Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Randy Sly

2/16/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

During Lent, the Church gives us an opportunity each year to experience hardship, as minimal as it might be, in order to exercise our will and choose discomfort as a means to deepen devotion to our Lord.

Resolute, unreserved, whole-hearted consecration by the Church militant would be a force like none other. As our Holy Father, John Paul II said, 'Are you capable of risking your life for someone? Do it for Christ.'

Resolute, unreserved, whole-hearted consecration by the Church militant would be a force like none other. As our Holy Father, John Paul II said, "Are you capable of risking your life for someone? Do it for Christ."

Highlights

By Randy Sly

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/16/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Lent / Easter


WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - Several years ago my son, David, and I were talking about a movie he had just seen. The setting of the movie was a war in the middle ages.

"Dad," he said at one part of our discussion, "if I were alive during this time, do you know what I would want to be?"

"What's that?" I replied, thinking he would have dreams of being a powerful general or heroic captain.

"I would want to be a foot soldier."

"Why is that?" I said, being taken back just a little.

"I would want to be a foot soldier," David said quite deliberately, "so I could find out what I'm made of."

I thought a lot about that exchange over the years. How many times do we look at different times and places in history and wonder how we would perform in those circumstances?

The history of the Church is filled with accounts of extreme hardship, persecution, and sacrifice. St. Paul, our special focus this year, described his life for the Gospel in II Corinthians 11:23-28.

"Are they ministers of Christ? (I am talking like an insane person.) I am still more, with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, far worse beatings, and numerous brushes with death.

"Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one.

"Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure.

"And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches."

Reading those words leaves me with a haunting question - how would I have done as St. Paul's companion?

Certainly, there is a grace given by God to meet extraordinary circumstances. Yet, the importance of persistence and a resolute heart is ever present.

While we may never have to experience those kinds of trials, the Church gives us an opportunity each year to experience hardship, as minimal as it might be, in order to exercise our will and choose discomfort as a means to deepen devotion to our Lord.

While Lent is a time of self-examination, it is also a time to identify with the sufferings of Christ through self-denial. As the Catechism states, "By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert." (CCC #540)

Lent is our time to see what we are made of. We are placed in a more hostile environment through fasting, abstinence and implementing additional devotional disciplines.

Our choices can involve food, certain luxuries, and changes in schedule. The intent is not just to disrupt our lives but to fasten our hearts more closely to the Lord. Like our Lord in the wilderness, we can feel the pangs of withdrawal from those things which we have come to enjoy.


I will vs. I want

Our daily rhythm of life, when interrupted, can be a real challenge. We enjoy certain tastes in food, certain programs on the television, and certain fun events in our schedule. In Lent, we challenge these earthly pleasures through abstinence and fasting. We pit the "I want" part of our soul against the "I will" or "I choose."

What most of us find is that the "want" in us can be much stronger than the "will." Do you wonder what you're made of? Heroic actions, whether we are preaching the Gospel on Mars Hill with St. Paul or simply rising early for Mass before work, begins with a choice.

Several years ago, while a Protestant pastor, I challenged my congregation to a special type of fast - a media fast - where we turned off the TV, the radio, etc. and filled those times with Scripture and prayer as a part of our self-denial. What an experience!

Each of us found this activity very revealing as to how much we wanted to fulfill our wants. Not only did we want to be entertained, but we wanted our world to be constantly filled with sights and sounds. Lengthy attempts at solitude caused our silence actually to become deafening as we sought to read, to pray, or just sit quietly before the Lord.

Adoration, our time alone with Jesus, is transformational. Yet, just sitting in Church before the Blessed Sacrament can be hard for many of us. We are used to activity and noise. We are multi-tasking while being bombarded by multi-media. Yet, it is in these quiet moments, away from all the distractions and dissonance that we can clearly hear the gentle whisper of God.

Self-denial should not be just an annual event. Hopefully, the times we spend in Lent, learning to give up and give in, will lead to more regular times of quiet devotion.


Think on these things

The Apostle Paul understood the rigors of life and the patterns of behavior that can manifest from our daily dose of humanity. While in jail, a place of true suffering, he wrote to the Church at Philippi, injecting a strong admonition that would help cleanse the mind and heart from the impurity to which they were exposed.

He wrote, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:7-8)

Particularly today, with all the economic upheaval and political tension, the news - and even our conversation - is fear-filled and faith-deprived. Lent is a wonderful time to turn off the bad news and get into the Good News." This is our opportunity to set new practices in place. We can establish new habits, making time to meditate on the Scriptures, praying, and offering ourselves in great measures of devotion. We can fill our minds with those things that are truly praiseworthy.

During our Lenten Observance, we can overturn many of the negative influences we are experiencing by simply heeding the call of St. Paul to think dwell upon the things of God.

The Lenten "Fiat"

As a Catholic convert nothing has taken hold in my heart stronger than the "fiat" of Mary. After decades of living in Protestant denial her significant role in salvation history, I am caught up in the wonder and thrill of her "let it be."

A young woman was willing to risk it all with no understanding of what the future would hold. She just knew God had spoken, so she said yes and bring salvation into the world through her womb.

Today, her constant prayer is that faithful sons and daughters of God would also offer their "fiat" to Him, consecrating their lives to Christ and living only for Him no matter what their secular vocation would be.

The world will be changed more through the obedience of men and women in the course of their daily lives than through a cadre of priests marching through the streets. Should the laity ever discover the real power of "fiat" in changing the course of human history, our culture would never be the same again.

Resolute, unreserved, whole-hearted consecration by the Church militant would be a force like none other. As our Holy Father, John Paul II said, "Are you capable of risking your life for someone? Do it for Christ."

We may not know what it would like to be as a foot soldier in the middle ages or one of the disciples spreading the gospel after Christ's passion, death and resurrection. We may not experience the same weariness, weakness and malnutrition suffered by our Lord in the wilderness.

We can know, however, what it is like to deny ourselves of comforts and conveniences in the midst of our everyday life. We can choose to give more of our day and our devotion to the Lord.

-----
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copyright 2015 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for February 2016
Universal:
That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Evangelization: That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.



Comments


More Lent / Easter

Can you answer these four challenging questions about Lent?

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Take our Lent quiz! See how much you know about the tradition of Lent! Take our Lent quiz, then challenge your friends. See how much you know about this special season in the Liturgical year. The quiz has just a few questions, but will certainly provide a quick ... continue reading


The Way of the Cross continues on Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

In his strong identification with the poor and vulnerable, Jesus makes it perfectly clear that when we meet the needs of these least brothers and sisters, we are ultimately serving him. And when we - as individuals, churches, states and nations - do not adequately meet ... continue reading


Take this thought provoking Stations of the Cross survey

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

How familiar are you with the Stations of the Cross? Take the Catholic Online survey now to share your answers to our questions. Your responses will help us serve you better by tailoring content that suits your needs. The survey is short and should take just 1 minute ... continue reading


'God hasn't forsaken me': Church of England to release short films addressing serious topics for Lent and Easter Watch

Image of The Church of England plans to launch a JustPray campaign throughout Lent, with its final video released on Easter Sunday (Shutterstock).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Church of England is set to launch its latest campaign called the "Psalm 22 project," which will feature stories of former homeless and ex drug addicts who tackled some of life's most difficult trials. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Psalm 22 refers to the ... continue reading


10 important things to consider during Lent Watch

Image of What are our options during Lent? (Shutterstock)

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Every year we give something up for Lent. Sometimes picking what to give up is hard and other times we consider doing something extra to really immerse ourselves in what God has for us - but what are our options? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Lent isn't just ... continue reading


5 little-known facts about Lent you need to learn this Ash Wednesday Watch

Image of Lent is more than just fasting (Rhoy Cobilla, InterAksyon.com).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Everyone knows that Mardi Gras kicks off the upcoming 40-day Lent, which honors the time Jesus fasted in the wilderness, but did you know there is more to it? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Recently the Independent released their list of "5 things you might not ... continue reading


Ash Wednesday: 'Seek To Experience God's Presence Within' Watch

Image of

By F. K. Bartels

"You may ask me: 'But, does God exist? And if he exists does he really concern himself with us? Can we reach him?' It is, indeed, true that we cannot place God on the table, we cannot touch him or pick him up like an ordinary object. We must rediscover our capacity to ... continue reading


POPE'S MASS: Ash Wednesday (FULL TEXT: English) Watch

Image of

By Pope Francis, Libreria Editrice Vaticana

The unofficial English translation to Pope Francis' prepared homily for the 2016 Ash Wednesday Mass: The Word of God, the beginning of the Lenten journey, addressed to the Church and to each of us invitations.The first is that of St. Paul: " Be reconciled to God " ( ... continue reading


Pope Francis' special Ash Wednesday message for 'Keep Lent' initiative Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Pope Francis sent out his first audio message for "Keep Lent" over social media. 'Keep Lent' is an initiative of the Prelature of the Pontifical Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii's youth ministry office. According to the Vatican Radio, "The initiative begins on Ash ... continue reading


Fat Tuesday - Mardi Gras Meant to Be More than a Party Watch

Image of Some have tried to argue that this term meant that people should discard their moral faith commitments and for the night and just

By Fr. Randy Sly

One could call this celebration the last gasp of Ordinary time as the Church anticipates the penitential Season of the forty days of Lent. Rich foods are consumed as pilgrims prepare for times of fasting, abstinence, confession and penance. Ironically, carnival ... continue reading


All Lent / Easter News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 58:1-9
1 Shout for all you are worth, do not hold back, raise your voice like a ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 51:3-4, 5-6, 18-19
3 For I am well aware of my offences, my sin is constantly in ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 9:14-15
14 Then John's disciples came to him and said, 'Why is it that we and the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 12th, 2016 Image

St. Buonfiglio Monaldo
February 12: He was one of seven Florentines who had joined ... Read More