After four years of making our way through the corporal works of mercy each Lent (feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, and clothing the naked), our family arrived at the fifth corporal work of mercy: caring for the sick.
I was sick, and you cared for me.
This year, we had come up with lots of ideas to unite ourselves with the sick. As an act of gratitude for the health that we have, we wanted to make a promise to be active in some way every day. We thought we might commit to a 40-day fitness plan, or perhaps as a family pledge to walk 40 miles in 40 days! Continue reading
I am not a dancer. Of the many elements of self-discovery achieved in my recently abandoned teens, this is among the ones I am most certain about. As much as it pains me to accept it, it pains me even more so to have to prove it. And yet, it just so happened that I was invited, rather dragged to dance with an elderly maiden in my last visit to a retirement home. Needless to say, it was one of the most terrifying yet enriching experiences of my life. As I stomped around and the kindly elder woman swung my arms from one side to the other, I found in her wrinkled countenance a joy that I had long sought after, the joy of the children of God, who are somehow able to find God in every circumstance, even amidst a horrid dance. A soft smile came to replace my terrified grimace as I realized how simple it is to be joyful: one must find God in all things. Continue reading
St. Joseph is the most famous man we have ever heard of whom we know so little about.
Everything we know for certain about Joseph appears in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. It isn’t very much by Wikipedia standards.
He came from the lineage of David, was Jewish, a small-town carpenter, was born, served as foster father for the son of God (which meant being husband to the mother of God), fled to Egypt to protect wife and son (based on a dream), cared for his little family, and died.
We can infer a bit; when he learned his wife-to-be was expecting, an angel told him not to worry because it was an action of the Holy Spirit. Joseph trusted and believed. Dads do a lot of that. Continue reading
Sunday’s were different when I was a kid.
We went to church, took a walk and played in the yard, maybe watched a baseball game on TV, and had a big “Sunday Dinner.” In those days, mom didn’t worry about how fattening the roast was – and she put real butter on the mashed potatoes and ice cream on the pecan pie.
This wasn’t centuries ago, although I admit it was decades ago. Sundays were relatively quiet and peaceful. I think that is because the only store that was open in our neighborhood was Jimmy’s Pharmacy – and it closed at noon after everyone had filled their prescriptions, purchased a paper and perhaps bought a bag of roasted nuts from the rotating display by the cash register.
We lived in the Clintonville area of Columbus, Ohio. Compared to New York or Chicago, it was a small town. But Columbus is the state capital and home of Ohio State University and had about half a million people, so it got a pretty big dot on most maps. Continue reading
After working our way through the first five corporal works of mercy during Lent (feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and caring for the sick), it was time for our little family to visit the imprisoned:
I was imprisoned and you visited me.
While most penitentiaries don’t welcome random children to come in and visit prisoners, there are plenty of ways we can unite ourselves to, minister to, and serve the imprisoned. There was one main way we chose to unite ourselves with the imprisoned: the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we examine our own lives and acknowledge our own sins, we shorten the distance between ourselves and those who have been incarcerated for their choices and actions. This is a great time to get in the habit of a simple nightly examination of conscience and frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Along with praying for the imprisoned, your family could make a donation to the prison ministry in your community. As well, last year we had the pleasure of meeting Sister Helen Prejean (the real-life nun behind the movie “Dead Man Walking”) and hearing her speak with such mercy and compassion about the prisoners to whom she had the honour to minister: you could watch the movie, add Sister Helen’s books to your Lenten reading list and/or donate to her cause: Continue reading
Over the past three Lents, our family had worked through the first three corporal works of mercy: we focused on feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and welcoming the stranger. In the fourth year of our journey through the corporal works of mercy, we found ourselves clothing the naked:
I was naked and you clothed me.
In acknowledging “the naked” this year, our family focused on restoring dignity to the poor, the vulnerable, and the unnoticed. In an effort to unite ourselves with those living with less and at the same time recognize our own excess, we all drastically reduced our wardrobes. To do this, we each reduced our wardrobe to 40 items; any clothes that didn’t make the cut were backed away in boxes until Easter. Continue reading
After working on the corporal works of mercy of feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, in the next year of our Lenten journey through the corporal works of mercy, our family welcomed the stranger:
I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
In the third year, our family made an extra effort to make our home a place of welcome. Towards each other, we tried to do daily acts of kindness and attentiveness (letting a sibling have a turn at a game, or bringing someone a glass of ice water), and tried our best to always use loving and calm speech (which wasn’t always easy in a house with 5 kids!). We also made an effort to greet everyone well when they entered our home (whether that was Daddy when he got home from work, the kids when they got home from school or invited guests), and keep the entrance of our home clean and welcoming. In addition to this, we prayed for refugees entering our community, and donated extra clothes and household goods to a parish that was collecting items for a refugee family it was preparing to host.
Other ideas: This is a great time to reach out to the “strangers” in our lives (parishioners new to our church, the neighbors who recently moved in nearby that we have not yet met, the new kid at school, etc.). Have you ever considered teaching English as a second language in your community? Now’s the time to sign up as a volunteer!
Our Lenten patron saint of welcoming the stranger: St. Alban, a convert who, while he was still a pagan, is said to have opened his home to a priest and kept him hidden during a time of Christian persecution, and was martyred for it.
As Lent began I was, once again, resolved to prove my love to God by making sacrifices that show him how much I love him, that I do indeed love him more than my comforts and my weaknesses. I had my plan, my list of what I’m giving up and what I will do better.
By the end of week 2, reality hit, my little project failed, and I really entered Lent, the Lent Jesus wants.
Coming to prayer, embarrassed to raise my eyes to him because I have failed so many times, and I am a total mess at this ‘proving my love’ thing, I offer him the only real sacrifice I can make- my mess itself- my efforts, my failures, my striving, my desires, everything- the whole mess that was once a neatly organized list of good intentions.
As I offer it to him, I feel his smile, as if he is saying to me, “Finally, we can really begin the journey of Lent.” Continue reading
Everything Goes Wrong: Judges 1-8, 13-21
But a Glimmer of Hope: Ruth 1-4
Judges marked the period of religious, social and political chaos where “there was no king in Israel; every man did what was the right in his own eyes” (Jud 17:6 & 21:25), whereas Ruth served as an oasis of relief between Judges and Samuel.
One key theme in Judges is the inversion of norms. When there was no central authority, everyone chose their own moral standard. Micha just built a shrine at his home and installed his son as the priest (Jud 17:5); the Benjaminites just grabbed wives from the daughters of Shiloh (Jud 21:21-23). Continue reading
In the previous post, I wrote about how our family has been focusing on one of the corporal works of mercy each Lent, beginning with feeding the hungry. Here’s what we did the following year:
We shared articles with the kids at suppertime
to make them aware of the struggle many communities
face just to have safe water for drinking and bathing.
I was thirsty and you gave me drink.
For our average little family, it can be easy to take our relative comfort and contentment for granted, even to the point where we become ignorant to the needs of others! Lent is a great gift, as it inspires us to unite ourselves to the vulnerable and the suffering that God has placed in our care. In the second year of this journey, we each gave up our favorite drinks during Lent (whether that was coffee, pop, juice, or beer in Dad’s case!), in unity with those who do not have access to fresh, clean water, and in appreciation that we do. The money that we saved on drinks (this adds up when you abstain from gourmet coffees and order only water at restaurants) we donated to a charity that builds wells to provide clean drinking water for communities in need. We also recognized the spiritually thirsty, and prayed for those thirsting for Christ, making an extra effort to invite people to join us at mass, retreats, or youth events that we attended during Lent. Continue reading