Lenten Meditations

LENTEN MEDITATION: The River by Paul Myers

April 5, 2017

From: Portland Magazine Many years ago I was fishing in the Wilson River with my brother-in-law.  It was autumn, salmon season.  The air and the river were cold and you could smell the sea.  Yellow and gold and bronze leaves darted and swirled and spun in the crystalline waters at our feet.  Morning mist hung in the hemlocks and firs climbing the mountains.  Everywhere there was mottled light. I heard the sound of plastic hitting rock and I looked over and saw my brother-in-law lean over to retrieve his lure box from the river, and then he slipped and fell in, and the river yanked him away.  He groped frantically for the rocks and jabbed his heels desperately into the riverbed and after a second or two he actually stood up, the [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: The Mystery Of Jesus by Blaise Pascal

April 3, 2017

From: Pensées Jesus suffers in his passion the torments inflicted upon him by men, but in his agony he suffers the torments which he inflicts on himself.  He was troubled.  This punishment is inflicted by no human, but an almighty hand, and only he that is almighty can bear it. Jesus seeks some comfort at least from his three dearest friends, and they sleep: he asks them to bear with him a while, and they abandon him with complete indifference, and with so little pity that it did not keep them awake even for a single moment.  And so Jesus was abandoned to face the wrath of God alone. Jesus is alone on Earth, not merely with no one to feel and share his agony, but with no one even to know of it.  Heaven and he are the only ones to [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: They Took My Lord Away by John Donne

March 27, 2017

From: The Showing Forth of Christ They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.  This was one strain of Mary Magdalene’s lamentation, when she found not her Savior in the monument.  It is a lamentable case to be fain to cry so, They have taken; other men have taken away Christ, by a dark and corrupt education.  But when the casting away of God which is so often complained of by God in the prophets is pronounced against you, when you have had Christ offered to you by the motions of his grace and sealed to you by his sacraments, and yet will cast him so far from you that you know not where to find him; when you have poured out at your eyes in profane and counterfeit tears which should be your soul’s [...]


March 21, 2017

From: The Jesuit Post If you have ever thrown an elbow or slid cleats high. If you have ever snapped back or punched first. If you have ever quietly stolen inconsequential things, small pieces of candy from a store, a magazine from a waiting room. If you have wiped your mouth on a dishtowel and hung it back up. If you have argued from authority. If you don’t wash your hands, not much. If you decided somewhere along the way – without even realizing it – that you would not have a relationship with the plaintive, pith-helmeted mail carrier.  Instead you two would walk by each other day after day like creatures from a sad divorce eons ago who had forgotten they ever knew each other. If you fail to give waitstaff irresistible small [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Keeping Watch by Philip Berrigan

March 20, 2017

From: Disciples and Dissidents May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to all: “Watch!” (Mark 13:36-37) I am pondering the passage at Mark 13:36, and my thoughts return to the winter of 1943, to a nineteen-year-old draftee at Camp Gordon, now Fort Gordon, Georgia.  The old Springfield rifle is heavy, the Georgia winters are damp and cold and dark and – Lord, Gawd! – I’ve gotta walk guard for four hours. And do I ever watch!  I watch for the officer of the guard.  If he hears a weak challenge (Halt!  Who goes there?) or finds me forgetful of the password (Geronimo) or hiding or smoking, it’s weekend KP for a month.  The minutes and hours drag agonizingly by.  I’m [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Final Sanity by Phyllis Tickle

March 14, 2017

From: Wisdom in the Waiting: Spring’s Sacred Days The forty penitential weekdays and six Sundays that follow Mardi Gras and precede Easter are the days of greatest calm in the church’s year.  Since by long centuries of custom the date of Easter is annually determined from the first Sunday after the full moon on or after March 21, the intertwining of physical and spiritual seasons is virtually inevitable.  The resulting union of deep winter and holy preparation makes reflection, even penitence, a natural activity. One night years ago, toward the end of winter, there was a storm, a cold front shifting suddenly and dropping onto us with ferocity and winds that bent down the pine trees along the fence line.  Sometime after I [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: The Royal Road by Thomas à Kempis

March 13, 2017

From: The Imitation of Christ There will always be many who love Christ’s Heavenly kingdom, but few who will bear his cross.  Jesus has many who desire consolation, but few who care for adversity.  He finds many to share his table, but few who will join him in fasting.  Many are eager to be happy with him; few wish to suffer anything for him.  Many will follow him as far as the breaking of bread, but few will remain to drink from his passion.  Many are awed by his miracles, few accept the shame of his cross. Many love Christ as long as they encounter no hardship; many praise and bless him as long as they receive some comfort from him.  But if Jesus hides himself and leaves them for a while, they either start complaining or [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Discipleship And The Cross by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

March 9, 2017

From: Meditations On The Cross Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter.  “Out of my sight, Satan!” he said.  “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:31-34) Suffering and rejection are the summary expression [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: I Hope You Find by Ita Ford

March 7, 2017

From: “Here I Am, Lord”: The Letters and Writings of Ita Ford (Ita Ford, MM, was a Maryknoll missionary in Bolivia, Chile, and El Salvador.  She worked with the poor and war refugees.  On December 2, 1980, she was murdered in El Salvador along with fellow missionaries Sister Maura Clarke, MM; Jean Donovan; and Dorothy Kazel, OSU, by a death squad of the right-wing Salvadoran military-led government.) Dear Jennifer, The odds that this note will arrive for your birthday are poor, but know I’m with you in spirit as you celebrate sixteen big ones.  I hope it’s a special day for you. I want to say something to you and wish I were there to talk to you, because sometimes letters don’t get across all the meaning [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: My Messy House by Kathleen Norris

March 6, 2017

From: Amazing Grace When I’m working as an artist-in-residence at parochial schools, I like to read the psalms out loud to inspire the students, who are usually not aware that the snippets they sing at Mass are among the greatest poems in the world.  But I have found that when I have asked children to write their own psalms, their poems often have an emotional directness that is similar to that of the Biblical Psalter.  They know what it’s like to be small in a world designed for big people, to feel lost and abandoned.  Children are frequently astonished to discover that the psalmists so freely express the more unacceptable emotions, sadness and even anger, even anger at God, and all of this is in the Bible that they hear [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Why I’m Committed To Lent by Mallory McDuff

March 3, 2017

In Fairhope, Alabama, I grew up in a family of six where giving up something for Lent was an expectation, not a choice.  A few days before Ash Wednesday, the dinner conversation revolved around one question: What are you giving up for Lent? As children, we sacrificed the usual suspects of chocolate, chips, ice cream, and TV.  When my brother Laurence gave up TV one year, he walked backwards through the living room with his hands over his ears to avoid confronting the television screen with its Saturday night lineup of Love Boat and Fantasy Island. My parents gave up indulgences like alcohol and meat, and then several years later, they became tee-totalers and vegetarians.  I just feel better without a headache after a party, explained my [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Thorns And Impediments by Richard Valantasis

March 17, 2016

From Centuries of Holiness The ascetical struggle has often been metaphorized as a difficult hike up a high mountain.  The metaphor includes the strenuous effort required, the difficulties of climbing, and the occasional encounter of impediments on the road, especially a thorny path.  Macarius the Egyptian, a fourth-century ascetic monk, writes in particular of the encounter with thorns on the way of progress, and his vivid descriptions give important instruction about the attitude and effort in the face of thorns and other impediments.  This theory of thorns provides important information for the postmodern ascetic. The thorns, theorizes Macarius, demand that the ascetic pay attention.  Thorns cannot be ignored, because if one tries [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Bald Places by Hob Osterlund

March 14, 2016

From Portland Magazine Rooms 652 and 653 couldn’t be more different, except they’re both bald. Room 652 is a woman with a glioblastoma.  It’s the kind of brain tumor that often kills fast, usually within six months of diagnosis.  She’s fifty-seven.  Her name is Teea.  The doctor says I’m history, says Teea softly, without apparent fear.  Her humor is deceptive.  I bet she’d bribe, threaten, or supplicate all creatures, medical or otherwise, two-legged or four, who promised they could buy her even one extra week.  She wants to live so bad she could scream it to the Heavenly rafters, but she doesn’t, at least not in the hospital.  She behaves calmly here. Each of her three daughters is as [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: The Relinquished Life by Oswald Chambers

March 8, 2016

From My Utmost For His Highest So it is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet, not coats or lifeless branches or shoots of trees, matter which wastes away and delights the eye only for a few brief hours.  But we have clothed ourselves with Christ’s grace, with the whole Christ – “for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” – so let us spread ourselves like coats under his feet. (Andrew of Crete) No one is ever united with Jesus Christ until he is willing to relinquish not sin only, but his whole way of looking at things. To be born from above of the Spirit of God means that we must let go before we lay hold, and in the first stages it is the relinquishing of all pretense. [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Meeting Christ In The Liturgy by Fr. Cusick

March 7, 2016

From the website: The Word on the Web Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite, omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae. Laetatus sum in his, quae dicta sunt mihi: in domum Domini ibimus. Though we engage in the prayer, penance, and almsgiving of Lent, and join ourselves to our divine Lord in his trial in the desert, we never forget that the Lord has risen from the dead. Every Sunday of the year is a “little Resurrection” where we put aside penance and rejoice in the Lord’s Resurrection by which we begin now to share in his unending life. This Fourth Sunday of Lent, in particular, is named for this [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: The Memory Of God by Richard Valantasis

March 3, 2016

From Centuries of Holiness One way to articulate a goal of human existence comes from a metaphor of the ascetical tradition: the remembrance of God.  The concept is relatively simple: our task as humans is to remember that God exists and that God is present in the course of daily living.  This means that, since Christians know that God exists and that God is forever present to them, they must bring the remembrance of that reality to bear in every moment.  So the remembrance of God is a kind of recollection of God in every event of the day.  As seekers bathe, eat, work, relate to others, commute to work, sit idle, watch television – whatever seekers do in a day – seekers remember that they are before God, in God’s presence: [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Under The Great Rock by Carlo Carretto

March 1, 2016

The track, white in the sun, wound ahead of me in a vague outline.  The furrows in the sand made by the wheels of the great oil trucks forced me to keep alert every second, if I was to keep the jeep on the move. The sun was high in the sky, and I felt tired.  Only the wind blowing on the hood of the car allowed the jeep to continue, although the temperature was like hell-fire and the water was boiling in the radiator.  Every now and then I fixed my gaze on the horizon.  I knew that in the area there were great blocks of granite embedded in the sand: they provided highly desirable sources of shade under which to pitch camp and wait the evening before proceeding with the journey. In fact, towards mid-day, I found what I was looking for. [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Not Servants, But Friends by Mother Mary Joseph Rogers

February 29, 2016

From Mother Mary Joseph’s Sunday Conference, February 27, 1938 For forty days, we follow Christ to his cross.  Are we going to follow as onlookers, or are we going to be real companions to Christ?  This is the question we should all ask ourselves.  Jesus has called us friends and says: “You are not servants, but friends.”  Now, a friend is a person to whom we can look under all circumstances for understanding, consolation, sympathy, and help.  The reproaches that are heaped on our friend fall also on us, and we hear Jesus, in the words of the Psalmist, saying: “I have expected reproach and misery, and I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none; and for one that would comfort [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Lenten Observance Transforms Us From Cacophony To Symphony by Christopher Frechette

February 26, 2016

From National Catholic Reporter Lent is upon us.  How does it grab your imagination?  By now you’ve likely decided what to give up this year, how to donate alms, when to give prayer some extra time… all of these may have been on your mind, but where has your imagination gone?  For several years now, mine has been returning to an image that helps both my personal prayer and my participation in liturgy.  It also grounds my reflections on almsgiving and fasting. Imagine attending a symphony or school orchestra concert.  Picture arriving with the crowd and anticipating how you will relax and enjoy the music.  Behind the sounds of chatter and movement, hear the instruments as they warm up.  Dozens of different instruments are [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: A Lifetime Job by Dorothy Day

February 25, 2016

From Selected Writings “Hell is not to love anymore,” writes George Bernanos in The Diary of a Country Priest.  I felt when I read this that the blackness of hell must indeed have descended on Our Lord in His Agony. The one thing that makes our work easier most certainly is the love we bear for each other and for the people for whom we work.  The work becomes difficult only when there is quarreling and dissension and when one’s own heart is filled with a spirit of criticism. In the past, when I have spoken on the necessity of mutual charity, of self-criticism rather than criticism of others, the accusation has been made that I talk to the men as though they were angels, that I do not see their faults.  Which is [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: In Mirrors by Walter Wangerin

February 23, 2016

From Reliving the Passion In mirrors I see myself.  But in mirrors made of glass and silver I never see the whole of myself.  I see the me I want to see, and I ignore the rest. Mirrors that hide nothing hurt me.  They reveal an ugliness I’d rather deny.  Yow!  Avoid these mirror of veracity! My wife is such a mirror.  When I have sinned against her, my sin appears in the suffering of her face.  Her tears reflect with terrible accuracy my selfishness.  My self!  But I hate the sight, and the same selfishness I see now makes me look away. “Stop crying!” I command, as though the mirror were at fault.  Or else I just leave the room.  Walk away. Oh, what a coward I am, and what a fool!  Only when I have the [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Why I Love Lent by Brandeis Raushenbush

February 22, 2016

From HuffPost Religion I wasn’t raised in a household that observed Lent and only began to get into it once I was introduced to the more liturgical traditions while at seminary. My mother always thought it odd that I would observe this season believing that one of the finer things about being a Protestant was not having to do dreary old Lent. However, Lent has become my favorite season and Ash Wednesday my favorite Christian holy day outside of Holy Week. Having someone look you in the eye with love and tell you that you are going to die is powerfully moving, and quite beautiful, especially, I suppose, if that day doesn’t seem too close. “Death is the mother of beauty. Only the perishable can be beautiful, which is why [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Bothering To Love by James Martin

February 16, 2016

From Huffington Post One Priest’s Modest Proposal for Lent What have you given up for Lent? That’s what many Christians – from almost every denomination, and especially Roman Catholics – are asking one another this time of year.  The most common thing to forego, I would wager, is some kind of food: soda and chocolate seem to be the Most Favored Sacrifices, with cigarettes and liquor running a close third.  Each year, in fact, a Jewish friend from my college days calls me on Ash Wednesday to tell me what to give up, since he thinks my deciding on my own is too easy.  Last year it was chicken wings, which was harder than you might think.  (I’ll save the story of how he came to assign my abstinence for another [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Message For Lent by Pope Francis

February 15, 2016

Make your hearts firm. (James 5:8) Dear Brothers and Sisters, Lent is a time of renewal for the whole church, for each community and every believer.  Above all it is a time of grace.  God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us.  We love because he first has loved us.  He is not aloof from us.  Each one of us has a place in his heart.  He knows us by name, he cares for us, and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him.  He is interested in each of us; his love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us.  Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings, and the [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Metanoia by Daniel E. Pilarczyk

February 9, 2016

From Lenten Lunches To think of Lent only as a time of penance is to do it an injustice.  While the traditional practice of “doing something” for Lent is praiseworthy, there is much more to this wonderful season than just additional practices of piety or acts of penance and mortification.  In Lent, the church calls us to metanoia.  As a former Greek teacher, I take delight in pointing out that the word metanoia connotes a change of mind and heart, altering one’s mind-set toward whole new ways of thinking and acting.  This involves taking a look at where we are and trying to see where we ought to be.  It involves testing our values and discerning how they stack up against the values that Jesus offers his [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Charity — The Goods by Caryn Rivadeneira

March 14, 2015

From Broke: What Financial Desperation Revealed about God’s Abundance I had gotten used – if, I suppose, you can get used to charity – to unexpected financial gifts from family members.  Once my husband shared a bit of our story and the direness of our situation, we were overwhelmed by generosity and love, which took the forms of “widow’s mites” to no-interest loans.  but one particular bit of charity caught me off guard. I held the stack in my hands, a pile of $100 gift cards for the local grocery store, and fought back tears.  Not that long ago – at least, it didn’t seem that long ago – the man who had sent these had talked with my husband about merging businesses, aligning their two [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: Introduction to Lent — Almsgiving by Mike Aquilina

March 12, 2015

From the website: Catholic Education Resource Center Of the three marks of Lent – prayer, fasting and almsgiving – almsgiving is surely the most neglected. And yet, in the only place where the Bible brings all three together, the inspired author puts the emphasis firmly on the last: “Prayer and fasting are good, but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness. . . .  It is better to give alms than to store up gold; for almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin. Those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life,” (Tobit 12:8-9). Why is almsgiving better than prayer and fasting? Because it is prayer, and it involves fasting. Almsgiving is a form of prayer because it is “giving to [...]

LENTEN MEDITATION: The More You Give Of Yourself, The More You Find Of Yourself by Azim Jamal & Harvey McKinneon

March 10, 2015

From The Power of Giving “A rich life,” writes philosopher and theologian Cornel West, “consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it.”  Every one of us can have a rich life if we choose. If you are wealthy but unable to share your wealth or give of your possessions and knowledge, you are not really rich.  Conversely, if you are not wealthy but give of your self, your time, and your knowledge, you are indeed quite rich – and you will receive far more than you can ever imagine. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “there is always enough for the needy but never enough for the greedy.”  Have you ever noticed how the needy frequently find a way to be [...]