Tag Archives: Lent

LENT: Wearing Love

One word keeps coming to me in my prayer these first days of Lent in 2022: Love.

In our first reading today from Leviticus we hear the great commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I have long wondered if the greatest crisis in our world today isn’t that we don’t realize how much we are, each of us, worthy of love. We are all God’s own beloved. God loved us into being. God calls us to love one another as God has loved us.

This morning I prayed with a booklet created several years ago by a group in my religious Congregation focused on growing in nonviolence. Each week the booklet explores Lent with the Principles of Nonviolence. The principle for the first week of Lent is: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.

Our founder Margaret Anna Cusack wrote in 1874: “Force was no longer to be the rule, except, indeed, the force of love.”

In 2020 Philadelphia singer songwriter Joy Ike released a song called “Wearing Love.” It is a song I return to again and again to reground myself on this journey. (It is also good to dance to.)

Slow your breathing
No more scheming
Quit competing
Just love 

And everyone will wonder
You did not go under
You were undercover
Wearing love 

 Keep your words
They won’t fix anything
All that works is the love that you bring

This Lent, and beyond, may I find my ground and center in God’s unconditional love. May I bring the force of that love into my actions and relationships. May I wear love always. Just love.

Thoughts and Action

Prompt our actions with your inspiration, we pray, O Lord, and further them with your constant help, that all we do may always begin from you and by you be brought to completion.

The above words come from the collect for today’s liturgy on this Thursday after Ash Wednesday. As we begin this Lenten journey, there is so much in need of constant help.

The wars raging in Ukraine and so many other parts of the human family.

The cries of Earth as temperatures rise and our planet’s ecosystem struggles to keep up with harm caused by human activity.

The cries of people who are living in poverty or otherwise on the margins, wondering how they will provide just the basic necessities for their loved ones.

The divisions between and among us that deny human dignity and prevent us from treating each other as the beloved of God we are.

This is the context as we begin Lent. And we are called to begin the Lenten journey in our own hearts.

Purify my heart!
May every word, every thought!
Every motive, every intention!
Be pleasing in your sight O God!
Be pleasing in your sight O God!

This song by Jess Ray, based on Psalm 119, rings true of my heart’s desire for this Lenten journey.

May my heart, my every, word, every thought, every motive be pleasing to God. A high order, but all things are possible with, through, and for God.

In our CSJP Constitutions we say that prayer leads to action, while action leads us to pray. As we hold the many needs of our world crying out for help, may our heartfelt prayer lead us to actions for peace through justice.


First Friday of Lent

My reflection for today, the First Friday of this Lenten season has been posted on Global Sisters Report.

The invitation for me this Lent, it seems, is to focus on beauty, to add to and look for and create and celebrate beauty amidst all the goo of life. I’ve been invited to focus on beauty in my work, in loving community, in the challenges and in the blessings. I do believe in the power of redemption, in the awesome continuing work of our creator God, in and through us and yes, even in the most messy bits, when beauty can be harder to see.

My Lenten intention, given to me as sheer grace, is to remember all of this these days and to be an engaged participant in the beauty that surrounds us.

We’ll see where this Lenten journey leads.

May you and I be graced with a beautiful Lent

Click here to read the whole reflection

Bring me back my heart – a Holy Saturday Reflection

It’s Holy Saturday, a fitting time and space for prayer these days, when we often seem to find ourselves in the Holy Saturday moments of  our lives.  There’s so much suffering in the world,  yet even more there is so much love in the world (f we can just remember that!), and here we are called to live into the promise, in between the already but not yet.

This morning I found myself praying with Mary, friend of Jesus.  She had stayed with her dear one to the end, through the suffering that she was powerless to stop, even standing at the foot of the cross in witness to love and life. She was there as his body was laid in the tomb, and the stone rolled across its entrance.  The others departed then, but as Mathew’s Gospel tells us, she stayed there, unable to leave just yet.  Another friend kept her company as they sat together with their memories and grief and uncertainty.

“But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb”

We too keep her company.  We face the tomb.  We love, we remember, and we live into the promise of Easter Sunday, even in our Holy Saturday moments.

And so I share with you this video prayer reflection, the fruit of my contemplation this Holy Saturday, as we await the Resurrection.  Peace.


Good Friday in a wounded world

Somehow it is already Good Friday, with the promise of Easter just days away.

 Today we remember the power of love.

Love as modeled by Jesus is not rational, it is not self serving, it is not romantic, it is not saccharine or weak or pointless.

Because love is the point of it all. Love is the way to wholeness and healing and harmony and peace.

These of course are things our wounded world needs so deeply and dearly, even as in our name, some of our elected leaders threaten lifelines, tear open holes in our social safety net, drop death dealing super weapons and exploit our common home for short term profit.

And so this Good Friday I pray for wholeness and healing, for harmony and peace. For me and you and the entire human community.

Jesus, one with us, you who humbled yourself and suffered death on a cross, be with us in our cross carrying moments today. Inspire us to journey with one another, to remain at the foot of the cross, to bear witness and to create openings for hope even in the darkest of days. Teach us to love one another, always.

Holy Saturday Moments

holy20saturdayLife is filled with many Holy Saturday moments. Time upon time we must let go of what was before we can even begin to be open to what will come.  I think of the way the first Holy Week after my own mother’s death was different than any other before or since. I felt it in my bones. I think of friends who have lost their job and struggled to find their feet again, or friends who have lost a child far too soon, or seen the end of their marriage.  There is always that messy middle space of witnessing the love lived and lost before something new emerges to call us forth to witness to love and life in new ways.

Theologian Shelly Rambo identifies Holy Saturday as the “middle day, as the site of witness to a more complex relationship between death and life” (Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining, pg. 46.). And what is at the core of this complex relationship? Love of course. “Between death and life, there is a testimony to Spirit, to a love that survives not in victory but in weariness” (pgs. 79-80).

This weariness is real and of the Spirit. It attests to the depth of love that has been lived. But it also can keep us from seeing the new life that is before our eyes. Think of Mary Magdalene at the tomb, mistaking Jesus for the gardener!

I can’t help but ponder the shifting landscape and transformations taking place in religious life through the lens of Holy Saturday. As I wrote in a Global Sisters Report column last year, “Middle space represents this time as an almost Holy Saturday moment. Much is breaking down, we know something new is emerging, but this is a moment pregnant with not yet.”

On this Holy Saturday morning, I found myself reading an article featuring some younger Catholic sisters I know who are members the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer. It is a great article that focuses on the new life that is present and emerging, even as the sisters are letting go of the structures of the past. “Now they are crafting a brave future in which the sisterhood may be minuscule, but its work will go on.”

We are indeed living in a Holy Saturday moment. “We can say, ‘Oh, isn’t it sad, our sisters are aging, nobody is coming, we’re dying out’ – and that’s real,” said Sister Anne Marie Haas, provincial supervisor of the community’s Montgomery County headquarters. “But we have a choice.”

And that choice is love, even in its weariest and messiest forms. As we say in our CSJP Constitutions, “Confident of God’s faithful love, and collaborating with others who work for justice and peace, we face the future with gratitude and hope.”

Lent – That’s What’s Happening

73830c79eb33ab07b328d8a4bdb71f8d-650x422x1During my childhood in the 1970s & 80s, Saturday mornings were a special and almost sacred time, in large part because of Saturday morning cartoons and the bit I looked most forward to–Schoolhouse Rock.

For those who are not in the know, and I am always surprised when folks cannot sing the preamble to the Constitution or know that zero is my hero, Schoolhouse Rock was a series of catchy songs set to animated cartoons. The series helped a generation of children understand complicated concepts such as how a bill becomes a law, the values of immigration for society, or the function of a conjunction in a sentence. Music is a great way to learn, and there have been many times in my adult life when I have returned to what I learned via song and cartoon  all those decades ago on Saturday morning.

This Lent, for example, I’ve been playing around in my head and heart with some of what I learned from Schoolhouse Rock about grammar.

Think about it … Lent itself is a funny word.  The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Lent as the “40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter observed by the Roman Catholic, Eastern, and some Protestant churches as a period of penitence and fasting,” with the origin coming from the Middle English word for springtime. Living on the East Coast as I am these days, where there is still frost in the mornings and the possibility of snow, it is easy to understand why this season of anticipation took its name from the hope for spring!

Of course, the word lent has other meanings as well.  In French the letters l-e-n-t  become and an adjective meaning slow, which is entirely appropriate for the Lenten Season. Adjectives, as the “Unpack Your Adjectives” Schoolhouse rock video taught me as a child, “are words you use to really describe things, handy words to carry around.”

I carry lots of things around these days, mainly a growing list of urgent things that need to be done. Yet the wisdom of the Lenten season is that, as a church, we set aside a time each year which carries with it the higher priorities of slowing down through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The French adjective lent is a good word to carry around in my heart as I slow down during these 40 days.

Lent also has other meanings in English. For example, it can be the past simple tense or past participle of the irregular verb to lend. Verbs, as the Schoolhouse Rock video “Verb, That’s What’s Happenin’” reminds me, put “my heart in action … to work, to live, to play, to love.”   This is both a lovely and very challenging concept, especially when I consider the ways my heart is lent in action.

Who puts my heart into action? Who am I lent by?  Where do I lend my energy?

Lent, that’s what’s happening.

Lent: Never ending Lessons in Paradox

jesus_disciples_iconThe Lenten Scripture readings can sometimes be hard to wrap your head around, and yet, on another level, they are so very simple. Trust in God. Serve. Forgive. Love. Be merciful just as God is merciful.

I find consolation in that the disciples also seemed to have a hard time wrapping their head around the message of Jesus.

Two cases in point …

In Sunday’s Gospel from Mark (9:2-10) we have Peter wanting to set up tents and stay on the mountaintop with Jesus, Elijah, and Moses, almost missing the point that this was a new moment. In the end it required a voice from the heavens to snap him out of it!

Today we have the story of the mother of James and John (Matthew 20:  17-28) asking that “these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” The sons also did not get it, thinking they were up for what was ahead without stopping to think of the level of sacrifice following Jesus might entail.

I imagine that Jesus must have been just a little bit frustrated when, once again, his friends just did not get it.  But he rolled up his sleeves, sat down, and tried another way of teaching lessons in paradox.  His way was not business as usual, but something new centered on God’s way of love, justice, and mercy.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It shall not be so among you ….

What are the ways that we are called to live the paradox of the Gospels today? In our families? Communities? Ministry?

What is is that I just don’t get? My prayer this morning is for my heart and mind to be opened to Jesus’ never ending lessons in paradox this Lent.

Lent: Journey of the Heart

Image by Pat Farrel, OP

You know you run in certain nerdy church circles when your Facebook feed fills up with creative ways to observe the liturgical season of Lent. One meme that is making the rounds is a “Reverse Lent Challenge,” with the message that rather than giving something up (like the proverbial chocolate) you might consider taking something on, such as making a commitment to helping a family member or friend, writing notes to lonely folks, etc… It’s a nice idea to be sure.

As for me, I gave up giving up a long time ago. Well, that’s not actually exactly true. I do still take the opportunity of this season to look at my life and see what is getting in the way of a healthy relationship with God, others, and even self, and commit to making adjustments. The focus that helps me is not on what is given up, but rather what is gained.  I also find this to be a very personal practice, and so I’ll be keeping to myself what I’ve chosen as my own personal Lenten practice(s).

We don’t have to go far to see what kind of fast it is that God seeks.  This morning’s reading from Isaiah is one of my all time favorites, and makes it pretty clear:

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.

This time of Lent is such a gift. It is a time set aside to reorder our priorities and to prepare our hearts, lives, and world for the joy of the resurrection.

If you are still sorting out your own Lenten practice, I highly recommend reading the Lenten message from Pope Francis.  I’ve adopted his closing lines as my own Lenten prayer:

During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: “Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum”: Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.

Blessings of peace as we ease into this Lenten season. May your heart (and my heart) be opened by God’s love to what is really important.