Thoughts for Lenten Observation

Prayer | Fasting | Almsgiving | Everyday Stewardship

Can you recite the Ten Commandments by heart? Several years ago, a national US survey found more people could identify the ingredients in a Big Mac and name the children in the Brady Bunch television show than recite the Ten Commandments. Of course, being able to recite them is not nearly as important as living a life in harmony with them. However, if we simply live to not break them then we are only living out half of our discipleship.

Every commandment calls us to action beyond the simplicity of its words. We are not to kill, but we are also called to support life. We are not to steal, but we are also to share what we have freely. We are to have no other Gods before our God, but we also need to actively praise and glorify Him.

To live a moral life is to do more than follow rules and laws. It is to actively live in a way that gives witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. This way of living is stewardship. As we focus more on the penitential message of Lent, we need to not just reflect on what we have done wrong, but equally what we have failed to do. To be given so much by a loving God and not share those things with God and His people is wrong as well. Perhaps as we reflect on these things we might find ourselves adding something to our lives that will last for many Lenten seasons to come.

Lent: A Season of Faith

When I was first in parish work, I remember the parish priest talking with the schoolchildren about the topic of Lent and prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. He asked them if any of them knew what fasting was. After a very long wait, one student raised his hand and said, “It is what I do when my Mom is mad at me. I run really fast!” The adults in the assembly burst into laughter.

Laughter is good. However, the Lenten devotions of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are very serious practices for us as we prepare to celebrate the Easter mysteries.

As our catechumens prepare for the Easter sacraments, we are called by the Church to model what it means to be a Catholic Christians. We are called, especially during this Lenten season, to pray, fast, and give from the wealth we have to those who need our assistance.

This season is not merely a season of obligation to act more intently as God calls us to act; it is a season of opportunity to practice the foundation of our faith more attentively: prayer, fasting, almsgiving.

The Call to Action for Lent

Prayer | Fasting | Almsgiving

Prayer: Throughout Scripture, Jesus goes to pray in deserted place. Lent is our “deserted place.” We draw near to God through Mass, confession, and spiritual practices like the Stations of the Cross, but we are also invited to spend time in prayer alone with the Father like Jesus did.

Fasting: Fasting is not a diet! With a diet, we try to achieve a physical goal in this world. In fasting, we try to achieve a spiritual goal in the next. Fasting helps us to sacrifice our preferences and less-than-healthy impulses to build discipline to choose the good in all areas of life.

Almsgiving: Time and time again, the Bible tells us that to love God we must love others. Our “neighbor” is someone we might not expect. Giving alms is an opportunity to support and care for our neighbor in need.

The Beginning of Lent

Happy Lent!? It’s hard to believe that Lent is upon us already, but it’s good to get going with it, in my opinion. As you read the words of Msgr Thomas Wells below, you might think that he wouldn’t say the same. But, he did see this as a holy season even if he didn’t particularly enjoy it. I don’t know how many of us will enjoy this Lent, but I hope that we will experience it as a gift. My prayer is that it will be a season of grace and freedom for all of us.

May you know the freedom of Christ this Lent,

Fr Greg


I know some people who look forward to the coming of Lent with a sense of anticipation – even of joy. They look forward to the Church’s invitation to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to give them a spiritual shot in the arm. Not me! I see that Lent begins in ten days, on Ash Wednesday, and I groan within. Not for me the call to penance and self-denial. However, whether received with joy or dread, this great season of grace is upon us. In the days before Vatican II, there were three weeks of preparations for Lent, where Catholics were encouraged to decide how they were going to observe the season. The Church, wisely, wanted to encourage people to take advantage of these six weeks in the desert with the Lord.

…Following Jesus is hard! Picking up a cross and carrying it toward a share in crucifixion goes against the grain. Even the Lord Himself dropped his Cross three times. The crosses we choose for ourselves during Lent should remind us of how weak is our commitment; they should attempt to attack with some vigor areas of weakness in our lives. The person who sees a possible addiction to work that affects family relationships should attack that addiction; the person who is tight with money, using any excuse to avoid giving it away, should dramatically commit to fighting that self-sufficiency that we think money can guarantee. The person who has heard friends and family make the comment, “You’ve always got to be right,” should begin the painful process of examining pride and a competitive spirit and recognize that it is tough to need God if I am always right.

Finally, we must resolve to take seriously the call to prayer. For many of us, the things of God are not first in our lives. I knew God was important to my parents because they taught me to pray and because they often talked about the things of God. If only an Our Father and a Hail Mary at the time of grace, we must begin to pray as families. Individually, many of us can participate in the only perfect prayer, the Mass. We can take the first ten minutes of our daily commute to say the Rosary. We can open the Bible and meet Jesus in the Gospels. And, most especially, in this season of repentance, we must plan to take advantage of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and go to confession.

Why are you smiling so much?

5th Sunday
30 for 30

Testimonies / Pastor’s page
RCIA man / smiling

        Jesus not too busy to pray
In HIs Presence
     Gospel / He entered the house
     Everyone gathered at the door
     Major healing
Entering His house (Adoration) + He enters our house (Holy Communion)

Pray for Revival

Prayer for the 2017 East of the River Revival

Almighty and loving Father, we humbly pray that You will bless our revival with the powerful assistance of your Sweet Spirit.

Grant that our parish may respond to this time of grace and mercy through “Where there is Light There is Hope”. Help us put aside all things that crowd our lives so that we can schedule these four days to come together as a praying and fasting Catholic community.We ask for the grace to learn to live the simplicity that Jesus taught in our complex world.

Bless our revival priest, Fr. Roy Lee, preacher and teacher.

Prepare his heart with the message you have for us. Fill him with your Sweet Spirit to help us to be transfigured in Christ. May Mary, Our Mother, our model and guide, obtain from her divine Son, all that we need to make this tin1e of spiritual renewal. This we ask of You, Father, Son, and Sweet Holy Spirit who lives and reigns forever and ever.


Sell All That You Have

I’ve been meeting with a young man who desperately wants to experience the presence of God. He was raised as a Protestant, so he has had Christ in his life from the beginning. He converted to Catholicism in college, but has struggled with signs from the Lord. For his relatives, faith seems to come more easily and naturally (supernaturally?) than it does for him.

He and I talked months ago when he was going through a bit of a “dark night.” This means that his spiritual life was in darkness, and that God seemed hidden. He was still not seeing any signs. Then, we met about a month ago, and God had revealed Himself in dramatic ways to this young man. He was so happy!

So, when we got together for dinner last Tuesday, the first thing he said was that he was fasting. I asked why, and he said it was to help overcome his doubts about God and Heaven. Our waiter was not too happy!

Last Tuesday was a feast day in the Church: the feast of St. James the Apostle. Catholics don’t fast on feast days. It’s like when Jesus says, “as long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast” (Mk 2:19). We apply this to the feast days of certain saints who had the bridegroom with them in extraordinary and major ways. So, feast days are celebrations of God’s grace through particular persons.

I waited for a moment to tell this to the young man so as not to jump all over him for fasting. I figured he didn’t know about feast days. But, then again, he was telling me about how he had been going to pray at a Catholic church during his lunch break each day (he really wants to experience God), so maybe he had some “church” in him. I told him about the feast day and the meaning of it, and he responded very well. The next thing he said was, “Waiter, I will order after all.”

We reviewed the past month, and it turns out that he had received some signs from God. So, why had he returned to doubting God and Heaven again? Because he had been reading a book each day by a “humanist” (i.e., atheist). He is an avid reader and thinker, and he didn’t even realize the effect the book was having on him. It was about the time that he started the book that his doubts began. This led to many sleepless nights, and a lack of peace. And yet, God kept showing him signs, the biggest of which happened last Monday (the night before our dinner).

We discussed what happened that day – the sign that he received – and how he slept well Monday night. He vowed to put down the atheist’s book, and start reading Bishop Robert Barron or C.S. Lewis again. Smart move! Then, with the whole feast day thing – which really is evidence of God and Heaven – he walked away from our dinner totally at peace.

Do you and I long for the Kingdom of Heaven like this young man? Do we desire Christ so much that we will make chapel visits or fast in order to see or hear Him? These questions apply to today’s Gospel parables of the buried treasure and the pearl of great price.

Notice the desire of the person who finds the buried treasure and the merchant who finds the pearl: each of them “sells all that he has”. These two images represent the Kingdom of God, and specifically Jesus Christ. When we find Christ and His Kingdom, we desire Him above all things. We are so filled with joy – like the person and the merchant – that we will sell all that we have for Him.

My friend was like the merchant “searching for fine pearls.” He has been searching for Christ. He gave up his lunch break and some food in order to find Him and the treasure of heaven.

What are we willing to sell in order to receive the riches of the Kingdom? Do we have the joy of people who have found the pearl of great price which is Christ?

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

Ask Something of Me and I Will Give It to You

Wishes / desires
    “Ask and you will receive”
    Psalm 37
    Eph 3:20
    1st reading (1 Kings)
One wish – what would it be?
    For what are you praying?
    Pray for good—-> receive abundant goodness
    Want or need
    Yes, not right now, something better in mind
        2nd reading FOR GOOD
God gives in abundance
     Person / treasure
     Merchant / pearl of great price
     CHRIST / life in Christ

Come to Him for Rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”
-Mt 11:28

This popular saying of our Lord in today’s Gospel is one of our favorites! We love, love, love hearing about rest from Christ. Yes, we are tired from all the good work we try to do. Yes, we have many burdens from the stresses of life. But, just the idea of rest…true rest…ahhhh.

The best opportunity for receiving the rest that can only come from Christ is in prayer. Prayer brings rest to our souls, spirits, and even bodies. If you are a prayer, then you know what I mean and have experienced this. Prayer calms us, and gives us a sense of the presence of the Lord. It is that presence that we experience when we come to Jesus. So, how can we come to Jesus to receive His rest?

In the world, daily prayer takes us to Christ. It can be hard to find a quiet, peaceful place to enter into the presence of Christ. Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to say it took the first twenty minutes of his daily holy hour to just calm down, be rid of the noise of the world, and be quiet with God. Daily Mass is the best opportunity for us to come to Christ and encounter His Real Presence in the Eucharist. Catholic devotions like the rosary help us to raise our hearts and minds to the things of Heaven which inherently bring (eternal) rest. Retreats are very effective in bringing rest to those who take a break from the labors and burdens of the world. In a way, daily prayer is like a mini-retreat every day. This has been my experience with my daily Holy Hour.

Here are some verses from the Psalms which speak of the Lord’s rest. Also, following the Psalms is a Christian poem about the true rest of Christ. When I write each week that I wish you to know the peace of Christ, I also wish that you know the rest of Christ. May you know the peace and rest of Christ this week.

Fr Greg

“ In the Lord I take refuge”.
Psalm 11

“Fear and trembling overwhelm me;
Shuddering sweeps over me.
I say, ‘If only I had wings like a dove
That I might fly away and find rest”.

Psalm 55

“ Return, my soul, to your rest;
The Lord has been good to you.
For my soul has been freed from death.
My eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling”.
Psalm 116

“Happy those whom you guide, Lord,
Whom you teach by your instruction.
You give them rest from evil days,
While a pit is being dug for the wicked”.
Psalm 94

Love (the Name of) God and Your Neighbor

Trinity Sunday – “Love (the name of) God and neighbor”

Name of God
Abba / Father
Father, Son, Holy Spirit

Keep name holy
    Moses worshiped at name of God
Taking Lord’s name in vain?
Find new expressions
     Or turn into a prayer

Taking neighbor’s name in vain?

      Love God and love your neighbor
Consistent witness of devout Catholics