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Monday Morning Love

Monday morning and I’m stumbling down the straight and narrow, not doing my best in fighting the good fight of faithful living. I am tired, sad, and angry as I read the news about my town, my country, and the world. Aimlessly flipping pages in my Bible landed me at Romans 8:35-39, which tells me that not “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword” can separate me from the love of my God, Who loved me first and Who is love. I suspect we all need this reminder today in the middle of our world gone mad. Since God is love (I John 4:8), then we can substitute Love for God in Scripture’s love chapter, I Corinthians 13:

God is patient and kind,
God believes, bears, hopes, and endures all things,
God never fails.

Although God is not a man, Jesus addressed God as “Father (the parent-in-charge).” And although fathers discipline their children and have expectations, they love them deeply. We are told to go and sin no more (John 8:11); we are charged to work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12-13); but it begins and ends with Love. I daresay we’re like Eyeore, walking around with a constantly dripping cloud of love over us (only happier!).

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has written, “Christianity is not an intellectual packet of dogma. Christianity is a love story, a love affair with Christ.” When Jesus walked the earth, He loved people with God’s love: powerfully and gently, recklessly and pointed, joyfully and suffering, earthly and heavenly.

Look at a crucifix. Love.
Look at the altar as the priest raises our Lord’s Body. Love.
Look at God’s passion for His beloved (the book of Hosea). Love.
Look at Scriptural descriptions of heaven (Revelation 22:3-5 and I Corinthians 2:9). Love.

Today, please join me in taking a few minutes from our important labors to remember and to revel in how much we are loved. He loved us first. He loves us best. God is Love.

*Let God’s Light Shine Forth. Doubleday. 2005

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Your Handy-Dandy List to Lenten Sacrifices

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and most of us have already been asked (or have asked) the question of the season: What are you giving up? Many of us may have been caught off guard by the question.

Lent? Already? It’s still January!

February just started!

Um … when is Lent this year?

Yep, it’s definitely coming around a tad early this year!

But you don’t have to only “give something up” for Lent. It’s certainly a good idea to do that, but you can offer up other sacrifices instead of or in addition to giving something up. What we need to remember is that the whole point of Lent is to remind us of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. It’s a time of sacrifice and penance, a time to unite our sufferings with the crucified Christ, and a time to deepen our relationship with Christ. When we give something up for Lent it should be something that truly feels like a sacrifice. For some people, giving up something may not truly be a sacrifice, but adding something to their day, especially something spiritual, is what they need to grow deeper in their faith. That sacrifice of time can be a biggy for many of us.

In the spirit of growing deeper in our faith and our relationship with Christ, I asked friends on Facebook, checked out some blog posts, and came up with a list of Lenten sacrifices to give us all some ideas for this Lenten season. This list still contains the traditional “giving something up” items, but goes a step further as well with things you can add to your daily routine and other types of sacrifices you can make individually or as a family.

If you’re like me and haven’t yet made a commitment to something yet, I hope this list helps you out. Just remember, whatever you do, it should be something that brings you closer to Jesus Christ.

Things to give up

  • No TV and/or video games
  • Do a computer fast or replace a certain amount of time on the computer with time playing with the kids
  • Give up Facebook
  • Give up all drinks except water or give up a particular drink (coffee, soda, wine, etc.)
  • Forego sugar in your coffee or tea, or better yet, give up the coffee entirely. Another option, give up the drive-thru for coffee on your way to work each day and make and take your own.
  • Give up whining and/or complaining, raising your voice, laziness, impatience, etc.
  • Give up some sort of “convenience” item like prepared foods, the dishwasher, or paper towels/napkins
  • Forego hair products, make-up, nail polish, etc. Basically no primping during Lent.
  • Give up eating out and doing take out and donate the money saved to charity
  • Forego listening to music in the car
  • Give up chocolate, desserts, and/or candy
  • No hot showers
  • Give up the “snooze” button on the alarm clock
  • Give up lights in the evening after the kids are in bed, use only candlelight
  • For more ideas on what to give up for Lent this year check out the links here and here and here.

Things you can add

  • Prayer: Add in an extra block of time in your day for prayer. Doesn’t have to be long, 15 minutes is good, longer if you can do it.
  • Add in a daily Rosary if it’s not something you already do or the Divine Mercy Chaplet or a novena (or two or three)
  • Lent is often a good time to add in doing the Way of the Cross devotion.
  • Replace one snack a day with a prayer instead
  • Read the Bible and/or memorize a Bible verse each week
  • Add in extra reading for you or the whole family (reading aloud as a family is a great idea!)
  • Listen to some good Catholic podcasts. Fr. Z even has some podcasts geared specifically toward Lent and Holy Week over on his blog. Find more podcasts over at SQPN.
  • Add in some extra days of fasting from food beyond those that are already required. You could also consider this a “giving up” item as well.
  • Go to Daily Mass each week, even just one extra Mass a week can make a difference in your relationship with Our Lord. Try for all 40 days of Lent if you can.
  • Make a list of 40 people who have touched your life in some way and write each one of them a letter during Lent letting them know why they are special in your life. Take some time that day to pray for them as well. You can also get the whole family involved in this project, check out how this family does this each lent.
  • Read the daily Mass readings
  • Go to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. If you already go to Adoration, add in an extra time slot for it during the week.
  • Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation weekly
  • Do a random act of kindness every day
  • Participate in the Sistas’ 2014 Lenten photo challenge
  • A lenten journal put together by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist
  • Rent movies through this new Catholic “netflix” type service!
  • Lenten reflections with Father Barron

Other Types of Sacrifices

  • Instead of buying bread, make all your own bread at home. Or, in this same vein, are there other ways you can provide for your family at home instead of buying something at the store?
  • Instead of pants, try wearing skirts for all of Lent. Here’s a site that may give you some inspiration or help along the way.
  • You know that sin (or sins) that you seem to have to confess over and over again? How about working to not have to confess that sin during Lent?
  • How about sleeping on the floor during Lent instead of your bed. There’s a convenience that’s a big sacrifice! Or, if you’re not ready to give up your bed entirely, how about giving up your pillow for all of Lent?
  • A friend of mine once told me that he put a pebble in his shoe for several days while a friend of his was on a retreat. It as a constant reminder to him to pray for his friend. Why not try this during Lent?
  • Practice silence: one day a week, each night after the kids are in bed, etc. Silence is important to our spiritual growth in the midst of our noisy world, the Pope tells us.
  • Park in the last spot at the shopping center or at work and say a prayer as you walk in and walk back to your car when you leave.
  • Buy a pair of used shoes from Goodwill and wear them every day of Lent.
  • 40 Bags for 40 Days: fill up 40 bags of stuff you don’t need and toss it or donate it. It’s a good sacrificing way to take an honest look at whether you REALLY need something.
  • Volunteer! Check with your parish, the diocese, local organizations, or organizations like Volunteer Match or Volunteer Guide.
  • Check out the “pins” on the Catholic Sistas’ Pinterest Board for Lent for more Lenten inspiration.

And if you want some help keeping track of your Lenten sacrifice this year, check out the Lenten Sacrifices Cross available at Casia Books, it’s something the whole family could do. Or check out the Lenten cross from this post here from this morning.

Whatever you decide to do during Lent just remember the whole reason why we live in this desert of 40 days. We are uniting our sufferings with Jesus’ and we will celebrate his resurrection with great joy on Easter Sunday when it is all over. And if we are successful and stick to our plans, it will be a sweet joy indeed!

Just don’t try to overdo it or take on too much but do try to be intentional with whatever it is you choose to do.

What are you doing for Lent this year?

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Love Can Be Hated



I woke up this morning and read this quote from Pope Benedict this morning:

“God is love, but love can be hated when it challenges us to transcend ourselves. It is not a romantic ‘good feeling’… it is not about basking in self-indulgence; on the contrary, it is liberation from self-absorption. This liberation comes at a price: the anguish of the Cross.”

I have been thinking about these words all day since I read them. One of the things that I had the hardest time with during my conversion was trusting God. I never really understood why. But the more I learn about the Catholic faith, the more things from my past start to make some sense. And the more I realize why I was such a hot mess.

My fundamental problem was that I had no idea what love was or what love felt like. I never knew anything other than dysfunctional love. The closest thing to love I ever really knew in my life was in my relationship with my Tío Roy, but even then it was not stable enough for me to live my life feeling secure. So I ended up seeking Love in all the wrong places my whole life. But rather than look for real love, the kind that challenged me, I was looking for the “romantic ‘good feeling’” that I thought love was. That love does not exist.

Real love is hard. Real love hurts. Real love is a mess. And real love means putting ourselves on a cross freely for the one(s) that we love. Everything Jesus did from the moment he was conceived in Mary’s womb to the moment He ascended into Heaven was Love Incarnate. Everything He did was to show us the way of Love, the way of God; the Way to Heaven. He was God and He was born in a barn and laid in a feeding trough. He came down from Heaven and put Himself right in the middle of our human messiness. There is no place messier than a trough used to put food scraps for the animals. Then He lived a life of a normal person loving, laughing, working, worshipping, crying and meeting person after person who He loved, who He CREATED, and who rejected Him or didn’t recognize Him. He was betrayed, arrested, berated and hung on a Cross. Why? To show us what Love is. Who Love is.

Because I am so self-absorbed I kept looking for another way. I wanted the butterfly love that requires nothing from me. A love that is easy and that Love is a fairy tale that is easy to sell to a world that fears suffering and not having control of everything.

Things in my life began to really change when I realized that fear and the need to control things in my life were symptoms of my problem with trusting God. And I didn’t trust Him because I didn’t trust anyone. I didn’t know who He was, and I didn’t believe that He gave a damn about anything in my life. Everyone I ever trusted in my life had let me down at some point or another.  I assumed that God was the same. That is until I realized that Jesus knew what it felt like to be let down by everyone He loves. The only people who didn’t let Him down were His mother and John the disciple that He loved, but even they couldn’t save Him from having to hang on that Cross. He didn’t want to be saved from that Cross; He embraced it out of Love for us.

For the last three years I have been talking to God about everything in my past and He has forgiven me for the most perverse sins that anyone could ever commit. Through confession I have experienced the Mercy of a loving Father. The more I go to confession, the more Mercy I receive and the more I grow to trust God. The more I trust Him, the more I grow to understand that everything He does is out of complete Love for me. I understand that He allows all things for my own good. I no longer feel the need to control everything and I no longer fear the unknown. I have peace knowing that I’m in God’s hands. Little by little that peace is making me a lot less self-absorbed and more selfless. (I still have a long way to go in this category!) Little by little I’m learning how to embrace my Cross, to pick it up and to follow Jesus.

There is so much logical reasonable truth in our Catholic Faith. All it takes to find it is to submit to the fact that we are not God and the only thing we have to control is our faith that He knows what is best for us. When He thinks it is necessary He will put Himself in the middle of our mess to help bring us back to Him.

Love can be hated. I spent most of my life hating Love, rejecting Love and in search of a false love. It has taken a long time, but I have finally come to be thankful for all the stuff that I have been through. I understand what it feels like to be lost, to be miserable, to feel like nobody gets you, and to do things my own way. I also know what it feels like to bring my brokenness to the foot of the Cross. Because of that I do my best to always remember that nobody is a lost cause and to have mercy on people with whom I’d rather be angry.