All posts tagged: liturgical year

5 Lenten Practices that Aren’t Giving Up Chocolate

With Ash Wednesday now come and gone, Catholics everywhere embark on their journey of Lenten disciplines. Lenten penitence can quickly begin to feel rote. While there is still great spiritual benefit in denying ourselves dessert or Netflix, sometimes we seek a more thoughtful or creative immersion into the three great practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Sometimes our imaginations need a jolt from the routine to help our bodies and soul enter into the Lenten spirit of preparation. Liturgically, baptized Christians undertake Lenten disciplines in preparation for the renewal of baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil. Christians enter Lent in order to re-enter our sacramental participation in the Paschal Mystery of salvation. Ideally, Lenten disciplines will baptize our imaginations, allowing us to approach the world with fresh eyes and refreshed charity. For anyone seeking different ways to practice Lent this year, here are five ideas that may provide a new approach to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. 1. Forgo music. Several friends have practiced variations on this theme. If you have a morning commute (by car, …

Searching for Christ

T.S. Eliot writes in the third of his Four Quartets, “The Dry Salvages,” “We had the experience but missed the meaning” (II.44). In a single line, Eliot illuminates the affliction of fallen humanity: we are, in the words of St. Peter Chrysologus, “enshrouded always in darkness” (Sermon 160). We look, but the cataracts of sin cloud our perception. We listen, but we do not hear. We have the experience, but we miss the meaning. Over the course of a lifetime, we can amass a breathtaking array of exotic experiences. We casually refer to twitter feeds, bucket lists, and upgrades. We inhabit a world awash in information, where the same scraps of news are looped on a 24-hour cycle until a new story dislodges them, casting them into the abyss of forgetfulness—where one might know more about celebrities than about one’s neighbor; where poetry, according to some literary critics, has become increasingly didactic; where in-depth analysis often means little more than getting the facts right. So ubiquitous is the constant exchange of information that we’ve developed …

Catholic Conversations: What’s your favorite Christmas Carol?

Welcome back to Catholic Conversations, where we engage a varied group of Catholic voices around one question about Catholic life and practice.  What is your favorite Christmas carol? Most Reverend Daniel E. Flores, S.T.D. Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, Texas Do You Hear What I Hear? Said the night wind to the little lamb. It starts simply, the whisper of grace rising through nature. The simplicity of his coming finds welcome in the poor and lowly: Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, do you hear what I hear? From the lowly the sound is amplified to reach the mighty king: Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king, do you know what I know? It’s a hearing, then a knowing. It’s a challenge: In your palace warm, mighty king, do you know what I know? A Child, a Child shivers in the cold. . .  And it is hope. The heart can be receptive, rich and poor, lowly and powerful: Said the king to the people everywhere, listen to what I say. Pray for …

The Circumcision of Jesus and the Mother of God

A little over four years ago, I was in a hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana, awaiting the discharge of my newborn son. At birth, he had trouble breathing (a skill he would learn with ease in a day or two), and thus spent nearly five days surrounded by the whirl of hospital machinery intended to monitor his every breath, a group of top-notch nurses embodying caritas, and the overwhelming love of his ‘newborn’ parents. My son had not yet known the possibility of pain. Until his circumcision. He was taken from his hospital room for the brief procedure. Upon his arrival back, he cried and cried and cried. We were instructed to put ointment on the place of his recently removed foreskin (otherwise, the skin would stick to the diaper and cause a fresh wound). For weeks, every time I changed his diaper, I encountered a color red as blood—a wound that did not quickly disappear. I think of this moment in encountering the Gospel for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. The Gospel speaks about …

The Feast of the Holy Family: Not Just a Model

Those of us suspicious of the pious platitudes that too often make their home in Catholic homiletic practice know that the feast of the Holy Family is a “code-red” day for such platitudes. We families assemble in our parishes and are exhorted that we should conform our domestic life according to the peaceful, loving relationships of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The image of the Holy Family that we receive is one pictured on holy cards where perfect beauty and order and attention are mutually given by Mary, Joseph, and Jesus (I suppose there were no smartphones to distract attention . . . otherwise Christ would have been found wandering around Jerusalem playing Pokémon GO instead of in the Temple). Those of us with toddlers normally do not hear this point of homiletic insight (ironically) because our children want to take up their vocation as amateur arsonists by playing with the candles placed before the statue of the Blessed Mother or to take a swim in the baptismal font. But for those of us able to attend to the preaching this …

Weeping with Rachel, in Sorrow and Hope

There are some stereotypes that often accompany the college stage of a woman’s life. Some (like loving babies, studying in coffee shops, etc), I embraced. Others I did my absolute best to avoid (and we’ll leave those ones to the imagination). My friends and I all proudly took up an affection for and gravitation toward all infants and young children within a mile radius as our stereotypical banner of choice. In fact, we had an unspoken arrangement that involved immediately informing each other of the presence of any nearby bundle(s) of joy. My girlfriends and I reveled in the wonder that small children have; we discussed how there is nothing on this earth more precious than tiny fingers, toes, and noses; we felt the urge to play peek-a-boo with any and all small children who crossed our paths. And if we saw a little tyke just wobbily learning to walk, it was absolutely the game-over-highlight of our day. Not having children of our own yet meant that we certainly still had a somewhat romanticized view of young children …

“Little Children, Love One Another”

For reasons I can’t sufficiently explain, I find that the saints honored by the Church during the Christmas season somehow call my attention a little more than those celebrated at other times of the year. Perhaps it’s because these saints seem to be made more radiant in the glow of the Christmas celebration. Today the Church honors one of the most important figures in the history of Christianity: St. John, Apostle and Evangelist. John has long been a source of fascination for me: my younger brother shares his name, and because of that, when I was a small child, my ears always perked up at Mass whenever I heard the name “John” mentioned. (They still do.) As an adult, I am even more fascinated by St. John the Evangelist—his Gospel and epistles contain some of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. Were I ever to share John’s fate and be banished to an island like Patmos, I would take his writings with me, for I feel certain that I could spend the rest of my life studying …

Auden on the Feast of St. Stephen

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree, Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes— Some have got broken—and carrying them up to the attic. The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt, And the children got ready for school. There are enough Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week— Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot, Stayed up so late, attempted—quite unsuccessfully— To love all of our relatives, and in general Grossly overestimated our powers. —W.H. Auden, “For the Time Being” December 26 can be a miserable morning. The fresh-looking print in one’s new books already has the dull glaze of familiarity. If you’re me, your new pants may already have a tear in them. Yesterday weren’t all things supposed to be made new? Didn’t I just try for four weeks to egg on my longing for Christ, dragging it slouching and grumbling out from under my rocky heart? If I did, I have nothing to show for it. I’m …

The Irrational Season

This is the irrational season when love blooms bright and wild. Had Mary been filled with reason there’d have been no room for the child. —Madeleine L’Engle, “After the Annunciation”   A colorful catalyst to the fifth century Christological controversies of Asia Minor was one Proclus of Constantinople, whose sermons on the cult of the Virgin in Constantinople apparently riled up Nestorius, who balked at going so far as to name Mary Theotokos. Proclus’ homilies are bold, beautiful celebrations of Mary’s status in salvation history, richly textured with lyrical metaphors and poetic hagiography. His “Homily One,” which was delivered with Nestorius in attendance, was written for a Marian feast during the Nativity cycle. Traditionally, the time leading up to Christmas has been a time for Marian reflection. Although key Marian feast days still bookend December 25 (Immaculate Conception on the 8th, and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on January 1st), Marian devotion is not a hallmark of most popular Advent preparations. Before Paul VI moved the great feast of Mary the Mother of …

The Light in Darkness

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well …