Friday, December 26, 2008

Reflection on the Gospel of Christmas Day: John 1:1-18

It is not so hard to believe that God became man. That is, once understood that God took on human nature and did not change His divine nature to do so, the philosophical objections to the Incarnation subside. No, rather the most difficult thing to believe about Christmas, I think, is that "from his fullness we have even recieved grace on top of grace" (ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν, καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος)... "χάρις" the greek word for "grace"... but I think perhaps in he west we have gotten too used to the idea of being able to merit grace. Though it is true that we can cooperate with grace, I would not deny that, it is often the case that we subtly think that we can merit grace, that grace is based on what we have done or not done. At least it seems that is how we want to present ourselves to God as "wholely and immaculate" and worthy of His favor. But the word "χάρις" denotes not only a gift, not only a favor, but a free one at that. That is, it means that the gift was wholely unmerited.

It was not to the religious elite that the child at Bethlehem was revealed as being messiah and son of God, but rather to poor and lowly shepherds and to the impure goyim in the persons of the Magi. At the well of Sichar, it was not someone of virtue that Jesus revealed his deep thirst to satiate our thirst, but rather to a five time adulteress.

So the question for us this Christmas season is not whether we bought the right gift, or whether we are singing the right carols, or to whose house we should go to for Christmas dinner or for other parties during the holdays, but whether we have truly accepted in faith that God's love is un-merited, whether we have presented to Jesus the gift of our stone cold hearts sure that he will not spurn to enter in them since he did not disdain to be born in a cold stone grotto in Bethlehem or to be placed in a stone cold tomb after his passion, choosing these places to be the sites where He manifests His glory. Have we turned over to Him our pretenses, our reservations of how we want to prove ourselves worthy of His love so that we can still think that it is somehow due to our own abilities and capacities that we are called into communion with Him (that ever so subtle idolatry that really looks for nothing other than an exultation of one's self)? Have we given to God that darkest deepest corner of our hearts, the very places we have considered unclean because there our human thirst has led us to seek our fulfillment in sin? Have we said to God, "I trust that you came to redeem me... not because I am worthy, but because You are a giver of all that is good... and I trust that you do not look to only cover up my woundedness and sin but to heal it completely"? Have we accepted God's gift? Have we recognized it as that which fills the very hunger and thirst of our souls? Have we placed our trust in it so that we surrender in loving trust to the will of God to fill us? Trusting, have we turned our selves completely over to God so that He can continue to fill us and transform us? Encountering so great a love, have we let ourselves be overwhelmed by the joy of our salvation and so adopted a cheerfullness that endures despite the changes in our mood precisely because we are firmly rooted in God's gracious... and I do emphasize "gracious"... gift?

This is the mystery of Christmas... saying "yes" in such a profound and intimate faith in God that one, overwhelmed by God's love, like Mary, conceives Jesus in faith and brings Jesus to term and bears Him in the world, becoming a fountain of love and salvation for others... but only because one has said "yes" completely to Him and drunk of that fountain of salvation and, not being able to contain it, burst forth with streams of living water for others.

Merry Christmas, and may you accept the "gracious gift upon gracious gift" that is the Love of God, pour out for you in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Reflection for Vespers of Monday of the First Week of Advent

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. (Phil 3:20-21)
In this passage from his Letter to the Philippians, Saint Paul tells us that Christ will conform our lowly bodies to His glorious body at the second coming. This is a great source of hope for us because it reminds us of our bodily resurrection from the dead and that it will be Christ who will bring about the glorification of our lowly bodies in conformity with His glorified and risen humanity.

However, Christ also comes to us everyday. St. Bernard in this Wednesday’s office of readings tells us that, besides a second coming of Christ at the end of the world, there is a third coming of Christ, a kind of everyday coming, if you will, of our savior in our lives. Citing the gospel of John, Bernard reminds us of the words of Christ who said “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him.” Christ then comes to us everyday. In the light of this third coming, St.Paul’s words take on new meaning. Christ’s everyday coming is also redemptive and, if properly received, conforms us to Him. What a greater source of hope this is for us religious to know that our spiritual growth is not completely up to us. If, in hearing the call of Advent repentance, we see that our efforts alone have failed to produce fruit in our spiritual life, we can take comfort in the fact that it is the Lord who, having called us, will carrying out his plan for our perfection even today.

Elsewhere in his letter, St. Paul tells us the part we are to play in being conformed to Christ. He exhorts the Philippians to have the same humble attitude as Christ, and not to boast in the flesh, that is, in things such as heritage or the practice of religious rites. Speaking of his own journey in Christ, he tells us that all the things he used to boast about he has come to consider trash after meeting Christ. It is almost as though Paul’s encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus showed him that the unmerited gift of Christ’s love to all people is the only thing he could use to judge himself and others. As he came to understand that Christ’s love was equally given to all, the righteous and the unrighteous on the basis of faith, Paul began to understand that he could not see himself as better than others simply because he was faithful to the religious practices of the law or because he was a Jew and a part of the chosen people. In fact, because of the greatness of Christ’s love, he could not hold himself as better than others for any reason whatsoever. In this way, Paul learned to die to himself and to all that he used to hold dear so as to become a new creation in Christ. This is the way we can have an active role in being conformed to Christ. By placing our faith in God’s unfathomable love, we too begin the process of realizing that the things we used to boast about, the things we used to think give us worth over and above others, are indeed rubbish. Placing our faith in the immensity of God’s love, the competition to receive more than the others gradually ceases because there is enough of God’s love for all of us. Likewise, the competition to be considered better than the others begins to fade away, because in receiving God’s love, we recognize that it is a gift not based on our merits or on how good we are but on God’s generosity. Only in knowing Christ and his gift of love, as Saint Paul sought to, and in dying to ourselves, can we then live in unity and peace. Only in receiving Christ’s charity in an intimate relationship with Him, can we become charitable to others. By placing our faith in Christ’s great love, we are humbled by His generosity, we begin to hope for all things from Him, and we yearn to put the very same love He showed us into practice. This, in short, is how we cooperate with Christ in his work of conforming us to Him.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Our Father: Part 1

I was on retreat in La Verna in the beginning of October, and my mind was focused on the theme of love of God and neighbor and how one can only love with the love God gives us.

So with this in mind, it struck me that the Our Father is a prayer that could be seen as a string of reminders of the love God has for us and of our love of God and neighbor.

"Our Father who art in heaven": The mere fact that God reveals Himself to us as Father means that He provides for us and also means that He gives Himself to us in an intimate relationship of Love.

"Hallowed be Thy Name": In the Old Testament, the Name of God (YHWH) was held as sacred because its meaning was a reminder to the people of Israel that "I am He Who is in your midst." In other words, for the LORD (the use of all caps in the English translations of the Bible is a means to translate the use of the name of God, YHWH, while still being respectful to the sensitivities of the Jewish people to not pronounce it) to remind His people of His Name after instructing them in His commandments is to place the emphasis on God's gift of Himself to His people first and foremost and to instruct them that the law is to be lived as a response of love to God Who first loved them and reveals Himself to them.

In the book of Malachi, the LORD chastises His people for dispising His Name by not offering the best of sacrifices. In other words, some of the people thought that if they simply offered a sacrifice, this would put them in God's good graces. They would not offer the best out of love for God but simply look to instrumentalize the temple. What's more, the LORD chastises His people in the Old Testament for offering sacrifices without any concern for moral uprightness, and in this way, He says they are desecrating His Name among the nations.

So, to Hallow the Name of God is not only to keep in mind God's first love... the gift of Himself in revealing Himself as He Who is in our midst, but to then act out of this love, ie to love God and one's neighbor and not simply say one loves God.

So by saying "Hallowed be Thy Name", not only are we recalling God's gift of Himself to us, but we are asking also that He give us the grace we need to truly "Hallow" His name by living out the command to love Him and our neighbor as a response to His wonderous and gracious love.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Challenge of Perfection

Today a priest was telling me about 5 priests who have left the priesthood in the diocese in El Salvador where I am at right now. He said he thinks the problem has to do with a lack of maturity. Some have told him that they don't want to have any problems.

This reminded me of a reflection on perfection that I have been mulling over for the past few months. I once heard in my developmental psychology class that the challenge that young adults face is that of accepting their limits while at the same time not completely loosing their idealistic way of thinking from when they were teenagers and wanted to change the world in an instant.

Well, I think there are two extremes that people can go to when it comes to experiencing their limits and reacting to them. On the one hand, someone can become very perfectionistic, thinking that they must at all costs overcome their problems and limits. This response becomes burdensome on the person because they will eventually fail and have to deal with the fact that they are not perfect. Otherwise, the person will burn themselves out trying to be perfect and end up either going off the deep end or giving up completely and doing a 180. Really, this kind of person has too much faith in his or her own ability to change and not enough in God's grace and forgiveness.

The other extreme is to run from one's limits. This means avoiding all situations in which one sees one's defects or limits and acting as though they do not exist. The problem with this extreme is not only does the person never try to get better, but they set themselves up to eventually run from any challenge or difficulty that comes their way. This person places all their faith in God's forgiveness without thinking that they can or have to place any effort into changing.

Then there is the way of perseverance. This means accepting that as a human being one grows in stages and that change is a process. So one looks to slowly but surely get better and better. He or she looks at one's progress not based on the distance from the goal (which still being far off can cause one dispair) but rather bases progress on where he or she started and where he or she now is. This way takes into account the fact that something is better than nothing and realizes that the not-so-perfect motives or ways of doing things still are worth something, while he or she keeps in mind that he or she is called to do better. The person who walks this path places his or her faith in God while still disposing him or herself to receive the graces necessary to change. He or she collaborates with God. Faith in God's mercy is accompanied by faith in His grace, which will produce the desired result (for example, Saint Faustina who prayed for the virtue of Chastity. It was given to her as a gift).

Only in this third and middle way can one understand what Mother Teresa meant when she said "God desires faithfulness not victories," which means that God would rather have us get up and try again when we fall down instead of getting upset that we were not able to obtain the desired result at that very moment.

Slow and steady... brick by brick... stone by stone... and the Lord knows we grow into things.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Submission in a Whole New Way

I was reading a book by Christopher West entitled "Good News About Sex and Marriage" and came across his definition of being submissive in the [in]famous Ephesians chapter 5. It just about blew me away. West says that really one should look at the word "submissive" by breaking it down into "sub" and "mission", which would really mean that a wife should be underneath the mission of her husband, whose mission is to love her as Christ loves the church and to give his life for her and lead her to sanctity. West basically asks, after looking at it this way, what woman would not want to be underneath the mission of her husband if her husband loved her as Christ loves the church and if he is willing to give his life for her? Even in our society that isn't interested in putting God into relationships, don't we find a man willing to die for his beloved romantic and a sign of true love? (The song "Everthing I Do" by Brian Adams comes to mind.)

But since marriage as the Grundsakrament (primordial sacrament) has been on my mind recently, this explanation hit me in a different way. If all of us are called primarily to be the spiritual bride of Christ (as members of the Church), then aren't we all called to be submissive to the mission of Christ our Spouse? So, doesn't this mean that the first thing we all have to do in our relationship with Christ is let Him love us, let Him give His life for us, and let Him sanctify us?

It seems to me that the foundamental thing we have to do is simply open our hearts and receive. Then, and only then, are we called to give back to God by giving thanks and by loving others from the love we have received.

Open up the doors (Oh gates, lift high your heads! Grow higher ancient doors. Let him enter the King of Glory) ... and do not be afraid. Open wide the doors of your heart to Christ... and let Him love you!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Farewell to Antigua

It's been nine days since I left Antigua. How can I sum up seven weeks there? I'm not sure what to say. I feel as though I learned a great deal there and some of that was Spanish. I meet a lot of people and made some friends in my short time. I hope I had a positive impact on them. One friend wrote me and said that I did. It was very confirming to hear.

What she said was that she saw me as someone who gives my heart in a peaceful way. I had never thought of that before. But what I did notice was that this summer was indeed a time in which I tried to give myself more to others, to befriend people and not to be afraid to make friends.

We had pretty neat circle of friends of people from very different backgrounds and different parts of the world. It was neat how we got along. What's more, we respected each other despite our different backgrounds. It was neat though too because people knowing I am a brother asked me questions and it became a chance to present the faith to them in a way that perhaps they had not looked at it before.

What's more, I really felt as though God was showing me that His love does indeed come at times though friends and that it is not necessarily just an abstract spiritual feeling of being loved. I wonder if that is not why John Paul II used to say that he was grateful for the help of God and the help of men, to show that at times the two go together.

Really, if there is anything the big man upstairs was trying to teach me, I think it was about trusting in Him to meet my needs. Twice that seemed to be the theme of the answers I was getting to prayer, especially when looking at how to overcome some of my bad habits.\

The other thing that seemed to be the big theme in Antigua was Theology of the Body and NFP and the eucharist. Not only did two people in the span of three days talk to me about Theology of the Body, but the next day I met a woman named Mercedes Arzú de Wilson, who had written a book on NFP and wanted to give me a copy of it. It was just too much a coincidence to turn down. So I arranged to have dinner with her and her family, and strangely enough the entire event was sandwiched by eucharistic adoration. First there was eucharistic adoration finishing up at the church where I was going to mass (incidently I asked this lady to have her driver pick me up at the church after mass). Then I met the driver, went to Doña Mercedes' house, spoke with her and met her family, and had dinner. After dinner, her son Philip was nice enough to drive me back to town and drop me off in front of another church where I was supposed to meet friends. He dropped me off, but I didn't meet my friends. Seeing I was late and not knowing if my friends had gotten back from their trip in time to meet me or not, I wandered into the church which was usually not open that late (like 9:00 PM). What do you know? Eucharistic adoration! I just had to God what Theology of the Body and Eucharist had to do with each other, and I got some interesting reflections on the body of Christ and our mystical union with Christ as bride. And what do you know...! The priest during the divine praises added "Blessed be the Church, mystical body and bride of Christ." If that wasn't a confirmation, then I don't know what.

Towards the end of my stay, though, I must say it was a bit sad since most of the friends I had made had already returned to their places of origin. Sure, I left behind some Guatemalan friends too, who I hope to still hear from, but I know that if I ever return to Antigua, it won't be the same. Sure it will hold a place in my heart, but only in as much as I let the people I met there into my heart. So really it's through them that I have fond memories of Antigua. I'll miss it but my friends from the summer more so.

Farewell Antigua. It was nice to roam your streets for a while.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Reflection on Halls

Okay, for those who do not know, certain parts of Cerntral America are not warm during our "summer" but rather are actually experiencing "winter" or the rainy season. So, being damp and being chilly because of all the clouds, someone like me who has post-nasal drip problems has to often take something to clear his throat and sinuses. In the Posada I'm staying in, they sell a big huge canister of Halls menthol-lyptis drops. So of course I bought one.

The other day I was in the church of San Francisco praying at the tomb of Sant Hermano Pedro. Next to me was an indigenous woman busy praying. I tried not to disturb her, but while I was praying I kept hearing sniffles. She was crying over something yet without breaking down into tears.

Now I know that part of it may have just been that I'm a sucker for the damsal in distress, but I got this strong and sudden urge to give her one of the Halls in my pocket and explain to her (and this really just popped into my head) how life is like a Halls, a little bitter but still sweet, and that the part that is bitter can actually be for our health. At the same time as this sudden urge came upon me, I began to feel as though I was suffering with her, being sad that she was sad.

So, I kept trying to stick to my rosary, but this desire just kept growing within me to tell her this strange reflection that suddenly and inexplicably came to mind (it's not as though I sit around meditating on Halls drops). Suddenly she got up to arrange her things so as to go, and I, against my own better judgement and with a trembling voice due to my bad Spanish and the fact I was doing something that seemed nuts, begged her pardon, explained I noticed she was sad, and told her I wanted to give her a "sweet" (un dulce), explaining how the "sweet" is kind of like life, a bit bitter but still sweet, and that the bitter part can be for our health especially when we pray to God for help. The expression on her face told me that she kind of thought me a nut (I would have thought the same thing), but she took the Halls from me, went over to the tomb of Hermano Perdro, kissed it, and left.

I don't know what happened to this indigenous woman or even what she was crying over. All I know is that this experience struck me because of the way this odd reflection all of a sudden came to me to share with someone in need. The other thing that struck me was what it felt like to suffer with (have com-passion for) a complete stranger.

I pray that, whatever this woman was going through, she has found God's help in the midst of it. And if it is a bitter time for her, that she grow and come to know the sweetness of the Lord so much the more.

So life is like a Halls... bitter but still sweet, and the bitter part can be good for your spiritual health.

Peace and Good.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Another Kind of Petroleum Crisis

Well, for those who don't know, I'm in Antigua Guatemala learning Spanish (which means if you haven't heard from me it's because iternet is scarse... I'm on break at school right now). Yesterday during my lessons I had to read a news article and comment on it in Spanish. What I read shocked me. It turns out that a little known effect of the current petroleum price crisis is the increase in the cost of basic staple foods in third world countries like Guatemala. The article stated that 700 thousand Guatemalans have now been classified "Poor," meaning they can just get by, and 500 thousand have gone from being "Poor" to being "extremely poor," meaning they can not buy the food they need to maintain their health and to continue living without the help of the government or other agencies. Half a million people in Guatemala alone are now in danger of starving to death just because the price of oil and petroleum has risen! Half a million! This is surely a moral and humanitarian issue that needs to be addressed, and reading this has inspired me to write a letter to my congressman because surely the US government's policy concerning ethanol in gasoline affects the price of corn, which as you know is the main ingredient in the tortillas that many poor people in Latin-America eat in order to survive. So, a slight change in US policy could indeed easy the pain of the poor by lowering the demand and also the price of corn.

Okay, break's over. More from Antigua later.
Peace.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Fruit Cocktail Food for Thought: A Meditation on "Macedonia"

One day I was at Dono di Maria (Gift of Mary), a house for the poor run by the Missionaries of Charity in the Vatican. I was helping with the clean-up after dinner when a bunch of fruit in a bowl caught my eye.

I was used to seeing fruit or vegetables set aside on the counter, but this evening it hit me that all the fruit in the bowl was either bruised or partially rotten or missing a chunk or two. This was also not surprising as the sisters there try to use all that God has given them.

But that evening I asked the sister in charge of the kitchen what she wanted done with this fruit. She told me, "Oh, just put it aside. I was going to make macedonia (fruit cocktail), but there was not enough time."

As she said this I couldn't help imagining her carefully cutting out the rotten parts so as to save the good parts of the fruit.

And immediately my eyes began to tear up as I realized that just as the good sister didn't throw out the fruit just because it was rotten or bruised or broken, but rather knew exactly what to do to make good use of the fruit, likewise, God, in His love and goodness, does not throw us away because of our wounds or sins or brokenness. Rather, like the sister, He knows how to make good use of us as we are despite our short-comings. But even more so, He knows how to heal those very wounds and make us whole.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Trust

Walking through St. Peter's Square the other day, I noticed a father playing with his three year old daughter.

He picked her up, put her on one of the small pillars in the square and held out his arms for her to jump and for him to catch her.


The first time, the little girl looked unsure.

She hesitated, looked down at her feet and then back a her father.


Her father gestured to her as if to say "I'm going to catch you," and after a bit more hesitation, she hopped into his arms.


There, in her father's arms she smiled the biggest smile.


Seeing her throw herself into his arms made me pause to watch even more intently.


Her father then put her back on the pillar and held out his arms again, inviting her to jump once more.


Again, she looked tentatively at her feet and at her father.


She readied herself and, with a little less hesitation, hopped once again into her father's open arms.


And then he put her back on the pillar again. And she jumped again into his arms, with more confidence.


And is it not the case with us and God the Father? Each time He holds out His arms to catch us and invites us to trust that He will catch us. We hesitate. Finally we jump. We find ourselves back in another position where we have to throw ourselves into His arms, abandon ourselves to him. We hesitate less, knowing that He caught us before and seeing that He is still holding out His arms for us to jump into. And again and again until we slowly learn to place all our trust in His loving providence.

The Cause of John Paul II: For the Record...

Almost every Catholic news source in the English language has reprinted the CNS article from last year mentioning prayer cards with the piece of John Paul II's cassock. The reporter, Cindy Wooden, did a really good job and even quoted the source she spoke to, a certain Franciscan, Br. Chris Gaffrey. Ms. Wooden did not write anything indicating my function at the Office of the Postulation, yet it seems that almost the entire English speaking Catholic world has assumed that I am either the Postulator or the man in charge of the relics. Letters stream in to the Office of the Postulation addressed to me with checks made out in my name. Now while the attention is nice, I figured this would all just die down and people would stop addressing the letters to me. Well, it hasn't died down. More than a year after the CNS article, people are still addressing their letters and checks to me.

Thank you. I certainly appreciate the fact that so many people are supporting the Cause for Beatification and Canonization of John Paul II.

But I feel that, for the record, I must state the following:

1. I am not the man in charge of the "relics" (the prayers cards with the ex indumentis - piece of John Paul II's cassock).

2. I am not the Postulator. The Postulator's name is Msgr. Slawomir Oder, a very nice priest from Poland who works in the Office of the Diocese of Rome.

3. I do not have an official position at the Office of the Postulation.

4. I am only a seminarian who volunteers by helping the Office of the Postulation with translations from Italian to English.

Please do address your letters to Msgr. Slawomir Oder, the Postulator of the Cause. In sending donations, please make out the checks to "Cause for Beatification and Canonization of John Paul II." The mailing address of the Office of the Postulation is: Office of the Postulation for the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God John Paul II, Piazza S. Giovanni in Laterano, 6/A - 00184 Rome, Italy.

Thanks so much. JPII, we love you!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Random Tidbit

So I'm studying for exams now. The other day while studying for my sacraments exam, it hits me: The incarnation is the fulfillment of God's Old Testament promise to marry His people. He truly became bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh so that we could be completely united to Him. Jesus the Son, left His father and clung to his wife, His spouse the church, so that the two may become one flesh. As Paul says in Ephesians 5:32, this truly is a great mystery!

Lent


So Lent is here... the time we have to decide to give something up... the time we are called to pick up our cross and face suffering and do penance. What a drag, huh? Or is it?

None of us like the idea of suffering, or the cross, or the idea of disciplining ourselves through penance. We would all rather not have to be patient or put up with trials and suffer. We would all rather indulge ourselves and be comfortable.

And yet when it comes to the prospect of something worth-while, we deprive ourselves in many ways. For example, at the prospect of getting tickets to a show, some of us will camp out and spend the night in front of the place where the tickets will go on sale. We want to be first in line too, in order to get the best seats. When a husband and father is driving home from a long business trip, he will continue on the road despite his tiredness in view of the joy of seeing his family again.

The point is, we willingly face suffering when we keep in mind the good that is our goal. When it comes to Lent, the goal we keep in mind is the celebration of Easter. We focus on the cross, the mystery of good Friday, in order to prepare ourselves for the myster of Easter Sunday. We do penance so that we our spiritually renewed. And by doing penance, we spiritually pick up our cross, that is, we willingly join the Lord in the mystery of His cross remembering that in His cross, in the mystery of His death, is our salvation specifically because the cross led to the forgiveness of our sins and the new life given to us in and through Jesus' rising from the dead. "By death trampling down death and giving life to those in the tombs," sings the Eastern Church of Christ during the Pascha or Easter season. "Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life," we in the Western Church remember at times during mass when we "proclaim the mystery of faith." So the cross of Jesus, our cross too when we unite it to that of Jesus becomes a place of victory and of joyful hope for the resurrection.

In this light, the light of salvation in he cross of Christ, the penance of Lent takes on a joyful motivation. It is a time of being more unified in the cross of Christ so that we can share more fully in the celebration of the His Resurrection.

And yet this very attitude of Lent as being a time of penance is not supposed to end with Easter. We may be used to giving something up as a penance for Lent in order to "do our duty" of abstaining from something, and though this has its value, it is recommended that pick a penance for Lent that we then carry into the rest of the year, that the thing we strive to give up or the effort of penance we take on be a permanent thing. So, though giving up chocolate for Lent is a good beginning of doing penance, we are called to try penances that will carry over into our normally daily Christian lives. For example, I can be patient with an acquaintance or co-worker who normally annoys me and who I normally avoid. I can decide to dedicate some spare time to the local homeless shelter and continue my visits even after Easter.

The reason why we try to do a penance during Lent that will carry over into our daily lives is because Lent, our time of picking up the cross in preparation for the celebration of Easter is really an analogy for our current state as pilgrims and strangers. Our Christian lives are called to be one continual preparation for the ultimate celebration of Easter... our own resurrection from the dead on the last day.

So, we pick up the cross with this ultimate goal in mind... salvation, sanctification, our communion with God in and through Christ Jesus our savior, who already bore the cross for us and can help us in our attempts to bare our struggles in union with Him and with the help of the Holy Spirit. Seen in this positive light our aversion to the difficulty fades, and we become more willing to endure it.

So for those of us who have forgetten that our Christian journey is one of picking up the cross in light of being unified to the death of Christ (and ultimately also to His resurrection!) or for those who have never thought of it this way, may this Lent be a time of beginning again, a time of picking up the cross with the intention of embracing it, both in preparation for March 23rd, Easter Sunday and in preparation for that Happy Day when, God willing and we remain faithful, we rise from he dead unto the resurrection of life... the complete sharing in the resurrection and divine life of our Lord and Savoir Jesus Christ.

Ave Crux Spes Unica!

Happy Lent!

Shrove Tuesday

When I was a kid, my Mom always called the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday "Shrove Tuesday." But I didn't really understand the name. I used ask myself rhetorically, "What's a 'shrove'?" It's quite possible that my mom once explained it to me. If so, it must not have made sense to me because it just didn't stick. The name "Fat Tuesday" made sense because one eats so much that one kind of gets fat. Later, when I started studying Italian, I came to understand that the French "Mardi gras" is simply the same as the English "Fat Tuesday." But I never really gave the meaning of "Shrove Tuesday" much thought.

All of a sudden at lunch today, one of the priests in my community started talking about the word "shrove" in relationship to "Shrove Tuesday." He explained to me today that "shrove" is the past of the English verb "to shrive," which means to strip in the sense of being stripped of one's sins. He also explained to me that it was customary to go to confession on the Monday or Tuesday before Lent, which of course are called Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday. Looking it up on-line, I even came to find out that the period of time before Ash Wednesday is called "shrovetide."

So, now a light bulb has gone on, and I finally know about this Anglo-Catholic tradition. I think it's a beautiful way to prepare for Lent, and I think I'll try to follow it now in the future.

Besides that, now I can finally say I know what a "shrove" is!