By Paul Masek | Coordinator of the Reap Team
The following blog originally appeared on the stlyouth.org website blog
Today is Ash Wednesday. And it’s not the feast day of your favorite Pokemon trainer, either.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist sharing this image, which always makes me smirk.
As you know, it’s the first day of Lent!
Lent is a gift, and every year the Church gives us this gift so that we can focus on improving our own personal relationships with God through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
If you are like me, perhaps you’ve made Lenten commitments in the past that were difficult – if not impossible – to maintain. Broken Lenten promises can easily lead to unnecessary guilt and shame, which then leads to despair. In previous Lenten seasons, I have found myself lamenting, “If I can’t keep these simple promises, why should I even try?”
It’s important to keep trying to because our attempts make God happy. One of my favorite prayers by Thomas Merton includes the lines, “I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.”
By Amanda Lindley | Email me
courtesy of imdb.com
I love the movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” I’ve seen it a handful of times and there’s this super quick scene that makes me laugh and die a little inside at the same time… every time.The main character Charlie, a Catholic, is getting off the school bus in the morning and his girlfriend Mary Elizabeth, an atheist, is waiting for him. He has a recognizable smudge of black on his forehead and, as if she’s a mother straightening up her young son, she licks her thumb and wipes off the ashes with Charlie not putting up a fight whatsoever.
Growing up I didn’t have the issue of being a standout Catholic in a secular world like Charlie did at his public school on Ash Wednesday. I went to Catholic school my entire life, and in grade school and high school, everyone received ashes. In fact, the darker and deeper the mark on your forehead was, the cooler you were!
A solid block of green dates is on the calendar this week. This is how my liturgically-minded eyes see the week of February 23. I scratched my head a little. “Really?” I thought. “Not a single feast or special memorial of a saint to observe at Mass this coming week?” A red 12 might signal a martyr, or a white 27 could indicate a confessor of the faith. At our early morning daily Mass at St. Margaret of Scotland, I like having the opportunity to reflect on a saint’s life. Being a trained historian, it’s my rare opportunity to have an audience that will listen to a bit of church history. No such luck (for them?) this week.
Wow! As a former college athlete and a total “social media junkie,” it was hard for me not to take the words of Coach Rick Pitino a bit personally. After I read his remarks on Tuesday morning, I rolled my eyes, thinking, you probably have not spent a minute on Twitter, you have no idea what good things can come from it.
The University of Louisville men’s basketball coach was not shy with his feelings on social media and sports, with his strict rules banning his players from using social media during the basketball season. Coach Pitino said “Anybody in sports who reads social media is not ‘all there.’ To me, I think it’s the great class of underachievers who live on the Internet and social media. It’s people who waste their time and underachieve because they’re not paying attention to what they should be.”
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Well, in the last entry I posted I ended by saying that my wife and I were excited to see what God had in store for our grown children’s futures.
WOW, did He respond quickly!
Saturday night, our daughter Jessica, was engaged to be married! Very exciting.
Our future son-in-law, Josh, is a good man and we are fortunate, and happy, he’s joining the family.
Josh did it the old-fashioned way. We had lunch on Friday and he asked me for permission to marry our daughter. Then, sometime Saturday night, he popped the question and Jess said “yes”.
On Sunday, we all had dinner together. Jess and Josh, Josh’s parents and younger brother and my wife and I and our son. We had a great time. We’ve met Josh’ parents once before so it wasn’t like we were complete strangers.
Jess and Josh re-lived the details of the night before and the rest of us shared stories to get to know each other better.
Those attending the 8:45 a.m. student Mass on Friday, February 11, 1944, at St. Francis Xavier College Church had no reason to expect anything unusual about this daily liturgy. Fr. Claude Heithaus, a Jesuit priest, trained archeologist and professor of sociology, presided that morning. Fr. Heithaus had given hundreds of homilies. This day’s sermon proved to be different. It generated intense discussion on an important subject in American society. The issue Fr. Heithaus raised at Mass that morning was racial prejudice in America. He asked aloud what his conscious had been questioning: why did his university admit people of all faiths but deny admission to Catholics because of their color? St. Louis University’s response, ultimately, was the racial integration of the university.
By Paul Masek | Coordinator of the Reap Team
The following blog originally appeared on the stlyouth.org website blog on February 16, 2014.
In our retreat work with high school students, sometimes we allow students to ask us questions – anonymously – by writing them on index cards. The questions can be about anything that we’ve discussed on the retreat so far: freedom in Christ, how to help a friend, how to keep your faith alive, chastity, love, sex, dating and/or relationships. The questions can also be completely random: what did you have for breakfast, what is your favorite color, who is your favorite Disney princess (spoiler alert – mine is Ariel, The Little Mermaid), or anything else. It’s a great session, because lots of people have lots of questions that they might not ever ask out loud, but about which they secretly wonder. Inquiring minds, after all, need to know.
As one of the married people on our retreat team, sometimes I get asked, “How did you know that your wife was ‘the one’ for you to marry?”
With Christmas just passing and having just celebrated the birth of Jesus, my wife and I were reminiscing about the birth of our three grown children.
As God gave us the gift of His son, Jesus, God also gave us the gift of our three children. I’m not sure that I have ever called our kids “gifts” to their faces, but I probably should. I might start calling them Gift 1, Gift 2 and Gift 3.
Gift 1 – the birth of our oldest daughter, Jessica. This was a big event, the first grandchild for my mom and dad and the first child from my in-laws’ only daughter, my wife. This was going to be BIG! I say this because at that time, you never know if you are going to be blessed with another child or not.
In the calendar of ancient Rome, the month of February was a late addition. At least four centuries before the birth of Christ, the Roman year had only ten months. The last, December, got its name from the Latin word for ten, decem. The first month, March, was named for Mars, the god of war, for the springtime was an opportunity for a resumption of military battles. So the frigid days between December and March were “downtime” – evidently too cold and too dark to bother counting. Eventually, though, around 450 BC there emerged among Romans the practice of purification for wrongs done. The Latin word for these purification or expiatory rites is februa. So with the intention of getting cleaned up and right with the gods, February was the time of preparation for going to war in March.
A lot of these ancient traditions were not lost on the early Christians as they came to dominate the culture of the old Roman Empire. Many pagan observances got a new skin. An obvious adaption is found in this weekend’s celebration of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, sometimes referred to as the Purification of the Lord. In this festival the customs of Judaism combine with the solar calendar to provide a most meaningful observance. February 2 is the fortieth day following Christmas, the birthday of Jesus. In keeping with their religious obligation, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for His circumcision, “just as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord.’” (Lk 2:23) In this feast of the Presentation Christ is celebrated as the “consolation of Israel.” He is the light, the relief His people have been awaiting in their long days of distance from the Lord.