Lent: Isn’t it time for an upgrade?

computerI was doing dishes in the kitchen last week when Jacob came in and started unloading the dishwasher. While dishwasher unloading is a job that belongs to the kids, I had not yet asked anyone to empty it.

“Who are you, and what have you done with Jacob?” I said to him. Jacob smiled—he knew what I meant. While I would never describe Jacob as lazy, he usually needs to be reminded to do his jobs around the house.

“Is this a new and improved version of Jacob?” I continued. “I like it.”

“Version 2.0,” he said, alluding to system upgrades on computers that get a new number each time.

It does feel like Jacob, at 15, has received a recent upgrade. It’s nothing dramatic—upgrades seldom are. It’s the same Jacob but with more power and stronger capabilities.

Jacob 2.0 has made me stop and think about Lent as a time for all of us to upgrade to a stronger and more capable version of ourselves. Every so often at work, a pop-up will appear on my screen and tell me that an upgrade of a program is available. I’m prompted to click “Upgrade now” or “Remind me later.” In my company, “No, thanks” is not an option. The IT department has decided that we all need the upgrades—it’s just a matter of when we choose to take them.

The same is true for Lent. Each Lent the church suggests an upgrade—and we have the choice to upgrade now or be reminded later, perhaps next Advent or Lent.

Given the choice of receiving an upgraded self, why then do many of us choose the “Remind me later” option? Why do we pass up allowing God to change us during Lent in favor of continuing as we have been? I suspect it’s the same reason I often choose not to upgrade right away at work. Upgrading on a computer means you need to stop what you’re doing for a bit; the computer needs to shut down and restart. Many times it’s easier to hit “Later” and not take time out at that moment.

Upgrading within the context of Lent means turning parts of ourselves “off” so that God has space to make a change. God needs us to step out of our regular lives so that we can be restarted with more power and grace.

If you’ve chosen the “Remind me later” option for the last few Lents, you can make a commitment to choose “Upgrade now” for this one.

Plan your own retreat: “One Lent I set aside time for my husband and me to go on a ‘retreat’ within our home that I had planned,” says Colleen, a mom in her mid-30s. “We lit candles and read the books of Isaiah and Hosea and had discussion points. It really opened up our faith lives to one another and helped us to reconnect.”

Work with God to make a change: “Every year, I pray about it, then pick something to change about myself, and every year it is a 40-day journey to that change,” says Amy, a mother of three, ages 9 to 13. “One time it took four Lents of trying to make the same change before it happened—it was giving up talking badly about other people. I always pray more, always do the rosary, always do adoration—so it is my favorite time of the year spiritually.”

Break Lent into smaller chunks: “For a while I felt like I was failing at Lent because I couldn’t sustain my commitment,” says Jack, a dad in his 40s. “Then I decided to take it week by week. Now one week I’ll make a point of serving once or twice at the meal program; another week I’ll read to my kids every night. By the time Easter comes, I will have done a number of good things, and I’ll feel that I changed for the better.”

By Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2014 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for  four years running. Here’s a sample issue.

We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.

And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

Like us on Facebook and follow Homefaith on Twitter.

photo: istock

“I arise today through the strength of heaven…”

Irish_high_cross_ClonmacnoisIn honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here’s an excerpt of the great prayer known as “The Deer’s Cry,” attributed to him. 

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

 

 

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

 

At Home with Our Faith is Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2014 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for  four years running. Here’s a sample issue.

We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.

And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

Like us on Facebook and follow Homefaith on Twitter.

Try for a Lenten moment

girl ashesIf you’re feeling discouraged because your effort to give up chocolate was thwarted by the coworker who brought the birthday cake to work, don’t lose heart. Lent is not a pass/fail class. Rather, it is a journey of becoming closer to God through prayer, sacrifice, and generosity. Seeing Lent only as a 40-day block can prevent us from taking advantage of Lenten moments—opportunities that arise each day for us to deepen our relationship with God. Here are a few:

• Prayer. Between now and Easter, look for five minutes alone with your spouse. Face each other, hold hands, and ask your spouse what he or she is most worried about. Then together pray an Our Father, slowly, for that worry. Then do the same for your worry, followed by a prayer of gratitude from each of you.

• Generosity. Almsgiving is the traditional way to be generous during Lent, but generosity can be practiced in small moments throughout the day—flowers for a teacher, a plate of cookies for an elderly neighbor, a thank-you note to a priest who inspired you with a recent homily.

• Sacrifice. The strong among us are able to sustain a 40-day fast from sweets, chips, or alcohol during Lent, but the rest of us need to start small with our sacrifice. Try a focused, one- to three-day fast from something you truly enjoy, but for a purpose. Give up your afternoon Diet Coke for three days straight and pray for your oldest child. Skip sweets for a day and make a point to learn more about those areas of the world affected by hunger.

By Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2014 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for  four years running. Here’s a sample issue.

We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.

And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

Like us on Facebook and follow Homefaith on Twitter.

We can work it out

Ring_Flickr_arsheffieldA friend tells this story about his marriage: He and his wife were going through one of those periods that predictably happen to most marriages but that still blindside couples. It seemed that way more of his wife’s time was taken up with their young children than with him, as if they were co-owners of a small child-raising business instead of a couple who loved each other. He was starting to contemplate an early exit. He was probably imagining that somewhere there might be a woman who’d be more interested in him, who’d talk with him about things other than potty training and carpooling and kids’ swimming lessons.

He confided in his friend, a guy he’d known since college, expecting a sympathetic ear. Instead he got an earful. His buddy told him that no, he wasn’t supporting an early exit; he was standing in favor of his friend’s marriage. He told his friend to quit feeling sorry for himself and to get his act together as a husband.

My friends in 12-step programs—Alcoholics Anonymous and the like—recount similar conversations. These folks try to practice spiritual honesty and admit their own shortcomings. So if they complain about their spouse, they are more likely to hear things like, “So what was your part in this?” or, “Sorry, I have to side with your husband when I hear that story.”

These spouses can thank their lucky stars they have such friends. Not everyone does; friends can, sometimes unwittingly, undermine the marriage when hearing about marital complaints. That’s one eye-opener in the new edition of the excellent book Take Back Your Marriage (Guilford) by William Doherty, professor and director of the Couples on the Brink Project at the University of Minnesota. Doherty has found that more splitting couples are using “soft” reasons for divorce, such as “We’ve grown apart” or “We can’t talk anymore.” “Hard” reasons—infidelity, abuse, addictions to alcohol, drugs, or gambling—are cited less often.

Doherty chronicles the outside influences that nudge couples toward divorce. In the media the till-death-do-us-part marriage is increasingly presented as a near impossibility. Consumer culture whispers to us, “You deserve the best,” prompting spouses to dwell on how their mate isn’t meeting their needs, writes Doherty.

Couples can be pushed toward divorce by incompetent therapists or “neutral” ones who refuse to take a stand in favor of preserving a marriage when possible. And sometimes well-meaning family members and friends can sabotage the marriage: One of Doherty’s friends told him how every time she complains about her husband, her friends ask, “Why are you still there?”

Most of us eagerly snap up any tool to help us be better parents, but we think we should be able to handle marriage on our own. Big mistake. Doherty beats the drum for marriage education—books, classes—to help couples stay strong and navigate the inevitable rough waters together. Bill Boomer, whose advice for stepparents appears on this page, says couples in second marriages with kids especially need knowledge and skills; they don’t know what they don’t know and can become quickly overwhelmed by the challenges of stepfamilies.

And hey, if you have friends who’ll jolt you out of your marital self-pity parties, take them out for a nice dinner and say thanks.

By Catherine O’Connell-Cahill, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2014 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for  four years running. Here’s a sample issue.

We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.

And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

Like us on Facebook and follow Homefaith on Twitter.

Photo: ©Flickr/arsheffield

 

Fast, yes, but not from candy

chocolate RGB mgyqtSyGiving up chocolate for Lent is one way to fast, but in Bringing Lent Home with St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Prayers, Reflections, and Activities for Families (Ave Maria), author Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle offers different ways to fast for each day of Lent. Try some yourself and with your spouse and children—each is just for one day.

  • Today, fast from speaking ill of anyone, even if it is justified. Pray for them instead.
  • Today, fast from procrastination. If there’s something you need to do, do it in a way pleasing to God.
  • Today, fast from making excuses. Do what is asked of you.
  • Today, fast from being prideful. In everything today, give praise or credit to someone else.
  • Fast from technology today. Avoid TV, surfing the Internet, playing video games.
  • Fast from whining. If something disappoints you, offer it to God and trust him with it

By Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2014 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for  four years running. Here’s a sample issue.

We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.

And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

Like us on Facebook and follow Homefaith on Twitter.

 

 

Person to person

Pope Francis greets Catholic faithful as he arrives for his final mass on Copacabana Beach in Rio de JaneiroSome weeks back I went to hear Dr. Paul Farmer speak in Chicago along with his mentor, liberation theologian and champion of the poor Father Gustavo Gutiérrez of Peru. Farmer, if you’ve never heard of him, is a Harvard physician, and a Catholic, who has almost single-handedly revolutionized health care for the poor in developing countries over the past three decades. I expected an audience of 100 or so, mostly of older folks. Instead I beheld a hotel ballroom packed to the rafters with nearly 2,000 people, almost all of them under the age of 25, many of them Catholic high school students.

What message did Farmer and Gutiérrez have for the throngs of eager young people who came out on this chilly evening? I could best sum it up in five words: “We must accompany the poor.” Not coincidentally, it’s the same message being advocated by Pope Francis, another favorite of young people—because they observe that he practices what he preaches.

They love that he invited four homeless men to join him for breakfast on his birthday. They love the story told by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who visited him in Buenos Aires several years ago: Then Cardinal Bergoglio made the airport pickup himself, in a borrowed car. “We passed all the great sights, but did I hear about them? No,” said McCarrick in a talk at Georgetown University recently. “The only thing I heard was, ‘Under this bridge is the worst slum in the city. I try to visit often.’ ” McCarrick stressed, “He doesn’t just reach out to the poor, but to the individuals who are poor.”

You saw the key word there: individuals. What if, this Lent, we found a way for our family to get to know some poor individuals in person, by name? “They have much to teach us,” says the pope to encourage us. Perhaps our local parish could help: The March 2014 U.S. Catholic magazine reports that during the weeks when Lumen Christi Parish in St. Paul, Minnesota hosts a shelter for people experiencing homelessness, parish families—children included—come in to host and have supper with them. What a great idea.

Our family’s monthly visits to a homeless shelter in Chicago, kicked off by one of my kids having to answer, “What is your family doing for Lent?” for a homework assignment, have been eye-opening. As “clothing ministers” on certain Thursday nights, we accompany folks as they choose from donated pants, shirts, socks, coats, hats, gloves, and (when we’re lucky) long johns. It’s been great to see my son and daughter bemoaning the lack of blankets or size 32 pants on a given night. My husband, to my great amusement, always seems to get the guys who shop just like I do, taking their sweet time browsing, patching together a decent outfit from odds and ends.

We all wear name tags—so we can learn one another’s names. Some of the guests at the shelter are nice; some not as much—just like the rest of us. And I learned that nope, not even homeless folks in Marquette Park want those old clothes with holes or giant ink stains. And why should they? I wouldn’t.

It’s wonderful to write checks for the poor; to donate clothes, toys, food. Bravo. But Paul Farmer, Gustavo Gutiérrez, and Pope Francis suggest that we summon our courage and take the next step. Our children will thank us.

By Catherine O’Connell-Cahill, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2014 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for  four years running. Here’s a sample issue.

We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.

And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

Like us on Facebook and follow Homefaith on Twitter.

Photo: ©Flickr/Semilla Luz

 

A thousand small compromises, part two

Couple winter walk RGB 2dMEpAK…continued from last week  

Prayer helps perspective. For Miguel, married for 12 years to Beatriz, compromise is easier when he is actively taking time to pray. “When I spend a few minutes in prayer at the beginning of my day, I find that our marriage flows better,” he says. “I have an easier time letting go of my own agenda and being able to compromise when I am prayerful.”

Conversely, Miguel noticed that during a recent rocky patch in their marriage, neither he nor his wife were praying. Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,111 other followers