Friday, February 15, 2013

Lent Day Three--Prophesies of St. Malachy

Lenten Factoid
Buzzing around the internet and wriggling its fear-mongering text into the hearts of both Catholics and non-Catholics alike are the Prophesies of St. Malachy that say the next pope will be the last pope and after that....JUDGMENT DAY!

While it is certainly possible that the next pope could be the last pope, the Prophesies themselves are decidedly circumspect. The best scholars think they were written in the 15th century to influence a papal election because the are remarkably accurate up that era and then get much more vague. For instance, Benedict is called the "glory of the olive," and the Olivetans are affiliated with Benedictine Order.

For what theologians have to say about it, I suggest this link. 


(This is from a book I'm working on on reflections throughout the church year.)

Friends of mine who are in 12-Step programs often talk about “working their program,” the key to their abstinence being to take life one day at a time, sometimes one moment at a time.
In many ways, the same approach is necessary as we seek to balance spirituality and work—day by day, minute by minute, living only in the present moment.
How to do this consistently is, of course, the big question. And it’s a question that is particularly relevant as we begin the Lenten season and the journey to Easter. I seem to achieve being present in the present best when I view all of my work as prayer. I don’t mean praying while working (rosary beads and keyboards seem to be mutually incompatible, at least with my fingers), but rather by considering my work itself as my prayer. In other words, to view everything I do in the workday, as an integral part of my prayer life.
When I think of work that way—as prayer—then no matter what I do, even if it’s boring, dull or unpleasant seems to increase my attention to detail and thus automatically increase the quality and care with which I work. It becomes, not a vicious circle, but a blessed one. As I strive to make my work into my prayer, my prayer becomes my work.

O Christ Jesus.
When all is darkness and we feel our weakness
and helplessness, give us the sense of your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust in 
Your protecting love and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for living close to you. We shall see your Hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all  things.
Amen By St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lent Day Two

Lenten Factoid of the Day

The word “Lent” from the Germanic for “Spring” was first used in the late Middle Ages when the pastors began to preach homilies in the vernacular instead of Latin. Prior to that, the season was called by the Latin term quadragesima meaning the "fortieth day" before Easter. Romance languages retain this sense, for example, Spanish cuaresma, Portuguese quaresma, French carême and Italian quaresima.

Lent Day Two

A friend on Facebook commented that Lent seemed a bit superfluous this year since she and her family had been undergoing many trials for the past several months. I could identify.

When you've been walking though the valley of suffering, 
focusing on more suffering for 40 days seems a bit counterproductive.

This time last year, I was aching from the loss of my mother and reeling from having learned that a great deal of money (at least a great deal to me!) had been stolen from her estate. A year later, the pain of the loss of my mother has eased and when I opened her checkbook to get information to pay her final taxes, I was no longer crushed by the sight of her handwriting. However, the theft issue still remains unresolved, although I'm told restitution is not likely. The trial has been post-poned and post-poned again and again until I'm not sure there even will be a trial. Add to that, or more likely because of these things, I have carried with me the burden of panic and anxiety almost every day.

This past year has been one long Lent with no Easter in sight.

 I think the hardest thing has been feeling both paralyzed, unable to do anything other than stare at the wall and perhaps play solitaire on my laptop, and so crazed that my heart seemed to be doing fish-flops...and feeling both at the same time.

So this Lent, what I've decided to do is simply accept those feelings as they come. I'm beginning to learn that when I try to force myself into action while feeling paralyzed, I get tossed into the fishbowl. And when I try to calm down in the fishbowl, I end up become even more frozen. It's a nasty and very vicious circle.  So today, feeling both like the deer in the headlights and the fish in the bowl, I've simply allowed myself to be both. Simultaneously.

At the same time, I have taken to breathing a very simple prayer: God, help me.  That's it. Normally I would add all sorts of explanation to my prayer, as if somehow God wouldn't quite know what I needed unless I spelled it out. But it finally dawned on me that I don't really know what I need. I don't really know how to calm the anxiety or remove the panic.  All I do know is that I need help. Not just once or twice, but over and over throughout the day and sometimes into the night.

I close my eyes and fall into the sense of frozen panic, an oxymoron if ever there was one, and say, God, help me.  If it's the only thing I do this Lent, I think it will suffice.

With that, I leave you with this traditional
Lenten Prayer

God, heavenly Father, 
look upon me and hear my prayer 
during this holy Season of Lent. 
By the good works You inspire, 
help me to discipline my body 
and to be renewed in spirit. 

Without You I can do nothing. 
By Your Spirit help me to know what is right
and to be eager in doing Your will. 
Teach me to find new life through penance. 
Keep me from sin, and help me live
by Your commandment of love. 
God of love, bring me back to You. 
Send Your Spirit to make me strong
in faith and active in good works. 
May my acts of penance bring me Your forgiveness, 
open my heart to Your love, 
and prepare me for the coming feast 
of the Resurrection of Jesus. 

Lord, during this Lenten Season,
nourish me with Your Word of life 
and make me one 
with You in love and prayer. 

Fill my heart with Your love
and keep me faithful to the Gospel of Christ. 
Give me the grace to rise above my human weakness. 
Give me new life by Your Sacraments, especially the Mass. 

Father, our source of life, 
I reach out with joy to grasp Your hand; 
let me walk more readily in Your ways. 
Guide me in Your gentle mercy, 
for left to myself I cannot do Your Will. 

Father of love, source of all blessings, 
help me to pass from my old life of sin 
to the new life of grace. 
Prepare me for the glory of Your Kingdom. 
I ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, 
Who lives and reigns with You 
and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday: Beginning the Walk of Lent

 Daily Trivia: Ash Wednesday

·         Ash Wednesday, despite being one of the most attended holy days of the year by Catholics around the world, is not an official Holy Day of Obligation. The ashes used to mark the cross on a person’s forehead are traditionally made by burning last year’s Palm Sunday palms.

 The Journey of Lent

I've been looking over all the wonderful resources online for Lenten retreats. Some of them are truly fabulous!  I know I can't compete with them, but what I do want to share these next 40 days is my own Lenten journey. I Had originally planned to focus on griefwalking, then I thought about healing, but last night, as I reflected on Pope Benedict's resignation, I decided I would simply talk about my own way, in the hopes that maybe it would resonate with someone else.

Anxiety and Grief

What has dominated my life for the past year or more has been at times almost crippling panic and anxiety. It started about the time that I knew my mother was dying. Since it was a long process for her--including nearly nine months on hospice--I was on edge for a long time as well. I never went to sleep without thinking that perhaps tonight would be the night I would get the call. Then when the call did come, I was plunged into the darkest sea of fear and anxiety I had ever experienced. A fear that has had its storms as well as a few moments of relative calm, but a treacherous and troubling sea nonetheless.

At times I thought I was losing my grip on reality, my sanity. Although I faced several difficult issues, including a major theft (which is still winding its way through the courts), financial, health, and relationship issues, I wasn't being pursued by tigers, even though the flight or fight mechanism was stuck in the on position. Then, last night, I was directed to an article written by a grief counselor that said anxiety should be one of the stages of grief. She wrote:
 In fact, anxiety is the most common symptom of grief that I see in my practice. But I also know that it’s often one of the most overlooked aspects of bereavement...
I must have read that statement a half-dozen times before it sank it. My almost paralyzing anxiety was normal! Just knowing that didn't eradicate the anxiety--even as I type this morning, my hands are shaking and my pulse is racing--and I didn't even have any caffeine!

Into the Desert

What does this have to do with Lent?  This year,  I'm not giving up anything per se. At least not i the traditional sense. What I am going to do is look at the relationship between anxiety, grief, healing, and faith.  So to begin, I offer you this prayer from St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of Catholic writers:

Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life with fear. Rather, look to them with full confidence that, as they arise, God to whom you belong will in his love enable you to profit by them. He has guided you thus far in life. Do you but hold fast to His dear hand, and He will lead you safely through all trials. Whenever you cannot stand, He will carry you lovingly in his arms.
Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. The same Eternal Father who takes care of you today will take care of you tomorrow, and every day of your life. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace then, and put aside all useless thoughts, all vain dreads and all anxious imaginations.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras

Today is Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.  When I hear that name I can't help but think that I have Fat Mondays and Fat Wednesdays and Fat Everyday, not just Tuesday.  But, of course, Mardi Gras doesn't refer to personal size.

French for “Fat Tuesday,” it's the day before Ash Wednesday. The French name may have come from the custom of parading a fat ox through the streets as a reminder that no meat was to be eaten during Lent. It may also derive from the fact that people ate all the “fat” foods such as butter, cream, milk, cheese, eggs and meat on this day so they would not go to waste. This custom is the origin of the name Pancake Tuesday, since pancakes conveniently use up the soon-to-be-forbidden foods. Another name for the day is Shrove Tuesday, recalling the custom of going to Confession (being forgiven or shrove of one’s sins) on this day.

With Mardi Gras, I'm starting what I plan to be a daily Lenten series of meditations and reflections.  While they have been in the works for several weeks, the journey takes on a greater significance for me now that we have learned Pope Benedict is resigning and Catholics will have a new pope by Easter. So part of these reflections will be about that process, but I also hope you will join me as I explore customs, traditions, saints, prayers and our pilgrimage to the Holy over the next six weeks.

With that, go eat some pancakes swimming in butter and I'll see you tomorrow.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Pope Resigns

Catholics all over the world are shocked by the news that Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February 28. For my non-Catholic friends and readers who have asked me what this all means, I'll try to give a little context and explanation.

First, the reason the Pope has given for his resignation is his age and increasing ill health. While people are fond of speculation and of scouring for ulterior motives, Pope Benedict has been looking increasingly frail over the past months. There is no reason to think that his age and health were not the motivating factors in this decision. In Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, author Peter Seewald quotes Benedict as saying, "If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right and, under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign.”

Second, because no pope has resigned for the past 600 years, there isn't really a protocol for it. However, after the death of a pope, the conclave or council of Cardinals, who elect the new pope meet as quickly as possible. A new pope is generally elected within two to three weeks after the death of the old one. All reports say that the mechanics for putting the conclave together have been started and the election will undoubtedly be held almost immediately after the Feb. 28 resignation.

Third, the operations of the Vatican will slow or shut down during this transition period, but the lives of ordinary Catholics and Catholic churches will be largely uneffected. This is not to say that the pope doesn't exercise great influence over Catholics throughout the world, but merely that the everyday activities on the parish and individual level will go on as usual.

Fourth, there are speculations as to whom the new pope might be, but unlike an election to govern a country, a person cannot declare his candidacy nor can he outwardly campaign for the position. What happens in the corridors and behind the locked doors of the conclave is undoubtedly subject to many different pressures and influences, but in the end, Catholics believe that the Cardinals who elect the new Pope will be governed by the Holy Spirit. He may be one of the so-called leading candidates, but then again, he may not.

Fifth, Pope Benedict's new title isn't clear, but he may go back to being Cardinal Ratzinger, with the added title of "bishop emeritus of Rome," since the pope is technically the Bishop of Rome. He is expected to live a monastic life at the Vatican for his remaining years.

Sixth, Benedict will not be part of the election of the new pope because of his age, nor will he have any duties regarding the governing or guidance of the church after his resignation. It isn't like a former President who goes about on political missions. Benedict will probably spend his time reading and writing like the scholar he is. And playing the piano and perhaps enjoying the company of his cat.

Finally, there had been rumors that he might resign and he has had an unusual devotion to Pope St. Celestine V who abdicated the papacy in 1294, one of only a handful of popes who have done so. Benedict has visited Celestine's tomb twice during his papacy, which might have been a clue as to his thoughts.

As we get closer to the election of the new pope, I'll put up some information on that process. In the meantime, if you have questions, please leave them in the comments.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Gratitude/Prayer Scorecard

Sometimes you have to force yourself to be grateful for something.  As in number one today.

I am grateful:
1. That I made enough money to pay some taxes this year.  And I'm trying not to grumble at how little the IRS thinks I should be able to survive on after they take their share.

2. Chocolate muffins.  Okay, so they are really just chocolate wolf cake in muffin lamb disguise, but I feel better eating a muffin than a piece of cake for breakfast.

3. A good friend who gets me off the ledge when I am in panic mode.

4. A house to clean and boy does it need cleaning.

5. Someone to love and someone who loves me.

Prayerscore Card
I have 16 things listed.
So far, it's
4 Yes
0 No
11 Not Yet
and one that I thought was a clear-cut yes or no that might turn out to be a yes/no in that it might be partially answered. Not quite sure how to categorize that one yet.