A FEW PRE-LENTEN THOUGHTS
Scanning the secular news headlines about escalating war, looming financial “correction”, the collapsing American infrastructures, unrelenting waves of crime and chaos, and the abject failure of politics to solve any social dysfunctions… there is no doubt we are in troubling times. From a Catholic perspective: if we know what Scripture and Tradition says about days of great tribulation, if we believe the details from the apparitions at Fatima and Garabandal, if we’re aware of Satan’s war against our very identity… there’s no doubt we need to be prepared for the days ahead. Despite the angst that seems to be all around us, from my personal view from the “observation deck” there seems to be a rising hope! We have witnessed an increase in people seeking out Truth, lost sheep are finding their way back to the flock, graces and gifts from God are being poured out on disciples, anecdotally many people I know say they have never been so focused and purposeful about prayer. I think the Lord is showering us with gifts to get us ready. There is an urgency in the air. Do you FEEL the Holy Spirit’s hand moving the pieces right now? It’s palpable.
Saints are made in times like this. Are you chosen? Are you being called? Of course you are! We ALL are. We are called to advance the never-ending love of God in our own corner of the world.
In this time before Lent, there are two things increasingly on my heart: become like little children and let us stop, drop, and pray.
#1 Become like little children. The Christian journey is all about trust and surrender. When Jesus says we must be like little children, he does not mean to be naive and childish. To be child-like is to trust our Heavenly Father; like children, depend on His provision. Be innocent, joyful, and in the moment. The Lord is saying: “Look at me, follow me, keep your eyes on me… Let me show you what I can do.” He says: “YOU don’t have to be perfect in yourself. I’ll be perfect for you. But you have to cooperate.”
To become like children is to become innocent again. NOW is the time to deal with your sins if you have not. It is simply not acceptable for us to avoid it, dance around it, push it off for another year. We have to tackle our own wounds and demons. We know that sin usually flows from fear and the instinct to self-medicate or to impatiently “do it my own way.” Take it to Confession, or a friend, or a counselor, or one of our Stephen Ministers, or a Spiritual Director (we do have people here in the Parish to help)!
# 2 Stop, drop, and pray. All the time. Everywhere. Prayer is simply to talk with God. Keep Him before you. Listen to His voice. Enter into relationship. Jesus told the woman from Samaria: “If you only knew what I had to offer, you would ask ME for a drink.” He has everything to offer us.
Have you read Brother Lawrence? His famous little booklet is called “The Practice of the Presence of God.” It’s this beautiful, childlike way to live life talking with Jesus every moment. He gives us the secret to joyfully offer every task to God, to be in constant prayer and always beside him.
All the great Saints who teach about prayer agree that sometimes we need vocal, simple, memorized, repetitive prayer to get going… to sort of prime the prayer pump. But if our prayer is only a rush through a list, saying words without much thought or affection, that would be to multiply mediocre prayer. Prayer without awareness of God’s closeness and love goes nowhere. It easily turns into vain repetition. Dcn. James Keating (on Catholic Heart Radio podcasts) says with mediocre prayer the enemy tricks us into thinking we are really praying well. We can settle for that. Deeper, intimate, powerful prayer is the loving conversation we have with God. Friendship. It flows from the heart more than the head. It all flows from a place of thanksgiving and gratitude.
There are unlimited resources for prayer: prayer apps for your phone, videos with all the Catholic “superstars” of our time, free downloads of all the classics from the Saints. Books, articles, and websites galore! Join us for Tuesday Praying the Parish Forward on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month. I’ve posted videos of the “teaching time” on our YouTube page.
If we become like children and if we are in constant dialogue with Jesus, a promised “peace that surpasses all understanding” will be ours. It is the best way to prepare for the unavoidable hard times marching our way. Moreso, in any time or circumstance, we should always have our eyes set on deepening our relationship with the Living God and His people!