error sometimes in this way, making men into gods; but a heart that is filled with the spirit of God is filled with quiet joy and even if the person were to be imprisoned, they can find true freedom; because of the inner security of the heart. Let us never forget that Satan does his utmost to destroy mankind. In a thousand ways he plots and wars against God and tries to usurp His throne. On this subject, the following instruction given by Our Blessed Mother to Venerable Mary d' Agreda, is worth quoting:
"My daughter," she says, "by no power of human words wilt thou in this mortal life ever succeed in describing the evil of Lucifer and his demons against men, or the malice, astuteness, deceits and ruses, with which, in his wrath, he seeks to bring them into sin and later on to eternal torments. He tries to hinder all good works . . . All the malice of which his own mind is capable, he attempts to inject into souls. Against these attacks, God provides admirable protection if men will only co-operate and correspond on their part."
Among the means provided by God for our protection, is the ready recourse we may have at all times to the strengthening Blood of Christ. "This Blood," declares St. John Chrysostom, "has the power to drive away the evil spirits and to draw to our side the good angels, aye, the King of Angels, and to blazen the way to Heaven." Fortified by the Precious Blood, let us place ourselves under the leadership of St. Michael and unfurl everywhere the banner of our Faith, without fear of godlessness. If Satan tries to induce us to sin, and promises honors, riches, happiness on conditions that we omit a good work, or commit an evil deed, let us ever oppose the tempter with the energetic words: Who is like unto God? God is my only treasure, my highest Good, His Blood is upon me, and "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil." If in time of temptation, we have the courage to rebuke the evil one and call upon the assistance of our leader, St. Michael, the enemy will surely be put to flight. But if we wish to enjoy the great Archangel's protection, we must also imitate his virtues, particularly his humility and his zeal for God's glory.
"O great St. Michael, take us 'neath thy shield, Thy mighty power in our favor wield!"
The solemn season begins with a reminder of our mortality and our profound need for repentance and conversion.
Why is this day so called? Because on this day the Catholic Church blesses ashes and puts them on the foreheads of the faithful, saying, “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust shalt thou shall return” (Gen. iii. 19).
Why are the ashes blessed?
1. That all who receive them with a contrite heart may be preserved in soul and body.
2. That God may give them contrition and pardon their sins.
3. That He may grant them all they humbly ask for, particularly the grace to do penance, and the reward promised to the truly penitent.
Why are the faithful sprinkled with ashes? The sprinkling with ashes was always a public sign of penance; as such God enjoined it upon the Israelites (Jer. xxv. 34). David sprinkled ashes on his beard (Ps. ci. 10). The Ninivites (Jonas iii. 6), Judith (Jud. ix. 1), Mardochai (Esther iv. 1), Job (xlii. 6), and others, did penance in sack-cloth and ashes. To show the spirit of penance and to move God to mercy, the Church, at the Introit of the Mass, uses the following words: “Thou hast mercy upon all, O Lord, and hatest none of the things which Thou hast made, and winkest at the sins of men for the sake of repentance, and sparing them, for Thou art the Lord our God” (Wis. xi. 24, 25).
Prayer. Grant to Thy faithful, O Lord, that they may begin the venerable solemnities of fasting with becoming piety, and perform them with undisturbed devotion.
EPISTLE. Joel ii. 12-19.
Therefore, saith the Lord: Be converted to Me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning. And rend your hearts and not your garments and turn to the Lord your God: for He is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil. Who knoweth but he will return, and forgive, and leave a blessing behind him, sacrifice and libation to the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Sion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather together the people, sanctify the church, assemble the ancients, gather together the little ones, and them that suck at the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth from his bed, and the bride out of her bride-chamber. Between the porch and the altar, the priests, the Lord s ministers, shall weep, and shall say: Spare, O Lord, spare Thy people; and give not Thy inheritance to reproach, that the heathens should rule over them; why should they say among the nations: Where is their God? The Lord hath been zealous for His land, and hath spared His people: and the Lord answered and said to His people: Behold I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and you shall be filled with them: and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations, saith the Lord Almighty.
Explanation. The prophet, in these words, calls upon the Israelites to be converted, reminding them of the great mercy of God, and exhorting them to join true repentance for their sins with their fasting and alms. They should all, without exception, do penance and implore the mercy of God, Who would then forgive them, deliver them from their enemies, and bring peace and happiness upon them.
GOSPEL. Matt. vi. 16-21.
At that time Jesus said to His disciples: When you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad: for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father Who is in secret: and thy Father, Who seeth in secret, will repay thee. Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.
Instruction on Lent
What is the origin of fasting? Under the Old Law the Jews fasted by the command of God; thus, Moses fasted forty days and forty nights, on Mount Sinai, when God gave him the Ten Commandments; Elias, in like manner, fasted in the desert. Jesus also fasted and commanded His apostles to fast also. The Catholic Church, says St. Leo, from the time of the apostles, has enjoined fasting upon all the faithful.
Why has the Church instituted the fast before Easter?
1. To imitate Jesus Christ, who fasted forty days.
2. To participate in His merits and passion; for as Christ could only be glorified through His sufferings, so in order to belong to Him we must follow Him by a life answering to His.
3. To subject the flesh to the spirit, and thus,
4, prepare us for Easter and the worthy reception of the divine Lamb.
5. Finally, to offer to God some satisfaction for our sins, and, as St. Leo says, to atone for the sins of a whole year by a short fast of the tenth part of a year.
Was the fast of Lent kept in early times as it is now?
Yes, only more rigorously; for:
1. The Christians of the early ages abstained not only from flesh-meat, but from those things which are produced from flesh, such as butter, eggs, cheese, and also from wine and fish.
2. They fasted during the whole day, and ate only after vespers, that is, at night.
How shall we keep the holy season of Lent with advantage? We should endeavor not only to deny ourselves food and drink, but, still more, all sinful gratifications. And as the body is weakened by fasting, the soul, on the other hand, should be strengthened by repeated prayers, by frequent reception of the holy sacraments, attending Mass, spiritual reading, and good works, particularly those of charity. In such manner we shall be able, according to the intention of the Church, to supply by our fasting what we have omitted during the year, especially if we fast willingly, and with a good intention.
Prayer. O Lord Jesus, I offer up to Thee my fasting and self-denial, to be united to Thy fasting and sufferings, for Thy glory, in Gratitude for so many benefits received from Thee, in satisfaction for my sins and those of others, and to obtain Thy holy grace that I may overcome my sins and acquire the virtues which I need. Look upon me, O Jesus, in mercy. Amen.
Ash Wednesday Top Events and Things to Do
· Go to your local parish to get ashes and reflect on your own mortality and sinfulness. Non-Christians are also welcomed to get ashes.
· Fast during Ash Wednesday to commemorate Jesus fasting for forty days in the desert. Catholics are specifically instructed to not eat meat and are only permitted to eat one full meal. However, they may have 2 snacks in the form of some food in the morning and evening.
· Make fiber-rich vegetarian versions of popular dishes. Some good ideas are Veggie Burgers, Vegetarian Chili and salads with Tempeh. The fiber will help keep you feeling full - useful if you fast for the rest of the day!
· Rent a movie that reflects on Mortality or Repentance. Some suggestions: Les Miserables (2012), Dorian Gray (2009), What Dreams May Come (1998), Flatliners (1990) and The Seventh Seal (1957).
· Discuss mortality, repentance and the meaning of life with your friends or with a church group.
Of all the observances of Lent, the chief among these is the Great Fast. So, intertwined are the words Lent and the Great Fast, that in fact the Fathers of the Church sometimes used the terms interchangeably. This solemn obligation is believed to be of Apostolic origin and takes its precedent, as we mentioned above, from the examples of Moses, Elias, and Jesus Christ. The Great Fast used to consist of both abstinence and fasting. Christians were expected to abstain not only from flesh meat, but from all things that come from flesh, e.g. milk, cheese, eggs, and butter. Eastern rite Christians still observe this practice, while the Western church gradually kept only abstinence from meat (reference to all lacticinia, or "milk foods," was dropped in the 1919 Roman Code of Canon Law). Both East and West, however, agree on the importance of fasting. Originally this meant taking only one meal a day, though the practice was modified over the centuries. The preconciliar practice in the U.S. was for all able-bodied Catholics ages 21 to 60 to have one full meal a day which could include meat, and two meatless meals which together could not equal one full meal. Snacking between meals was prohibited, though drinking was not. Ash Wednesday, Fridays and the Ember Days were days of total abstinence from meat, while Sundays were completely exempted from all fasting and abstaining. The idea behind the Great Fast -- as well as other periods of fasting -- is that by weakening the body it is made more obedient to the soul, thereby liberating the soul to contemplate higher things. St. Augustine gives perhaps the best example: if you have a particularly high-spirited horse, you train it at the times when it is too weak to revolt. It is our opinion that this venerable practice should still be taken seriously. Even though current ecclesiastical law has reduced the fast from forty days to two and eliminated the thirty-three days of partial abstinence, this does not mean that observing the Great Fast is not salubrious or praiseworthy. This said, however, the Great Fast should not be adhered to legalistically. In the words of St. John Chrysostom: "If your body is not strong enough to continue fasting all day, no wise man will reprove you; for we serve a gentle and merciful Lord who expects nothing of us beyond our strength."
Lent-10 Things to Remember for Lent
1. Remember the formula. 10 Commandments, 7 sacraments, 3 persons in the Trinity. For Lent, the Church gives us almost a slogan—Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving—as the three things we need to work on during the season.
2. It’s a time of prayer. As we pray, we go on a journey over 40 days, one that hopefully brings us closer to Christ and leaves us changed by the encounter with him.
3. It’s a time to fast. With the fasts of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, meatless Fridays, and our personal disciplines interspersed, Lent is the only time many Catholics these days actually fast. And maybe that’s why it gets all the attention. “What are you giving up for Lent? Hotdogs? Beer? Jelly beans?” It’s almost a game for some of us, but fasting is actually a form of penance, which helps us turn away from sin and toward Christ.
4. It’s a time to work on discipline. Set time to work on personal discipline in general. Instead of giving something up, it can be doing something positive. “I’m going to exercise more. I’m going to pray more. I’m going to be nicer to my family, friends and coworkers.”
5. It’s about dying to yourself. The more serious side of Lenten discipline is that it’s about more than self-control – it’s about finding aspects of yourself that are less than Christ-like and letting them die. The suffering and death of Christ are foremost on our minds during Lent, and we join in these mysteries by suffering, dying with Christ and being resurrected in a purified form.
6. Don’t do too much. It’s tempting to make Lent some ambitious period of personal reinvention, but it’s best to keep it simple and focused. There’s a reason the Church works on these mysteries year after year. We spend our entire lives growing closer to God. Don’t try to cram it all in one Lent. That’s a recipe for failure.
7. Lent reminds us of our weakness. Of course, even when we set simple goals for ourselves during Lent, we still have trouble keeping them. When we fast, we realize we’re all just one meal away from hunger. Lent shows us our weakness. This can be painful but recognizing how helpless we are makes us seek God’s help with renewed urgency and sincerity.
8. Be patient with yourself. When we’re confronted with our own weakness during Lent, the temptation is to get angry and frustrated. “What a bad person I am!” But that’s the wrong lesson. God is calling us to be patient and to see ourselves as he does, with unconditional love.
9. Reach out in charity. As we experience weakness and suffering during Lent, we should be renewed in our compassion for those who are hungry, suffering or otherwise in need. The third part of the Lenten formula is almsgiving. It’s about more than throwing a few extra dollars in the collection plate; it’s about reaching out to others and helping them without question as a way of sharing the experience of God’s unconditional love.
10. Learn to love like Christ. Giving of ourselves in the midst of our suffering and self-denial brings us closer to loving like Christ, who suffered and poured himself out unconditionally on the cross for all of us. Lent is a journey through the desert to the foot of the cross on Good Friday, as we seek him out, ask his help, join in his suffering, and learn to love like him.
Read: Take inspiration for your Lenten journey from prayer and the reading of Scripture, from fasting and from giving alms. – Lent is essentially an act of prayer spread out over 40 days. As we pray, we are brought closer to Christ and are changed by the encounter with him. Fasting – The fasting that we all do together on Fridays is but a sign of the daily Lenten discipline of individuals and households: fasting for certain periods of time, fasting from certain foods, but also fasting from other things and activities. Almsgiving – The giving of alms is an effort to share this world equally—not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents.
Reflect: “Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning” (Joel 2:12, Lectionary)
Pray: As we begin Lent, we pray for the strength to commit ourselves to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving so that we may grow to love God more each day.
Act: Have you picked up your Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl for Lent this year? Make a commitment to dropping in spare change every day. Another way to give alms today is by giving to the National Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.
Prayer before the Crucifix
This prayer is designed to be said within the family before a Crucifix from Ash Wednesday to Saturday at the beginning of Lent.
Mother or a child: From the words of St. John the Evangelist (14:1-6).
Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many mansions. Were it not so, I would have told you, because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again, and I will take you to myself, that where I am, there you also may be. And where I go, you know, and the way you know.
Father: We ought to glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ
Family: in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection.
Father: Let us pray. Grant to your faithful, Lord, a spirit generous enough to begin these solemn fasts with proper fervor and to pursue them with steadfast devotion. This we ask of you through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.
Family: Amen. Favor this dwelling, Lord, with your presence. Far from it repulse all the wiles of Satan. Your holy angels—let them live here, to keep us in peace. And may your blessing remain always upon us. This we ask of you through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.
Father: Let us bless the Lord.
Family: Thanks be to God.
Father: May the almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless and keep us.
Prayer Source: Holy Lent by Eileen O'Callaghan, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1975
The Devil and Temptations
Darkness and Forbidden Knowledge
· "Do not go to mediums or consult fortune tellers, for you will be defiled by them. I, the Lord, am your God" (Lev. 19:31).
· "Should anyone turn to mediums and fortune tellers and follow their wanton ways, I will turn against such a one and cut him off from his people" (Lev. 20:6).
Astrology, Horoscopes, Pagan Customs
· Fortune tellers try to predict the future through the use of occult, magic, or superstition. It is forbidden to seek knowledge of the future by using playing cards, tarot cards, the crystal ball, the study of the hand, the stars, examining the liver of dead animals, shooting arrows, the Ouija board, or any other superstitious means.
· A medium is a person who has immediate or secret knowledge either by some questionable power of his own or through the power of an evil spirit that works through him. In l Samuel chapter 3, read how King Saul consulted a medium and died the next day. I Chronicles 10:13 says that Saul died because of this.
· Jeremiah 10:2--"Thus says the Lord: Learn not the customs of the pagans and have no fear of the signs of the heavens, though the pagans fear them." By studying the stars and planets an astrologer casts a horoscope on the basis of the month and the day of an individual's birth. The horoscope is a prediction of events likely to occur in a person's life based upon the movement of the stars and planets. Even though millions of people follow horoscopes with greater or lesser interest, this is still a type of fortune telling. Even if you say you do not believe in horoscopes, and only read your own for fun, you should abandon this practice. The daily horoscope can easily influence us from time to time. It is a way in which we open ourselves to the occult.
· If you want to live in the Kingdom of God, renounce horoscopes and all other means of fortune telling. Any playing cards, Ouija boards, or other things used for fortune telling should be destroyed.
Mental prayer according to St. Teresa of Avila is nothing more than, “A close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.” Mental prayer is the raising of our mind to God in a quiet intimate conversation. We acquire the “mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16) by spending time in his company, in quiet, intimate conversation. We need to set time aside for mental prayer (20 minutes should be the minimum) Most of that time we should be listening for God’s word in our soul. The best place for our conversations is before the Blessed Sacrament but any quiet place with few distractions will do. It is best to begin by making an “act of the presence of God” which is a short prayer addressing God and acknowledging his presence. During our time with the Lord we should tell him about the things of our heart, what we think we are doing well and not so well and what are our concerns. We may bring along a Bible or spiritual book to discuss with our Lord. It is always a good idea to invite the Mother of Christ into the conversation. Mental Prayer can be a one-shot deal, but it is always better when we set aside time every day for our conversation with God.
Mental Prayer was the premise of my book, “Coffee with Christ” here is an excerpt from the book.
The idea of this book is to seek friendship with God through Christ, the Holy Spirit and His mother-Mary. Prayer is, in its purest sense, a personal journey or intimacy with Our Lord. There is no greater help in our life’s journey in this world than through friendship with Jesus Christ and His mother.
The imaginary premise of this book is to have a regular “Coffee Clutch” with Christ and gather for coffee and conversation through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Ideally this book will serve as encouragement for you to enter into your own “coffee clutch” with Christ. Having a regular or daily set time or appointment to meet and discuss with Him your hopes, dreams, plans and goals. To bear your heart to Him: To just sit down with Christ and talk, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company, over a cup of coffee and to make the common Holy and grow in the love and likeness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The plan of the journal is to talk with Christ over the next 30 days and enjoy a cup of coffee with Him and contains my personal reflections with Him. Ideally this little saga of mine will inspire you to have the habit of talking intimately with our Lord yourself and I will at the end of my reflections in this book include 10 days of questions for your own “Coffee Clutch” with Christ. The forty days (30 + 10) in this journal are ideally suited for reflection during the season of Lent; however, it is also suitable for anytime during the year.
Note: This journal is merely my own reflections on spiritual matters and may or may not be in accord with the magisterium of the Holy Roman Catholic Church
Lent and Easter
571 The Paschal mystery of Christ's cross and Resurrection stands at the center of the Good News that the apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the world. God's saving plan was accomplished "once for all" by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ.
1171 In the liturgical year the various aspects of the one Paschal mystery unfold. This is also the case with the cycle of feasts surrounding the mystery of the incarnation (Annunciation, Christmas, Epiphany). They commemorate the beginning of our salvation and communicate to us the first fruits of the Paschal mystery of Christ.
It is the same Paschal Mystery that we celebrate every Sunday at every Mass. This mystery should evoke the ancient Passover of the Jews when the firstborn children of Israel were spared, and they were liberated from slavery. Their delivery began in each household with the sacrifice of the lamb and the smearing of the lamb’s blood on the doorposts which delivered the Jews out of vice into virtue and the worship of God in sincerity and truth. In the Last Supper Christ became the lamb that transformed his execution into a once for all sacrifice. During Lent we mirror the Jews 40 years of purification when God purged them of the residual effects of generations of interaction with Egyptian Idolatry. Christ in His own life fasted for 40 days in the wilderness as a model, like His baptism for His disciples to imitate. So, every year, we prepare like Him for our Easter where we will offer our sacrifice, small as it may be to Him. Lent is the season of fasting that begins today and ends on Holy Saturday (except for Sundays; ancient Fathers forbade fasting on Sundays). This is our tithe or a tenth part of our year for the Lord. We fast from “good” things; for in our fast we give them to God, so that we learn not to put anything before Him. We pray that by this movement of purification we may be illuminated and finally come to union with Him. In a sense during Lent we “pass over” from sin through penance to communion.
The Way Examination of conscience
"Read these counsels slowly. Pause to meditate on these thoughts. They are things that I whisper in your ear-confiding them-as a friend, as a brother, as a father. And they are being heard by God. I won't tell you anything new. I will only stir your memory, so that some thought will arise and strike you; and so you will better your life and set out along ways of prayer and of Love. And in the end you will be a more worthy soul."
'He who is faithful in little things is faithful also in big things.' Words from Saint Luke that show you — examine yourself — why you have so often gone astray.
Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896
 Hahn, Scott, Signs of Life; 40 Catholic Customs and their biblical roots. Chap. 37. Mental Prayer.
 Hahn, Scott, Signs of Life; 40 Catholic Customs and their biblical roots. Chap. 7. Lent and Easter.