Lent 2018 | Raise Up. Sacrifice. Offer.
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Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - Ash Wednesday

Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.

Take inspiration for your Lenten journey from prayer and the reading of Scripture, from fasting and from giving alms. The fasting that we all do together on Fridays is but a sign of the daily Lenten discipline of individuals and households: fasting for certain periods of time, fasting from certain foods, but also fasting from other things and activities. Likewise, the giving of alms is an effort to share this world equally not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents. The key to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We are called not just to abstain from sin during Lent, but to true conversion of our hearts and minds as followers of Christ. We recall those waters in which we were baptized into Christ's death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ. Start Lent off by watching this video, and get into the penitential spirit of the Lenten season.

REFLECT

"By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Gn 3:19)

PRAY

"Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever."

ACT

Have you picked up your Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl for Lent this year? Make a commitment to dropping in spare change every day. Another way to give alms today is by giving to the National Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. 




Thursday after Ash Wednesday - February 15, 2018

READ

How yesterday (February 14) came to be celebrated as a feast for lovers and connected to two different possible St. Valentines is a bit of a mystery.

REFLECT

Reflect today on Jesus's commandment to his disciples in today's Gospel: "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?" (Lk 9:23-25, Lectionary).

PRAY

Pray today that you may live the Gospel and be a faithful disciple of Jesus.

Loving Father,
Open our hearts to hidden realities:
   your love for all people,
   your presence in the community,
   your call to justice and peace.
May the sacraments stir in us
that same love for those with whom we worship
and all members of our human family.
Christ Jesus,
Help us to imitate your example:
    healing the sick,
    welcoming the stranger,
    assisting the poor and vulnerable.
May the sacraments remind us
of your love and self-giving,
which we strive to imitate.
Holy Spirit, 
Make visible to our eyes what is invisible:
    your call to your people,
    your summons to live our faith daily
    as witnesses of justice and peace.
May the sacraments move us
to engage in love-inspired action
that transforms us and the world.
Amen

ACT

Part of being a disciple of Jesus is taking up the call to live as a missionary disciple, spreading the Word of God in our communities.



Friday after Ash Wednesday - February 16, 2018

READ

Today we are reminded of the practice of fasting on Fridays during Lent. Read this reflection on why we fast on Fridays in the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday.

REFLECT

Pope Francis said of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, "All three exclude the need for appearances: what counts is not appearances; the value of life does not depend on the approval of others or on success, but on what we have inside us."
—Ash Wednesday Homily, 2014

PRAY

"Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation:
you make us hunger and thirst for holiness.
Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation:
you call us to true fasting:
to set free the oppressed,
to share our bread with the hungry,
to shelter the homeless and to clothe the naked."
—Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, 96

ACT

Many often choose something to give up during all of Lent—not just on Fridays—as a way of fasting. Practice self-discipline and choose something to refrain from until Easter. Challenge yourself!



Saturday after Ash Wednesday - February 17, 2018

READ

Take a couple minutes to read about the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order, whom we celebrate today.

REFLECT

"God calls. We respond. . . . The Risen Lord calls everyone to labor in his vineyard, that is, in a world that must be transformed in view of the final coming of the Reign of God; and the Holy Spirit empowers all with the various gifts and ministries for the building up of the Body of Christ."

—Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, USCCB, 2005

PRAY

The following prayer is one of the many USCCB prayers for vocations. Pray today for lay ministers in your community.

Loving and Generous God,
it is You who call us by name
and ask us to follow You.
Help us to grow in the Love
and service of our Church
as we experience it today.

Give us the energy and courage
of Your Spirit
to shape its future

Grant us faith-filled leaders
who will embrace Christ's mission
of love and justice.

Bless the Church of [N.]

by raising up dedicated and generous leaders
from our families and friends
who will serve Your people as Sisters,
Priests, Brothers, Deacons and Lay Ministers.

Inspire us to know You better
and open our hearts
to hear Your call.

We ask this through our Lord.

ACT

One of the seven founders of the Servite Order we read about today chose not to be ordained and served as a lay minister. Do you serve your church community? Brainstorm a list of ways you can be more involved.

 


First Sunday of Lent - February 18, 2018

READ

In today's first reading, we hear about God's covenant with Noah, and in the Gospel, we hear about Jesus's journey into the desert.  Both the universal flood in the story of Noah and Jesus's journey into the desert lasted 40 days. These are just two examples of the biblical roots that explain why Lent lasts for 40 days. Other references to 40 days in Scripture include:

  • the number of days spent by Israel in the desert
  • the number of days spent by Moses on Mount Sinai
  • the number of days spent by the prophet Elijah in the desert before going to encounter God on Mount Herob
  • the number of days of penance of the inhabitants of Nineveh


REFLECT


Reflect on today's Gospel with the ancient art of lectio divina.. . .

PRAY

Lord of Lent, Lord of Easter,
As you went into the desert
So do I follow
Putting aside that which distracts me
Grabs at me
Falsely claims me.

To search inside
To confront myself
My best, my worst
My good works and my sins.

And each time, I find you there
To call to me again
With words of challenge and words of mercy.
And as I fall to my knees, in prayer, in fasting
In sacrifice and penitence
Somehow, you have it in yourself to reach out and gently lift me
To renew me
To claim me as nothing of this world can claim me.

Meet me in the desert, Lord. Claim me anew.

Amen.

—Lenten Rice Bowl Prayer from Catholic Relief Services. . .

ACT

Since 1884, proceeds from the Black and Indian Missions Collection are distributed as grants to dioceses supporting and strengthening evangelization programs, which would otherwise be in danger of disappearing among the Black, American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut communities of the United States.


Monday of the First Week of Lent - February 19, 2018

READ

The season of Lent has only just begun. While it may feel overwhelming to try to check off everything on your spiritual bucket list, the US bishops have a list of 10 things to remember this Lent. Item number 6: "Don't do too much." 

REFLECT

Giving of ourselves in the midst of our suffering and self-denial brings us closer to loving like Christ, who suffered and poured himself out unconditionally on cross for all of us. Lent is a journey through the desert to the foot of the cross on Good Friday, as we seek him out, ask his help, join in his suffering, and learn to love like him.

PRAY

Today is Presidents' Day in the United States. Let's take time to pray for our civic leaders.

Prayer for Civic Leaders

God our Father, 
You guide everything in wisdom and love.
Accept the prayers we offer for our nation.
In your goodness,
watch over those in authority
so that people everywhere
may enjoy freedom, security and peace.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.
—Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, 371

ACT

How will you respond to the list of "10 Things to Remember for Lent"? Which one is the most important for you to remember?


Tuesday of the First Week of Lent - February 20, 2018

READ

Today we read about Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta Marto, two of the three Fatima visionaries.

REFLECT

"No other creature ever basked in the light of God's face as did Mary; she in turn gave a human face to the Son of the eternal Father. Now we can contemplate her in the succession of joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious moments of her life, which we revisit in our recitation of the rosary. With Christ and Mary, we abide in God."

—Pope Francis, Blessing of the Candles, Chapel of Apparitions, Fatima, May 12, 2017

PRAY

Reflect on the Five Sorrowful Mysteries as you pray the Rosary today.

ACT

As part of your prayer of the Rosary today, say this prayer in between each decade. It was requested by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima. "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy." 



Wednesday of the First Week in Lent

READ

Today we read about St. Peter Damien, whose feast day is today.

REFLECT

"In an age marked by forms of particularism and uncertainties because it was bereft of a unifying principle, Peter Damien, aware of his own limitations—he liked to define himself as peccator monachus—passed on to his contemporaries the knowledge that only through a constant harmonious tension between the two fundamental poles of life—solitude and communion—can an effective Christian witness develop. Does not this teaching also apply to our times?"—Pope Benedict XVI, Letter, February 2007

PRAY

In honor of St. Peter Damien, a Doctor of the Church, say a prayer for the New Evangelization.

ACT

St. Peter Damien once wrote to a bishop, "let your lips continually ruminate something from the scriptures." Think about how you spread the truth of the Gospel through your words and deeds.  In what way do you think the Lord would ask you to live differently?



Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle

READ

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. 

REFLECT

Jesus told Peter, "I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers." (Lk 22:32)

PRAY

In honor of St. Peter, our first pope, say a prayer for priests today.

ACT

"So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you." (1 Pt 5:6-7)

 


Friday of the First Week of Lent

READ

Today we remember St. Polycarp, a bishop and martyr.

REFLECT

"And today, in many parts of the world, there are many, many—more than in the first centuries—so many martyrs, who give up their lives for Christ, who are brought to death because they do not deny Jesus Christ. This is our Church. Today we have more martyrs than in the first centuries! However, there is also daily martyrdom, which may not entail death but is still a 'loss of life' for Christ, by doing one's duty with love, according to the logic of Jesus, the logic of gift, of sacrifice. Let us think: how many dads and moms every day put their faith into practice by offering up their own lives in a concrete way for the good of the family! Think about this! How many priests, brothers and sisters carry out their service generously for the Kingdom of God! How many young people renounce their own interests in order to dedicate themselves to children, the disabled, the elderly . . . They are martyrs too! Daily martyrs, martyrs of everyday life!"

—Pope Francis, Angelus, June 23, 2013

PRAY

In honor of St. Polycarp, a bishop and martyr, we pray for all those persecuted because of their faith today:

O God of all the nations, the One God who is and was and always will be, in your providence you willed that your Church be united to the suffering of your Son. Look with mercy on your servants who are persecuted for their faith in you. Grant them perseverance and courage to be worthy imitators of Christ. Bring your wisdom upon leaders of nations to work for peace among all peoples. May your Spirit open conversion for those who contradict your will, that we may live in harmony. Give us the grace to be united in truth and freedom, and to always seek your will in our lives. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us.

—Prayer composed by Archbishop William E. Lori, Baltimore

ACT

In the reflection today, Pope Francis talks about what it means to be a daily martyr. Make a list of the ways you serve your family, spouse, children, parents, coworkers, neighbors, etc., and see if you might be able to add more things to that list in the coming days. Are there new, small ways of loving them that you could offer?




Saturday of the First Week of Lent

READ

The foundational call of Christians to charity is a frequent theme of the Gospels.  During Lent, we are asked to focus more intently on "almsgiving," which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity.  As one of the three pillars of Lenten practice, almsgiving is "a witness to fraternal charity" and "a work of justice pleasing to God" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2462).

REFLECT

"The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbors, the more effectively we love them. Every Christian is called to practice this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation."  (Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, no. 7)

PRAY

Prayer for Charity in Truth

Father, your truth is made known in your Word. Guide us to seek the truth of the human person. Teach us the way to love because you are Love. Jesus, you embody Love and Truth. Help us to recognize your face in the poor. Enable us to live out our vocation to bring love and justice to your people. Holy Spirit, you inspire us to transform our world. Empower us to seek the common good for all persons. Give us a spirit of solidarity and make us one human family. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Prayer based on Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, USCCB, 2009)

ACT

Are you putting change into a Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl. . . this Lent? Consider making small sacrifices each day so you might donate more to the poor this Lenten season.


Second Sunday of Lent

READ

Read today's readings before going to Mass today. Do you get daily readings sent to your inbox?

REFLECT

Reflect on today's Gospel with the ancient art of lectio divina.

PRAY

Reflecting on Abraham's willingness to do what God commanded in the first reading, pray this prayer about seeking God's will in your own life. 

PSALM 27:7-9, 13-14

Hear, O Lord, the sound of my call;
have pity on me, and answer me.
Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks;
your presence, O Lord, I seek.
Hide not your face from me; 
do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off;
forsake me not, O God my savior.

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.

~from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers



ACT

Today is the second Sunday of Lent. Do a check-in with yourself on the Lenten promises you made a couple of weeks ago. How are you doing? Say a prayer offering your sacrifices to the Lord.




Monday of the Second Week of Lent


READ

Last week, we heard in Mass about the beginning of Jesus's public life in ministry–his journey into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights to fast and be tempted by the Devil. Since the beginning of Lent, we have been reminded of three spiritual pillars of the season: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Through fasting, we recognize our sinful ways; through prayer, we know God better; and through almsgiving, we respond to our brothers and sisters.

REFLECT

Why are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving important in our busy, secular lives?

PRAY

Lent is essentially an act of prayer spread out over 40 days. As we pray, we go on a journey, one that hopefully brings us closer to Christ and leaves us changed by the encounter with him. Spend a few extra minutes in prayer today.

ACT

If you haven't already done so, make a list of ways in which you plan to pray more, fast, and give alms this Lenten season. There are still a number of weeks until Easter—how can you deepen your Lenten commitment?

Consider reading one of the Psalms on Saturdays, challenge yourself to fast from speaking any negative or critical word on Fridays, or do an act of generosity on Mondays.


 

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

READ

The Servant Songs, Day One:

Within the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we encounter four poetic sections known as the Songs of the Suffering Servant. The specific identity of this Servant of the Lord remains the topic of scholarly debate. Perhaps it refers to the prophet Isaiah himself, perhaps the entire nation of Israel, or possibly the promised Messiah. Christian faith sees these prophetic utterances fulfilled in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Lord.

Because of the Christian identification of the Suffering Servant with Jesus, the four Servant Songs become a way of encountering the Lord during this Lenten Season. Not only do they give us a sense of the commitment and endurance that characterized his messianic ministry, but they become a way of touching the bruised face of the Messiah, of hearing the resolute determination that sustained him in the midst of trial, and of rejoicing with him in God's ultimate vindication of his calling and service.

The first song introduces God's Servant who will establish justice upon the earth.

REFLECT

Today we reflect on the first of the four Servant Songs.

Song 1 — The Servant of the Lord

It is the voice of God we hear proudly introducing “my servant… with whom I am well pleased.”  The painful destiny of this Servant isn’t mentioned in this brief song. Instead, like a soldier outfitted for battle or an explorer prepared for mission, the Servant is extolled for who he is and for the courage, patience, gentleness, and fidelity that will distinguish his service. Often, brave individuals volunteer for difficult missions, but God’s Servant was chosen. The hand of God is upon him and God’s own Spirit hovers over him. This Servant will not be an individualistic maverick getting the job done “his way.” He will be a gentle agent of God’s will, not shouting in the streets as was typical of prophets, but moving quietly and humbly among the people, distinguishing the weak from the strong, never breaking even a “bruised reed” because God’s Spirit sent him to heal and strengthen the weak, to mend and restore the hearts of all who are losing hope or have been cast aside by the rich and the mighty.

The text offers even an image of those who are too weak to raise their heads and burn with the light of faith. Because they cling too close to the wax, dimly burning wicks offer little light and the slightest breeze will extinguish them. Yet even these the Servant will not quench. He comes not to condemn the weak of heart and slow of faith but to invite them into the kingdom of God’s justice. Through the Servant’s ministry, the “bruised reed” will be strengthened and the “dimly burning wick” will be enflamed. The Servant himself will never wane or weaken; he will faithfully accomplish the will of the Lord and establish justice in the land.

Lent comes around each year to invite those of us who have grown weak or dim to hear afresh God’s promise and receive anew the Servant’s healing touch. The ends of the earth await his teaching and they will not be disappointed. And neither will the recesses of our hearts that await the warmth of his healing and reconciling love.

PRAY

Take time with the first Servant Song. Read Isaiah 42:1-4.

ACT

In this passage, the prophet Isaiah presages a servant who pleases God. This servant shows meekness and is one who will never extinguish even the smallest, faintest light of faith. Likewise, the faith of this servant will never grow dim; distant nations will await his teaching and look for the justice that he brings.

Listen again to the Scriptures through a recording of the first Servant Song to reinforce the passages.


Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent

READ

The Servant Songs, Day Two:

(Within the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we encounter four poetic sections known as the Songs of the Suffering Servant. The specific identity of this Servant of the Lord remains the topic of scholarly debate. Perhaps it refers to the prophet Isaiah himself, perhaps the entire nation of Israel, or possibly the promised Messiah. Christian faith sees these prophetic utterances fulfilled in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Lord.

Because of the Christian identification of the Suffering Servant with Jesus, the four Servant Songs become a way of encountering the Lord during this Lenten Season. Not only do they give us a sense of the commitment and endurance that characterized his messianic ministry, but they become a way of touching the bruised face of the Messiah, of hearing the resolute determination that sustained him in the midst of trial, and of rejoicing with him in God's ultimate vindication of his calling and service.)

The second song, spoken in the Servant's own voice, tells of being selected from the womb to become God's mouthpiece and help renew the nation.

REFLECT

Today we reflect on the second of the four Servant Songs.

Song 2 — The Servant of the Lord

The best armor one can give anyone sent on a mission is a clear sense of identity. The road is always difficult and times of discouragement and self-doubt lurk around every corner. What sustains under such circumstances is a clear knowledge of who sent us and what we were sent to do. Lacking that, one easily slips into confusion, maybe even into listlessness and fear.Wemight not be sure of the Servant’s identity, but the Servant himself is quite clear about who he is: He is God’s chosen instrument, called from the womb to serve in good times and in bad. And the times have not been all good. The Servant is now God’s prophet with a tongue as sharp as well-honed steel. God has been his helper and protector during his service, but there is little to show for all his toil. However, the Servant is not demoralized by his outward failure. He still knows whose he is and in whose name he serves.

In truth, not much else matters. When we experience worldly failure, we can wallow in depression and allow the world’s judgment to define us, or we can remember whose opinion really counts. The Servant knows: “I am honored in the sight of the Lord, / and my God is now my strength.” It is so easy to lose heart when it’s the world’s opinion that we value, so easy to surrender when others mock or shun us. If only the Servant’s vision could be ours: God called me from the womb, he says, and my recompense is from him!

With the balance such vision provides, the Servant is able to hear a further, greater call from God that will send him down a road as difficult as the one he trod before. It is notenough for you to bring my word to Jacob and Israel, God tells him, “I will make you a light to the nations.” That the entire world would know the salvation of God was a startling truth that Israel was unprepared to hear. But despite scorn and abuse, the Servant will bring God’s message to kings of all the nations and they will hear and heed his word. Through the centuries, that word has reached our day and touched our hearts. And through us it will continue to spread “to the ends of the earth."

PRAY

Take time with the second Servant Song today. Read Isaiah 49:1-7.

ACT

The prophet proclaims the call and destiny of the servant of the Lord, who is called and chosen to reveal the light of God to the world.

Listen again to the Scripture through a recording of the second Servant Song.



 

Thursday of the Second Week of Lent

READ

The Servant Songs, Day Three:

(Within the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we encounter four poetic sections known as the Songs of the Suffering Servant. The specific identity of this Servant of the Lord remains the topic of scholarly debate. Perhaps it refers to the prophet Isaiah himself, perhaps the entire nation of Israel, or possibly the promised Messiah. Christian faith sees these prophetic utterances fulfilled in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Lord.

Because of the Christian identification of the Suffering Servant with Jesus, the four Servant Songs become a way of encountering the Lord during this Lenten Season. Not only do they give us a sense of the commitment and endurance that characterized his messianic ministry, but they become a way of touching the bruised face of the Messiah, of hearing the resolute determination that sustained him in the midst of trial, and of rejoicing with him in God's ultimate vindication of his calling and service.)

In the third song, we learn of the abuse and derision the Servant endured at the hands of his enemies.

REFLECT

Today we reflect on the third of the four Servant Songs.

Song 3 — Salvation Through the Lord’s Servant

Paul echoed the words of God’s Suffering Servant when he boldly asked, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) The Servant’s declaration, spoken in the first person singular, is just as bold and even more personal tha Paul’s. Why is the Servant so bold? Because he’s been through it all:scourging, insults, and spitting, even the grave indignity of having his beard torn out by his enemies. But rather than lose faith, he finds a school for discipleship in these painful circumstances. The Lord has used this suffering to train the Servant’s tongue so he can address the weary and downtrodden with rousing words of hope and vindication.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that “Whom the Lord loves he chastises” (12:6). Centuries before, Isaiah extolled the Lord’s Servant for enduring hardship without complaining. By embracing sorrow without losing heart and by accepting discipline as instruction, the Servant gains a share of the holiness of God.

As a result, the student becomes a teacher. Having learned at the feet of the loving and merciful Lord, the Servant now instructs the nations in the ways of obedience and discipleship. But most of all, he models fidelity and long suffering. Remarkably, the Servant’s sufferings have not led him to turn away from God; he neither feels abandoned nor betrayed. Confidently, he stands before those who mock him, knowing their power will wear away like an overworn garment, while God’s help lasts forever. The proof of discipleship, he says, is walking in darkness without any light, save that of faith in the Lord! Woe to those who walk by their own light, trusting neither the Lord nor his Servant. They do so at great peril, he says, risking utter destruction.

Today, the virtue of obedience that God’s Servant models so strikingly is sadly countercultural. The rebel, the maverick entrepreneur, the iconoclast who makes his or her own way, these are the role models of modern culture. But if we look at Jesus, whom the Servant so obviously prefigures, we see obedience and hear that word quite often on his lips. “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” (John 14:15). Obedience, it turns out, is not robotic compliance, but the surest way to demonstrate our love.

PRAY


Take time with the third servant song today. Read Isaiah 50:4-11.

ACT

Here, the servant knows and declares that his help is with the Lord. He does not allow suffering to bring shame, disgrace, false guilt, or condemnation. Instead, with strength of spirit, the servant declares trust and faith in God. "The Lord GOD is my help . . . I shall not be put to shame." Amidst darkness and adversity, because he fears the LORD, the servant walks not by his own light but by the light of God.

Listen again to the Scriptures through a recording of the third Servant Song.

 


Friday of the Second Week of Lent

READ

The Servant Songs, Day Four:

(Within the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we encounter four poetic sections known as the Songs of the Suffering Servant. The specific identity of this Servant of the Lord remains the topic of scholarly debate. Perhaps it refers to the prophet Isaiah himself, perhaps the entire nation of Israel, or possibly the promised Messiah. Christian faith sees these prophetic utterances fulfilled in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Lord.

Because of the Christian identification of the Suffering Servant with Jesus, the four Servant Songs become a way of encountering the Lord during this Lenten Season. Not only do they give us a sense of the commitment and endurance that characterized his messianic ministry, but they become a way of touching the bruised face of the Messiah, of hearing the resolute determination that sustained him in the midst of trial, and of rejoicing with him in God's ultimate vindication of his calling and service.)

The fourth song proclaims the salvific value of the Servant's innocent suffering that will justify many and blot out their offenses. 

REFLECT

Song 4 — Suffering and Triumph of the Servant of the Lord

This fourth Song of the Suffering Servant is likely one of the best known texts of the entire Old Testament. It is a plaintive dirge that declares God’s innocent Servant was punished for ours ins and crushed for our iniquities. Like a “lamb led to the slaughter,” he went silently to his death, a death that bore away our offenses and made us whole. Though the “suffering” of the Suffering Servant is more evident in this text than in the other “songs,” this passage begins with a trumpet blast declaration of the Servant’s future glory. His exaltation, however, won’t spring from victory but from a well of deep sorrow. Though cast in the past tense, the Servant’s suffering is palpable.

Perhaps what’s most remarkable about the Servant is how unremarkable he is: “no majestic bearing” to attract, “no beauty” to please the eye. He was shunned and avoided the way one might recoil from a leper. And yet, says the prophet, it was for us that he suffered, for us that he endured shame. Foolishly, we assumed he was reaping the fruit of his own failures, but now we see the truth: it was ours ins brought him low. In street parlance we might say, “We did the crime, but he did the time.” If at least he would complain, express anger, go resentfully to his death. Maybe that would assuage our guilt. But he accepts his fate in silent dignity. No finger pointing; no “woe is me.” Mercifully, he bore the wounds butwewere healed. He did no wrong, Isaiah tells us, yet somehow it suits the will of God to make him a “reparation offering” and let him be cast aside “among the wicked.”

Such willing self-sacrifice is as surprising as the spin Isaiah gives it. Any religious person of his day would have viewed the Servant’s suffering as rightful punishment for sin. But the prophet sees through a different lens. With beautiful imagery, Isaiah announces ultimate vindication for the Servant whose vicarious suffering will “justify the many.” God greatly rewards the selfless Servant and turns his suffering into the ointment that heals the world. 

This vision must have shocked Isaiah’s audience. A Messiah who would suffer and die instead of riding in with brandished sword to drive out their foreign dominators was plain preposterous. So was the notion that he would “justify the many.” The Messiah’s light was to shine on Israel, not upon the nations. It would be difficult, indeed, to long for such a universal Messiah.

Yet who could fail to recognize the suffering Christ within the contours of the Servant’s face? No one paints a better portrait than Isaiah of the Christ who suffered silently for our sins. But let’s not forget how this song begins: “My servant shall be raised high and greatly exalted.” Because he “surrendered himself to death,” the suffering, mocked Messiah is now the Lord who reigns and reconciles. 

PRAY

Take time with the fourth Servant Song today. Read from Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12.

ACT

Here the prophet proclaims the "prosperity" of God's servant, but it is not a worldly prosperity accomplished through human wisdom. "Who would believe what we have heard?" God's silent and afflicted servant prospers through a life given to God in reparation for sinners. Through suffering, the servant acquires great wealth and "offspring" before God: many are justified before God, iniquity is removed, wounds are healed, and sinners receive an intercessor. The servant prospers in what is true wealth to God.

Listen again to the Scriptures through a recording of the fourth Servant Song.


Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

Saint Katharine Drexel Montage

READ

Today we read about St. Katharine Drexel who was dedicated to providing for the needs of African Americans in her community. She also founded Xavier University in New Orleans.

REFLECT

St. Katharine Drexel, an heiress of millions, asked the pope for more missionaries, and he told her to become one! So, she left her life of privilege and founded a religious order dedicated to the poor: the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Have you considered becoming a missionary to build up the Kingdom of God?

PRAY

Today we say thisprayer to be disciples and missionaries in everyday life.

ACT

Join Pope Francis in supporting the work of missionaries all over the world. Consider making a donation today. . . !


Third Sunday of Lent

READ

At the opening of today's Gospel, we hear, "Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem." Take time to read today about the Jewish tradition of Passover and how it relates to the Eucharist.

REFLECT

Reflect on the readings today with the ancient art of lectio divina. . . .

PRAY

Act of Contrition

O my God, I am heartily sorry
for having offended Thee, and I
detest all my sins because of thy
just punishments, but most of all
because they offend Thee, my God,
who art all good and deserving of
all my love. I firmly resolve with the
help of Thy grace to sin no more
and to avoid the near occasion of
sin.

Amen.

—Traditional version (USCCA, 536)

ACT

In the first reading today, we hear the Ten Commandments. Read this short reflection on the commandments today.

I am the Lord your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.

Have I treated people, events, or things as more important than God?

 

You shall not steal.

Have I taken or wasted time or resources that belonged to another?

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Have my words, actively or passively, put down God, the Church, or people?

 

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Have I gossiped, told lies, or embellished stories at the expense of another?

Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

Do I go to Mass every Sunday (or Saturday Vigil) and on Holy Days of Obligation (Jan. 1; the Ascension; Aug. 15; Nov. 1; Dec. 8; Dec. 25)? Do I avoid, when possible, work that impedes worship to God, joy for the Lord’s Day, and proper relaxation of mind and body? Do I look for ways to spend time with family or in service on Sunday?

 

You shall not covet your neighbor’s spouse.

Have I honored my spouse with my full affection and exclusive love?

Honor your father and your mother.

Do I show my parents due respect?

Do I seek to maintain good communication with my parents where possible?

Do I criticize them for lacking skills I think they should have?

 

You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.

Am I content with my own means and needs, or do I compare myself to others unnecessarily?

You shall not kill.

Have I harmed another through physical, verbal, or emotional means, including gossip or manipulation of any kind?

 

Christ’s Two Commandments How well do we love God and others? Do we love as Christ calls us to?

In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ gives us Two Commandments: “He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments’” (Mt 22:37-40).

You shall not commit adultery.

Have I respected the physical and sexual dignity of others and of myself?

  Not sure what love is? St. Paul describes it for us in his Letter to the Corinthians. Is this how you love God and others? “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quicktempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Cor 13:4-8)

Monday of the Third Week in Lent

READ

During Lent, it is important for us to remember the 
corporal works of mercy, which are found in the teachings of Jesus and give us a model for how we should treat all others: as if they were Christ in disguise.

REFLECT

What small changes would allow you to perform corporal works of mercy: Can you allocate your time differently so you have a couple extra hours to volunteer? Do you discard food that could instead be donated to a local soup kitchen? When was the last time you participated in a blood drive?

PRAY

With mercy on your mind, revisit Pope Francis's Year of Mercy Prayer.

Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the
heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew
from being enslaved by money;
the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness
only in created things;
made Peter weep after his betrayal,
and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us,
the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman:
"If you knew the gift of God!"

You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power above all by
forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world, its
Lord risen and glorified.
You willed that your ministers would also be
clothed in weakness
in order that they may feel compassion for those
in ignorance and error:
let everyone who approaches them feel sought
after, loved, and forgiven by God.
Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us
with its anointing,
so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace
from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may
bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind.
We ask this of you, Lord Jesus, through the intercession
of Mary, Mother of Mercy; you who live and reign with the Father
and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.

Amen.


ACT

Pick one of the seven corporal works of mercy and do it this week! 



Tuesday of the Third Week in Lent 

READ

Yesterday, we read about the corporal works of mercy, and today we will focus on the spiritual works of mercy, which have long been a part of the Christian tradition, appearing in the works of theologians and spiritual writers throughout history.

REFLECT

Forgiving others is difficult at times because we do not have God's limitless mercy and compassion.  But Jesus teaches us that we should forgive as God forgives, relying on him to help us show others the mercy of God. Are there grudges you are holding on to that you should let go of?

PRAY

Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy today.

Optional Opening Prayers:

You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls,
and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world.
O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy,
envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.

(Repeat 3 times) O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!

Our Father, Hail Mary and the Apostle's Creed

For each of the five decades (On each “Our Father” bead of the rosary, pray)

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

(On each of the 10 “Hail Mary” beads, pray)
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Concluding prayer (Repeat 3 times)
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Optional Closing Prayer
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.

ACT

In practicing one of the spiritual works of mercy, forgiving others, make an effort to go to Confession before Easter.


Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent

READ

Today we remember the two early Christian martyrs, Perpetua and Felicity.

Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs Third Century Feast Day—March 7

One of the proofs of a really close friendship is when you can’t say one person’s name without thinking of the other. This shows up in history, with names like Lewis and Clark. It’s in story books, with names like Hansel and Gretel, or Jack and Jill. When it comes to saints, there are many examples, but one of the most prominent duos is Perpetua and Felicity. Perpetua was a young Christian noblewoman and Felicity was a young Christian slave. The two were arrested for their belief in Christ, during the persecution of Emperor Septimius Severus: at this time, Perpetua was a new mother, and Felicity was eight months pregnant. Together, the two women helped each other through the heat, darkness, and brutality of the guards in the prison. Two days before their scheduled death, Felicity gave birth to her daughter in the prison, and the child was adopted by a Christian woman. Perpetua and Felicity were sent out to face the arena together, and after being exposed to the beasts, were killed by having their throats cut. These last days of the women were recorded by Perpetua, whose diary became one of the most famous accounts in the early Church of the suffering of the martyrs.

REFLECT

Pope Francis said in a morning meditation that Perpetua and Felicity "went to their martyrdom as though they were going to their wedding" (May 22, 2014). He said that Christian joy can be found even in suffering and persecution.  

PRAY

Pray for persecuted Christians today with these sample intercessions.

Petitions for Persecuted Christians

For those suffering because of their Christian faith, that the Holy Spirit may fortify them with the courage to remain strong in faith, as well as with the charity to forgive their persecutors, we pray to the Lord.

For your faithful who suffer for your name’s sake, that you would grant them a spirit of patience and charity, that they may be found true and faithful witnesses to the promises you have made, we pray to the Lord. 

For those who suffer persecution for their faithful service to you, that they may rejoice to be united to the sacrifice of Christ your Son and may know that their names are written in heaven among the company of the elect, we pray to the Lord. 

For those who follow your Son in bearing their cross, that they may, in every trial, glory in the name of Christian, we pray to the Lord. 

For Christians in Iraq and Syria, that they may be granted courage, hope, and perseverance as they bear heroic witness to their faith in this time of persecution, we pray to the Lord. 

Petition for Christians Fleeing Persecution 

For all our brothers and sisters fleeing persecution and war in the Middle East, that they may find safe haven and protection, and that they may rebuild their lives in dignity, we pray to the Lord. 

Petition for Those Assisting Refugees For those who provide assistance to refugees fleeing persecution and violence, that they may continue to see the face of Christ in the most vulnerable, we pray to the Lord. 

Petition for Their Persecutors 

For those who persecute Christians and other religious minorities, that the light of God's truth and mercy may penetrate their hearts, and that they may come to recognize the common humanity of all peoples and cease committing acts of hatred, we pray to the Lord. 

Petition for World Leaders 

For government leaders worldwide, that they may recognize the grave responsibility that comes with power, and may protect the persecuted and work for an end to violence and war, we pray to the Lord.

ACT

Perpetua and Felicity were put to death because of their belief in Christ. Persecution of Christians continues today in many parts of the world. Take time today to read about places where your brothers and sisters in Christ face persecution.


Thursday of the Third Week in Lent

READ

Today we honor and remember St. John of God.

John of God 1495–1550 Feast Day—March 8 It is unclear whether he was taken from his Portuguese parents or left freely, but at just eight years old, John lived apart from his parents. He then led an irregular life in Spain and worked at various times as a shepherd, an estate manager, a book seller, and a soldier. His conversion at age 40 took such extreme forms—including beating himself in public while confessing his sins—that he was temporarily confined for lunacy. While confined, he began to serve other patients. In 1538, he began hospital work caring for the impoverished sick, begging for the supplies needed. He devoted himself to sheltering and caring for the needy, including prostitutes and vagabonds. While he experienced persecution at first, this work eventually brought him respect and renown. He died on his 55th birthday, after which his companions who had joined him in service were organized into the Hospitaller Order of the Brothers of St. John of God. John of God is the patron of booksellers, firefighters, hospitals, nurses, and the sick.

REFLECT

St. John of God was extremely dedicated to the sick and dying. Once, when he heard that a hospital was going up in flames, he ran in and rescued the patients and much of the bedding, just before the roof fell in. Moments later, he walked out of the building, miraculously spared. St. John of God is the patron saint of firefighters. Pray to him today to intercede and keep the firefighters in your community safe.

PRAY

St. John of God is also remembered as a patron saint of those who care for the sick. Pray for those who care for the sick today.

Lord Jesus, our brother,
you showed your compassion for the sick
when you reached out in love to them.
We praise you for the saving love
that is entrusted among those who care for the sick.
Conform them more and more to your image,
that they may be your healing touch to the sick,
and share the peace
of your Holy Spirit with all they meet.
Glory and praise to you, Christ Jesus,
the Incarnation of the Father's love,
you are Lord forever and ever.

Amen.
—Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, 219

ACT

Look up who the patron saint of your profession is today. 


Friday of the Third Week of Lent

READ

Today we honor another Lenten saint, St. Frances of Rome, who gave most of her great wealth to the poor.

St. Frances of Rome 1384–1440 Feast Day—March 9

This laywoman and foundress, born a Roman aristocrat, married Lorenzo Ponziano when she was thirteen; they had several children. In 1409, their palazzo was pillaged by Neapolitan soldiers and Lorenzo was exiled for five years, returning home a broken man. He died in 1436. Frances, known for her great charity during epidemics and civil war, organized a women’s society dedicated to self-denial and good works. It became the Oblates of Tor de Specchi, which she directed for her last four years. She is the patron saint of motorists, perhaps because of the tradition that an angel lit the road before her with a lantern to keep her safe when she trav elled. She was guarded for twenty-three years by an archangel visible only to her. Her last words were “The angel has finished his work. He is beckoning me to follow.”

REFLECT

When we give alms, we can give money, our time, and/or our talents. We sacrifice our comfort for the sake of others. How have you viewed almsgiving during this penitential season? Has giving of your time, talent, or treasure brought about a change of heart?

PRAY

Loving God,
you created the human race
and you know each one of us by name.
Through Christ you have chosen us
to be your sons and daughters
and to build up your Kingdom on earth.
Give [insert name here] the work he/she seeks
so that he/she may share his/her talents with others
and know the dignity and satisfaction
that you give to us through our work.
Give him/her patience while you open doors,
and grant him/her the wisdom to see your will.
Keep our family in your care
and provide for all our needs.
Never let stress diminish our love for each other
nor the desire for material things
lessen our love for you.
With confidence and trust, loving God,
we make this prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

—Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, 303-304

ACT

The three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Keeping St. Frances of Rome, who donated much of her wealth to the poor, in your thoughts today, consider how much you have donated this Lenten season. Consider some of the ways you can give money to the poor this Lent.  


Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

READ

St. Marie Eugenie of Jesus Milleret was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on June 3, 2007. In his homily that day, the pope said, "Marie Eugenie Milleret reminds us first of all of the importance of the Eucharist in the Christian life and in spiritual growth . . . In particular, she realized how important it was to pass on to the young generations, especially young girls, an intellectual, moral and spiritual training that would make them adults capable of taking charge of their family life and of making their contribution to the Church and society."

REFLECT

Do you foster faith formation of the children in your life? Whether you are a parent, have nieces and nephews, or know youth through friends or your church community, can you do more to help pass on the values of your faith?

PRAY

St. Marie Eugenie was called to the religious life. Today we pray this prayer from the US bishops for increased vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life.

Good and gracious God,
you have called us through Baptism to
discipleship with your Son, Jesus Christ,
and have sent us to bring the Good News of
salvation to all peoples.
We pray you to grant us more priests and
religious to build up your Church here within
the Archdiocese of _________________.
Inspire our young men and women by
the example of Blessed Junipero Serra to give
themselves totally to the work of Christ and
his Church.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.
Amen!

ACT

Consider becoming a catechist in your parish or finding other ways to help develop youth ministry. It's never too late to get involved.


Fourth Sunday of Lent

READ

Lenten Practice Q: "So does that mean that when we give something up for Lent, such as candy, we can have it on Sundays?" 

A. Apart from the prescribed days of fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and the days of abstinence every Friday of Lent, Catholics have traditionally chosen additional penitential practices for the whole time of Lent. These practices are disciplinary in nature and often more effective if they are continuous, i.e., kept on Sundays as well.  That being said, such practices are not regulated by the Church, but by individual conscience.

Read more Q & As on Lent and Lenten Practices today.

Questions and Answers about Lent and Lenten Practices

Q. Why do we say that there are forty days of Lent?  When you count all the days from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, there are 46.

A. It might be more accurate to say that there is the "forty day fast within Lent."  Historically, Lent has varied from a week to three weeks to the present configuration of 46 days. The forty day fast, however, has been more stable. The Sundays of Lent are certainly part of the Time of Lent, but they are not prescribed days of fast and abstinence.

Q. So does that mean that when we give something up for Lent, such as candy, we can have it on Sundays?

A.  Apart from the prescribed days of fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and the days of abstinence every Friday of Lent, Catholics have traditionally chosen additional penitential practices for the whole Time of Lent.  These practices are disciplinary in nature and often more effective if they are continuous, i.e., kept on Sundays as well.  That being said, such practices are not regulated by the Church, but by individual conscience.

Q.  I understand that all the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat, but I'm not sure what is classified as meat.  Does meat include chicken and dairy products?

A.  Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs --- all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat. Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat.  Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden.  However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste).  Fish are a different category of animal.  Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.

Q.  I've noticed that restaurants and grocery stores advertise specials on expensive types of fish and seafood on Fridays during Lent.  Some of my Catholic friends take advantage of these deals, but somehow I don't feel right treating myself to the lobster special on Fridays during Lent.

A.  While fish, lobster and other shellfish are not considered meat and can be consumed on days of abstinence, indulging in the lavish buffet at your favorite seafood place sort of misses the point.  Abstaining from meat and other indulgences during Lent is a penitential practice.  On the Fridays of Lent, we remember the sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday and unite ourselves with that sacrifice through abstinence and prayer.

Q.  I understand that Catholics ages 18 to 59 should fast on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday, but what exactly are the rules for these fasts?

A.  Fasting on these days means we can have only one full, meatless meal.  Some food can be taken at the other regular meal times if necessary, but combined they should be less than a full meal.  Liquids are allowed at any time, but no solid food should be consumed between meals.

Q.  Are there exemptions other than for age from the requirement to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday?

A.  Those that are excused from fast and abstinence outside the age limits include the physically or mentally ill including individuals suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes.  Also excluded are pregnant or nursing women.  In all cases, common sense should prevail, and ill persons should not further jeopardize their health by fasting

 

REFLECT

Reflect on today's readings using the ancient art of lectio divina. . . .

PRAY

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so everyone who believes in him might have eternal life." (Jn 3:16, Lectionary, Gospel Acclamation)

ACT

Learn more about the Catholic Relief Services Collection hosted in many parishes across the country today.  


 

Monday of the Fourth Week in Lent

READ

The Seven Penitential Psalms, Day One:

During times when we wish to express repentance, and especially during Lent, it is customary to pray the seven penitential psalms. The penitential designation of these psalms dates back to the seventh century. Prayerfully reciting these psalms will help us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow and ask for God's forgiveness.

Today we will focus on Psalm 6.

REFLECT

Read this reflection on Psalm 6—Prayer in Distress.

Psalm 6 —Prayer in Distress

The Psalms stand against the human impulse to merit God’s love and mercy through goodness or obedience. A part of us clings to the naïve notion that God’s love for us is tied to our behavior: good behavior earns God’s love and acceptance; bad behavior means divine rejection. That’s a diabolical lie and the psalmist knows it. Instead, eyes wide open and looking in the mirror, the psalmist readily admits his sin and begs God’s mercy anyway. Sin darkens human vision and alienates the soul from God, self, and others. Sin’s greatest danger is its ability to make us doubt God’s love and willingness to forgive. The psalmist’s saving grace is his refusal to let sin drive that wedge between him and the Lord; in fact, it’s his painful awareness of his sin that draws the psalmist nearer. We often think we can approach God only when we’re “good” and have our lives in order. But it’s sin God rejects, not the sinner. The psalmist knows if we waited for a “worthy” time, we’d never pray.  So we don’t defer prayer; we don’t wait till God “is in a better mood.” At work, we might rely on a spike in sales to incline the boss to mercy, but our God has never been that kind of God. Scripture tells us to pray whenever there is the need. And need is greatest when we are mired in sin.

In his mercy, God does not spare us the consequences of sin. To spur our prayer, to draw us closer when we might otherwise sulk or hide, God lets sin impact our lives.  Sin’s consequence is not God’s punishment, but the natural result of our decisions that, in his love, God uses for our good (if we let him). The psalmist is well aware that his own sin has brought both physical distress and the attack of enemies into his life. Yet he prays unashamedly. As a child who has disregarded a parent’s injunction to not venture far from home comes running back when the playground bully threatens, the psalmist knows where home is. He knows where to find the strong arms and loving embrace of a God who eventually would send his own Son to save us—not when we were finally worthy, but while we were still steeped in sin. 

PRAY

"Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak; heal me, LORD, for my bones are shuddering." (Ps 6:3, NABRE)

ACT

In this psalm, the psalmist proclaims his weakness before God, with tears and sighing. Yet he lifts his prayers to the Lord, confident in the Lord, who is merciful.

Listen to a recording of Psalm 6 as you read along with your Bible.



Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

READ

The Seven Penitential Psalms, Day Three:

(During times when we wish to express repentance, and especially during Lent, it is customary to pray the seven penitential psalms. The penitential designation of these psalms dates back to the seventh century. Prayerfully reciting these psalms will help us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow and ask for God's forgiveness.)

Today we will focus on Psalm 38.

REFLECT

Read this reflection on Psalm 38—Prayer of an Afflicted Sinner.

Psalm 38 — Prayer of an Afflicted Sinner

We often use metaphors to describe sin and its effects on us. Metaphors give a shape and sound to sin. They make it visible and tangible and help us recognize and name the insidious impact it has on us. Because the diagnosis had not yet been made, the ancients couldn’t use the most powerful metaphor for sin we have today: cancer. But they surely knew enough of the malignancy we call sin to speak of it as a sickness that robs the body of “health” and “wholesomeness.” They understood that sin gets deep inside us, penetrating even to the bone. They realized that sin spreads, that it’s a silent killer moving often undetected to the farthest reaches of our beings, making itself at home as it consumes its home from the inside out.

Today, we don’t speak so graphically about sin. We tend to psychologize it, even explain it away. We see ourselves more as victims than as sinners; as wounded, misunderstood nice-guys and gals who are doing the best we can. We don’t sin; we just make mistakes.

But that’s not the way the psalmist saw it. He makes no excuses and seeks no place to hide. He knows that sin has taken up residence inside him. The evidence of sin’s effects is all around him: his body is failing; his mind is troubled; his spirit is in turmoil. And in addition to this internal misery, he’s also afflicted from without. “Enemies” set traps and lie in wait, and his friends and neighbors shun him.

All this the psalmist sees as God’s punishment. But the punishment is not arbitrary or random. No, it flows directly from his actions. The situations in which he finds himself were not knotted together by God the way an overlord might fashion a whip to chastise a rebellious servant.  The psalmist knows he’s the one who made the whip, tied the knots, and attached the bone chips that will tear his flesh when he is flogged with the consequences of his own free choices.

But let us not forget the psalms are prayers, not the rantings of hopeless sinners. The psalmist has shut his mouth and raised his arms in surrender because he lacks a remedy for all his ills. He has no excuses and can make no self-defense. And so he turns to the only place he can: the merciful God to whom he can say in confidence, “Do not forsake me… /help me,/ my Lord and my salvation!” That’s the genius of the psalms. The goodness of God shines all the brighter when human frailty is not hidden but openly admitted. It’s when we face the darkness of our sin, that the light of God’s merciful love shines brightest.

PRAY

"LORD, do not punish me in your anger, in your wrath do not chastise me!" (Ps 38:2)

ACT

The psalmist laments the burden of sin weighing upon him. Yet he cries out before the Lord, sharing his sorrow and waiting faithfully for the Lord's assistance.

Listen to a recording of Psalm 38 as you read along with your Bible.


Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

READ

The Seven Penitential Psalms, Day Three:

(During times when we wish to express repentance, and especially during Lent, it is customary to pray the seven penitential psalms. The penitential designation of these psalms dates back to the seventh century. Prayerfully reciting these psalms will help us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow and ask for God's forgiveness.)

Today we will focus on Psalm 38.

REFLECT

Read this reflection on Psalm 38—Prayer of an Afflicted Sinner.
Psalm 38 — Prayer of an Afflicted Sinner

We often use metaphors to describe sin and its effects on us. Metaphors give a shape and sound to sin. They make it visible and tangible and help us recognize and name the insidious impact it has on us. Because the diagnosis had not yet been made, the ancients couldn’t use the most powerful metaphor for sin we have today: cancer. But they surely knew enough of the malignancy we call sin to speak of it as a sickness that robs the body of “health” and “wholesomeness.” They understood that sin gets deep inside us, penetrating even to the bone. They realized that sin spreads, that it’s a silent killer moving often undetected to the farthest reaches of our beings, making itself at home as it consumes its home from the inside out.

Today, we don’t speak so graphically about sin. We tend to psychologize it, even explain it away. We see ourselves more as victims than as sinners; as wounded, misunderstood nice-guys and gals who are doing the best we can. We don’t sin; we just make mistakes.

But that’s not the way the psalmist saw it. He makes no excuses and seeks no place to hide. He knows that sin has taken up residence inside him. The evidence of sin’s effects is all around him: his body is failing; his mind is troubled; his spirit is in turmoil. And in addition to this internal misery, he’s also afflicted from without. “Enemies” set traps and lie in wait, and his friends and neighbors shun him.

All this the psalmist sees as God’s punishment. But the punishment is not arbitrary or random. No, it flows directly from his actions. The situations in which he finds himself were not knotted together by God the way an overlord might fashion a whip to chastise a rebellious servant.  The psalmist knows he’s the one who made the whip, tied the knots, and attached the bone chips that will tear his flesh when he is flogged with the consequences of his own free choices.

But let us not forget the psalms are prayers, not the rantings of hopeless sinners. The psalmist has shut his mouth and raised his arms in surrender because he lacks a remedy for all his ills. He has no excuses and can make no self-defense. And so he turns to the only place he can: the merciful God to whom he can say in confidence, “Do not forsake me… /help me,/ my Lord and my salvation!” That’s the genius of the psalms. The goodness of God shines all the brighter when human frailty is not hidden but openly admitted. It’s when we face the darkness of our sin, that the light of God’s merciful love shines brightest.

PRAY

"LORD, do not punish me in your anger, in your wrath do not chastise me!" (Ps 38:2)

ACT

The psalmist laments the burden of sin weighing upon him. Yet he cries out before the Lord, sharing his sorrow and waiting faithfully for the Lord's assistance.

Listen to a recording of Psalm 38 as you read along with your Bible.


 

Thursday of the Fourth Week in Lent

READ

The Seven Penitential Psalms, Day Four:

(During times when we wish to express repentance and especially during Lent, it is customary to pray the seven penitential psalms. The penitential designation of these psalms dates back to the seventh century.  Prayerfully reciting these psalms will help us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow and ask for God's forgiveness.)

Today we will focus on Psalm 51.

REFLECT

Read this reflection on psalm 51—the miserere: prayer of repentance.

Psalm 51—The Miserere: Prayer of Repentance

It is the sentiment King David expresses here that assured his greatness, that set him apart from his predecessor, Saul, and that enables him to stand tall among Israel’s great heroes despite the grave sin that sits at the heart of this lament

Miserere… it begins: “Have mercy, God, in accordance with your merciful love.” From the start, the speaker, King David, does two things at once: admit his sinfulness and rely on God’s mercy. He doesn’t rely on previous good deeds or on any extenuating circumstances. He is guilty, and he knows only God’s mercy can save him.

David’s sin will have far-reaching consequences. The nation will pay for the crimes of their king just as children often suffer for the sins of their parents, employees for the sins of their bosses, and citizens and parishioners for the sins of their leaders.

David has committed adultery with Bathsheba and covered up his sin by ordering the murder of her husband. The prophet Nathan has confronted him with his crime, so now David has nowhere to hide. But David’s contrast with his royal predecessor is starkly evident. King Saul hadn’t succumbed to temptations of the flesh; he had stopped trusting God. He turned to divination and to mediums, rather than to God, to guarantee his future, so God “repented” of choosing Saul as king. Having lost God’s confidence and hearing of his son’s death, Saul despairs and falls upon his sword.

And then there’s David. Nathan presents David’s own story to him as a hypothetical, asking the king’s judgment. The ploy works and David unwittingly declares his own crimes to be worthy of death.  But when he’s identified as the guilty party, David readily admits his guilt and accepts responsibility.  And instead of falling on his sword, David falls to his knees and begs God’s mercy. Saul and David both shed light on one of the great truths of Christian faith: God will forgive any sin for which we’re truly sorry.

But that’s not really as easy as it sounds. Those who think “It’s not fair that some can sin their whole life through, then say a quick “I’m sorry” on their deathbed and thereby sneak through heaven’s gates!” can take comfort (if such a thing is comfort) in the knowledge that it’s really very difficult to turn our lives around all at once, especially at the very end. Saul couldn’t do it. Fortunately, David didn’t have to because he practiced repentance throughout his life. Deathbed confessions are the exception. The psalms show us the better way: we must recognize our sinfulness and practice repentance throughout life. And if we do, it won’t be hard to say I’m sorry—and to mean it—when we reach the end.

PRAY 

"Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love; in your abundant compassion blog out my transgressions." (Ps 51:3, NABRE)

ACT

In this chapter, the psalmist acknowledges his sins to the Lord, and asks God to cleanse him from sin and unrighteousness. With faith in God's purity and faithfulness, he asks to be washed and cleansed, so that his heart may be made pure.

Listen to a recording of Psalm 51 as you follow along with your Bible.


Friday of the Fourth Week in Lent

READ

"Wherefore, we ask, urgently and prayerfully, that we, as people of God, make of the entire Lenten Season a period of special penitential observance. Following the instructions of the Holy See, we declare that the obligation both to fast and to abstain from meat, an obligation observed under a more strict formality by our fathers in the faith, still binds on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. No Catholic Christian will lightly excuse himself from so hallowed an obligation on the Wednesday which solemnly opens the Lenten season and on that Friday called 'Good' because on that day Christ suffered in the flesh and died for our sins. . . . Gratefully remembering this, Catholic peoples from time immemorial have set apart Friday for special penitential observance by which they gladly suffer with Christ that they may one day be glorified with Him. This is the heart of the tradition of abstinence from meat on Friday where that tradition has been observed in the holy Catholic Church."

(1966 USCCB Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence, no. 12 and no. 18)

REFLECT

"If you have fasted two or three days, do not think yourself better than others who do not fast. You fast and are angry; another eats and wears a smiling face."
—St. Jerome, Letters, 22.37. . . 

PRAY

Pray that fasting this Lenten season will help bring you closer to God.

ACT

Need some help in planning meatless meals on Fridays? Check out these helpful recipes from Catholic Relief Services. . . .


Saturday of the Fourth Week in Lent


READ

It's St. Patrick's Day! Take time to read about the patron saint of Ireland. . . and how he was a victim of human trafficking prior to his life as a priest and bishop.

St. Patrick, known in his time as Patricius, was a Roman Briton, credited (as we know) with the evangelization of Ireland. Under his gentle teaching, Ireland became the first nation fully evangelized outside of the Roman sphere. The Irish weren’t led to convert under military threat or political expediency. The Gospel simply came alive in him. And though he was not an Irishman by birth, the Irish Diaspora the world over celebrates their kinship to him.

But they are not the only ones who share a spiritual bond with St. Patrick. St. Patrick, like so many of our exploited brothers and sisters worldwide, was a victim of what we now call human trafficking. And he was one of the first great Christian voices against human trafficking’s brutal cousin, slavery, as he became a slave.

When St. Patrick was about sixteen, he was captured by raiders and brought to what is now considered to be Antrim, where he was sold as chattel to a chieftain and put into forced service as a shepherd. In his voice, we hear that of trafficking victims of all faiths, clinging in spirit to the severed connections of family and culture to sustain them in their duress.

I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

St. Patrick eventually escaped, and (after brief recapture) reunited with his family. He began, upon his return, studying for the priesthood and serving God in thanks.  He would come to eventually receive his vocation literally, hearing a voice: "Come, holy boy, and walk amongst us again," leading him to return to Ireland and bring the word of Christ to the people who had so wronged him.  In his capture, escape, and reunion with his family, St. Patrick first became a colossus in the eternal human story that is the struggle against human trafficking and slavery, and in his return to Ireland, he then he became a colossus in the eternal human story that is the struggle for reconciliation.

Knowing "St. Patrick’s Breastplate" comes from the voice of a slave helps us truly see what its author was truly asking for as he prayed.

Christ be in the heart of everyone who thinks of me
Christ be in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me
Christ be in every eye that sees me
Christ be in every ear that hears me

This St. Patrick's Day, we ask you to keep the victim of human trafficking in yourheart.  We ask for the intercession of St. Patrick, as we pray for victims of human trafficking everywhere.

REFLECT

On March 16, 2016, Pope Francis said in his general audience of St. Patrick: "May his spiritual strength inspire you, dear young people, to be consistent in your faith; may his faith in Christ the Savior sustain you, dear sick people, at the most difficult times; and may his missionary devotion remind you, dear newlyweds, of the importance of Christian education for your children."

PRAY

Pray today for end to human trafficking.

Loving Father,
We seek your divine protection for all who are exploited and enslaved.
For those forced into labor, trafficked into sexual slavery, and denied freedom.
We beseech you to release them from their chains.
Grant them protection, safety, and empowerment.
Restore their dignity and provide them a new beginning.
Show us how we might end exploitation by addressing its causes.
Help us reach out in support of victims and survivors of human trafficking.
Make us instruments of your spirit for their liberation.
For this we pray through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
Amen

ACT

Visit the Anti-Trafficking Program webpage on USCCB.org to find out more about what the US bishops are doing to combat human trafficking. 


 

Fifth Sunday of Lent

READ

During Lent we often hear about the Jewish tradition of Passover. Today, let's get some answers about Catholic-Jewish relations.

REFLECT

Take extra time with the readings today with the art of lectio divina. . . .

PRAY

"Whoever serves me must follow me, says the Lord; and where I am, there also will my servant be." (Jn 12:26, Lectionary, Gospel Acclamation)

ACT

Today is the Fifth Sunday of Lent, and in two weeks, we will celebrate Easter and the Resurrection of Christ. Do an honest check-in with yourself today on your Lenten spiritual journey so far. Only two weeks left! 

purple-draped-lenten-cross-home-istock


Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary


READ

Today we honor St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary First century Solemnity—March 19

The spouse of Mary the mother of Jesus and the legal father of Jesus according to Jewish law, Joseph is a model of humility and obedience to God’s will. He followed God’s instructions, given by angels in dreams, and took the pregnant Mary into his home as his wife, protected her and Jesus at the child’s birth in Bethlehem through the family’s sojourn in Egypt, and provided for them as a carpenter in Nazareth. This feast, which was celebrated locally as early as the ninth century, became a universal feast in the fifteenth century, when it was placed on the liturgical calendar. Pope Pius IX named St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church in 1870; he is also the patron saint of carpenters, the dying, and workers.

REFLECT

"St. Joseph's silence does not express an inner emptiness but, on the contrary, the fullness of the faith he bears in his heart and which guides his every thought and action. It is a silence thanks to which Joseph, in unison with Mary, watches over the Word of God, known through the Sacred Scriptures, continuously comparing it with the events of the life of Jesus; a silence woven of constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of the adoration of his holy will and of unreserved entrustment to his providence . . . Let us allow ourselves to be filled with St. Joseph's silence! In a world that is often too noisy, that encourages neither recollection nor listening to God's voice, we are in such deep need of it."
—Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, December 18, 2005

PRAY

Say this prayer to St. Joseph today.

To you, O blessed Joseph,
do we come in our tribulation,
and having implored the help of your most holy Spouse,
we confidently invoke your patronage also.

Through that charity which bound you
to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God
and through the paternal love
with which you embraced the Child Jesus,
we humbly beg you graciously to regard the inheritance
which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood,
and with your power and strength to aid us in our necessities.

O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family,
defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ; 
O most loving father, ward off from us
every contagion of error and corrupting influence; 
O our most mighty protector, be kind to us
and from heaven assist us in our struggle
with the power of darkness.

As once you rescued the Child Jesus from deadly peril,
so now protect God's Holy Church
from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity;
shield, too, each one of us by your constant protection,
so that, supported by your example and your aid,
we may be able to live piously, to die in holiness,
and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven.

Amen.

ACT

Today we will focus on an extra reflection from the USCCB, Be Her Joseph!, which looks at one couple's story about NFP and a husband's inspiration by St. Joseph.

When we first married, my wife, Misty, and I were the typical secular couple. We relied on hormonal contraception. Due to bad side effects, that didn't last long. Misty found out about Natural Family Planning (NFP) through a Catholic friend. Admittedly, I was suspicious of all the "hocus pocus" involving thermometers at o' dark-thirty in the morning and observations written down in cryptic symbols on the NFP chart. That would all change in surprising ways once we got into living the NFP lifestyle.

Before having children, Misty had been an atheist and I had been an agnostic. With our first child, the miracle of life spurred a spiritual awakening in us. We realized the Holy Spirit had already led us into a Catholic life. Even after our conversion, however, NFP enriched our relationship with each other and with God in ways we never expected.

We studied Pope John Paul II's "theology of the body" and became excited about living out our faith and sharing it. It was thrilling to learn the compelling reasons behind the Church's beautiful teachings on sex and marriage.

Much to my surprise, I also learned how grateful my wife was that I was willing to learn how her body worked. I shared the responsibility in planning our family, and also found non-sexual ways of expressing affection and intimacy when we had good reasons to postpone pregnancy. This strengthened our marriage and made me a better husband and father.

When we became Catholic, I knew I wanted to be the spiritual leader of our family, but I didn't understand what that entailed besides bringing our children to church on Sunday. Through NFP and Scripture, I discovered that I had a choice in the kind of man I was going to be.

We often blame Eve for eating the forbidden fruit. But in Genesis, we learn that after taking a bite, she turned and offered the fruit to Adam, who was with her. Adam didn't stop her and say, "This is a bad idea, let's go." He did not protect his wife, but stood by silently while the serpent convinced her to surrender her holiness and damage her relationship with God.

Then there was St. Joseph. When Joseph obeyed the angel who told him to bring Mary into his home, he was accepting the public shame and embarrassment of a pregnant fiancée. He sacrificed his personal honor and reputation to obey God and protect Mary and Jesus.

The choice for a husband is clear: he can be his wife's Adam or he can be her Joseph. A man can stand by silently and allow his wife to suffer the physical and spiritual consequences of contraception. Or he can defend her virtue, body, and soul by using NFP. Today, contraception is accepted and expected. Any man who forgoes it for NFP will likely be exposed to ridicule and criticism. But as St. Joseph taught us, there are some things more important than the opinion of others. May we husbands choose to be Joseph to our wives!


 

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

READ

The Seven Penitential Psalms, Day Five:

We return to the penitential psalms we explored last week.

(During times when we wish to express repentance and especially during Lent, it is customary to pray the seven penitential psalms.  The penitential designation of these psalms dates from the seventh century. Prayerfully reciting these psalms will help us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow and ask for God's forgiveness.)

Today we will focus on Psalm 102.

REFLECT

Read a reflection of Psalm 102—Prayer in Time of Distress.

Psalm 102 — Prayer in Time of Distress

We live in more sterile and politically correct times than did the psalmist. Today, heads would wag if we composed such prayers as this that dares tell God what to do. Notice the number of imperatives within the first six lines: “hear my prayer,” “let my cry come,” “do not hide your face,” “turn your ear to me.” But the more striking difference between then and now is not the audacity of these verses, but the psalmist’s willingness to admit his sin and abandon all excuses. Today, we prefer euphemisms and so “sins” become “mistakes,” “indiscretions,” “errors,” “slip-up,” “problems” or what have you. Not so here. The psalmist begs for mercy, and that requires an admission of sin. He begs to be spared the consequences that flow from all his sins, so he can’t deny having committed them.

It’s said that when he was dying, St. Augustine asked that the Psalms be hung from the wall facing his bed. Famous for his years of flagrant sinning, Augustine sought the comfort of the Psalms as he prepared to meet God face to face. The Psalms ought to give us courage and confidence as we reflect on our own lives and on the struggles, sins, and “enemies” that afflict us. They teach us to plead without restraint, to hold nothing back in begging for God’s mercy. I’m “skin and bones,” says the psalmist. “7I am like a desert owl,/ like an owl among the ruins” whose mournful cry and solitary life make it the very emblem of desolation. Such talk is not born of arrogance or overconfidence, but from a deep conviction that God is merciful and loves us like a parent.

It will be this compassion that overwhelms the nations and fills them with awe. They will have no choice but to glorify God when they see the marvel of his merciful love. It’s that conviction that enables the psalmist to ask that God not end his life too soon and that God let his children and their children stand before him  in peace. The psalmist’s conviction must be ours. Knowing Jesus also prayed these Psalms, we can make these words our own means of turning to the Lord with passion and sincerity.

PRAY

"LORD, here my prayer; let my cry come to you. Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress." (Ps 102:2-3, NABRE)

ACT

In this psalm, the psalmist calls to God in great distress. He acknowledges his weakness in body and spirit before the Lord. Yet he fixes his sight on the Lord, extolling the Lord's name and his mercy.

Listen to a recording of Psalm 102 as you follow along with your Bible.


 

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

READ

The Seven Penitential Psalms, Day Six:

We return to the penitential psalms we explored last week.

(During times when we wish to express repentance and especially during Lent, it is customary to pray the seven penitential psalms.  The penitential designation of these psalms dates from the seventh century. Prayerfully reciting these psalms will help us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow and ask for God's forgiveness.)

Today we will focus on Psalm 130.

REFLECT

Read a reflection of Psalm 130—Prayer for Pardon and Mercy.

Psalm 130 — Prayer for Pardon and Mercy

Gifted writers from Oscar Wilde to Alfred Lord Tennyson to Dorothy Parker have used the informal title of this psalm, “De profundis,” as the title for one of their works. Those two words—the Latin for “Out of the depths”—and the Psalm they symbolize have come to evoke the sense of despondency and emotional torment that poets often feel more keenly than the rest of us. And yet, who among us is unacquainted with the sentiments communicated here? We most often hear this Psalm at times of mourning, when we bury our dearly departed. In that context, it expresses our earnest prayer for God’s mercy on the deceased, relying on God to toss aside the ledger of the person’s sins and judge instead out of his bountiful compassion.

But for centuries the Church has presented this as a preeminent prayer for sinners who feel the weight of the burden they have brought upon themselves, of those who feel like they’ve sunk to the depths of the sea, a place of chaos and alienation. Imagine yourself engulfed in violent waters, dragged to the bottom amidst swirling eddies of turgid water with nothing to grasp, no light to find your bearings, sinking ever deeper into cold and murky darkness. That is the premise of this brief Psalm which does overtly what all the Penitential Psalms seek to do, invite us to join the psalmist in turning to the Lord to confess our sins and beg his mercy.

But note that the longer half of the Psalm expresses the psalmist’s hope, his stalwart trust in God who is mercy and redemption. The psalmist models the attitude of a sincere penitent: he doesn’t deny or hide his sin; he knows God is more mercy than vengeance; he hopes sincerely that dawn will bring the light of mercy, a word of hope, the healing rain of redemption.  At the Easter Vigil we sing “O happy fault; O necessary sin of Adam” referring to the trespass that brought about the Incarnation and our merciful salvation in Christ. The words “O happy fault” could issue only from the mouth of one who, like the psalmist, understands that where sins abounds, grace and mercy abound the more.

PRAY

"Out of the depths I call to you, LORD; Lord, hear my cry! May your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy." (Ps 130:1-2)

ACT

From great depths of his soul, the psalmist cries out to the Lord in anguish. But he waits for the Lord, he looks for the Lord, and he hopes in the Lord.

Listen to a recording of Psalm 130 as you follow along with your Bible.


Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle

READ

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. 

The Chair of St. Peter the Apostle Feast—February 22 While the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, celebrated on June 29, focuses on the martyrdom of St. Peter, this celebration draws attention to his role in the Church. The “Chair of St. Peter” is an image of his seat of authority—an authority that was given not for his own personal gain but so that he could be a source of unity for the Church. Jesus told Peter, “I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:32). Today, this feast reminds us of the significance of the ministry of St. Peter and the succession of popes who followed in his footsteps.


REFLECT

Jesus told Peter, "I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers." (Lk 22:32)


PRAY

In honor of St. Peter, our first pope, say a prayer for priests today.

Gracious and loving God, we thank your for the gift of our priests.
Through them, we experience your presence in the sacraments.

Help our priests to be strong in their vocation.
Set their souls on fire with love for your people.
Grant them the wisdom, understanding, and strength they need
to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

Inspire them with the vision of your Kingdom.
Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel.
Allow them to experience joy in their ministry.
Help them to become instruments of your divine grace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest.
Amen.


ACT

"So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you." (1 Pt 5:6-7)


Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

READ

Today we celebrate the final saint of this lenten season, st. Turibius of mogrovejo.

Turibius of Mogrovejo 1538–1606 Feast Day—March 23 Spanish-born Turibius was a pious youth, devoted to prayer and service of the poor. He studied law and taught as a professor of law in Salamanca. In 1574, he was appointed by King Philip II as chief judge of the inquisition of Granada, an office he fulfilled with integrity and prudence. Known for his holiness and wisdom, and although he a layman, he was chosen to be a missionary archbishop for the Spanish colony in Peru. In humility, Turibius wrote letters to protest his appointment but seeing the need of the Church in Peru he eventually relented. In 1580, he was named archbishop of Lima, Peru; he then received Holy Orders and was ordained a bishop in Seville. In 1581, Turibius arrived in Lima, as its second archbishop. Throughout his 25 years of missionary service, he labored to build up the local Church. He convened diocesan and provincial synods, made pastoral visits around the vast diocese—often on foot, and implemented clergy reforms to root out corruption. He also protected the rights of the native Indian people from the oppression of the Spanish colonists and was responsible for creating indigenous-language catechisms. To better care for the physical and spiritual needs of the people, he introduced several European religious orders into Peru and founded schools, churches, and hospitals. He also opened the first seminary in the New World and encouraged native Indians to become priests. As archbishop, he baptized and confirmed many into the Christian faith, including St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin de Porres. Turibius is a patron saint of indigenous rights, Latin American bishops, and Peru.


REFLECT

Pope Benedict XVI said of St. Turibius of Mogrovejo, "He was a model of respect for the dignity of every human person, whatever his condition, in this way always seeking to arouse the happiness that comes from experiencing oneself as a true son of God."

—Message, March 23, 2006

PRAY

Today we pray that we can help build communities in God's vision of justice, just as St. Turibius did.

Help Us Build Communities in God's Vision of Justice

Holy Spirit,
     We praise and thank you!

You anoint us to
     bring glad tidings to the poor
     proclaim liberty to captives
     recover sight for the blind
     free the oppressed
     and build communities in keeping
     with God's vision of justice.

Show us how to be
     light of the world
     salt of the earth
     seeds that sprout love
     and leaven that infuses humanity
     with the desire to promote
     human dignity and solidarity.

Help us to listen so that
     those in poverty can lead our efforts to
     proclaim a more hopeful vision
     liberate captives from injustice
     heal the blindness of the powerful
     free us all from self-centeredness
     and build community to overcome poverty.

Amen.


Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

READ

During the Easter Vigil, one week from today, candidates and catechumens in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults will officially become members of the Catholic Church. Learn more today about RCIA.

REFLECT

Read a bit about and reflect on what Pope Francis has to say about Baptism.

At Baptism, Parents Give Their Children the Gift of Faith

On December 15, 2014, Pope Francis visited the parish of St. Joseph all’Aurelio, a parish in Rome named after St. Joseph Marello, founder of the Oblates of St. Joseph.

During the visit, the Holy Father addressed the newly baptized, remarking: “A child always says a word of hope with his being; a child always goes forward, he leads us to the future … He is a seed of the future.” He notes that parents cannot help but look at their children and wonder about their future, praying that God protect them. With Baptism, the Pope said to the parents, “you gave the faith, you transmitted the faith through the Sacrament, but after many years, they will do the same with their children, and thus the faith – from the time of Jesus to today – is like a chain that is transmitted by parents.” He urged all the people there to remember and celebrate the day they were baptized: “a feast day, that is, it is the day that we encountered Jesus for the first time.”

Pope Francis told the parishioners that he was baptized on Christmas Day, eight days after he was born. He finished his message saying, “I pray for you. May you have joy, joy with these children, joy in the home, joy in hope, so much joy. And I give you my blessing.” Finally, after he had blessed the people, he asked for prayers and then urged people to always welcome children—even crying ones—at Church. “The cry of a child is God’s voice. Truly, never, never chase them out of the church!”

PRAY

Pray today for the RCIA candidates and catechumens in your community.

ACT

Take a little time to remember why we celebrate the Easter Vigil, which will take place a week from today. 


Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

PEOPLE CARRY LARGE PALM FRONDS DURING 2011 PALM SUNDAY MASS AT VATICAN cns paul haring

READ

Today marks the beginning of Holy Week. Lent will end at sunset on Holy Thursday and the three days of the Paschal Triduum will begin.

REFLECT

Take extra time with the Scriptures today with the art of lectio divina.

PRAY

Almighty ever-living God,
who as an example of humility for the human race to follow
caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross,
graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering
and so merit a share in his Resurrection.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for every and ever.

(Collect, Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, Roman Missal, Third Edition)

ACT

As we remember Christ's suffering and Death in today's gospel reading, reflect on the suffering of many communities around the United States today. Listen to this 2-minute podcast about the Option for the Poor.


Monday of Holy Week


READ

On Saturday, new members of the Catholic family will be baptized during the Easter Vigil. Take time today to read about the Sacrament of Baptism.

REFLECT

"After being baptized, we acknowledge or receive a white garment to signify that we have risen with Christ. We receive a lighted candle, which symbolizes that we are a new creation, enlightened by Christ. We are now called to carry that light into the dark world to extend the light to others" (CCC, no. 1243).

PRAY

Is there a baptized child in your life (your own son or daughter, sibling, niece or nephew, children of friends) you can pray in thanksgiving for today?

Parents' Thanksgiving

O God, we give you thanks for N.,
whom you have welcomed into our family.
Bless this family.
Confirm a lively sense of your presence with us,
and grant us patience and wisdom,
that our lives may show forth the love of Christ,
as we bring N. up to love all that is good.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
R/. Amen~from Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers 

ACT

Today we read this Mother's Reflection on Liturgy, which reflects on the Rite of Baptism through the eyes of one mother.


 

Tuesday of Holy Week

READ

On Saturday, new members of our Catholic family will receive their first Holy Communion. Read more about the Eucharistic Liturgy today.

REFLECT

"Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.'"  (John 6:35, NABRE)

PRAY

Today we pray for charity in truth.

Prayer for Charity in Truth

Father, your truth is made known in your Word.
Guide us to seek the truth of the human person.
Teach us the way to love because you are Love.
Jesus, you embody Love and Truth.
Help us to recognize your face in the poor. 
Enable us to live out our vocation to bring love and justice to your people.
Holy Spirit, you inspire us to transform our world.
Empower us to seek the common good for all persons. 
Give us a spirit of solidarity and make us one human family.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

This prayer is based on Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth)

ACT

While members of our community are receiving Communion during the Mass, that is often the time for reflection and prayer. Reflect on how you use that time during Mass each week and make a concerted effort this weekend to remain present to the Lord at Mass.


 

Wednesday of Holy Week

READ

Today we read about the Sacrament of Confirmation and are reminded of the choice we made to be full members of the Church when we were confirmed.

Confirmation

In the Sacrament of Confirmation, the baptized person is "sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit" and is strengthened for service to the Body of Christ.

The prophets of the Old Testament foretold that God's Spirit would rest upon the Messiah to sustain his mission.  Their prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus the Messiah was conceived by the Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.  The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus on the occasion of his baptism by John.  Jesus' entire mission occurred in communion with the Spirit. Before he died, Jesus promised that the Spirit would be given to the Apostles and to the entire Church.  After his death, he was raised by the Father in the power of the Spirit. 

Confirmation deepens our baptismal life that calls us to be missionary witnesses of Jesus Christ in our families, neighborhoods, society, and the world.  . . .  We receive the message of faith in a deeper and more intensive manner with great emphasis given to the person of Jesus Christ, who asked the Father to give the Holy Spirit to the Church for building up the community in loving service.

REFLECT

"Dear brothers and sisters, being the Church, to be the People of God, in accordance with the Father's great design of love, means to be the leaven of God in this humanity of ours. It means to proclaim and to bring the God's salvation to this world of ours, so often led astray, in need of answers that give courage, hope and new vigor for the journey. . . . We must go out through these doors and proclaim the Gospel." 

—Pope Francis, General Audience, June 12, 2013

PRAY

   

O God, by the light of the Holy
Spirit you have taught the hearts
of your faithful. In the same Spirit,
help us to know what is truly right
and always to rejoice in your
consolation. We ask this through
Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

-USCCA, 534

 
   


ACT

Look up the saint. . . of whose name you chose at your own confirmation. Read their biography and reflect on why you chose them. 


HOLY THURSDAY

“With the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus gave the Passover its new and definitive meaning. He showed himself to be the High Priest of the New Covenant, offering himself as the perfect sacrifice to the Father.” (USCCA, 216).

holy thursday 640x619


READ

"With this Mass, celebrated in the evening of the Thursday in Holy Week, the Church begins the sacred Easter Triduum and devotes herself to the remembrance of the Last Supper. At the super on the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus, loving those who were his own in the world even to the end, offered his Body and Blood to the Father under the appearance of bread and wine, gave them to the apostles to eat and drink, then enjoined the apostles and their successors in the priesthood to offer them in turn. This Mass is, first of all, the memorial of the institution of the eucharist, that is, of the Memorial of the Lord's Passover, by which under sacramental signs he perpetuated among us the sacrifice of the New Law. The Mass of the Lord's Supper is also the memorial of the institution of the priesthood, by which Christ's mission and sacrifice are perpetuated in the world. In addition, this Mass is the memorial of that love by which the Lord loved us even to death . . ."

—"The Roman Missal and the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper," USCCB.org, citing the Ceremonial of Bishops, no. 297

Pope Francis breathes over chrism oil, a gesture symbolizing the infusion of the Holy Spirit, during Holy Thursday chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in 2014. CNS photo/Paul Haring

REFLECT

"Our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity."
—St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, 4.18.5

PRAY

Pray again today for those who will be entering into the fullness of the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.

ACT

Attend Mass this evening and invite friends and family to join you.


GOOD FRIDAY

READ

Today is Good Friday. Take time to read about our observance of Good Friday in the Catholic Church.

REFLECT

"The Christian meaning of death is revealed in the light of the Paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ in whom resides our only hope" (CCC, no. 1681).

PRAY

Pray in thanksgiving today for Jesus, who gave his life for sinners, so that we might have eternal life.

ACT

Take another opportunity to give alms before Easter by donating to the Collection for the Holy Land.. . . 

crucifix-cns-nancy-phelan-weichec-home-page


HOLY SATURDAY


Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral is lit by candles as people gather for the Easter Vigil in Los Angeles March 30, 2013.  CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Vida Nueva
READ

Have you read all of the Mass readings for tonight's Easter Vigil?

REFLECT

"Christ is risen from the dead! Rise with him! Christ is returned again to himself! So you, too, return! Christ is freed from the tomb! Be freed from the bond of sin!"

—St. Gregory Nazianzen, Orations, 45.1

PRAY

"Praise the Lord who bore the spear and who received the nails in his hands, in his feet. He entered into hell and took its spoils."

—St. Ephrem of Syria, Hymns on the Nativity, 13.30

ACT

Attend Mass this evening and invite friends and family to join you. 


EASTER SUNDAY OF THE  RESURRECTION OF THE LORD

A cross draped with a white sash for Easter is seen on the campus of St. Peter Indian Mission School in Bapchule, Arizona. CNS Photo/Nancy Wiechec
READ

Easter does not just last for a day! Take time to read about the span of the Easter season today.

REFLECT

Take extra time with the readings today practicing lectio divina. . . .

PRAY

O God, who on this day,
through your Only Begotten Son,
have conquered death
and unlocked for us the path to eternity,
grant, we pray, that we who keep
the solemnity of the Lord's Resurrection
may, through the renewal brought by your Spirit,
rise up in the light of life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

(Collect, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord, Mass During the Day, Roman Missal, Third Edition)

ACT

Christ is Risen! Spread the Good News! 
Easter Sunday wide t 



resurrection

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