Lent is hard!

It’s a funny thing, Lent. We all know we are supposed to give something up, do something good, pray more, give more, and fast. Some of these things might come easily to us. Others, not so much. One that is personally hard for me is fasting. In previous years I would be excited if I was pregnant or nursing – no fasting, got around that one again! This year I do have a nursing baby, but I chose to fast anyway because of a conversation I had regarding its practice.

It was right before Ash Wednesday when I was speaking with this person. We were talking about Lenten activities and they mentioned that they don’t fast because “Well it’s hard and when I fast I get cranky and irritated at people more quickly, so I just don’t do it.” Given my attitude toward fasting, I was surprised that my initial reaction was to disagree: “That’s why we do it. It’s HARD! And denying ourselves helps us to recognize our dependence on God rather than the material world.” At which point I was rather ashamed at my behavior the past few years.

The Truth About Lent

Is that it’s not supposed to be easy. So much of what our culture tells us today is that if it feels good, do it. If it tastes good, eat it. If it makes you happy, regardless of expense or consequence, do it. Fasting and self-denial aren’t easy. There is a reason why Jesus has to explain to his followers how to fast well:

When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting….But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you. (Matthew 6:16-18)

This can be applied to whatever we are giving up for Lent. I went through a phase where it was easier to do something rather than give them up. I tried to convince myself that doing something positive was somehow better than not doing something else. I know that there are many people who use Lent as an opportunity to increase their spiritual practices and works of mercy. This wonderful and I do not mean to discourage it. However, I don’t think it should replace the practice of self-denial.

Nothing can replace the action of saying No to yourself. I think that is the biggest lesson I have learned. Self-denial is not inaction, it is not passive. Acts of fasting and self-denial mean choosing the harder path for yourself and no one can do it for you.

So if you are feeling discouraged in your Lenten practice, take heart! If it’s hard, it probably means it’s good for you and is helping you to grow in your relationship with God, even if you can’t see how just yet.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Book Review: The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis

PrintThere are so many options for Lenten reflections out there. Many bishops and priests will write a reflection series, most parishes will offer some kind of booklet like the Little Black books or a Magnificat Lenten Companion prayer book. If you are starting to think, oh this is just another one of those books/series, keep reading! The Hope of Lent by Diane M. Houdek is a brand new series of reflections….hold it right there. It may say that these are “reflections” in the title, but I would respectfully beg to differ.

What is so delightfully refreshing about Pope Francis is that in one breath he can cause a person to stop, reflect and be moved to act. Houdek has very thoughtfully chosen key moments in Pope Francis’ daily homilies and addresses which invite the reader to not simply consider the daily readings, but to be inspired into practical action.

Lent isn’t only a time for sitting back and internal soul searching, though this can be extremely fruitful. Pope Francis is fearless in his interpretation and explanation of Gospel truths.

How often we find people – ourselves included – so often in the Church who proclaim: “I am a real Catholic!” They should be asked, “What do you do?”

The Lord’s mercy is in doing. Being Christian means acting: doing the will of God. And on the last day – because we will all have one – what will the Lord ask us? Will he ask us: “What have you said about me?” No! He will ask about the things we have done.

– Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

Houdek rightfully explores the exhortations of Pope Francis by offering a brief follow-up meditation which typically includes an idea for how to put our pope’s words into action. The daily entry finishes with a few lines of prayer from Pope Francis.

Something I really appreciated about The Hope of Lent is how Houdek frames the purpose for it. She says:

The greatest hope of Lent is the discovery that it’s not only about penance, deprivation, spiritual struggles, and rooting out sin in our lives. Those are often the things we do during Lent. But the hope of Lent lies in what God does (vii).

So here we have a simple book that has found a way to hold two key truths in balance with one another. In one hand, it isn’t enough to talk the talk, we must walk the walk. However, while we are doing all that walking, we must not get caught up in our own action. Rather, the more we are called to action necessarily means we are called to greater contemplation.

We live in a rush, we are on the run, without noticing what the path is like; and we let ourselves be carried along by the needs, by the necessities of the days, but without thinking…Today, at the moment in which we stop to think about these things and to make decisions, to choose something, we know the Lord is with us, is beside us, to help us. He never lets us go alone.

– Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Even though Lent has just begun, The Hope of Lent is more than worth going back and reading from the beginning. And then reading again in June or July. And possibly in October or November as well. Pope Francis’ meditations are full of spiritual insight and practical wisdom that can inspire us to become hope-filled, joy-filled Christians.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

 

Wants, Needs and What I can Afford

Wants, Needs and What I can Afford kktaliaferro.wordpress.com #DailyGraces #Lent
Image by Kjersti Brennsæter via Pixabay. Text added by Kate Taliaferro 2016.

As John is getting older, he’s 4 and a half now, he is starting to figure out just how to ask for things. I’ve found myself having to correct him a few times a day, saying “John, you don’t need to have that race car/cookie/blanket/etc., you want it. We don’t ask for things that way, can you please try again.” With Lent starting tomorrow – yikes!, all this talk about needs and wants has me thinking – What do I want vs. What do I need, especially when it comes to how I spend my time while the kids are sleeping or napping – my “me” time.

Let’s start with the “Wants” list, because it has all the fun stuff on it =)

Want to:

  • Knit/crochet/craft – I just taught myself how to knit and have thrown myself into a project. I also have sitting in the wings a crochet project, 2 cross stitch projects and a new chaplet project for my moms group/bible study.
  • Write – I’ve got all these ideas for blog posts and lengthier ideas that need development, evolution and most importantly, time to hash out. I’m discerning if God is calling me to a bigger writing project, more articles, etc. All I want to do is write.
  • Read – I am in the middle of 3 books right now. Yes, 3. And I just volunteered to read a 4th and write a review of it that has to be posted during Lent (not sure I got this gig yet, more to come, maybe God will take care of my craziness for me because let’s face it, that may not have been my best impulsive move of the day).
  • Go to Mass daily

Now the Needs:

  • Pray daily – in a calm, collected, designated time that isn’t while I’m talking to all 3 kids at once.
  • To go to confession, even though I don’t particularly enjoy it (because I don’t do it often enough. I know that if I dedicated myself to the habit, my attitude would change.)
  • Clean the house, at least minimally, to maintain my sanity.

Breaking down the lists between wants and needs threw into sharp perspective the difference between the two. For my survival, sanity and overall physical and spiritual health, there are things on my needs list that no amount of the wants can fulfill. I could spend every available moment knitting, but it won’t repair my relationship with God. I can read many books, fiction or spiritual, but unless I talk about my day, my experiences, my trials, and even those books with God, I won’t deepen my relationship with Him. And, no amount of griping, complaining or avoidance will clean the bathroom or vacuum the floors.

Think about it like this: in the Bible, God asks for sacrifices that are of the first-fruits, the cream of the crop, the unblemished lamb. The Israelites were to give to God first, then to themselves. In this way, God’s blessings would return to them 10-fold because by offering their best to God, it returned to them increased. Today, we can think about it by considering what we give to support our churches, charitable organizations and other worthy causes. A true biblical tithe is 10% – before taxes. Give to God, then give to Caesar. It is interesting to take a hard look at your finances and see where your money goes, especially percentage-wise. Take that lesson and look at your day. Are you giving God the first-fruits of your time, or is He getting what’s leftover? This is tough friends, and I am as guilty as anyone of giving to God what’s left, instead of what is first.

As Lent starts, I am going to be taking an honest look at how I am spending my time, making sure to prioritize my needs over my wants. I need God to come first, to prioritize my relationship with Him before anything else. For me, this means that before doing anything else during naptime, I will prioritize my God time. I expect most days I will still have time for my wants and hopefully, they will bring me even greater pleasure because I have taken care of my needs first.