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Ash Wednesday and Lent start early this year, and while everyone knows about giving things up and not eating meat on Fridays, not everyone knows what this season means. The following video is a brief introduction to this important season of prayer and reflection!
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Lent is a time to remember Jesus' sacrifice for us on earth. This video gives a new twist on the story of Jesus' passion and Resurrection. It gives me chills!
Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent! What does that mean and how am I supposed to participate?
What does Lent Mean? Lent originally meant spring and designates the 40 days prior to Jesus' Resurrection at Easter. We are called to do several things during Lent. Give of ourselves in order to be closer to God. Get rid of practices that turn us away from God's love, and clean up our lives in order to be closer to Jesus at His Resurrection. Why do we get Ashes on our forehead? There are many reasons, I think the most important thing to remember about Ash Wednesday is that we are sinners and the sign of ashes reminds us that we are sorry for our sins and must sincerely seek forgiveness. This quote from Daniel 9:3-6 sums it up well. It is not about wearing our faith quite literally on our foreheads, but a chance to remember our reason for being, give glory back to God, and turn towards him in our imperfect state with a desire to do better.
What shall I do this Lent? We are asked to do three Lenten practices:
Prayer means growing closer to God by communicating with him. We bring him our worries and desires. We ask for forgiveness for our sins (the times we have turned away form God's will in our lives) and point our lives back to God. Try different forms of prayer. Pray more often. Pray with a Bible. Try opening the Bible to a page and putting your finger on a passage. Read that passage and take time to reflect on it. Write your thoughts down to remember later. This leads us to a deeper relationship with Christ, his sacrifice, and his mission of love. Use Pray model each time you pray. P=praise God for the good things he has given you. R=repent and ask for forgiveness for the things you have done wrong. A=ask for others; state your intentions and prayers for the sake of others. Y= yourself; ask for petitions for which you seek God's answer.
Fasting is doing without, or simplifying our lives by taking out the things that are clouding our vision of Christ and His Resurrection. This practice also helps us understand how much Jesus gave up for us through His passion and death on the cross. Try to give up something each week that will really mean something to you. Each time you want to do that activity or eat that food, say a prayer. Talk to God and ask him to enter your struggle. Giving something up makes room for God to put something amazing in its place. The things we give up are not meant to show how holy we are because we can endure without. It means humbling ourselves to give glory to God. In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 6 we are reminded by Jesus that we should not call attention to our suffering. We must be humble and lift up our suffering to God in order that he may enter our hearts and lives.
There are extensive lists online, some of them funny and some are more serious. I like the one from Life Teen I will share at the end of this post.
Almsgiving. We are called to give of ourselves during the Lent season. This is not just the ordinary practice of giving our money (treasure) but our time and talent as well. We practice giving of ourselves to bring joy and life to others. We "fill up" With something good." Volunteer at a food kitchen. Watch a younger brother or sister without being asked. Devote your time to a friend in need.
Where is all this leading us? We take time during the season of Lent to ask forgiveness for our sins, get rid of the things that keep us from God and to begin practicing ways that lead us to God. There is joy from being a part of God's kingdom come to earth! Praise God during Lent, Remember, God kicks ash!
LifeTeen blogs about Lent to check out:
the beginning of the church year and the four weeks we get ready for Christmas. It is a time of the year to remember a baby, born in a manger, who would be the savior of us all. As they say, Jesus is the reason for the season. The word Advent comes from the Latin word meaning coming. Advent is a time of joyous waiting for the coming of the Lord. We anxiously hear the story of the Nativity (see Luke 2: 1-21) We also sing carols and share gifts . We are practicing our faith in Jesus and living the Christian life as we wait with hope for Christ to come again and bring us all under God's reign.
Major symbols of the Advent season help us in our journey of waiting and preparation. We light one candle each week on the Advent wreath. Three are purple and one is pink. The rose pink one is lit on the third week of Advent, called Gaudete Sunday, to symbolize the hope in our waiting for the coming of Christ both at Christmas and in the second coming at the end of days. The light of candles symbolizes the light Christ's coming brings to our life and the light the wise men followed to find Jesus in the stable on a dark night.
Advent Calendars are used to help aid our waiting by giving us a surprise or activity each day. We take part in the unexpected surprise the gift of Jesus was to the world!
The point of Advent is preparing our homes for Christ, like a welcomed guest. So we sing carols and send cards to celebrate the message of Jesus coming into the world to save us.
We also set up a nativity set to symbolize the gift of Christ God gives us. Sending us his son, so that we might have life in heaven! Joyful and triumphant news!
Happy Advent, Kari
Check out the Life Teen Blog: What is Advent? and
Enjoy the Advent in 2 Minutes video for more Advent fun!
For the past several weeks, the Bishops of the world were gathered in Rome, having a series of discussions. These meetings are called "Synods" in our Church, and can be called by the Pope at any time, on any topic. This latest Synod was on topics including family and marriage, and concluded on Oct. 19th.
If you spend any time watching the news or surfing the web, you undoubtedly came across some interesting news headlines during this Synod. I myself was watching a news station one night, as the anchor began a report on the Synod saying "a DRAMATIC SHIFT IN TONE today from the Vatican..."
The important thing to know here is that many of these headlines were simply not true. The problem came in that many people weren't aware of how the Synod worked/what its function was. The Synod really was a series of small group discussions, with the "notes" from these discussions being published. There was no official, teaching document published.
The trouble often comes when the media tries to make headlines when it comes to Church events (this is after all the purpose of the media, to make headlines). It is important for us as Catholics to know the facts, to know what is actually happening, so that when we see headlines, we can know whether or not they are accurate.
As the season of Fall surrounds us, we are reminded of how things inevitably change in a rhythm that is out of our control. Although we may have liked to hold on to the long, bright days of summer and warm weather, we must adapt to the shorter days of fog and frost.
There are parallels that can be seen throughout all of nature and our lives. This is no surprise since all of creation bears the autograph of our one Creator. Among these parallels is the idea of seasons; the rhythm of births and deaths throughout our journey to Heaven.
We all agree that for humans there is one day in which we physically are born, and one day in which we physically die; but what about all those moments in between?
Because we are Christians, throughout our lives we share in Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection. Our sharing in these events of Jesus are not just one time occasions. Yes, we died with Christ at our Baptism. Yes, we will share in his resurrection when we pass away. But throughout our lives, we go through seasons of dying and rising as well. And just like the coming of the season of Fall is out of our control, so too are the seasons of struggle and joy throughout our lives.
It's often tempting to become frustrated with the fact that there are circumstances and seasons that are out of our control. I sometimes feel that, "Why can't it just stay like this forever?" This is especially true during the months of the year when I realize just how much I enjoyed the long sunny days of summer, and they are slipping away. But, we all know that although there are cold days ahead, with wind and shoveling of snow, Spring will come again, and so will Summer. And how good will those seasons feel after experiencing the hardships of winter!
These ideas of Winter to Summer are true for our journeys as well. Although we may not want the days of goodness and ease to go away, we know that if we face the inevitable cold and challenges, Summer will return and we will have a renewed gratitude for it. Furthermore, our lives will be more united to Christ's, for he is with us at every step and every season.
So when a season begins to change in your life, be reminded of the hope we have as believers that the sun will shine again. These seasons will come and go, even if we may not want them to. But one day, we will finally share in the
eternal season of life.
Below are two songs which you may enjoy.
This is a song we have introduced here at St. Jude parish, "God Beyond All Names."
This song is by Nichole Nordeman, and it is very fittingly entitled, "Every Season."
In Christ's Peace,
You've probably heard the lyrics to a very familiar Christian hymn, "Be Still My Soul," for the Lord is at your side. Though this is something we must hear from time to time in this fast-paced world, I'd like us to think about a contrasting idea: "Awake, my soul, Awake!" (Psalm 108: 3).
Chances are you really enjoy sleeping, and you wish you had more of it! It's easy to think of our bodies being asleep, but what about our souls? It's so easy to let our spiritual lives go on autopilot, become dormant, and for us to become spiritually stagnant.
But in Psalm 108, a psalm of David, he says: "My heart is steadfast, God; my heart is steadfast. I will sing and chant praise. Awake, my soul; awake, lyre and harp! I will wake the dawn." These words challenge us to wake up our sleepy souls!
Fr. Robert Barron reminds us in his lecture on "The Seven Deadly Sins, and Seven Lively Virtues" that although we may be busy on the outside (school, homework, show-choir, band, football, friends, etc.) we can simultaneously be slothful in our "inside." When this happens, we may become overwhelmed and overworked. Our bodies become tired, as well as our souls.
So perhaps we can make use of the hymn I mentioned at the beginning, and help it lead us to Psalm 108: 3. Invite the Holy Spirit to dwell in your soul, (where it already abides). Say "Be still, my soul." Then let the Holy Spirit speak to you as He searches your heart. If we begin with this calmness, we can be lead into a "waking up" of our souls.
You may not have a "lyre and harp" nearby to chant praise with, but you do have your life, which can be the greatest instrument of all! Let your life be a song to God as you live with a soul that is awakened to his abundant and almighty presence!
Enjoy this song, "O My Soul" by a phenomenal musician, Audrey Assad.
In Christ's Peace,
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus speaks to his followers about listening to and acting on his teachings. Jesus tells his followers that the one who listens to his word and acts on them "is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood fame, the river burst against the house but could not shake it because it had been well built. " (LK 6). But Jesus tells his followers that the one who listens but does not act on his teachings "is like a person who build a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed."
In many ways, growing up building our lives is a lot like building a house. When we are young, our parents help to set the foundation by instilling values and beliefs in us, and as we grow up, we make choices that become continue to build up our house.
But as you continue to get older, not only will you literally move out of your parents house one day, you will also be responsible for setting your own foundation in your life. All of a sudden, all of our choices are entirely up to us. What do I want to believe in? Who do I want to be? What freedom!!!
The trouble is, many set off into this new phase of life without laying that same strong foundation that their parents once laid for them. Many get so excited by the endless possibilities and freedom that they don't worry about building a strong foundation for their lives. But when the "river" comes crashing in, those problems and adversities that we all eventually face, those people find it very hard to cope because they have no foundation.
So, the question is this: where is your foundation? As you continue to grow and mature, and continue to be responsible for your own choices, what will your foundation be? Jesus makes it clear that HE is our foundation. If we build our lives on him and his teachings, then we will endure the trials, the moments that the river of adversity threatens to destroy the house that we have worked so hard to build. But if we don't build our lives on Christ, if we don't have that strong foundation, then our house crumbles when the river comes.
The choice is yours- you have the tools, and are responsible for building the house of our own life. Where is your foundation? WHO is your foundation?
Chances are you have many titles that you go by; perhaps a nickname used by your friends and family. Maybe there's a title you earned on the baseball field, or in choir. But let's take a moment to think about the many titles of God.
Similar to God, no matter what we are called, one name, nickname, or title could never encompass all of who we are. Our names simply point to a greater reality. But they are helpful, and often they can describe an attribute of us. So what are some names of God?
I encourage you to jump around in the book of Psalms. There you will find an ample supply of praises to God, describing who God is. For example, Psalm 136: "Praise the Lord, who is so good; God's love endures forever." Some names given to God in the Psalms include: "My safeguard and my fortress," "My deliverer," "My shield," "My champion," and "The maker of heaven and earth." Rest on one of those titles, or go and find one for yourself. Which one speaks to you right now? Whatever you need God to be right now in your life, that is who God is.
Personally I have found the power of using a small portion of scripture as my "anthem" while I'm getting ready, or when I'm driving to hang out with friends. Some that you may find prudent are:
"The Lord is never late, he always provides."
"The Lord knows me and he loves me."
"The Lord is faithful."
These may seem like small, insignificant attributes to give God on the surface. However, when we think about the depth of these words, we realize the truth they contain and how awesome it is that God is EVERYTHING to us. This is especially comforting to know while we live in a world where there is so much that is not good, so much unfaithfulness, and so much sin.
As we get to know God better, we get to know more of characteristics. As we get to know him better, we also fall deeper in love with him. There is always something new to learn about our God, and there are many titles to give him. And perhaps the most wonderful thing about it all is that one word could never fully define God. God, simply put, is everything. And, we are everything to Him.
In Christs' Peace,
Kristina, Kari & Brian will author these blogs, addressed to YOU middle school and high school students of St. Jude Parish.