Free Lent Bible Study And Journal!

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This year on Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship, my fellow Bible study writers and I have all collaborated for the awesome Lent Bible Study which focuses on the Stations of the Cross and saints that “give witness” to each particular station. On Saturdays, there will be a meditation on some Catholic hymns.

To quote today’s introduction by Christine Cooney:

Does this sound like a lot to you? Because it’s not. We’re taking it all day by day, and to help you, we’ve put together a downloadable guide to work through right along with us. It’s perfect for private and personal study, but will also provide plenty of contemplation for small group discussions.

Join us as we contemplate the cross. For, as Pope Francis says,

“The Cross of Christ contains all the love of God; there we find his immeasurable mercy. This is a love in which we can place all our trust, in which we can believe…Let us entrust ourselves to Jesus, let us give ourselves over to him.” 

Download the study journal here!

Also, feel free to follow the Spotify playlist!

Walking With Ambiguity During Lent

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I said at the beginning of the year that my word for 2016 is “Love.” My friend Stef Ofhs said “Love encompasses all things.” Sometimes loving God means accepting the ambiguities of life. That’s part of what it means to go out into the desert.

I am really proud of all the emotional growth I’ve done in the past few years. But there are a lot of things in my life that are still left up in the air. There have been no major exterior changes in my life yet. Instead, my progress has consisted of a lot of small things. I keep losing sight of what’s important because I want so many things.

Recently, I celebrated first Friday Mass. But on the way there, I kept hitting a constant stream of red lights. In spite of the constant stops, I was still able to get to Mass on time.

I think Lent is a lot like that. It’s not a chance to go to extremes in the name of holiness. It’s rather a time to slow down and change the process of life for a little while. For me, I feel like God is calling me to walk by faith, like it says in Second Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 5:6-10

 So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

I am so used to working towards a tangible goal. It’s easy to have faith when you’re not sure how to get there but you know that you will. Right now,though, God is calling me to trust Him in spite of this ambiguity, to walk by faith with Him, even though I don’t know where I’m gonna go next. I have some goals that I am working towards, but my vocation? Not clear yet.

Which brings me to the question every Catholic gets:

What am I gonna do this Lent?

  1. Take the Heroic Minute Challenge. Arleen Spenceley and Leah Darrow have challenged their readers to get up at 5:30AM every morning. According to the last time I tweeted Leah Darrow, they haven’t stopped.
  2. Limit my internet time. I installed StayFocusd on my Chrome and limited my time spent on certain websites to only one hour a day. I’m not sure how I can use this time-limit on my mobile devices, but keeping myself from being on the computer all day is at least a start.
  3. Read. A Lot. I plan to use my time offline to read more. I’ll be sharing reflections from the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship’s Lenten Bible Study here. Also keep an eye out for a series on Catholic Dating Problems and the Theology of the Body. There’s more to come!
  4. Mass Journaling: When I attended Mass last Sunday, I really loved the homily I heard. Unfortunately, all I had to write on was the back of a flyer for the upcoming parish fish fry. I want to learn as much as I can this Lent, to be able to listen to God as much as talk to Him.

I hope that you will join me as I walk by faith this Lent.

The Gospel of Happiness: A Book Review

gospel of happiness

Interesting fact: I first met Christopher Kaczor, author of The Gospel of Happiness when he was giving a lecture at Cafe Catholica. His lecture focused on “The 7 Big Myths About the Catholic Church.” One of the myths he mentioned was that the Catholic Church doesn’t care about earthly happiness and he mentioned this book in his lecture.

The Gospel of Happiness looks into how the practice of positive psychology can be incorporated into a Catholic lifestyle. In spite of the preconceptions people have about psychology  and religion and the seeming incompatibility of the two, there are aspects of positive psychology that complement the teachings of the Catholic Church and these aspects are what the book chooses to focus on. The book is divided into seven chapters that look into how happiness, the theological virtues, prayer, gratitude, forgiveness, the practice of virtue, and willpower contribute to a person’s overall happiness and well-being.

One major issue people have with Christianity is “prosperity gospel.” And yes, I had a prosperity gospel phase. In recent events, however, my idea of happiness in Christianity is that it’s not so much of “prosperity gospel” as it is “providential gospel.” The difference is that prosperity gospel has unrealistic expectations of what God will give people and puts what people want ahead of what God wants, when taken to the extreme. Providential gospel is taking a cue from Mother Teresa: The Lord will provide for what you need, not necessarily what you want. The Gospel of Happiness takes a more realistic approach and cites research studies that show that unrealistic expectations contribute to overall unhappiness. It also looks into how to be happy even when enduring suffering.

One issue with prosperity gospel is that it tends to ignore suffering or just play it off as just part of having a negative mindset. The Gospel of Happiness, on the other hand, has a whole chapter about the benefits of forgiveness and the chapter on gratitude talks about how God can bring something good out of something bad. The book also goes against the secular mindset that people have to focus on making themselves happy as the number one priority. While a healthy self-love is definitely important, putting one’s ambitions and desires over the needs of others ends up leading to bad things in the long run. In the chapters that focus on virtue, Kaczor shows the benefits of kindness and doing good things for other people.

There were a lot of new things I learned from this book that I didn’t get from my phase of reading self-help books and listening to prosperity gospel. I know I use the word “depth” a lot when I talk about movies or books, but yeah, this book is full of depth. It goes deeper than just making goals or having faith. It actually lays out plans of action.

I highly recommend this book to people who want a different take on the self-help genre. Protestants can easily enjoy this book as much as any Catholic. I would even take a chance and show it to people who see themselves as spiritual but not religious. Because religion, despite what people think, isn’t a rigorous set of man-made rules. It’s a relationship. Religion is a relationship that a person has with God as well as the community of the world at large. Religion keeps a person grounded and humble. Or at least that’s what religion is supposed to be. And I think that’s what The Gospel of Happiness is really about.

Tomorrow Comes: A Sonnet on the Easter Vigil

40 days have come and gone

I went into the desert and came back again

There were days that I had to press on

Days when my spirit and faith were drained

And then there were days when my heart soared

Days that I learned many valuable things

Days when the right song would strike a chord

And all I wanted to do was sing

Now these days are coming to an end

Spring has arrived with flowers in bloomed

I learned to have home, on faith I would depend

Faith that came from an empty tomb

When the Son rises, we play the fife and drums

As we celebrate Easter when tomorrow comes

 

The Longest Night In History: Act 1, Scene 1

INT. THE UPPER ROOM, JERUSALEM — NIGHT

PETER is standing alone, crying. He is burdened with guilt and regret. He keeps repeating something to himself

Peter

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

A knock on the door. Peter gets up to answer the door. MARK enters. He is a young boy whose parents are disciples of Christ.

MARK

Hello.

PETER

Hello, Mark.

MARK

I’m sorry for disturbing you, but your friend Magdalene was asking me to look for you.

PETER

Let her come in.

Mark nods and lets Magdalene enter the room before exiting. She is obviously distraught and frantic, but trying to hide it. She goes about the room, holding back her tears as she’s preparing for the Sabbath. Peter steps aside. She finds an oil lamp and lights it. She looks around the room and sees Peter.

MAGDALENE

Hello, Peter.

PETER

Good evening.

MAGDALENE

Were you here all this time?

PETER

No…

MAGDALENE

Where’s everyone else?

PETER

I don’t know.

MAGDALENE

Weren’t you at the temple when I last saw you? When he was being put on trial by those…those Pharisees?

PETER

Maybe.

MAGDALENE

(Suddenly frantic)

You didn’t see how they treated him, Peter. The whips on his back striking in such unnecessary pain
The bones tear his skin, all for the fickle crowd’s gain.

PETER

That’s the punishment, Magdalene. You-

MAGDALENE

Three times he fell on the path to the hill
A man had to help lead the lamb to the kill.

Peter shudders and tries to step away. Magdalene grabs Peter’s shoulders and stares him straight in the eyes, like she’s possessed.

MAGDALENE (con’t)

The sound of the nails…They used nails, Peter! Nails! And those soldiers gambling for his robe. They were as callous as those horrible Pharisees.

Peter turns away. Magdalene drops down to her knees and looks out at a distance.

MAGDALENE (CON’T)

Do you know what he said when he was on the cross, Peter? “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

PETER

I think they knew exactly what they were doing.

MAGDALENE

And what exactly were you doing?

A knock on the door. Magdalene opens the door. James and Andrew walk in.

ANDREW

Magdalene. We were looking for you.

JAMES

Were you here this whole time?

PETER

Where else would I be?

ANDREW

You should’ve been where Magdalene was.

PETER

Why weren’t you there, then?!

ANDREW

I was! I was in the crowd. I may not have followed him to the hill, but I heard everything.

PETER

Then why didn’t you follow him? You were the ones who introduced me to him in the first place!

ANDREW

At least I didn’t hide away! Last time I saw you, you and everyone else was running away.

MAGDALENE

You should’ve been up there, too, all of you. They were mocking him, saying that they would believe it if he came down from the cross. I couldn’t stand them!

JAMES

Nothing could’ve convinced them, Magdalene. You know that. I think I heard him calling for Elijah.

PETER

What are you talking about?

JAMES

I was too far to really know, but he said something along the lines of “Eli Eli lama sabachthani.”

ANDREW

He was probably praying.

MAGDALENE

John and Mary were closer. I wish I could remember.

A knock on the door.

MARK (O.S.)

They’re in here.

JOHN enters with MARY. Mary is quiet, her face worn from tears and grief.

JOHN

There you are, Magdalene. Mother and I were looking for you.

MAGDALENE

I was looking for everyone else. Peter was here. Oh, John, why did this have to happen?

JOHN

Rabbi told us he had to.

PETER

And all we did was run away.

JOHN

I was there the whole way! Don’t lump me in with the rest.

JAMES

You and your need to stick out.

PETER

Like you saw anything different from what Magdalene was crying about.

JOHN

But I did! Rabbi talked to me. Mother, if you please?

Mary nods.

PETER

Wait, why are you calling her ‘Mother?’

JOHN

I was just about to say. I was standing with Mother by the cross. Rabbi looked at me and said, “Woman behold your son. Son, behold your mother.” For whatever reason, he’s letting me take care of Mary.

MAGDALENE

Do you remember when he said “Eli Eli lama sabachthani”? Was he really calling for Elijah?

JOHN

No. He was quoting a psalm. I think it was Psalm 22.

MAGDALENE

“My God, my God. Why have you abandoned me?”

ANDREW

Even God has abandoned our master. I can’t believe it.

JOHN

Peter, weren’t you at the temple the last time I saw you?

Peter grumbles and goes to the center of the room, making sure he has everyone’s attention.

PETER

Enough speculation. We have to make sure we’re all together. Do you know where everyone else is, James?

JAMES

I think Nathaniel told me that he’s staying with a cousin before going to Emmaus after the Sabbath is over.

ANDREW

I didn’t see anyone else after we all fled Gethsemane, but given that it’s the Sabbath, they should still be in town.

JAMES

I wish we could get everyone here. I hate sitting around, doing nothing!

PETER

Well as long as they’re close by, we can get them after the Sabbath is over and think about what we’re gonna do next.

Everyone in the room glares at Peter.

PETER (CON’T)

For now, we have to get the meal started.

MAGDALENE

I don’t feel so hungry.

MARY

Well, we have to.

Mary and Magdalene gather the food laid around and set up a meal. Someone knocks on the door.

MARY

Who could that be?

Mark enters the room.

MARK

Hello again. Your friend Thomas said that he wants to come in.

JOHN

Why is he here?

PETER

It doesn’t matter. (To Mark) Let him in. We’re just about to eat.

Mark opens the door and leaves as Thomas enters.

MARY

Hello, Thomas.

THOMAS

Hmph.

JAMES

Where were you?

THOMAS

Hiding in the crowd like everyone else was. Did you hear what he was saying? I heard that he was promising one of the thieves that they’d be together in paradise!

JOHN

I can actually confirm that he said that, believe it or not.

THOMAS

Well, I don’t believe it! I honestly think our master has lost his sanity while he was hanging there.

MAGDALENE

How could you say that? I was a lot closer to the cross that you were!

THOMAS

You don’t count and you know it.

JOHN

Thomas!

THOMAS

Sorry. I can’t help that I know we’re all gonna die as soon as the Sabbath is over.

MAGDALENE

I can’t believe what you’re saying. You have got to be the most cynical, pessimistic, doubtful

THOMAS

And you’re a former madwoman. You look far more possessed now than when seven demons were trapped in you.

Magdalene cries out loud and turns to Mary for comfort. Mary hold Magdalene in her arms.

JOHN

I guess you can now add insensitive to your list, Thomas.

THOMAS

It doesn’t matter, John. I just want her to stay quiet.

ANDREW

John is right. Have some compassion.

MAGDALENE

(Aside)

It’s like we women were the only ones crying there.

JAMES

Thomas, get your priorities straight. What matters-

PETER

Is that our Rabbi is dead.

Everyone is silent. Thunder and lightning are heard in the background.

PETER (CON’T)

I guess we have to sit and eat. Come on, everyone.

JOHN

Let’s pray, first.

Everyone sits down to eat.

JOHN (Con’t)

Lord, we thank you for the meal that you have given us. Alright, everyone. Let’s eat.

Everyone picks at their food.

JAMES

I can’t believe that it was only yesterday when we were sitting like this. Remember how he offered up wine and said that it was his blood?

THOMAS

Never made any sense to me.

MAGDALENE

Things never make sense unless you can see it, Thomas.

JOHN

I remember how he asked for a drink before he died. One of the soldiers dipped a sponge into some vinegar. And then he said “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit. It is finished.” Then he took a breath and…he was gone.

PETER

The Romans made certain that he was dead, didn’t they?

JOHN

Yes. One of them pierced the side of our Rabbi with a lance. Blood and water came spilling out.

THOMAS

They didn’t break his legs?

JOHN

No, they didn’t.

ANDREW

They probably saw that he went through a lot as it was. No need to beat up a dead horse.

JAMES

What did he mean when he said “It is finished” John?

JOHN

I wish I knew.

THOMAS

He probably lost all hope.

MAGDALENE

That can’t be true. The man I saw on the cross may have felt like God has abandoned him, but he would never lose hope!

THOMAS

You delusional-

MAGDALENE

You insensitive-

PETER

Would you please be quiet?!

A loud thunderclap roars. Lightning flashes. The sound of pouring rain surrounds them.

ANDREW

I remember how the sky darkened and the earth shook-I can’t believe the thunderstorm is still going on.

JAMES

It was raining like this since around the ninth hour.

JOHN

The ninth hour? That’s when Rabbi died.

MAGDALENE

It’s as if the whole world knew how much our Rabbi meant to us.

THOMAS

I doubt it.

MAGDALENE

Keep your doubts to yourself, if you please.

JOHN

I wonder if this rain will keep going until the third day.

ANDREW

Rabbi did always say something about coming back on the third day.

MARK

I wonder what that meant.

JAMES

Maybe he means coming back when time ends.

THOMAS

You guys are crazy! When people die, they die. If Rabbi is lucky, he’ll rise with the dead, but given the way that he died, he’s more likely in that Underworld that the Greeks speak about. Let’s face it. The Pharisees and Romans won. And then they’re gonna get us next.

PETER

You’ll probably be the first to beg for mercy.

THOMAS

At least I’ll be alive! For whatever reason, our master appointed you to lead us and what did you do? Cut off a soldier’s ear and ran away. That sword was meant for Judas, wasn’t it?

PETER

Like any of you would have done differently.

JAMES

Well you should’ve done something other than using your sword.

JOHN

Would you stop acting like you’re the only ones in the room? Mother and I had to watch him carry that cross, had to watch him suffer, had to watch him be nailed to the cross, had to watch him die.

PETER

He would. You were always the favorite.

JOHN

Be silent or I swear!

MAGDALENE

WOULD YOU STOP FIGHTING!?

The men are silent. Another thunderclap. Magdalene brings the apostles’ attention to Mary, who is crying quietly, huddled in a corner. It’s not until now that they realize how small she is. John goes over to comfort Mary.

JOHN

Mother…

MARY

It’s alright. I was just…remembering…

Mary looks off at a distance, contemplating her first sorrow.

MARY

When I went to the temple to circumcise my son, a man named Simeon told me that a sword would pierce my heart. Until now, I had no idea what such pain would feel like. I know that all of you loved my son. And I apologize if I am speaking out of turn, but I don’t think my son would like the fact that you’re still fighting. I beg your pardon and ask that you stop. For His sake.

The room is silent. Peter approaches Mary and kneels at her feet.

PETER

Mary?

MARY

What is it?

PETER

I didn’t want to say this. Rabbi…Rabbi told me that when the cock crowed twice, I would deny him. I didn’t think of it when the soldiers came, when I cut off the servant’s ear, hoping that I would somehow kill Judas or someone, hoping to stop everything. Then I was standing by a fire while Rabbi was on trial. A servant girl recognized me, and I denied him. Someone else in the crowd by the fire recognized me again and I denied him again. And then someone else said that I was a Galilean. I cursed and swore I didn’t know Rabbi…and I heard the cock crow. I’ve never felt so low in my life.

Peter cries.

PETER (CON’T)

I’m so sorry, everyone. I didn’t want anyone to know this.

MARY

Dearest Peter. I’m certain that my Son forgave you when he died. But you have to let go of this regret and pain. Something good will come from this.

Mary holds Peter and they cry together. John holds Mary and cries with her. Andrew and James look at each other, not knowing what to do. Magdalene cries, joining the group. Thomas grumbles and leaves.

Lent Day 5: Sundays are NOT Cheat Days!

According to Americancatholic.org:

Technically, Sundays are not part of Lent. Although we celebrate them liturgically as part of Lent, the Lord’s Day cannot be a day of fast and abstinence. Six weeks of Monday through Saturday gives you 36 days. If you add to them Ash Wednesday and the three days after it, you get the 40 days of Lent.

Some people may find it easier to “give up” something for the entire time between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but you are correct in saying that Sundays are not part of the 40 days.

If you’re thinking of having whatever you gave up for Lent on Sundays, I only have one thing to say to that…

Cue Phoenix Wright Music!

The Sundays may not be part of Lent, but Jesus stayed in the desert for 40 days straight. And even after he finished those 40 days, he was still tempted by the devil.

I know you’re probably missing whatever you gave up for Lent by this point. I understand that, believe me.

I’ve mentioned that I’ve given up selfies for Lent. But I think I also mentioned in a previous post that I’m “giving up my crush for Lent.”

What exactly does that mean, you ask?

I’m not gonna make the first move. Or any move, really. If he calls me or makes the first move, I’ll be open to conversation, but I’m not gonna go out of my way to show him how I feel. And it’s not because “the patriarchy says so” or because I’m like my mom and think in this old-fashioned way. It’s because I need a break from all the insanity that comes with having this crush. I don’t want to obsess or overanalyze his every move and word and wonder if he’s thinking about me. I want to be able to use Lent to focus on what God wants. So for Lent, I’m giving God my heart and asking Him to take care of it.

And yet, I still miss my crush. I miss him ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-d.

Marianne from Sense and Sensibility By Chris Hammond (1860-1900) (Lilly Library, Indiana University) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Marianne from Sense and Sensibility
By Chris Hammond (1860-1900) (Lilly Library, Indiana University) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So you know what I do?

To use a phrase known amongst many Cradle Catholics, I offer it up.

Why? I’ll let Rachel and Kateri explain:

And if you’re still wondering if I’m gonna regret doing this later…

A friend of mine told me that she was going on the Paleo diet for Lent. She said that over time, the body adjusts to not having that processed food and all that sugar. By the time a person on the Paleo diet eats cake again, the cake tastes overly sweet because the body didn’t really need all that sugar. And right now, I really want some emotional distance. Or at least the patience and serenity to wait and see what happens next.

I’m also going to share with you this quote from St. Francis of Assisi:

Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves so that He who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally.

So no, I am not gonna “cheat.” Because I like keeping myself accountable and I don’t like loopholes.

I hope y’all understand. And I’ll pray for you, even if you don’t.

Lent Day 4: Falling In Love With The Process

As with many others of my generation, I am an Instagram addict. I was browsing my feed and saw this quote:

Typography by me. Background credit to @texturegraphy on Instagram.

Typography by me. Background credit to @texturegraphy on Instagram.

I’m the kind of person who loves the end results more than the process of getting there, but as soon as I saw this quote I immediately thought about Lent and all that happens during the season.

People begin Lent with an end goal in mind. Ideally, most people start with the hopes of becoming better by the time Easter comes around than how they were when Lent started. Some overzealous Christians and Catholics try to push themselves to extremes in the hopes of making the best sacrifice. Then there’s the other extreme of people treating Lent like a 12-step program and give up a small thing without really thinking much of it. They become too focused on the sacrifices they make to remember what Lent is really about: having a closer relationship with God.

Catholic Contrast goes into detail about these extremes on his video:

Lent isn’t a 12-step program or a time to go to extremes in God’s name. Lent is supposed to be a time of balance, or at least regaining that sense of balance. It’s also a time of process. And like with all processes, we won’t see the results right away. But have faith that the results will come. Til then, use Lent as a time to ask God to help you regain a sense of balance, to grow deeper in your faith, and to fall deeper in love with God Himself.

How Exactly Can I Give Alms When I'm Broke?

Like many 20-somethings these days, I have a problem finding the means of getting a steady income these days. 

Days like this I’m thankful for the Rice Bowl. 

Although I’m still searching for a steady job, I still get an allowance and plenty of times where a little spare change comes into my life. The wonderful thing about the Rice Bowl is that a little change can go a long way. You don’t have to follow the calendar or give $40 even though this year, the box is suggesting as much. 

There are a lot of other opportunities to give alms. My dad and I often buy a food bank package at the local grocery store. The register also advertises donations to various charities such as the Wounded Warrior Project. My brother sometimes donates to that.

But another thing you can give to God is your time.

 

You say that there’s no way you can make time for God?

I will share this awesome video from Blimey Cow that will invalidate your argument: 

For me, I give my alms by using my writing as a form of service. I’m currently working on a series of Bible study meditations that I’ll be sharing here in a few months. You might have also noticed that I’ve been blogging a lot more here. You can use time to serve your parish or to volunteer somewhere or to do something extra for your family. You can also spend that time in prayer.

How long should I pray for, you ask?

“Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy-then we need an hour”,  St. Francis de Sales

You can offer your mornings or evenings and pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Or you can spend an hour in Adoration. All of these I think are great ways to offer your time back to the God who created time.

Lent Day 2: The Pillar of Prayer

Yesterday, I talked about how I had issues with fasting. Today, I want to talk about the second pillar of Lent, prayer. (Incidentally, that’s the prompt for today’s CSLentIPJ challenge.)

I have an easier time with prayer than fasting. In fact, increasing prayer is actually my favorite part of Lent. For this blog post, I’ll talk about the types of prayer I like to pray on a regular basis. I hope that this will give you some ideas for increasing your prayer life during this Lenten season.

Back to Basics

Fr. Robert Barron said in his Lenten Reflection yesterday that Lent is a time when we get back to basics. So I’m listing some basic prayers simple enough to start with.

  • The Rosary. I usually pray the Rosary right when I’m going to sleep. Sometimes, I fall asleep before finishing. Sometimes, I don’t. And like many saints, I have problems concentrating when I pray. What I personally do is follow Pope Francis’s Five Finger Prayer and dedicate each decade to certain people. I would pray the first decade for those closest to me, the second for my enemies or fallen-away Catholics, and so on. Another good time for praying the Rosary is during your daily commute. You’re stuck in traffic for at least 30 minutes. Pray a Hail Mary for the people who cut you off  or have road rage issues. Believe me, it’ll make driving a less stressful experience.
  • The Divine Mercy chaplet. I learned this particular prayer during my college days. Traditionally, it’s prayed at 3PM, but if you don’t think you have time for that, remember that, it’s 3 o’clock somewhere. I usually pray it with my dad whenever we ran errands around town. For Lent, Dad and I pray it at its traditional time.
  • The Angelus. I used to hate this prayer as a kid. Imagine your typical Catholic school kid with an empty stomach, waiting for the lunch bell to ring. Then as soon as the bell rings, you want to bolt to the cafeteria, but first, you have to pray what feels like a million Hail Mary’s. Given my childish impatience, this prayer felt like it took forever to pray. Now, I don’t mind it so much. I still don’t pray it myself personally, but I know a lot of people who do and have a great devotion to it.

And if you really feel like you really don’t have time to pray, St. Peter’s List has 10 Prayers that you can pray in 5 seconds or less.

Meditative Prayers

  • Lectio Divina. I’ve stated before that I’ve added Lectio Divina to my prayer routine. I first discovered Lectio Divina while on a vocations retreat and I love how it incorporates scripture into prayer. I subscribed to an online Catholic Bible study from the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship. If you don’t know how to pray Lectio Divina, the HOMWF has a series of posts that show you how.
  • The Examen. The Examen is another form of meditative prayer. Usually prayed in the late afternoon or at night, this Jesuit prayer  is a great way to reflect on the day. There are a lot of different ways to pray the Examen. I usually pray in the form of prayer journaling. I would put myself in God’s presence, write about what happened to me that day, write about the things I was grateful for, and ask God to give me a better day tomorrow.
  • Adoration. One beautiful form of silent meditation is Adoration. Ideally, you would spend an hour in Adoration. It won’t be an easy hour, by the way. If you need help getting past the boredom, Rachel and Kateri have a video that can help. Back when I was in college, I had a hard time figuring out how exactly I wanted to spend my time in Adoration. Eventually, I would spend half an hour meditating in silence or reading something and spend another half hour praying the Rosary.

Devotionals

In spite of what Protestants may think, there are Catholic devotionals out there. You can subscribe to daily Lenten reflections like Fr. Robert Barron’s, the Share Jesus program from Redeemed Online, or have your Best Lent Ever with Matthew Kelly. There are probably a ton of other’s I’m probably forgetting. Thankfully, Aggie Catholic was kind enough to create a megapost.

For something not so tech-heavy, I suggest reading Josemaria Escriva’s The Way. It’s not a devotional in the traditional sense, but there’s a lot of advice in that little book that will challenge you. You can also meditate on the readings from Daily Mass (which you can get in a Magnificat or on Blessed Is She). Or go to praymorenovenas.com and start up a series of 9-day prayers. You can also do a 54-day Rosary Novena if you’re feeling particularly ambitious and want a prayer routine that goes beyond the 40 days of Lent.

If you’re up for a real challenge of a devotional, you can always consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary. Created by St. Louis de Montfort, Marian consecration is a doozy of a devotional that involves a lot of daily prayers. I consecrated myself during Lent last year, starting on February 20th and ending on March 25th, the feast of the Annunciation. Which means I’ll be renewing my consecration this year.

 

Today’s picture is a throwback to my current favorite prayer, the Serenity prayer. It’s been helping me out a lot, but I’ll go into detail about how in a later blog post.

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Lent Day 1: Growing Pains

Although I love Lent’s emphasis on prayer and almsgiving, I have a problem with fasting. Mostly that fasting for me is harder than most people. And it’s not just because I snack a lot. It’s because I have food allergies.

Most people would think that I would use food allergies as an excuse to opt out of the “one large meal and two smaller meals” clause that comes with fasting. But what can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment. I don’t like getting “special treatment” or opting out of something because of my allergies. Besides that, I can still eat tuna and cod.

What makes fasting hard for me is that it forces me to think outside of the box and makes me all-too-aware of my growling stomach at 3PM. And yeah, as a chronic snacker, fasting is hard. Ultimately, I choose to fast today because want to prove to myself and to God that I can fast. I managed to cook up some tuna steaks and onions for breakfast. I plan on drinking juice, water, and tea throughout the day whenever I feel like snacking.

So now onto my photo of the day.

I decided to take part in Catholic Sista’s Lenten Instagram Photo-a-Day Journey since Busted Halo’s challenge goes against my Lenten resolution. However, I highly encourage that you participate in either one or both. I also want to promote Busted Halo’s Fast Pray Give calendar which provides a lot of mini-challenges for those who are too intimidated to do a big thing for 40 days.

Today’s prompt in the CSLentIPJ is “symbol.” I decided to take a picture of the bamboo plant that my father gave me for Valentine’s Day. I hated how small it was, but he said that he got that small plant for a reason. He wanted me to take care of it and watch it grow alongside me. So this bamboo plant is a symbol of how I start Lent: small and dealing with growing pains.

Copyright Monique Ocampo.

Copyright Monique Ocampo.