The Month of February 2020

 

My Friends,
A Great Season of Grace
            It seems that we celebrated Christmas just a short time ago.  Only a few weeks ago the Christmas Trees, pine roping and wreaths were removed from the church, and we have now returned to Ordinary Time of the Church Year.
            Now though, the Season of Lent will begin with our observance of Ash Wednesday on 26 February 2020. One of the Prefaces of the Eucharist Prayer for Lent calls these forty days “a great season of grace”.  This is a time for us to discard some of the excess baggage in our lives, and so be free to concentrate more intensely on what really matters. Here are some time-tested practices for accomplishing this:
Prayer-Fasting-Almsgiving
            We invest ourselves in deepening our communion with God in prayer.  Daily participation in the Mass, regular reading of the Bible, quiet time alone in God’s presence (at home or another place conducive to prayer, particularly a church or chapel), meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary, and reflection on the Stations of the Cross, are just some of the practices that might be incorporated into your Lenten program. Communion with God transforms us!
            Prayer, in all the many forms it takes, transforms us.  In turn in enables us to be instruments of transformation in the lives of others.
            Another of the time-tested Lenten practices is fasting.  Whether it be from food or beverage, television time or other entertainments, criticism or gossip, or any of the myriad of things which are part of all our lives, fasting creates an empty space in us which makes room for God, and for the things of God!  Whenever we eliminate something from our lives, to which we are habitually accustomed, we likely go through “withdrawal symptoms” which then open the way for simpler living, and so a sharper focus and clearer insight into how congruent our way of life is with the way of life to which Jesus Christ calls us all.  When we seek to bring these two into greater harmony, we experience the ongoing conversion which is the project of the life of every Christian.
            The third time-tested Lenten practice is works of charity.  Sometimes called almsgiving, this can include sacrificial contributions to the poor and those in need. It might be as concrete as donating food for the monthly Food Pantry Collection, or contributing to Birthright for its work supporting young women with unplanned pregnancies who “choose life” for their babies, but have been rejected or abandoned by their families.  It can be as concrete, too, as the gift blood donors make.  Works of charity can also include visits to the homebound or, at least, a note or a telephone call to them.  So also, an unselfish gesture of reaching out to someone who habitually rubs you the wrong way can be a valuable work of charity, for both the one who gives and the one who receives it!
Getting in Shape
            As we approach the beginning of Lent in just a few weeks, let us step back and reflect on our spiritual habits and practices during the past few months. Let each of us ask ourselves and honestly answer the following:  Do I give God my undivided attention every day for even a small period of time?  Do I take the opportunity to receive God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least yearly?  Do I attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation?  Do I actively participate in the Mass? Do I say the prayers and responses and attentively listen to the readings and homily?  Do I arrive fifteen to twenty minutes before Mass starts to prepare myself to listen to the Word of God and to receive His Body and Blood or do I arrive as the opening hymn is beginning?  Do I take a few minutes after Mass ends to kneel and say a prayer of thanksgiving?
            Let’s resolve to get into better religious shape for the Season of Grace.  The following prayer is a good first step.
Prayer Before Mass
            Come Holy Spirit and quiet my heart and my head, as I gather with my friends and neighbors to celebrate Mass. I am saint and sinner. Open my ears to Your words. Open my mouth in prayer and song. Open my eyes to see Your mystery in symbol and sign. Open my heart in love for You and my neighbor. Quiet the thoughts and distractions that will keep me from prayer. Strengthen me to take the Mass into my life this week. Amen.
“The Prayer Process”
            From time to time I speak of the difference I learned, while in our college seminary, between “saying prayers” and “praying”.  Recently a Catholic teacher, author, speaker, Matthew Kelly, sent a wallet-sized-card to priests in the Archdiocese.  His title is “The Prayer Process”.  It is a good reference point not for priests only but for all who listen to that inner voice calling us to give time when we belong to God alone and when God knows that He has us all to Himself. 
            Give the “The Prayer Process” a try, it might be just the right process for you.  It follows:
            1.  Gratitude:  Begin by thanking God in a personal dialogue for whatever you are most grateful today.  2.  Awareness: Revisit the times in the past 24 hours when you were and were not the-best-version-of-yourself.  Talk to God about these situations and what you learned from them.  3.  Significant Moments:  Identify something you experienced in the last 24 hours and explore what God might be trying to say to you through that event or person.  4.  Peace:  Ask God to forgive you for any wrong you have committed -- against yourself, another person, or Him -- and to fill you with a deep and abiding peace.  5.  Freedom:  Speak with God about how He is inviting you to change your life, so that you can experience the freedom to be the-best-version-of-yourself.  6.  Others:  Lift up to God anyone you feel called to pray for today, asking God to bless and guide them.  7.  End by praying, as Jesus taught us, the Our Father.
In Brief
            We keep in prayer Don Barker, Monsignor Delaney and all in need of healing, as well as our homebound, that God give them strength, grace and peace.  We pray, too, that God keep a careful eye on their care-givers and loved-ones.
            The Forty Days of Lent begins, this year on Ash Wednesday, February 26th with 7:10 morning Mass here and the imposition of Ashes following immediately after the Gospel & Homily of the Mass.
            During the Lenten Season, Stations of the Cross booklets, will be available in several different versions, at the main entrance of the church, for personal prayer. Please return them when you have concluded your prayer so that they are available for others.
            Complimentary copies of The Word Among Us will soon be available at the church entrances. The booklet provides reflections and daily Mass readings for each day of Lent. You are welcome to take one! God make, through it, grace to be abounding for you!  

Faithfully,
Monsignor Delaney