Journey through Lent 2023
This year’s Lenten reflections from CCCB are delivered by His Eminence Gérald Cyprien Cardinal Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada, and the Most Reverend Brian Joseph Dunn, Archbishop of Halifax-Yarmouth.
As we begin our journey of Lent, may we all walk the path of renewal that is ahead of us. May each and every one of us be blessed with the grace to grow closer to Christ with renewed purpose and spiritual insight as we journey through these 40 days.
Faithful Living: The joy of Easter
In preparing for this great feasting season of Easter, we abstained, prayed and gave alms. What would happen if we lived the Easter season with as much fervour as we live Lent?
What can we do to colour our spiritual lives with Easter joy during this liturgical season?
Why should Lent be the only time we make resolutions? God has graces in store for us this season, just as he did during Lent. We only need to keep our eyes peeled so that we don’t miss them.
"fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith."
~ Hebrews 12:2
Excerpts taken from Fr. John Bartunek's article in SpiritualDirection.com:
"How can we celebrate the Easter Season more fully?"
HOLY SATURDAY & EASTER
Learn & Live with DOCAT
Interested in growing spiritually this Lent both in knowledge and in practise? Watch this short video about DOCAT!
"‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’"
Love God and love others. Learn and live.
Surviving the desert of our lives
At any age, often without warning, we might suddenly find ourselves in the ‘desert’, a state of extreme emotional and/or physical hardship. I was in this place following the death of my twin sister. I don’t remember the details; it was simply a long, weary, grayness. I wandered through my life on autopilot, scarcely caring about my responsibilities. If I appeared to be coping it was a mirage because my heart felt arid, my feelings numbed and the future a bleak continuation of present misery. I could not find the energy to pray. Indeed, I didn’t recognize God at all in this experience. For years I was angry with God for perceived injury and persistent inattention.
Desert times often accompany chronic illness or the death of a loved one. Sometimes we have lost a job or an important relationship. Each of these circumstances cause great (and some may say necessary), grief. If we’re lucky, we will grieve in a supportive environment and eventually find our way out. However sometimes, through no fault of our own, we become stuck in a place of lifelessness and pain – a desert of the soul. By the grace of God, I eventually emerged from my ‘desert’. Life still has sorrows in every season but now I don’t feel as stranded as I did before. Curiously, what helped me is learning more about Nature’s deserts.
In nature the desert is not lifeless. It’s filled with plants and animals which have adapted to the harsh conditions. These remarkable creations not only survive but thrive. I’m particularly struck by the coping strategies of plants. Here are some of those methods which might translate into spiritual strategies to survive our own desert times.
Vast root systems
Mesquite plants can have tap roots 80-100 feet long, reaching deep into the soil to find water. Cactuses have shallow but extensive root mats which extend far beyond their stems so that they can absorb every drop of rain when it falls.
By going deep and wide in our prayer life, we will be more likely to receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit. So when our daily Scripture reading becomes rote, keep reading. When our prayers become stale, keep praying. When we don’t feel the least bit holy, keep coming for the Eucharist. Staying accessible to God increases the likelihood that eventually we’ll feel his presence.
Small leaf surfaces
Cacti have leaves so narrow that they resemble spines. This is to reduce the loss of water to the environment.
When we’re hurting it’s OK to withdraw from the world. Well-meant comments can feel overwhelming so reduce contacts and commitments if you need to. But don’t isolate entirely. Keeping even a sporadic connection to our community or parish ensures the fraternity we may not even realize we need.
Succulents have evolved to store water in their leaves, stems and even in tubers underground.
In our driest times we might find hidden reserves in places we never expected. I discovered peace at silent retreats which I’d previously avoided. A woman I know found meaning in writing a book about her husband’s terminal illness.
Ephemerals are short-lived desert plants which bloom and die in one season leaving hardy seeds which can lie dormant for years until it rains again.
Even in the midst of sadness, there can be moments of surprising joy. I can recall a milestone birthday, filled with light-hearted teasing, shortly after my sister died. I was glad to be alive that day but so sad afterwards that my twin couldn’t celebrate her milestone too. Nevertheless, the memory of having been happy gave me hope that I could feel that way again.
Desert times are difficult and nobody chooses them willingly. But if they come we need not fear them. We can trust God to help us survive until we experience the joy He has in store for us, beyond the desert.
The upcoming season of Lent mirrors the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. Traditionally this is a time of sacrifice and increased prayer. It is an opportunity to feel some discomfort in solidarity with Jesus who spent his desert time with no sustenance and being harassed by the devil. Most of us will not feel that level of deprivation at Lent but we can remember and pray for those who do.
This blessed Easter season
This year the slightly relaxed Covid-19 restrictions, afforded our family the opportunity to attend all Triduum Masses at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Since my husband Ben volunteered as cameraman for the cathedral livestream, the children and I gratefully attended the liturgies upstairs in the crying room, so we could experience the Triduum together as much as possible.
Last year when churches were closed and no one could attend Mass during the Easter Triduum, our family was given the grace to see the pandemic as an opportunity to fortify our domestic church. What seemed like one-off makeshift solutions at the time have now become annual family Easter traditions.
Our own celebrations began at home again on Holy Thursday by meditating on the Last Supper with the children using a miniature altar and figurines. This was inspired by my training as a children’s catechist with the Catechism of the Good Shepherd program. This lectio divina style meditation set the mood for my husband to prayerfully perform an in-house foot washing. And following this we sat down to eat a Seder-inspired dinner.
What struck me was the word ‘slave’ interwoven throughout the Triduum. In my understanding a central theme of the Seder meal is reflecting on the significance of the Egyptian slaves finding freedom through the Exodus.
On Good Friday we continued our meditation by praying the Way of the Cross as a small family cohort at Mount St Francis retreat centre just outside of Cochrane.
I allowed this life-changing truth that Jesus died on the Cross and rose again to free me from my slavery to sin and death to penetrate my heart.
And on Holy Saturday we had a quiet day waiting in hopeful anticipation of the Resurrection that meets us on the other side of the Cross.
The candlelit Vigil Mass is truly the climax of our liturgical year. I was awestruck by the magnificence and beauty of the words sung in the Exsultet. Again the reality of being set free from the slavery of my sin and death captured my imagination.
Here’s an excerpt from the Exsultet
This is the night
that even now throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.
This is the night
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.
With my lenten pilgrimage concluded, I pondered in what ways God’s grace had worked in my life to set me free from the slavery of my sin.
God loves you and me personally and unconditionally and the only thing standing in the way of His love is our own turning away from Him. And for those with eyes of faith to see that all circumstances: the good, the challenges, the everyday mundane, are all opportunities to grow in greater love of God and His Church.
Happy Easter from our family to yours! And may the victory over sin and death carry on in our heart for the 50 days following Easter until Pentecost!
Names are interesting. Though we don’t usually choose our own, they give insight into one’s background. My parents had chosen another name for me but hearing that my aunt and uncle wanted to use it for their expected child, Mom and Dad left it for their use. My female cousin ended up not needing the name they reserved, but I had already been born, and named after my dad. There was a period of years when my dad thought being called ‘junior’ by friends telephoning our number (back when whole families shared a single line) was too much for me to bear; he offered to have my name changed.
My wife has commented that amongst the biggest decisions we made for our children was picking their names and their godparents. We have viewed both as consequential. At the beginning, we didn’t know we had naming rules.
When I was growing up back in the old country (Saskatchewan), there was a family at my school who had five children, all of whose names began with the same letter. At the time this seemed a very strange thing to do – especially when the names they used were less than common.
Not every family limits the choices they allow for this key mark of identity, something the individual will probably have for the rest of his life. But I suspect most do. Sometimes they are as simple as not giving a traditionally male name to a daughter. It could be more specific and involve a particular number of letters (this is the case for a family in our acquaintance). You’d think that especially as we hoped from the beginning to have a larger family, and as it turned out that we were going to specialize in daughters, that we wouldn’t make it even more difficult to find good names.
We knew that we wanted our children to share their names with strong and virtuous individuals. The devotional practice of reverencing patron saints made this pretty standard for Catholics; our daughters are each named after a canonized saint, biblical woman, or esteemed member of the family. After naming our first three daughters, we discovered that we had created a further rule: we would not repeat initial letters for first names, nor could initial letters be vowels.
These final two requisites don’t have substance in themselves, but the challenge of finding names that find all criteria somehow added to the experience for us. While our girls have not placed the same restrictions on themselves in regard to their Confirmation names, they have each selected worthy patrons and sponsors.
Taking names seriously is part of not only our faith, but more deeply even, God’s own nature. The second commandment tells us that misuse of God’s name is an offence. There is something of consequence here that I’m not sure we pick up very well in the 2020s.
Scripture also uses names to mark changes of life: Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, with Saul to Paul being one of the biggest. Just like the number forty represents transformation: in the Sinai, on the Ark, and with Jesus in the desert. We have just finished journeying with Jesus (“God saves”) as we’ve walked through Lent. While we likely haven’t changed any names in this time, we may have examined who we truly are, as named children of the Father. Though we suffered for forty days, Easter is now a fifty-day celebration – where fasting and mourning are behind us. The promise of spring’s new life echoes the New Life we have been promised. And our celebration of this reality means something about how we live. That’s something I’ve been thinking about too …
Easter Message from the Bishop
Beginning on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 17, 2021) and for each Sunday of the season of Lent, Bishop McGrattan is offering spiritual renewal reflections for individuals, families and communities in the Diocese as we prepare to celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This 8-part video series of Lenten Spiritual Renewal (15-25 minutes reflection) is a part of the Diocesan Spiritual Renewal “Duc in altum | Put out into the deep”.
Upcoming reflection themes on Sundays of Lent:
On his first reflection (Ash Wednesday), Bishop McGrattan calls for a personal renewal, for us to recognize or reimagine the deep gifts we received at our Baptism
First Sunday of Lent | The Primacy of Grace
"Opening our lives and receiving God's grace... This is how the church grows, not because of human's effort, but by us being open to receive the grace of God, and to be drawn to Christ." In today’s reflection, Bishop McGrattan speaks of the primacy of grace, that it's always God's initiative that draws us to Christ.
Second Sunday of Lent | The Call to Holiness
"The acceptance of God's grace is the beginning to the call of the path of holiness. It's the response that each of us are called to make in our lives." In today’s reflection, Bishop McGrattan speaks of the call to holiness. He reminds us of ways to reintensify or redevelop the call to holiness that we received in our baptism.
Third Sunday of Lent 2021 | Lent
“Prayer is this lifting of mind, entering into this conversation and relationship with God, lifting our heart and wanting our heart to be one with God.” In today’s reflection, Bishop McGrattan reminds us that amidst our busyness and distraction, we must always try to seek silence and solitude, to focus our minds to God. But how? Watch the video to get thoughtful examples and ideas from the Bishop.
Fourth Sunday of Lent 2021 | Listening to the Word of God
“To receive, to hear, to listen to the Word of God is the essential nature of the Church.”
In today’s reflection, Bishop McGrattan reminds us that scripture must be at the forefront of our activities and endeavour as Christians, and invites us to renew how we listen to the Word of God. “Through the scripture, we are introduced to the very life and the mysteries of God.” The listening of the Word of God through praying, reading, studying and meditating with scripture is equally important and necessary step of preparation for when we gather as a community, and when we engage in pastoral activities.
Bishop McGrattan shares the 5 steps of Lectio Divina, divine reading praying with scripture.
1. Lectio - reading of text, looking at the words we’re reading, the images of text, and to see the significance of the text and image.
2. Meditatio - what does this passage say to me, or to the early church?
3. Oratio - how does this passage of scripture move me to respond?
4. Contemplatio - how is this word of God forming in me the mind and heart of Christ?
5. Actio - how is this word making my life a gift for others?
To study Verbum Domini, download the file below.
Fifth Sunday of Lent 2021 | Proclaiming the Word of God
"..being sent forth is part of the nature of the Church. We call it the essential mission."
In today’s reflection, Bishop McGrattan brings to mind that faith is often formed by secular values or opinions of the world. As missionary disciples, we are called to recognize these limitations, to understand the challenges we face in proclaiming the Word of God, as we go forward to convey a message of love.
For students in our Catholic schools, Shrove Tuesday heralds the coming of Lent. This year, however, for many schools, there were no pancakes prepared by staff or community volunteers. The pancake breakfast, a tradition beloved by students and staff, like so many other community celebrations, have been impacted by COVID-19. This includes Ash Wednesday.
Inherent to our Ash Wednesday ritual are the words spoken at the tracing of the cross on our forehead: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” This year, within schools, there were no words spoken, nor a cross traced upon the forehead. Instead, a reverent silence was observed as our chaplains sprinkled ashes upon our heads. This was different from our normal experience of receiving the blessed ashes. Seeing the cross of ashes on the foreheads of friends and school staff is always intriguing for students and for others in the wider community who often ask what the mark means. We might say something to the effect of: “The blessed ashes remind us that we are marked by God and demonstrates to others that we are committing to change, a conversion of heart, in preparation for Easter.”
This year, however, there were no casual inquiries about ashes upon foreheads. Again, this is one of the effects of the pandemic. We understand that the experience of some students and staff in terms of our faith celebrations, many relegated to online experiences, are not as we have been accustomed. There is, however, consistency in our Ash Wednesday scriptures. This steadfastness of the Word is important especially during these times of change.
The readings we experience on Ash Wednesday help our students and staff understand that we all have a need for repentance and that “God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in kindness” (Joel 2:13). St. Paul reminds us that the world sees the presence of Christ in the way we act (2 Corinthians 5:20-6:1). This is central to the Catholic school whereby through action and word, and the example of Christ, students are inspired to learn and are prepared to live fully and to serve God in one another. Finally, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that almsgiving, prayer, and fasting are to be conducted humbly. These actions are inherent in our personal Lenten journey.
Although the pandemic has changed many of the routines in our schools and impacted how we perform our rituals, we know that our faith traditions and the gift of Catholic Education give us resiliency and the hope to persevere in times of challenge. We are each called to bear witness to Jesus who models the necessity to walk humbly with God and with each other towards the renewal, hope, and transformation that culminates in Easter. Lent invites us to journey through the desert of our sin to the foot of the cross and ultimately, to share in the light of the resurrection of Jesus. We are, after all, Easter people. That will not change!
Forty-one days of Lent?
There is much to be said for the traditional customs and disciplines of our faith. But that doesn’t stop our family from actively avoiding the forty-ONE days of Lent. When the practice of using up the shortening in the house, to prepare for reduced eating during Lent, prompted the making of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, it might have made historical sense. Today, as a man who likes protein, pancakes on the day before required fasting and abstinence seems like a poor way to fortify myself. So, in our house, we have modified the yearly last hurrah into ‘Steak’ Tuesday.
It makes sense that each Lent offers an opportunity to take another step on the stairway to heaven, advancing in holiness by disciplining the temptations to think primarily of ourselves. Hearing the call to fast, pray, and give alms should prompt us to re-examine the many ways we choose our comfort over God and neighbour. Seeing one’s own unfiltered selfishness is not a pretty picture.
There is lots of wisdom in the liturgical cycle of the Church – times of fast and feast, recalling the stories from our family of faith. But the living out of our faith does not take place for the most part in the sanctuary and meeting rooms at the parish. Where the rubber really meets the road is in our interactions away from the consolations and encouragements of our common worship at Mass. It’s with friends, at work, and in the home that a more accurate picture of our dedication to sanctity emerges.
Sometimes family life seems like its own ongoing Lent. Each of us is continuously confronted with the needs and desires of the others: siblings, parents, children, spouse. Neither we nor they are entirely reasonable. And yet, we are still supposed to love one another – as we love ourselves (cf. Matthew 22:39b), as we love God (cf. Matthew 25:40b), and finally even as God loves us (cf. John 13:34). That’s a tough row to hoe, as the saying goes.
But the confines of a shared life together are not only a type of temptation in the desert; they can also be little Gethsemanes with not-my-will-but-thines. Last night, I overheard one of our daughters apologize to a younger sister for her excessive anger earlier in the day. There are many stumbles during a family’s day, but those are also always chances to stand up again renewed. We are proud of our daughters very often, yes, but more so we are thankful for the grace of God present in them as they work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
It has been said that not only do parents raise children, but children are able to help parents grow up too. The requirement to put another before self is constantly in front of mothers and fathers, starting when they are young, cute, and helpless, and when they are adolescent, awkward, and oppositional. This is the domestic Church in her sanctified fruitfulness. The same opportunity exists in the union of two-become-one, who in spite of the sacramental reality of marriage, remain two individuals. How often do we really seek to put the other first by understanding, by serving, by loving? Perhaps it starts easier in the exciting honeymoon phase of early life together, but it needs to continue as the nuptial years advance.
Scripture and faith more generally use much family language to describe heavenly realities. God is Father; the Church is mother; we are brothers and sisters. And we live together now in anticipation of the wedding feast of the Lamb, readying ourselves for that celebration as best we can!
Stations of the Resurrection
The Stations of the Light is a spiritual journey with Christ that takes one through fourteen of the most inspiriting events of His post-Resurrection life on earth. In the early Church this practice was known as the Via Lucis, or Way of the Resurrection. It invites participants to walk along a path of transforming joy by following in the footsteps of the Risen Christ and his friends. Resources for praying Via Lucis:
Pray on your own pace, with a reflection video and accompanying guide.
Download the accompanying prayer booklet (Diocese of Manchester)
Steeped in the ancient traditions of the Catholic Church and confused by contemporary secular culture, the Sacrament of Reconciliation intimidates a lot of people. Fr. John Nemanic gets that. He also understands why so many Catholics regularly participate in this grace-filled ritual—and he’s hopeful more will avail themselves of its sacramental blessings this Lenten season.
“The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the most difficult of the seven sacraments because we have to really look at ourselves honestly,” says Fr. Nemanic, the parish priest at St. Michael Catholic Community in the West Springs community of southwest Calgary.
While it can be difficult to talk about the mistakes you’ve made and the people you’ve hurt, “reconciliation is also a sacrament of growth. It helps us see where we are now—and who we aspire to be,” says Fr. Nemanic.
Biblical roots, contemporary blessings
The sacrament itself is rooted in biblical teachings, adds Fr. Fernando Genogaling of St. Luke’s in northwest Calgary. Instituted by Christ, Reconciliation invites us to seek forgiveness, express sorrow “and to take instruction on what to do in order to avoid making the sin,” explains Fr. Genogaling. “This sacrament is one of the ways we learn and experience the grace of humility. In return for confessing our sins, we receive an assurance of God’s love and grace. That is very powerful.”
“The Lord comforts us with the sacrament,” says Fr. Nemanic. The words, “I absolve you from your sins,’ are almost incomprehensible to penitents who enter the confessional with heavy but contrite hearts, says the priest. “This sacrament is so far-reaching. When people hear those words, they experience the reality that Emmanuel is with us. The closer we are to Him, the more the penitent opens up his or her heart and the more the Lord can come into that space and heal.”
For many penitents, the experience of forgiveness can be transformative. Fr. Nemanic recalls a story shared by renowned Catholic theologian Bishop Fulton Sheen. Bishop Sheen said a psychiatrist friend once told him that he marveled at the impact of Reconciliation. Whereas his clients paid him for counsel, Catholic priests gave counsel and peace—for free.
Parishes in the Diocese of Calgary hold regular confessional hours during the week on a year-round basis. While penitents can trust the confessional as a sacred and confidential space, people who don’t want to confess their sins to a priest they know can go to another parish, or attend a penitential service and talk to a priest they don’t know, says Fr. Genogaling.
He and Fr. Nemanic also recognize that people aren’t necessarily comfortable making a Reconciliation while facing a priest—and that’s okay, too. “I would say that 75 per cent of the people who come to reconciliation at St. Michael’s stay behind the screen even though they could just walk around the partition,” says Fr. Nemanic.
Those tempted to shy away from Reconciliation after a bad experience should consider what’s at stake, notes Fr. Nemanic. As he sees it, most people have also had bad experiences in at least one restaurant, but that doesn’t keep them from ever enjoying another restaurant meal. The same logic should apply to not denying themselves the blessings of Reconciliation.
And what would he say to a Catholic who is worried about not having received the Sacrament of Reconciliation for a while? “I would say, ‘just come,’” says Fr. Nemanic. Those who go regularly do so because they understand the grace it bestows. “If people would give five minutes a month, their lives would change immeasurably for the better because they’ve made themselves available to encounter the Lord’s mercy.”
Since honesty and contrition are essential to a good confession, Fr. Genogaling encourages people to spend some time examining their conscience before entering the confessional.
Written by Joy Gregory for Faithfully
Do you know that the proper Sequence is obligatory on Easter and Pentecost Sunday? It is to be sung following the second reading. The Gospel Acclamation follows the Sequence as usual. The sequence can be sung by the cantor, by the choir, or by the entire assembly. The CCCB encourages the participation of the assembly. The Easter sequence may be sung on every day of the Easter Octave including especially the Second Sunday of Easter.
Handy links for Parish music ministers and cantors:
Be still and know that I am God
As the Season of Lent begins, it is a good time for us to seek an interior renewal and to face the distracting attachments and preoccupations that have become part of our often very busy lives. These forty days serve to remind us of Christ’s journey into the desert. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us that “Jesus' temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning.
By the solemn forty days of Lent, the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert. (CCC, 540)
It is this Lenten discipline of penance, renunciation, and detachment which reawakens within us the awareness of our dependence on God and His great love for each of us. While retreating to the desert might be impossible on a practical level, our Lenten observance of penance, abstinence, prayer, and almsgiving helps us to grow in Christ daily and to avoid temptation.
In particular, the psalmist’s refrain, “Be still and know that I am God” invites us to be attentive to our times of personal and communal prayer. One of the Desert Fathers, Amma Syncletica said, “There are many who live in the mountains and behave as if they were in the town, and they are wasting their time. It is possible to be a solitary in one’s mind while living in a crowd, and it is possible for one who is a solitary to live in the crowd of his own thoughts.” (Benedicta Ward, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Cistercian Publications: 1975, p. 19)
Listening to God in prayer is an important part of a life of faith. God desires to speak to us and we have the privilege of listening to the promptings of His Spirit through the consolations and desolations with which He graces us during our prayer. William Barclay’s reflection on prayer and silence is often quoted as follows, “… Prayer is a way of offering ourselves to God in order that He should be able to make use of us. It may be that one of our great faults in prayer is that we talk too much and listen too little. When prayer is at its highest, we wait in silence for God's voice to us; we linger in His presence for His peace and His power to flow over us and around us; we lean back in His everlasting arms and feel the serenity of perfect security in Him.”
The psalmist writes in Psalm 46, “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Walter Brueggemann, a well-known scholar of the psalms, says that some psalms were written for the good times while others were written for the times when the future seemed uncertain and perhaps filled with impending troubles. These psalms were written for people living in times of change and uncertainty who were experiencing feelings of anxiety and even dismay. (The Spirituality of the Psalms, Brueggemann, pp. 19-25.) Psalm 46 provides the reassurance that God is stable when all else seems unstable. At a deeply personal and spiritual level, this is important for each of us.
This is the deeper experience of prayer and listening which the time of silence and stillness offers to us.
“In the silence of the heart, God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.” (Saint Teresa of Calcutta, In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers)
Let us embrace this season of Lent as a time to “be solitary in one’s mind.” (Benedicta Ward, Ibid.) If we allow God’s grace to renew our hearts during this Lenten season through prayer, then in the solitary stillness of such experiences we will know His great love, wisdom, and charity and be moved more generously to witness and share this with others.
Thank you - Undie Sunday
We would love to thank St. Michael's Knights of Columbus and CWL who joined their efforts to host a successful fundraiser "Undie Sunday" for Elizabeth House and the Drop-In Centre!
This event was a successful awareness and community builder, brought in funds through the Birdies for Kids campaign and much needed supplies for the women of Elizabeth House. We look forward for another Undie Sunday next year, on the fourth Sunday of Lent.
Here is a lovely photo of the warm hand-off of the donation:
Most Reverend W. T. McGrattan, D.D., Bishop of Calgary
Spark joy this Easter
So why is that joy lacking in so many Catholics and Christians these days?
“I think there’s a couple of reasons. One is the climate that we’re in. Many faithful Catholics feel sort of in a siege mentality. So much of the world has changed around us so quickly. We’re a post Christian culture, so our faith, our mission, our morality is being challenged left, right and centre. So it’s very difficult,” said Bishop McCaig when I spoke with him. “That’s why I spoke of the temptation that we have to overcome to lose our joy and lose our charity in the midst of the struggle. But ultimately joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Joy is deeper than happiness. Happiness is transitory. I can be happy one minute and unhappy the next minute. I’m driving to work, and my truck breaks down. I’m not very happy. But joy is deeper.
“Joy is something that the circumstances of life can’t take away. Joy is something that flows from the deep knowledge of being known and loved and forgiven and blessed and anointed by God - of living in the grace of God. That comes from the Holy Spirit. That’s something we can’t manufacture. That’s something that we can’t even choose to have. We can choose however to expose ourselves to it by a life of deep prayer. I think you will find that the kind of joy the Lord speaks, which the world cannot take from us, is the product of someone who spends time with the Scriptures in prayer, with the the Lord personally. Spends time before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration, prays the Rosary, goes to Mass whenever they can. Is living deeply and from the heart that relationship with the Lord.”
But it’s ironic that despite the Good News many people still don’t have a joyful disposition.
“Pope Francis said it beautifully early on in his pontificate. We don’t need pickle faced Christians,” explained Bishop McCaig. “That says it all. Why is it that we’re going to the highest act of worship - the summit and sacrifice of life on earth in the Mass - and our visages look like we’re going to a funeral? It’s really a question of the reception of the Good News. Many of us have received the faith at one level - at an intellectual level. We believe it’s true. But I think God wants a lot more than that. He wants us to receive it deeply. He wants us to experience it. He wants us to come into a relationship with Him. And that’s why we have so many programs that are specifically designed to take us beyond the beginning stages into a deeper love of relationship.”
Wise words from a wise man - something I will remind myself of when I too find myself heading down that dour path. As Catholics and Christians, we truly have good reason to be joyful.
Written by Mario Toneguzzi
Singing the Exsultet during the Easter Vigil? Check out the resources below:
From the day my Father, Theodore was brutally and callously murdered in Toronto, on Easter Monday, March 27, 1978, I wanted to meet his killer. I wanted to know how it was possible to do such a horrific thing. I wanted to know how he felt about destroying the lives of so many; my family’s, and his own.
We did meet. The meeting occurred in July of 2007. Because of reading about an award I received for my Therapeutic Writing Workshops and the publication of my books about healing, voice, and agency, he emailed me. Our meeting, our reconciliation, even those many years after that dark, dark day, was a rich blessing in my life and proved helpful for him too.
The word forgiveness is one that can lead to great suffering for victims and offenders alike. Victims are told that if they do not forgive, they cannot heal. Offenders are told that if they are not forgiven, they cannot move on from the crime they have committed. Forgiveness is a loaded word, with as many understandings, expectations, and definitions as there are experiences of savage loss, savage grief, savage pain.
In 2012, after too many years of thinking that my life did indeed end with my Father’s, I completed a Master’s Thesis. The title: Sawbonna-Justice as Lived-Experience. Sawbonna means shared-humanity. It also means I see you, you see me.
Sawbonna means that no one is better in the eyes of God. It means that we are good, bad, ugly, amazing, loved, loving, and free. Free to know that whether we can forgive or are forgiven by another human being, we are deeply known, cared-for, and embraced by God. A God who invites us, gently and generously directly back into our very own hearts. Hearts of love. Hearts of justice. Hearts of Sawbonna. We are seen. We each matter.
Chosen by God
What do burst pipes and penmanship have to do with being chosen by God? There are two things I remember about my first Rite of Election as a catechumen. The first is the sound of rushing water at St. Mary’s Cathedral as the backdrop to the celebration. The Rite of Election normally takes place at the start of Lent, the period of the liturgical year that helps Christians prepare to reaffirm their baptismal promises at Easter. In this particular year, the sound of the water came from a pipe in the Cathedral that had burst due to cold weather! No doubt it was memorable for the Cathedral staff, but for me, it was a poignant foreshadowing of the baptism I was preparing to undertake at Easter as a member of the elect, one chosen by God to receive the sacraments of initiation. The second thing that I remember is inscribing my name in the book of the elect, in the rite of enrollment of names. These two things are the namesake of this liturgy, the Rite of Election and Enrolment of Names.
Rite of Election
The Rite of Election is about being chosen by God to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. In this ritual, the Church chooses those who have the dispositions that make them fit to take part in the sacraments of initiation. Before the Rite of Election the priests, deacons, catechists, godparents, and the entire community arrive at a judgement about the catechumens’ formation and progress in the Christian life. In the liturgy, they present the catechumens by name to the bishop and the entire assembly and give testimony about the catechumens’ readiness. The catechumens then express personally their intention to receive the sacraments of initiation and live as missionary disciples.
Enrolment of Names
With these testimonies, the bishop accepts the judgement of the Church and invites the catechumens to offer their names for enrolment. One by one the catechumens inscribe their names as a pledge of fidelity in the book that lists those who have been chosen for initiation: the Book of the Elect. Once the catechumens have inscribed their names, the bishop declares the Church’s approval of the catechumens saying: I now declare you to be members of the elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the next Easter Vigil. From this day until they receive the sacraments of initiation those who were catechumens are now called “the elect”. Historically they have also been called competentes or co-petitioners because together, they are asking for the sacraments and the gift of the Holy Spirit. They have also been referred to as illuminandi, those who will be enlightened, because in their baptism they will be filled with the light of faith.
Holy Season of Lent
The period between the Rite of Election and the Easter Vigil is known as the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. It is to be a time of intense spiritual preparation for the elect. The time for catechesis has ended, so the elect now join with the entire Christian community in fruitfully employing the Lenten season to prepare for Easter. The readings, music, and prayers for the Rite of Election are generally taken from the First Sunday of Lent. The bishop urges the godparents and the entire community to be an example and support for the elect during this time and then they are surrounded by prayer before being dismissed to “set out with us on the road that leads to the glory of Easter.”
The Grace of Baptism
As for those already baptized who are planning to make a profession of faith and/or complete their initiation at the Easter Vigil, they have already been made ready for discipleship through the dignity and grace of their baptism. These Christians have already been chosen or elected; they cannot be chosen again. Becoming Catholic is an expression of God’s choice and a choice of the individual, but it is not a new choice by God. The community of faith recognizes their desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and take their place at the Lord’s table. At this time, they affirm their readiness to more fully express their election by God that took place at their baptism. Then, with the whole Christian community, they join in uniting themselves more closely to Christ and coming to know in a deeper way the power of his resurrection in us during this holy season of Lent.
Written by Dr. Simone Brosig, Liturgy Consultant / Director
Finding her way back to God
Kathleen Chury has a tough job. A certified wellness coach and a registered nurse with 38 years of hospital and private practice experience, Chury spends her days supporting and coaching parents who’ve lost custody of their children. The stakes are high, the days run long—and there are many more misses than high fives. But you won’t hear Chury complain about the work, nor the fact that her days can begin and end with a three-to-four-hour commute. “To some people, the time they spend commuting is like lost time. For me, it’s a special time with God.”
Known as Kathy to her friends, Chury and her husband Greg were high school sweethearts. They attended Catholic schools in Red Deer and married two years into her RN training at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary. By the time she graduated in 1981, the couple already had a young son.
In the coming years, she and Greg added two more children to the fold, juggling their work schedules so they didn’t have to factor in childcare. Read between the lines and that means the young couple adeptly managed the parental waltz of many working families; Greg finished a full day of work and came home to be with the kids, Kathy worked mainly evening, night, and weekend shifts. It wasn’t always easy, “but it was worth it,” says Chury.
Faith and family
This April, the Churys will celebrate their 40th anniversary. Looking back, Chury’s not convinced her younger self understood how the Church blessed and strengthened their marriage. She does, however, remember taking to heart two key messages from their marriage preparation classes. Chury says they worked hard at never going to bed angry and they learned—then practised—healthy communication.
While the decision to raise their children in the Catholic faith was never questioned, the family hit a kind of spiritual road bump in the early 2000s. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s what I would call a disconnect.” After being in the same parish for 20 years, a negative experience “changed our perception of how to be Catholic. We stopped attending mass and our kids followed suit.”
In 2008, life in the Chury household took an unexpected turn when Greg was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. Their lives revolved around doctor visits, medical tests and procedures, decisions about healthcare protocols and work assembling a health team to change the direction of the progressive disease. Consumed by Greg’s health issues, jobs and family, the Churys found themselves busier than ever, praying daily, but still not attending mass.
The way back
Chury believes a series of events in 2017 guided the family to chart a different course. First, her beloved aunt died that summer, and Chury was asked to read at the funeral mass. “Suddenly, I found myself questioning why we weren’t at church. I missed it.” Then her brother died in September. Chury spent most of his last hours at his side, where she prayed and provided hands-on nursing care. The experience reinforced how much Chury missed being at church.
By the fall of 2017, the whole family was talking about faith, religion and a desire to step back into the Catholic church. “I was surprised to learn that our oldest son, who was probably the most disconnected of all of us, was feeling the same way I did,” recalls Chury. When conversations with Catholic friends and family included invitations to return to mass, the Churys listened, and then acted.
As luck would have it, the Churys and their children all attend the same parish church in northwest Calgary. The two children that had married outside the faith have completed their wedding validation ceremonies, thus completing their sacraments of marriage in the Catholic church. Two grandchildren have also been baptized at the church, and there’s no question that grandbaby number three, due in June, will be baptized in the faith. Both of their daughters-in-law also attend RCIA classes at St. Peter’s (their daughter married a Catholic). “God is number one in all of our lives,” says Chury.
These days, this working grandmother embraces her spirituality with the passion of a new convert. Chury and her husband pray a daily rosary and she meets regularly with a priest who provides spiritual mentorship. Chury begins her days listening to online Catholic videos and relishes her work commute as a chance to listen to favourite Catholic podcasts or EWTN shows. Slowly, but surely, she’s also getting involved in her faith community.
“I never dreamed that I would live the faith experience that I’m having now,” says Chury. “At work, I don’t talk about how my faith shapes my life. But I try to live my faith, and I definitely pray for the people I work with and for. More than all of that, Greg and I are just so grateful for all of this. We are blown away by what the experience of practising our faith has brought into our lives.”
Looking for some spiritual inspiration this Lenten season? Tune into one of the shows hosted by some of Kathy Chury’s favourite Catholics and Catholic programs: Catholic Answers Live, Take 2 with Jerry and Debbie, Kresta in the Afternoon, Mother Angelica, Women of Grace, The Word on Fire, More2Life, Father Chad Ripperger, Venerable Fulton Sheen, Father Mitch Pacwa, Catholic Café, and Sensus Fidelium.
Written by Joy Gregory
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers