A Walk Through the Wilderness – Ash Wednesday

I always feel so humbled on Ash Wednesday. This day, its service and its message are so counter-culture. After a whole year of being told through the media and society that we must succeed, be important and perfect, this day always shocks me back to the truth.

In today’s world we need to be someone. We value success, position and possessions  above pretty much everything else. We have to climb ladders even if fingers get stepped on in the process. Yet today we are reminded of a simpler truth.

We are dust and to dust we shall return.

We are sinful – not perfect. We are mortal – not a god. Our material worth and possessions exist not in our eternal future. We are dust. We are nothing… without God.

These ashes are a humble reminder that I need forgiveness. I need to work harder to be in the world but not of it. I need to humble myself and live and work for God.

I think of the saints and the great works that they did and realize it is not their works. They are dust as well. (Quite literally now…) Yet they opened their lives to God so that He could work and teach through them. What was great in their lives was their faith. Let us be like them this Lent. Let us let go of our sinfulness and humble ourselves as the dust that we are so that God can make us great through Him.

Don’t forget to check out Amanda. I told you we are perfect for each other. She also was reminded of St. Therese of Lisieux. (Plus, she has two posts today! Here is her second one.)

Also, my mom reminded me of a little prayer that her mother taught her. It is a great prayer to pray at the top of the hour. I also find it especially fitting to pray during Lent.

“During this hour and every hour of the day and of the night may Jesus dwell in our hearts. Blessed be the hour and the moment when Jesus Christ our Savior became man died and rose again for our salvation. Blessed be the hour and the moment when Jesus Christ will come again in Glory.”

And seeing as today was Pope Benedict XVI’s last public homily I will share this.

And just for some comic relief on this somber day...

And just for some comic relief on this somber day…

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Lenten reflections

(What? Two posts in one day? High five!)

I figure I should give a little intro into Lent, seeing as today is Shrove Tuesday (or Mardi Gras, or Carnival, or whatever you want to call it. The day before Lent.)

What is Lent?

Lent used to be the season between winter and summer. (Apparently in Dutch, “lente” is still used as their word for spring.) In the Church, Lent is like our own spiritual spring. It is a season of soul-searching and repentance as we prepare ourselves for Easter, and our Redemption. Lent is a time for refinement, sacrifice, repentance and growth. It is also symbolic to the 40 days that Jesus spend in the desert fasting, facing temptations and preparing for his public ministry.

If I’m going to use the cheesy analogy of the seed, (and I will), lent is like our germination stage. We are waiting in the wilderness for 40 days, in the dark of our sin, until the day we can break through to the surface and see the light of day. Just as fire that passes over a seed and opens it up to new life; through sacrificing, fasting, acknowledgement of our sinfulness and repentance, we can open up to become something (or rather someone) better.

Christ is our New Life. He is our Spring.

What can you do during Lent?

There is an abundance of things you can do to prepare for Easter. Everything from praying more regularly, to giving something up (by it something like television or a food,) to volunteering for the poor, to going to confession once a week, are great options. Here is a list of other ideas with some great reflections to make before choosing one or some ideas. Depending on where you are in your faith and what aspects of your life/spiritual life needs work there are a ton of different things to do.

A few things I’m going to work on are

  1. Really working on more strict Friday fasting
  2. Daily prayer
  3. Read some Classics (ones with some Catholic undertones)
  4. Exercise more
  5. Attend one weekday mass (apart from Sunday liturgies)
  6. More family time. (ie: less TV, computer, phone distractions)
  7. Be more thankful
  8. Declutter (loosely following this)
  9. Do the little things with love

(Yeah not a terrible list hey? Reading? Exercise? All pretty fun.)

I am also going to be using these 40 days of Lent to help teach Andrew about Kindness although random acts of kindness is sort of out of the question. Even though kids are definitely random, kindness is not really part of that. We will be encouraging to share with his little brother the first time we ask. Also, we will be acknowledging all the times he does something kind like tell someone he loves them, gives a hug, helps out etc. Then at the end of the day, we will add his kindness to our thank-you prayers. (Something along the lines of “We are thankful for all the times Andrew was kind for Jesus.”)

I think the hardest part is remembering to do all things with Love. Good thing my patron saint for 2013 is Therese of Lisieux. I need all the help I can get doing “the little things with great love.”

Therese, the little flower

Therese, the little flower

Don’t forget to check out any reflections made by Amanda. She wrote today about how Lent begins with decluttering.