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Wednesday, March 2, 2022

 Personal Program for Lent

Activity Source: Original Text (JGM) by Jennifer Gregory Miller, © Copyright 2003-2022 by Jennifer Gregory Miller 

Explanation of the purpose of a personal program during Lent and ideas to implement.

DIRECTIONS

Importance of a Personal Lenten Program

It isn't enough to slide through Lent just observing the fast and abstinence laws or giving up chocolate. We should all undertake a Lenten program, an inward cleansing and purification, for oneself and the family. The program needs to be planned and organized. Ask the question: What shall I and my family do this year for Lent? Goals and activities should be realistic and reasonable, and parents should make sure that their children know why these practices are being adopted, rather than merely forcing them upon them.

After deciding our goals, both individual and family's, we need to arrange our schedules, plan the different events and make adjustments to our life to put these resolutions into practice. Our daily life doesn't stop just because Lent is here. The challenge is to observe the spirit of Lent and perform the works of Lent while living in a secular culture, to remain in the world but not become a product of it.

Read Message for Lent 2022 from Pope Francis for inspiration in living a spiritual Lent. This year's theme is "Sow Seeds of Love," “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity (kairós), let us do good to all” (Gal 6:9-10).


Three Categories for a Personal Program

There are three principal works for Lent, as taught to us by Christ: prayer, fasting and mortification, and almsgiving. More categories from Catholic tradition can be added, such as Good Works, Education, and Self-Denial. All are linked to each other. It is through prayer that we know Christ, understand His Will for us. Through our prayers we open ourselves to charity, generosity towards others and self-denial to ourselves.

1. Prayer
"Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God" (St. John Damascene). We communicate with God and work on our relationship with God. There are many forms of prayer that we can and should practice, both interior and exterior prayers.

  • Adding extra daily Masses throughout Lent would be ideal. If this is not possible, the readings from the Mass should be read and meditated upon daily. This could be done as a family, perhaps at the dinner meal. The Mass is the prayer of the Church, and the highest form of prayer. It also unites us with the whole Church in public prayer.

  • A strong emphasis should be made in frequent reception of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance. We should learn how to daily examine our consciences.

  • Another prayer of the Church is the Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours. Praying the Divine Office unites our prayers with the Liturgy of the universal Church.

  • The Stations of the Cross are special during Lent, because they meditate on the Passion of Christ. Usually the Stations are offered at the parish church on Fridays in Lent. They can also be prayed together as a family.

Other Prayer Suggestions:

  • The daily rosary, especially prayed together as a family
  • Visits to the Blessed Sacrament
  • Personal meditation, especially with Scripture
  • Spontaneous short prayers or ejaculations, such as "Jesus, I trust in You."
  • Praying the Angelus at the 12:00 and 6:00 hours
  • Morning and Evening Prayer
  • Prayers Before and After Meals
  • Spiritual Communions
  • Praying the Seven Penitential Psalms (especially appropriate during Lent)

Included in our Prayers category we add our Education and Reading. During Lent (and throughout the year) we need spiritual enlightenment. We can find this through spiritual reading, both individually and as a family. This is a prerequisite to a continued growth in the spiritual life. Maria Von Trapp suggests three categories in our Lenten reading program:

  1. Something for the mind. We should do some research, study the papal encyclicals, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, delve into Church history, study Catholic philosophy.
  2. Something for the soul. This should be deeper spiritual reading that gives a program, guidance, and spiritual direction, including writings of the saints like St. Teresa of Avila, St. Thérèse of Lisieux or St. Francis de Sales.
  3. Something for the heart. We need inspiration. The best way is to read biographies of Christ, Mary, saints or people who put their spiritual life into action. Bishop Fulton Sheen's Life of Christ is excellent Lenten reading.

Scripture is an excellent source for all these categories. The Church strongly encourages study and meditative reading of the Bible.


2. Fasting and Abstaining
We must fulfill the minimum requirements of the Church for fasting and abstinence. But there are other forms of abstaining and fasting. We must remember that when we do "give up" something, it should be completely, not saved for later. The money we save from not buying a cup of coffee should be given as a donation to charity. The time we don't watch TV should be spent doing spiritual reading, or family time. Below are some examples of other forms of fasting or abstaining:

  • Refrain from complaining, gossiping, grumbling or losing one's temper.
  • Reduce or eliminate time surfing the Internet or playing video games.
  • Abstain from favorite drinks, desserts or foods.
  • Curb forms of entertainment such as TV, dining out, movies.
  • Give up smoking, caffeine, beer and liquor.
  • Eat less at meals, or eat fewer snacks between meals.
  • Fast or abstain extra days in Lent besides Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
  • Eat without complaining.
  • Make simple meals that are healthy, but less appealing to the sense of taste.

In fasting, we are also practicing Self-Denial. This is the area that tests our will-power. We have the opportunity to give up innocent pleasures without complaining: radio, TV, internet, personal time or leisure, secular reading. We can choose one area in Lent and try to persevere throughout the 40 days. This is not just a test of wills—the main intention is purification, and making reparation for the offenses against the Mystical Body of Christ. So even if these actions are done in private or secret, they help us grow in our spiritual life, and benefit the whole Church.


3. Almsgiving and Good Works


In the opening Gospel of Lent on Ash Wednesday, Matthew 6:1-6; 16-18, we are told to pray, fast and give alms. Almsgiving is not a thing of the past, but still a necessity in becoming saints. Almsgiving is also tied closely with fasting. Whatever we give up, the money we save should go to the needy. It should be given away to the missions, the Church or a worthy charity. In a family with small children it helps to make this a visual practice by, for example, having a jar or box in the center of the table as a reminder and measure of progress.

It is also considered "almsgiving" to give one's time and goods to those who are in need, i.e., donating time for a soup kitchen, giving clothes to charity, visiting the shut-ins and elderly, driving those without transportation and other similar practices.

Under this category we include Good Works, a positive aspect of almsgiving. We can use the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy as a guide for ways to show charity toward others. Good works deal with two kinds of action: perfection of our daily duties and perfection of charity toward others. See Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

Our daily duties include our job as a spouse, as a parent, as a child, as a worker or student. We need to strive to do our best in these capacities, even if that means being more patient, more cheerful, more efficient, more charitable, less critical, less gossiping, or less backbiting. We need to make the most of the time we are given each day; we should not waste time. This is the positive area of our Lenten program. We should work on virtues, like obedience, charity, humility, chastity and perseverance.

How can I improve my daily duty?


Daily Duty at Work: We should make sure that we don't waste time. We are being paid to be productive, so we should curb spending work time surfing the Internet, being on social media, answering personal phone calls and personal email. We should strive for our work to be efficient and our best, not shoddy, hastily completed work.

Daily Duty with Family: We can improve the quality of our family life by spending time reading and doing family activities together instead of watching TV and playing video games. If a family dinner isn't a common occurrence, we should schedule a few nights a week for everyone to have dinner together. We then can enjoy being together, talk and share events with each other and maybe read some Lenten reflections while at dinner. And every member in our family deserves to be treated charitably and patiently. We need to make concerted efforts to be cheerful in our home, not just save it for strangers. Our family deserves the best.

Daily Duty with Personal Time: At the end of our life at the personal judgment, we will be accountable for every moment of our lives. Is all the time used wisely, or is there room for improvement? Are morning and evening prayers in the routine? Can we spend more personal time for prayer, or discipline ourselves to get enough sleep (in order to be less irritable and more productive)? Many of us postpone or procrastinate personal jobs, prayer and reading for some other time. But NOW is the time to make the best of our daily duty.

For families with younger children, there are instructions for a Family Lenten Chart to help keep visible track of progress during Lent.

This just in 

I guess Father figured I needed more ashes than others or it's a target. I guess there is a blessing at least my black spot looks nothing like Joe Biden, Nancy P. And John Kerry's.


DAY 1 – 90 DAYS TO PEACE "The Fruit of Fear of the Lord is Peace"

“Freedom from Fear” by Fr. Bill Peckman

In the Garden of Eden, the devil tempts Adam and Eve. He lies to them. His lie is effective because it taps into fear. The fear is simple: God does not want what is good for you. The devil sells a fear to Adam and Eve that God wishes them to be perpetually ignorant of good and evil (even though they already knew the good), and that they are missing out without that knowledge. Fear finds its roots in a disbelief in God’s providence and care. God knows this and, in the Scriptures, He tells us repeatedly to not be afraid. Overcoming fear is trusting in God.

Fear rules our nation now. It used to be that the American Dream was the ability to act rightly and freely and set a course independent of one’s socioeconomic status. In the last 100 years the American Dream transformed into accumulation of possessions and status. Now the American dream has turned into a nightmare of anarchy by which the dream is complete autonomy and self-determination independent of God, science, or reason. The fear comes from a belief that this life is all that there is, and we must create a reality conducive to our personal truth. Anyone who challenges this is to be feared and despised.

Fear rules within most churches now too. It has reduced the evangelical call of the Great Commission to a call for the comfortable and non-challenging. It has stilled our tongues on moral issues, gutted our catechesis, emptied our seminaries, and decimated the priesthood. Being Catholic has always carried a stigma in this country. With the scandals in the Church, fear of being accused of things one would never do is a strong deterrent to answering God’s call. It was for me. When the purveyors of fear have raised their voices, we Catholics have allowed ours to be scared silent. A fearful person who will not stand up against the lies of a human being will never stand up to the lies perpetrated by the father of lies, the devil. We would do well to heed Jesus’ rebuke of His apostles in Matthew 8:26, “Why are you fearful, ye of little faith?” He says this as they are being tossed on the sea by a strong storm.

It might be said that courage is the virtue that combats fear. It goes deeper. The real virtue to cultivate is the theological virtue of faith. To countermand the devil’s use of fear (that God does not want what is good for us or will abandon us if we follow Him), we must develop faith.  Faith makes us able, and willing, to put our trust in His goodness and plan.

Because it is a theological virtue, the virtue only grows with the assistance of the grace of God. We will not be able to cultivate faith without the sacramental life of the Church. Even when circumstances prevent our participation in the sacramental life of the Church, the fervent desire to participate in the sacramental life of the Church allows that opening for God to flood us with the grace to grow our faith. Such desire has aided the imprisoned, the ill, and the exiled.

Faith must lead to conversion. If not, then the grace of God is squandered. We shall have to answer for this. Conversion is an outward and inward sign of the trust and faith we have in God. Conversion sets the devil on his heels. It calls out his lie. Faith will lead us to a place where we can stand out against the rising tide and fight against the diabolical. Dead men float downstream, weak men are pushed downstream, but strong men can walk against the current and move forward. Faith is the powertrain to give us such abilities. (From “Let Freedom Ring“)

 

You can enlist in the United States Grace Force HERE (please recruit family and friends!)

Information on the United States Grace Force can be found HERE

We highly recommend ordering the book “Let Freedom Ring” authored by Fr. Bill Peckman, Fr. James Altman and Fr. Rick Heilman. This amazing book will be a great tool for easy access, highlighting and bookmarking as you traverse through the first 40-days of our 90 Days to Peace journey with tens of thousands of other special forces prayer warriors!

You can order the book at RomanCatholicGear.com. 

GET YOUR PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH PRAYER JOURNAL …

HERE

Ash Wednesday

FIRST WEDNESDAY 

Isaiah, Chapter 10, verse 24

Therefore, thus says the Lord, the GOD of hosts: My people, who dwell in Zion, do not FEAR the Assyrian, though he strikes you with a rod, and raises his staff against you as did the Egyptians. 

Who is it you fear; who are the Assyrians in your life? God asks us to trust in Him. Even in the worst of situations God is with you.

 

I sought the LORD, and he answered me, delivered me from all my fears. (Ps. 34:5) 

Sometimes the Lord asks us to go out into the desert to face our fears for it is in this barren place we can grow in faith like Abraham and Moses and have an encounter with the living God. Deserts are fearful places and are full of rocks, pointy things, snakes, spiders and the indescribable beauty of God’s creation. By encountering God in the desert we learn that the very same stones that somehow get in our shoes and make progress impossible are the very same stones that lay foundations, bridges and roads. 

In the desert we can search for God; avoid of our distractions and find Him. In the desert we can write out our sins and confess them to God. In the desert we can shed our old lives like the snake sheds its skin and find a new perspective for life. It is during this time alone with; He that IS; we make a spiritual change of clothes. In the desert we can make an all-night vigil and with the coming of the new day we can proclaim as in the Negro spiritual: When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me. 

For it is in the desert that we can quit deluding ourselves and be doers of the word and not hearers only. For it is in the desert we can find the strength to keep ourselves unstained by the world and find that pure and undefiled religion is to care for others in their afflictions. 

Ash Wednesday[1] 

The solemn season begins with a reminder of our mortality and our profound need for repentance and conversion.[2] 

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 Ninevites (Jonas iii. 6), Judith (Jud. ix. 1), Mordechai (Esther iv. 1), Job (xlii. 6), and others, did penance in sackcloth 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[3] 

·       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 Misérables (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. 

The Great Fast[4]

 

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[5]

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? Jellybeans?” 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. 

Lenten Calendar[6] 

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[7]

This prayer is designed to be said within the family before a Crucifix from Ash Wednesday to Saturday at the beginning of Lent.

Prayer

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.

Family: Amen.

Prayer Source: Holy Lent by Eileen O'Callaghan, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1975

A Practical Guide to Fasting

Fasting – a word we normally reserve for Lent. Once Easter comes, we box it up and package it away until the next Lent. Yet this should not be so among Catholic men. A while ago, Sam discussed the great benefits of fasting.

http://www.40daysofprayerandfasting.org/live-the-fast/

Now you may be thinking … Fasting sounds great, but where do I start? … Let’s take some time to look at the basics of fasting well.

Preparation: It is important to develop a strategy before beginning to fast. This starts with setting a realistic goal. For example, you should start simple, such as a bread and water fast for one meal, one day a week. Also, select your fast day. I recommend Wednesday or Friday, as these are the two traditional Catholic days to fast, commemorating Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion. As you grow in fasting discipline, you could increase your fast to multiple meals on fast day or even multiple days a week.

Water: Water helps purify our bodies of toxins, while providing only the basic hydration we need to survive. When fasting, make sure to bring a water bottle with you throughout the day and drink frequently to stay hydrated. One temptation may be to slip in a cup of coffee or soft drink during the day. However, stay strong against this temptation. The bread and water will satisfy your basic needs even if they do not bring the comfort of your favorite food or beverage.

Fasting Bread

Taken from Sr. Emmanuels' book[8], "Healing and Liberation Through Fasting". This bread is very hearty and really sustains one who chooses to fast on bread and water.

3 cups white flour
4 cups wheat flour
1 pkg dry yeast
1/2 cup of lukewarm water
2 cups of very hot water
1 beaten egg
1 Tablespoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Sugar or Honey
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 teaspoon of butter
1 cup Raisins (or fresh apple peeled and cut)
1 cup Almonds or Walnuts
1 cup Plain Oats

In a medium sized bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Cover with a plate and wait a few minutes until bubbly. In a large bowl, combine the flours. Make a well in the flour and add the yeast mixture. Mix a bit.

Reusing the now empty medium bowl, combine Salt, Sugar, Butter, Oil, Raisins, Nuts, 1 beaten egg, and the two cups of very hot water. Pour this over the yeast mixture. Mix/knead the dough, adding flour and or water as needed.

Knead the dough until it comes clean from the bowl. Cover with a plate or towel and let it rise ten minutes. (I often skip this step and the bread still tastes fine) Knead it again until it has spring to it. Place in well-greased bowl and cover, letting it rise until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on room temp.

Form into desired shapes. This will make two large or three medium loaves. Place in greased pan. Brush the top with remaining egg (if you did not use it in recipe) and sprinkle with sesame seeds, oats or poppy seeds, if desired.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, until done and golden brown.

Bread: Selecting the proper fasting bread is crucial to a successful fast. Since the typical bread we eat is processed and devoid of most nutritional value, I recommend the bread made by the group, Live the Fast. As a bonus, if you are a priest, seminarian or religious, they will send you bread free! Their bread is all-natural. They bake the bread, freeze it, and then ship it to your home along with a booklet of fasting instructions. Once you receive it, you place it in the freezer. On fast day, you take the bread out of the freezer and heat it in the oven for a few minutes. The bread is filling but austere; to give the one fasting the nutrition needed to complete the day’s tasks and nothing more.

Prayer: While you are heating up the bread, grab a notebook and write down your prayer intentions for the day. Maybe a friend has lost a job, a relative is sick, or someone has asked for your prayers. Keep the list with you and offer up prayers for these people throughout the day. After the bread is finished baking, take it out of the oven, say a prayer and then eat your first piece. As you go throughout the day, look for extra opportunities to pray, especially during mealtimes. Maybe you could attend daily Mass or stop to visit the Blessed Sacrament during your lunch break. Intentional prayer during fasting helps remind us that fasting is not purely an ascetical practice. We forgo food to grow closer to God, not to show how tough we can be on our bodies. The hunger we experience while fasting instills in us the truth that nothing in this world can satisfy us but God alone.

Temptations: You will undergo many temptations while you fast, so stay close to God in prayer. One may be to boast to your friends about how great you are for fasting. Jesus warned us in the Gospel that those kinds of people are hypocrites. The purpose of fasting is to draw us closer to Christ, not draw others closer to us for our own greatness. Another temptation may be free food. Just like during Lent when meat becomes more available and appealing on Fridays, expect more temptations to eat during the fast. A co-worker may offer you a snack or tell you about some leftovers from a department’s lunch in the break room. Stay vigilant against these temptations and focus your mind on other things. The less you think about food during the day, the easier it will be to fast.

Breaking the Fast: End your fast day with a prayer. Thank God for the day and then prepare a normal sized meal. The temptation can be to gorge yourself with food after eating less during the day, but this is not beneficial. Eat your meal slowly and mindfully. Thank God for the gift of food and the grace he gave you to fast well. Just like any other habit, fasting can be difficult to begin and you may want to quit. You will have days where you fast well and others where you give into hunger easily. Do not be discouraged but persevere! God has great graces for those who fast and will help draw near to him those who seek him through the discipline of fasting.

“Fasting purifies the soul. It lifts up the mind, and it brings the body into subjection to the spirit. It makes the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of desire, puts out the flames of lust and enkindles the true light of chastity.” (St. Augustine)

First Wednesday[9] 


Our Heavenly Father desires all three hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph to be honored. And so along with devotion to Jesus on First Fridays, and to Mary on First Saturdays, Our Father longs for us to add devotion to St. Joseph on each First Wednesday of the month. 

"The Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph have been chosen by the Most Holy Trinity to bring peace to the world." It is at God's request that "special love and honor be given to them" to help us "imitate" their love and their lives, as well as "offer reparation" for the sins committed against them and their love. 

The St. Joseph First Wednesday devotion is: 

1. Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary - remembering St. Joseph's love, his life, his role and his sufferings 

2. Receive Holy Communion - in union with the love St. Joseph had for Jesus the first time and each time he held him - his son, his God and Savior - in his arms. 

In the approved apparitions of Our Lady of America, St. Joseph revealed:

 

·       "I am the protector of the Church and the home, as I was the protector of Christ and his Mother while I lived upon earth. Jesus and Mary desire that my pure heart, so long hidden and unknown, be now honored in a special way. 

 

·       Let my children honor my most pure heart in a special manner on the First Wednesday of the month by reciting the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary in memory of my life with Jesus and Mary and the love I bore them, the sorrow I suffered with them. 

 

·       Let them receive Holy Communion in union with the love with which I received the Savior for the first time and each time I held Him in my arms. 

 

·       Those who honor me in this way will be consoled by my presence at their death, and I myself will conduct them safely into the presence of Jesus and Mary."

Every Wednesday is Dedicated to St. Joseph

The Italian culture has always had a close association with St. Joseph perhaps you could make Wednesdays centered around Jesus’s Papa. Plan an Italian dinner of pizza or spaghetti after attending Mass as most parishes have a Wednesday evening Mass. You could even do carry out to help restaurants. If you are adventurous, you could do the Universal Man Plan: St. Joseph style. Make the evening a family night perhaps it could be a game night. Whatever you do make the day special.

·       Do the St. Joseph Universal Man Plan.

·       Devotion to the 7 Joys and Sorrows of St. Joseph 

Daily Devotions

·       Unite in the work of the Porters of St. Joseph by joining them in fasting: Today's Fast: Restoring the Church

·       54 Day Rosary for Priest’s and Religious Day 11



·       Total Consecration to St. Joseph Day 15



·       Manhood of the Master-week 2 day 4



·       Offering to the sacred heart of Jesus

·       Make reparations to the Holy Face

·       Drops of Christ’s Blood

·       Universal Man Plan




[1]Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896

[5]http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/journey-to-the-foot-of-the-cross-10-things-to-remember-for-lent.cfm

[6]http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/march-6.cfm

[9]https://enteringintothemystery.blogspot.com/2018/12/dont-forget-first-wednesday-devotion-to.html



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