Lent’s Big Three

March 5th, 2019 Posted in writing | No Comments »

The “big three” practices of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The three are straightforward and easily understood. Still, as Lent begins, we might benefit from trying to figure out what lies behind them and what each one points to.

Look at prayer. We can pray any number of ways, from reciting traditional prayers like the Our Father or Hail Mary, to quiet personal prayer in a church or even when enjoying a peaceful cup of tea or coffee. But all prayer comes out of some experience or belief that God wishes to speak to us and wants us to speak to him. Prayer during Lent should remind us of the truth that God not only says to us, “I love you” but also, “Let’s talk.”

Then there is fasting, when we normally feel hunger in some form. Our daily experience of Lenten hunger — for sweets, meat, cookies, cake, ice cream or alcohol — might remind us that we have other hungers, too. We might discover we are hungry for love, purposeful work, reconciliation, respect, or that we might have that “hunger and thirst for righteousness” Jesus referred to in the Sermon on the Mount.

Giving alms also seems simple enough. Almsgiving is about sharing something we have with people who need it. We can give money to individuals in need, either directly or through charitable organizations, or we can give our time and talents to help improve the lot of others. But behind the practice of almsgiving lies the truth that we are all one human family. And one of the most important lessons any family member can learn is that, in a family, we must learn to share.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are not matters of rocket science or super-human effort. But forty days of practicing them, understanding where they come from and what they point to, can make for a very rich Lent.

A Simple Valentine’s Prescription

February 13th, 2019 Posted in writing | No Comments »

“Sclerocardia” sounds like the name of a medical condition, but it actually describes not a physical condition but a spiritual one. It means that our hearts (our souls, if you will) which are meant to be loving, tender, open and welcoming are angry, judgmental and closed to others. We are, in other words, hard-hearted.

Where does such a condition come from? It may come as the result of being unloved, being subjected to unending criticism or having too many experiences of failure and rejection. All of these, over time, make a person almost incapable of living a life of faith, hope or love.

Every February many of us celebrate Valentine’s Day, when we are invited to express our love for others and receive the love of others for us. To practice this every day, or as often as we can, is the prescription for counteracting hardness of heart. If we followed that prescription there would be more peace in the world and our hearts would come to more and more resemble the heart of Christ.



Let Me Think About It

January 5th, 2019 Posted in writing | No Comments »

During the Advent and Christmas seasons we hear several times the story of Mary’s yes to God’s asking her to bring his Son into the world. She wasn’t told a lot of specific details, but trusting that the invitation was from God, her response was an immediateYes.”

It’s worth asking ourselves if we would be as quick to say yes as Mary was, because, in fact, the same invitation God offered to her comes to each of us. God asks us, “Will you be willing to bring my Son into your world — not just the big world of culture, politics or the media, but, just as importantly, into the smaller world where you work, where you live, your friendships, your family and those around you who are suffering or in need?”

We might answer, “I’m certainly flattered that you asked, Lord, but let me think about it if you don’t mind.” Then, as we mull it over, we may conclude that reluctantly we have to say no, a response motivated by believing we are too sinful, too old, too young, not smart enough or skillful enough or that our faith is too weak. At the core of our reluctance to say yes could also be a fear that comes from not knowing all the details of what saying yes might mean.

But all through our lives we need to remember that none of us can depend on ourselves alone to do what God invites us to do. God’s invitations always come with the assurance that God isn’t looking for perfectly qualified people but, rather, people who are willing to say, as Mary did in her answer, Yes, Lord. I’m at your service. Let whatever you wish be done.


A Thought for Christmas 2018

December 24th, 2018 Posted in Uncategorized, writing | No Comments »


Fling wide the door for Jesus’ coming.

Open your soul,

Stretch out the arms of your mind,

Expand your heart,

Run to meet the Eternal Light.


You deprive yourself of Christ

if you close the door of your heart.

He could force his way in if he wished,

but will come only if invited.


                                              Saint Ambrose


Why Advent

December 3rd, 2018 Posted in writing | No Comments »

Advent is the season when we prepare to celebrate the great feast of Christmas, and it does so in at least three ways.

First of all, it reminds us to slow down. Advent is not a season for frantic running around, though our consumer culture seems to say the opposite. Advent is a more contemplative season, when we can make use of things like darkness and candle light and when we can (if we live in the right place) walk in the snow and look up at the stars.

Secondly, a major purpose of Advent is to remind us of our need and desire for God. We probably like to be self-sufficient and in control of our lives and the people and things around us. But Advent invites us to realize that we will never be at peace until we can embrace the truth that, though we may have many strengths, one of the greatest strengths is knowing our need and longing for God, whose coming we celebrate at Christmas.

Lastly, Advent is a season to realize that God does hear the desires of our hearts for him and is more than ready to respond to them. St. Augustine remarked that the whole of the Christian life can be seen as one great act of desire, and Advent reminds us that our desires are holy and will be fulfilled, since they prepare us to let God come in when he knocks at the door of our lives.

So, as we begin Advent, let’s take time to slow down and to get in touch with our desire and need for God. Then Christmas can truly be an answer to our Advent prayers and longings.