Tag Archives: Reconciliation

Losing Lent

Oh, the season of Lent.  The most important season of the year next to Easter.  The season of fasting, penance, and almsgiving.  Or in the case of me, the most important season of the Christian calendar when I fall seriously down on my job as an adopted daughter of God.  Why oh why does Lent always fall during the busiest time of my family’s calendar?  I know that I have no say in the matter, but it always brings me down.  Advent, that I can do – albeit half-way.  Lent?  It falls during – dare I say it out loud – spring sports season where my entire family lives in a state of constant and utter chaos.  (Please forgive me – yet again – Lord.)

Does God want me in a state of constant chaos?  He does not.  He wants and hopes that I stay in the holy season of Lent.  He wants me to give my mind, heart and soul to this holy season and all that it offers me as a person.  It offers me such growth – such promise.  And then life takes over, and I get taken away in a fast current of track meets, lacrosse games, stinky laundry, and meals at 10:00 p.m.  Oh yeah, I also have dogs and a spouse.  I lose Lent.  It loses me.

So, I head to my parish’s Penance Service last Monday with my “memo card of sins.”  It is my turn, and I am face to face with the kindest face I’ve seen in a long time.  The priest is a jolly, older Irish man, and when he sees my “memo card of sins,” he jokes, “Is that the litany of Saints?”.  Phew.  I got a good one.

I know that reconciliation is full of graces that I will never fully comprehend.  Sometimes I leave feeling worse than when I walked in, but most of the time I feel the compassion and mercy of my heavenly Father, the sacred heart of my brother Jesus who walks my same roads, and the Holy Spirit who guides me through my crazy, 2017 life.   Most of the time, I leave armed with the armor of God – ready to do battle.

This time (and please forgive me for oversharing), but I confessed that I have not done a good job of holding onto my Lenten promise.  And let’s be clear – my Lenten promise is something that I should be doing anyway.  It wasn’t something above and beyond the pale.

This kind, sweet, loving old priest said to me, “Jesus himself fell beneath the weight of the sins of the world three times.  Even though he knew Calvary was ahead of him, he got up – three times.  When you fall, just get back up.”

I cannot begin to tell you what that simple message said to me.  “Just get back up.”   When you mess up once, don’t berate yourself.  Just get back up.  Do the next right thing.  When you make that mistake that you always make – you know the one – try not to make it again the next time.  Use positive self-talk telling yourself that you want to be the best version of yourself.  Pray to the Holy Spirit to redirect your thoughts and actions.  Ask forgiveness.  Again.

The priest said to me that we are close to Easter, but there is still plenty of time to work toward my Lenten promise.  Just get back up.  Here’s to getting back up.  We are all in this together.

You Are Always Welcome Home

The times, they are a-changin’.  Despite the 80 degree temps around these southern parts, the leaves are finally starting to turn fall colors.  The election coverage promises winds of change.  Our children are growing out of the clothes we just bought them (ahem).  We are also about to change our clocks back.  (Thank you God!)
This Homecoming week has also made me think of the many changes at Marist.  The campus has grown in remarkable ways – the Foundations, peer leader and parent mentor programs all help to build the Marist community – a community like none other.  We have our large and welcoming Campus Ministry with retreats for every grade.  When I look around this beautiful space, I cannot help but think that the many physical changes have made Marist a better place for our students, parents and alumni on a far more than physical level.
When I started Marist back in the dark ages, I had braces, wings shellacked back with tons of hair spray, and my fair share of pimples.  I was ready for the next step after elementary school, but I had no idea where I was going or where I was to end up.  When I left Marist, I was a completely different, fundamentally changed person.  Marist’s mission of forming the whole person in the image of Christ through academic excellence, Catholic education, and the spirit of Mary initiated the formation of who I was, as well as the person I am today. For that, I will be forever thankful.
 “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.”
 
– Thomas Merton
My film-making-crazy son has been creating the “hype” videos for Marist this past football season.  This week, he created a Homecoming video which gave me a bit of a chill.  The lyrics to the song he chose say, “Come to me.  Oh, your weary soul…is always welcome home.  You’re always welcome home.”
This lyric not only spoke to me as an alumae who always feels welcome at Marist, but as a Christian, who is constantly being called home to communion with my Savior.  I am always welcome home, no matter how many mistakes I make.  No matter what I do outside of the box, I am always welcomed home.   I just need to ask.
I cannot believe I am quoting my son, but here we go.  His words from his video said, “Let’s stand side by side.  The young and old.  Current and former students.  All those who have shaped this school into making it what it is.  Let’s celebrate that our alumni are home again, because we can all call our community a family, and Marist, our home.”
I couldn’t have said it better.  Welcome home, students, parents, and alumni.  Welcome home, Marist.  You always have a place.  “You’re always welcome home.”

Lent: Not Just Giving Things Up, But Doing Things Differently

When I was in elementary school, there was a lot of emphasis on “what are you going to give up for Lent?”. I would give up candy or sweets and then have a heyday come Easter Sunday when my basket arrived from the bunny. When I attended Marist, the priests and my religion teachers took it a step further, and challenged us to do something meaningful on a daily basis as our Lenten challenge (more prayer, silent, humble acts of service, etc.). Now that I am an adult (when did that happen?), I am always looking for the best thing to do during Lent that will help me to grow closer to God. And I struggle with this every Lent. I start out with the best of intentions, and then fall down on the job.

Last week my parish hosted a Reconciliation service. I waited in line with my memo card of transgressions waiting to see the priest. After I left, it was very clear what I needed to give up this year for Lent – unforgiveness. And not just give it up for Lent, but work on giving it up for good. When I am not forgiving, I am definitely not being the person who God is calling me to be. Unforgiveness hurts me far more than the person with whom I’m struggling. This thoughtful, old retired priest suggested, “Who are we to judge? Leave that to God. We cannot see into another’s soul. We must forgive as we have been forgiven.”

Allen Hunt had just finished a great talk about forgiveness, which he called the most powerful word in the English language. He said that Jesus’ heart is to love first, and forgive first. However, for those of us who are mere humans, that can be a tough road. So what was the suggestion of this elderly priest, this man of faith? He said I must pray for this person daily – pray for their well-being, their happiness, their wholeness. He said as I pray for them daily, my heart will be softened and more open to forgiveness.

This makes sense, because as my aunt likes to point out, we all have a bit of a “bitter bank.” Something bad happens between you and someone you care about, and you make a deposit into that bitter bank. And then another, and then another. Month after month, year after year. And then one day, you make a withdrawal – maybe on purpose, or maybe some conversation or action brings you to the brink and the withdrawal comes out in very big bills. The withdrawal can be a snarky retort or a full-on shouting match. Either way, it isn’t pretty, and it isn’t what God wants for our relationships.

So I went to my bookshelves of “books I should read when I have more time” and pulled out Everyone Needs to Forgive Somebody by the aforementioned Allen Hunt. Here’s what I found:

“Do you want forgiveness? Know that the more you forgive, the more forgiveness you will receive. The more you live a lifestyle of forgiving others, the less you yourself will be affected by bitterness, grudges and resentment. The more you give, the more you get. When you clench your fists, fold your arms, and grit your teeth in anger or hatred toward someone, you have no room in your heart for God to place His hand in yours. Replace your clenched fist with an open hand and watch as God fills your soul to overflowing.”

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  – Colossians 3:13-14

Have a blessed (and forgiving) week and enjoy your spring break!