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Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Lent Liturgical Year Prayer

Lectio Divina: First Sunday of Lent (2017)

I always feel a shift in my own life when the Church shifts into Lent. Do you as well? There are a few subtle changes in the Mass (no Gloria, no Alleluia), the readings take on a more solemn tone, the colors change, and there is a greater focus on confession and sacrifice. In my own life I sense that shift in the sacrifice or sacrifices I plan to take on, in the extra prayers I hope to incorporate into my everyday, and in how all those will bring me closer to God.

It’s a great time to start letting go of the things of this world. We see that pretty clearly in the Gospel passage for this coming Sunday. It is the things of this world with which the devil tempts Jesus. But he knows that nothing in this world can compare to our Heavenly home with God.

Sit back and take some time to read, reflect, respond, and rest in the Gospel passage for the First Sunday of Lent. Join me as we read this passage in the manner of lectio divina prayer. To find the Gospel reading, follow this link to the USCCB website for Sunday’s readings. For a brief review of the lectio divina steps, I recommend this brief explanation from the Archabbey of St. Meinrad.

Don’t forget, I’d love to hear some of your own thoughts (what caught your attention, what you feel God is saying to you, etc.) in the comments below.

READ

  • He fasted
  • The tempter
  • Worship me

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

I found this Gospel reading particularly powerful. We all have temptations in our lives and for many of us we are trying to identify and rid ourselves of the things that tempt us during this Lenten season. The thing about temptations is that they can overtake aspects of our lives. Even our whole lives if they are addictive enough. And they lead us away from God. If we’re not worshiping God, we’re worshiping the devil, the tempter, the temptation itself.

The more I reflect on this the more it scares me. I’d be kidding myself is I said that all my love and devotion was focused on God alone. I’m human, and like anyone else there are things in my life, temptations, that get in the way of giving 100% to God. One thing I love about Lent is that the Church gives us readings like this one and encourages us to use this season for serious reflection on the temptations in our lives and growing closer to God. We should use this time to not just give something up for the sake of giving it up, but to give it up for love of God. With this in mind I know I want to be much more conscientious of how I spend my time each day and to focus more on God’s plan for me each and every day. My Lenten sacrifices will be a constant reminder each day to keep the focus on where it should be, God’s love for me.

I can’t help but also think of the countless people in our society today who worship the devil. They may not recognize that this is what they are doing, but when you deny God and his Church and turn instead to worshiping things of this world, you are worshiping the devil. This Gospel passage is a reminder to me to intensify my prayers this Lent for my loved ones who are away from the Church.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

I hope that this Lent I can become more conscientious overall of the temptations that draw me away from giving my all for God alone. I have given something up this Lent, and in doing so I hope that it will afford me the ability to focus more on the things that really matter, serving my family and serving God. The concept of dying to self will be much more present to me this Lent (I hope). I pray that God will hear my prayers and help me to stay on track so that I can more fully love him.

REST

Read the passage one final time and spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, rest in the words of the Gospel.

YOUR TURN

What do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Adrienne Ink Slingers Mass Spiritual Growth

Daily Mass and the Acts 2 Church

The Upper Room of the Last Supper and Pentecost in Jeruselem
The Upper Room of the Last Supper and Pentecost in Jeruselem

There is a phrase that runs around non-Catholic Christian circles, where groups are seeking to be the “Acts 2 church”. “Acts 2” refers to the second chapter of the book of Acts in which we read how the church began after Jesus’s Ascension. People seeking the “Acts 2 church” believe that modern Christian churches have grown away from the image of the church as described in the Bible and are looking to get back to the purest form of Christianity.

This month the kids and I have attended daily Mass, every school morning at 9 am, in following the lead of other homeschool families. It’s been a surprisingly good experience. I thought for sure the kids would complain about how boring it is and protest.

And here’s the thing, most Americans find Catholic Mass boring. I once heard a priest rebuke, “If you think the Mass is boring, then YOU are boring.” I tell you what, if you think the typical American Sunday Mass is boring, daily Mass is even more “boring”.

There is no choir. Depending on the parish, there may not be a single sung word (which makes for a speedy daily Mass, I must say). If there is singing, it’s led by the priest (who may or may not be known for his cantoring skills) or it’s led by the congregation (also who may or may not be known for cantoring skills) making for a thoroughly a Capella experience… though that word makes it sound prettier than the result usually is. If one were to judge worshiping by the quality of the music, the daily Mass would likely come in dead last.

The singing or lack thereof is raw, but the worship is authentic none the less. The people who attend daily Mass aren’t there to be entertained by worship styles or to impress anyone with their vocal skills. These ordinary people are in their, mostly empty, parish church to be with, lean on, and praise Jesus simply in the Eucharist made present by a miracle – which may not be entertaining but it is far from boring.

The ordinary folks I see at daily Mass come to commune in the daily life of the church with others. They come to hear the teaching of the Apostles in Sacred Scripture and explained through the homilies. They are foremost present for when the priest breaks the bread and Jesus is made present – an even higher level of communal life. And these folks pray. They pray for an hour or more, praying the prayers of the Mass, and they stay after Mass to continue to kneel before Jesus in the monstrance or in the tabernacle. They hand Him their worries. They praise Him. They thank Him for being present. They are an inspiration of devotion.

It is in the daily Mass that I recognize the church of Acts 2, “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” Acts 2:42

Categories
Apologetics Brantly Millegan Doctrine Faith Formation Guest Posts Perspective from the Head

What Apostolic Succession Is and Why It’s Absolutely Essential

St Paul ordaining St TimothyCatholics believe that Jesus gave special authority to his Apostles to rule and guide the Church. These Apostles then ordained and passed on authority to others, called bishops (literally ‘overseers’ in Scripture, it’s the same word). These bishops have ordained and passed on authority to other bishops, and so on, all the way up to the Church’s current bishops.

This is called Apostolic Succession, and it is absolutely essential to the constitution and life of the Church. What makes a bishop a bishop is if they have been consecrated by a bishop who was consecrated a bishop, all the way back to the Apostles who received authority from Jesus. A priest is only a real priest if he has been ordained a priest by a real bishop. If there is a break at some point – if a bishop wasn’t consecrated properly, or was consecrated by a bishop who wasn’t properly consecrated himself – then the line of authority stops at that point. It only works if there is no break in the line going all the way back to Jesus, the ultimate source of all authority in the Church.

Of course, this only works if Jesus did in fact give authority to his Apostles in the first place, and if his Apostles did in fact consecrate bishops with the instructions to pass their authority on to others in perpetuity. If the idea of apostolic succession was made up at some later point, and so did not originate with Jesus, then apostolic authority and succession isn’t real.

Most Protestants deny apostolic succession exists or is necessary for the Church. But so what? Why does apostolic succession matter? Here three ways:

 

1) Doctrine: The entire basis of the bishops’ teaching authority in the Church is the apostolic authority they’ve received from apostolic succession. Christians are obliged to follow the teachings of the Magisterium (the college of bishops headed by the bishop of Rome, the Pope) not because the bishops are smart, educated, or holy (some bishops are, but certainly not all), but because they have authority that ultimately comes from Jesus to teach in the Church and definitively interpret the deposit of faith.

If the bishops are not really bishops and do not have authority from Jesus, then they are simply one voice among many – there’s no reason anyone has to listen to them any more than anyone has to listen to the opinions of other theologians or preachers. But if they do have authority from Jesus, as Catholics claim, then they really do have a special charism of the Holy Spirit to protect them from error when definitively teaching the faith, and all Christians would have a moral obligation to follow their teachings – or else be heretics.

 

2) Worship: Certain Sacraments can only be validly performed by a bishop or a priest (a priest has been ordained by a bishop and has some of the powers of a bishop). The Sacraments that can only be performed by bishops and priests are Confirmation, the Eucharist, Reconciliation, and Anointing of the Sick. Holy Orders can only be performed by a bishop. (Baptism can be performed by deacons as well under ordinary circumstances and laypeople in emergencies, and in Holy Matrimony the spouses marry each other.) So, for example, if a layperson tried to consecrate the Eucharist, nothing would happen: transubstantiation would not occur, the bread and the wine would remain simply bread and wine.

So the validity of those five Sacraments listed above rests entirely on the veracity of apostolic succession. If the priest at your parish is not really a priest (either because he wasn’t validly ordained or because apostolic succession is false), the Eucharist is just bread and wine and your sins are not being forgiven in Reconciliation. But if apostolic succession is true, and our bishops and priests are real bishops and priests with the indelible mark of Holy Orders on their souls, then those Sacraments are truly effective – and in fact, necessary to the Christian life.

 

3) Unity: Bishops not only have authority to teach and perform the Sacraments, they also have authority to govern the Church and they serve as visible markers of the Church for unity. In other words, you can know that you are fully a member of the Church is you are in communion with a bishop who is in communion with the bishop of Rome. The sin of schism is when a baptized person intentionally breaks from the bishop of Rome and the bishops in communion with him.

But again, this is only true if the bishops really are bishops and have apostolic authority from apostolic succession. If they are not, if apostolic succession is false, then there’s nothing special about them and you don’t have to follow them.

 

So you can see, if apostolic succession is false, then the Catholic Church is largely a sham and Protestants are right. Everything salient about the Catholic Church stands or falls on the reality of apostolic succession.

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4th Commandment Adrienne Doctrine Faith Formation Ink Slingers Mary Prayer Sacred Scripture Saints Ten Commandments

Commanded to Love Mary

As Catholics, we wholly love our triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Every day  we attend mass we literally sit at the feet of our Lord Jesus, mystically united in time to the moment He gave His life for us on the cross.  Before the altar of the most Blessed Sacrament we are privileged to worship Him, thank Him, love Him, and depend on Him.  We are beside everyone that has ever attended the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, beside all of the angels, beside all of the saints, and beside everyone who was at the foot of His cross at Golgotha…  we are beside His Mother, Mary.

Jesus’s life was bookended with Mother Mary, she was present at His birth, and at His death.  Before God sent us our Savior, He first created the vessel by which that Savior would come.  Instead of celebrating Christmas each year, we could be celebrating the Descension of Jesus, or some other event by which God sent our Savior.  God’s plans are always perfect and always have more meaning than we can ever humanly fathom.  In all of His infinite wisdom and in His love for us, God included a mere human in His plan for our salvation.  Our Father gave Himself a human mother.

In the book of John it is recorded that during the Last Supper Jesus reminded his disciples, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” In fact, He mentioned keeping the commandments many times.  The first three commandments all deal with how we are to have a relationship with our Lord.  Then, surprisingly, the fourth commandment, listed before don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness… is to honor your father and mother.  This particular commandment is oddly out of place between the first three dictating proper worship of our Lord God and the latter six thou shall nots.  It must be important.

Jesus entrusts his mother to his disciple John.

We are commanded to honor our father and mother.  We are also called to follow Jesus as our example of Christian living.  Jesus lived a life perfectly without sin, He upheld every one of the ten commandments, daily.  He perfectly honored both His Father, our Lord God, and His Mother, Mary.  Isn’t it interesting that God created a commandment to honor our father and mother, then when He came down to Earth He provided Himself a mother which allowed Him to perfectly fulfill the fourth commandment?  In His plan for our salvation, God submitted Himself to honoring a human.  Jesus showed us how to perfectly follow the first commandment and all the while have the most perfect honor for His mother with the fourth commandment. At the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus performed His first miracle at the behest of Mother Mary (John 2), and while hanging on the cross He made sure not to expire before arranging proper care for her (John 19).  He did not shy away from loving His mother out of fear of offending His Father.  He did not ignore His mother or feel indifferent toward her.  Jesus was still submitting Himself to honoring His mother while dying to provide us eternal life, that is how important she is to Him.  He wholly and perfectly loves His mother out of His love for His Father.

So, how is your relationship with Mary?  Do you forget she’s even there?  Imagine a family in which, day after day, the children lovingly flock to the father while it is as if their adoring mother is not even in the room.  Imagine the pain God must feel when day after day we ignore or even actively reject the Mother He gave Himself, the Mother that He loves with a child-like love, the Mother that He commands us to love.  Your relationship with Mother Mary should be a proportionate indicator of your love for Our Father.

Don’t know how to begin a relationship with Our Lady?  Pray for God to assist you in beginning a relationship with His Mother.  Remember to talk with Mary at mass, as she is there beside you, at the foot of Her Son’s holy cross.  Ask for her prayers.  Ask her to pray for you to have a devotion to the Father like the devotion she is privileged to have.  Ask both Our Lady and Our Father for forgiveness for not including her in your life the way we are commanded to.

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

Please share about your relationship with Our Lord’s most blessed Mother!