Not so holy: How did your Lent go?

March has been a busy month — all the more so because I’ve been getting ready for what I’m calling “Crazy April.”

Monday morning, bright and early, I’m headed to the airport so I can travel to Cincinnati and represent Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine at the NCEA convention and help host a banquet for the Innovations in Catholic Education Awards.

(Related: I had to buy a fancy dress. And shoes that, I hope, will allow me to stand for the better part of the day on a trade-show floor and walk a few blocks each way to the hotel. Tendonitis in both feet and an old stress fracture in one isn’t a good combination when this is on the agenda.)

After four days of travel this week, I’ll have about 10 days at home before I drive to Worcester, MA, for editorial meetings for the magazine.

So I’ve been prescheduling as much content as I can at CatholicMom.com and CatholicTeacher.com, working on final edits for the coming summer issue, and, well, generally neglecting things around the house. On Wednesday it occurred to me that while I’d finished most of the work projects, I had no Easter-basket treats for my family and no idea what I’d be serving for Easter Sunday dinner.

Meanwhile, in the course of my routine correspondence with the authors I work with in both of my jobs, I’ve been getting some variation on the theme of, “How was your Lent?” I’ve even been editing articles along that line.

When you work in Catholic media, you can’t help being bombarded, this time of year, with recaps of people’s holy Lents. And, well, my Lent hasn’t been so very holy. It’s not that I’m not keeping my eyes on my own paper, so much that other people’s papers are being shoved right under my eyes in the course of my job.

I bought this beautiful Lenten spiritual workbook, Above All, from Take Up and Read. I haven’t touched it in weeks. If I’ve completed 1/5 of it, that’s a lot. I just haven’t made the time.

I did manage to give up espresso beverages … whoop-de-do.

But honestly, it’s all been about time management. I love the work I get to do: I have terrific and supportive colleagues at both my jobs, and the writers I work with are wonderful. I call many of them my friends, and I look forward to meeting several more of them this summer at the Catholic Writers Guild Conference. My problem is, in an occupation where there is always new content to prepare, I can get swamped under that and let it spill over into the time I should be allotting for other things.

So I’m packing my copy of When the Timer Dings, and a blank bullet journal, into my tote bag for the airplane trip. I find that when I’m in a different place, I can get out of my head and think more creatively. I have some daydreaming to do about my goals and wishes for next year’s magazines, but I need to do some daydreaming about the way I manage my time (or, more accurately, don’t manage it.)

Lent this year just hasn’t been so holy. Beating myself up about it isn’t going to help. So while the business trips I’m taking this April are taking me way out of my comfort zone (and my comfortable sweatpants) I’m beginning to feel grateful for the opportunity to reboot the way I schedule my work.

After all, Lent isn’t the only season of the liturgical year in which you can grow in holiness. Maybe with improved time management, I’ll be better able to nurture my spiritual life during the Easter season and beyond.

How did your Lent go? If it wasn’t so holy, what can you do about that during the Easter season?

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Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Product links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Thank you for using these links for our Amazon purchases.

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On Barb’s Bookshelf: What’s New for Lent

Making Room in Lent

Two new books from Ave Maria Press invite readers to open their hearts to God and set themselves free from sin and its trappings.

Lenten Healing: 40 Days to Set You Free From Sin is a do-it-yourself retreat that focuses not only on sin, but on the virtues that will have room in our lives if we free ourselves from sin. Author Ken Kniepmann begins each day’s entry with the line, “Today, I choose to fast from the sin (or wound) of _____.” The exception is each Sunday, when the entry focuses on feasting on virtues. Filled with relatable, concrete examples of the faces of sin in our lives, Scripture passages and questions for meditation (keep a journal handy!),  and short prayers, this book is a gateway for readers to confront — and weed out — those sinful actions and tendencies that keep us far from God.

Each week, after Friday’s entry, there’s a prayer meditation on the sin and the wound that has been the focus of each week. This is my favorite part of the book; I recommend that you bring this book to Adoration, along with a journal, to work through that section of each week’s chapter. The Sunday emphasis on the virtue that is the opposite of the sin you’ve been considering all week is a refreshing and uplifting opportunity to focus on how we can change our lives for good during Lent.

lenten healing

 

Some decluttering books are written by people who act like they have it all together. Those books are not for me. In Making Room for God: Decluttering and the Spiritual Life, Mary Elizabeth Sperry readily admits that she has a lot of work to do, and that her home is not perfectly neat and tidy all the time. I like the connections made between homemaking and the spiritual life. This book addresses necessary topics like spiritual discipline, reconciliation, prayer, and materialism. The best chapter, in my opinion, is the one where the author draws parallels between clutter and sin. This book spoke to me so much, I’ve got whole paragraphs underlined, never mind the circles and arrows …

making room for God

Why is this a book for Lent? While it isn’t designated as one, I can’t help but think its early-February release is providentially timed. In Lent, we seek to reform our hearts. This book is not full of tips and tricks for cleaning out that kitchen-gadget drawer or keeping your linen closet tidy. Instead, it’s an invitation to look at your relationship with your stuff — not just the stuff you have now, but the stuff you may acquire later. Its focus on generosity, the common good, and prayer make it an excellent Lenten read: by Easter, you’ll be thinking about the way you live a whole lot differently.

Barb's Book shelf blog title


Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

#WorthRevisit: Do We Really Want to Change?

It’s not today’s Gospel, but it’s definitely one worth considering during Lent, when we are doing our best to change our hearts. Today’s “Worth Revisit” looks back at 2009.

Gospel: Jn 5:1-16

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
“It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”
He answered them, “The man who made me well told me,
‘Take up your mat and walk.’”
They asked him,
“Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
“Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.

Be Reconciled to God

Father’s homily today centered not on the fact that Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath, but on the fact that He healed someone who didn’t necessarily consider himself ready to be healed.

Do we want to be changed? Certainly it is easier to keep things the same–even if things aren’t great, at least they are familiar. That man in the Gospel who was ill for 38 years and then healed would now have to find a way to earn a living and find himself food and shelter. In some ways, it might have been easier for him to stay the way he was.

Lent is a time of healing. In my college chapel each Lent, banners were hung with the words: “Be reconciled to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.” (I’m not much of a “banner” person but that reminder has stuck with me even after 22 years.)

Our Lenten actions of sacrifice and prayer are meant to heal us, to bring us closer to God, to change us.

So is giving up Milky Ways and designer coffee really going to help me to change? Will it bring me closer to God? Only if I let it. Only if I let those very small sacrifices remind me that it’s not all about me. It’s about letting go of something in favor of a greater good. It’s about turning that sacrifice into an opportunity for almsgiving (that’s what those little cardboard “rice bowls” are all about). It’s about remembering that giving up a candy bar is really small in comparison to what Christ was willing to give up, and allowing that realization to lead me to a greater generosity of spirit.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

#WorthRevisit: Dread vs. Hope

For #WorthRevisit Wednesday, I’m backing up 10 years and thinking about the hope of the season.

Why is Lent something we seem to dread?

. . . I’ve lost count of the people who have expressed to me how much they “hate Lent.” This morning a fellow church musician mentioned that she finds Lenten music to be full of Gloom and Doom.

Granted, this is not a cheerful time, in the sense that Christmas and Easter are cheerful. But it is certainly a hopeful time. It is a time to look forward to the holiest Three Days that we celebrate as a Church. As we remind ourselves each week as we recite the Memorial Acclamation, “Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Savior of the world.”

During this season of Lent, may we remember that it’s not All About Us. It’s not about whether we can abide giving up chocolate, or soda, or colored sprinkles. These sacrifices are small potatoes indeed when we meditate on what Christ was willing to do for our sakes.

May we walk through this Lent with a joyful spirit.

bernardine-of-siena-quote-lent

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

worth revisit

Copyright 2017 Barb Szysziewicz, OFS

On Barb’s Bookshelf: 3 Lenten Reads

It’s not yet Lent, but I’ve had the chance to peek into a Lenten book from Ave Maria Press as well as two new daily devotionals from Franciscan Media, each offering a spiritual companion for your Lenten journey. All three books are sure to help readers have a spiritually fruitful Lenten season.

A book doesn’t have to be brand-new this year to benefit its readers. Paula Huston’s Simplifying the Soul: Lenten Practices to Renew Your Spirit (Ave Maria Press, 2011) is packed with timeless wisdom. The cover blurb touts it as a “practical book,” which means it’s right up my alley. I am, at heart, a practical person, and I can get bogged down and discouraged by books that don’t address my pragmatic side.

In the Introduction, Huston notes,

The beauty of the Lenten season is that it encouragees the development of a humble heart. (xiii)

The beauty of this book, for me, is its learn-by-doing approach. Each day begins with a meditation (usually a vignette from the author’s own experience) and ends with a task. The concreteness of this appeals to me. The author explains that this is not a “handbook for self-improvement” but instead “an invitation to self-knowledge and . . . a small step in liberation from destructive complicatedness–that is, from sin.” (xv, xvi)

My challenge, with this book, will be slowing it down. It’s seriously motivational, and I found myself wanting to do All The Things right now. Slowing down, for me, can be almost penitential in itself, and I need to remember to focus on one day’s task and not try to jump ahead. Lent is 40 days long for a reason. But anything that has me ready to scrub gunk out of hidden corners with an old toothbrush gets motivation points! It reminds me of St. Teresa of Avila’s observation that God is with us every moment, “even amidst the pots and pans.”

simplifying_the_soul

Take your Lenten inspiration from Pope Francis with Diane M. Houdek’s The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis (Servant, 2016.) Each daily entry is divided into 5 compact parts:

  • Bible readings (find those on your own or at USCCB.org)
  • A Word from Pope Francis
  • Taking the Word to Heart
  • Bringing the Word to Life
  • Pope Francis Prays

I was charmed by the “Word from Pope Francis” sections: each one an anecdote or homily excerpt that showcases both Pope Francis’ down-to-earth style and his desire that the faithful deepen and radically live their faith. You’ll want to keep a journal handy for your own reflections, inspired by “Bringing the World to Life.”

From the Introduction:

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. From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has made mercy his hallmark. It’s no surprise that he declared a special year dedicated to the contemplation of mercy. Pope Francis wants us to realize that God’s mercy and grace surround us not just in special times and places but always and everywhere. Lent is a time to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary, to be surprised by God’s mercy when we least expect it. (vii-viii)

Print

Heidi Hess Saxton shares the wisdom of a beloved modern-day saint in Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Servant, 2016.) Begin your daily prayer with a short scripture passage, followed by a meditation with a story or quote from St. Teresa, reflection/application questions, and a brief closing prayer. The book is described by the publisher as a “helpful resource for reflecting upon the mercy of God—and modeling the generous heart of this saint from Calcutta in our own lives.”

Saxton takes an unusual path in the Introduction to the book, dedicating most of it to the story of four Missionaries of Charity who were martyred by ISIS in Yemen in March 2016, while the local priest, Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, was captured (his fate is still unknown). The author notes that this story “calls us to consider just how far we are willing to go when the Lord asks us to take up our cross and follow him.” (ix, x) She continues,

As we contemplate Scripture and the life and teachings of St. Teresa of Calcutta during this Lent, we have a daily inspiration and opportunity to follow her example and that of her community in spreading Christ’s fragrance to others. And whatever the fuure holds–pain or healing, uncertainty or assurance, dismay or delight–we can anticipate with great joy the glory of the Risen Christ at our journey’s end. (xiv)

Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta offers daily reflections in a slightly longer format than Houdek’s book, and the subject matter is a bit more challenging. There are two reflection questions per day, which make excellent journal prompts.

Teresa-21

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given free review copies of these books, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

#WorthRevisit: A Recommended Lenten Practice

Lent is only one week away! Here’s a suggestion for a virtue to cultivate in the upcoming season. From February 2009, some wisdom from the dearly-missed Father H:

This morning at Mass, Father observed that in today’s first reading from the book of Sirach, the phrase “fear of the Lord” was repeated four times. And he explained that God is not someone we are to be terrified of, like something in a horror movie. That’s not what fear of the Lord is all about.

He recommended that this Lent, we all practice growing in the virtue of fear of the Lord: wondering at the mystery of God and all that He created. He said that the more you grow in this virtue, the more awesome you understand God to be.

Read here what one of the early Church Fathers, Saint Hilary, wrote about fear of the Lord.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

#WorthRevisit on Opening Day

… of the 2016 Clothesline Season, that is.

I love Clothesline Season. Today is the first day that the weather’s been nice enough for me to get outside with my laundry basket and my clothespins to hang up the clothes. It’s a nice time just to zone out and think for 10 minutes–and I’ll get that again late this afternoon when I take the fresh-smelling clothes off the line and fold them all as I put them into the basket.

All the usual stuff on the clothesline: pajama pants, T-shirts, joggers and a puffy shirt from TheKid's latest show.
All the usual stuff on the clothesline: pajama pants, T-shirts, joggers and a puffy shirt from TheKid’s latest show.

For “Worth Revisit Wednesday” I’ve gone back to March of 2010 when I celebrated Opening Day:

For lo, the winter is past,
The snows are over and done
The cooing of the mourning dove is heard in my backyard,
And I’ve already been outside to hang laundry on the clothesline!

Father H. has been telling us these past two weeks that “Lent” comes from an old word meaning “springtime.” And this week, finally, it’s starting to feel–and look–like spring. I can see grass in my front yard, and I slogged through the mud pit that is my backyard so I could get to the clothesline to hang laundry. This morning, for the first time this year, I heard the birds outside when I was waking up.

It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year!

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Monday Recap: February 2016

At CatholicMom.com

Lent-2016-CRS-Rice-Bowl-and-CM-Meatless-Fridays-702x336Meatless Fridays with CRS Rice Bowl: Rice and Lentil Mash

This Lent, CatholicMom.com is partnering with CRS Rice Bowl in a special way, sharing the CRS Rice Bowl featured recipes on each Lenten Friday. I sampled Rice and Lentil Mash, a recipe from Laos.

touched by an angel box setNow on DVD: a TV Series that Proclaims God’s Mercy and Love

I reviewed the Touched By an Angel Complete Series boxed set of DVDs, a program with a message of mercy that’s needed even more now than when the show first aired.

 

 

bread upon the waterBook Notes: Bread Upon the Water

I reviewed Bread Upon the Water, a story of perseverance that was written for the young adult audience but which will inspire adults as well.

 

 

 

Magnificat Lenten Companion app collageTech Talk: Magnificat Lenten Companion App

If you prefer to use a digital resource for your Lenten prayer and meditation, you’ll definitely want to explore the Magnificat Lenten Companion app for iOS. I examined its many features in my monthly Tech Talk column.

 

Inheritance album artRejoicing in the Dark Places: Inheritance by Audrey Assad

Praising God when you can’t see the light? Amazingly, it helps more than you might think! The music on Audrey Assad’s new CD, Inheritance, is a gentle reminder that we’re not in this alone.

 

3 Bean Chili Mac small T CMeatless Friday: 3-Bean Chili Mac

My recipe for meatless Chili Mac is Snow Day food at its best: it’s warm, tasty and fills you up. You probably already have all the ingredients in your pantry!

Kiss of JesusBook Notes: The Kiss of Jesus

Catholicmom contributor Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle has written a memoir that views suffering through the lens of faith. I reviewed “The Kiss of Jesus: How Mother Teresa and the Saints Helped Me to Discover the Beauty of the Cross.”

At Cook and Count

sesame chicken tenders (2)Sesame Chicken Tenders: Crispy chicken tenders are always a family favorite. These no-fry chicken tenders get a little extra crunch from the sesame seeds, but don’t dry out in the oven thanks to a sour-cream-based marinade.

gnocchi e fagioli 2Gnocchi e Fagioli: Here’s a meatless dish that comes together in about 20 minutes! It’s easy to make and very heart-healthy. You won’t even miss the meat in this simple meal. Add other quick-cooking fresh vegetables to change up the flavor.

 

 

 

lazy duchess (2) cCooking with Kids – Lazy Duchess Potatoes: These potatoes might not look fancy, but they’re fun for kids to make and an easy way to use up your leftover mashed potatoes.

 

Blueprint- Crumb Crusted ChickenBlueprint Recipe – Crumb Crusted Chicken: This 3-ingredient “blueprint recipe” is a favorite around here and easy to change up by swapping in different varieties of one ingredient!

 

 

maple brown sugar chicken C (2)Maple – Brown Sugar Chicken Thighs: The sauce on this chicken has a subtle sweetness. While the recipe’s a little more complex than my usual cooking repertoire (because I’m lazy), this is definitely worth the extra effort. It goes with any of your favorite side dishes.

honey lime fish fillets with spinach garlic bow tiesMeatless Friday – Honey-Lime Fish Fillets: Fish fillets are an easy way to make a Meatless Friday meal. Try this simple and flavorful dish!

At Dynamic Women of Faith

Book Review: 3 New Lenten Resources from Ave Maria Press

Book Review: A Single Bead by Stephanie Engelman

Book Review: The Kiss of Jesus by Donna Marie Cooper-O’Boyle

On Barb’s Bookshelf: When You Suffer

For the longest time, I thought that suffering was something other people did–people who had it so much worse than I do. But I’ve come to realize two things: everyone suffers, and it doesn’t do anybody any good to compare other people’s suffering to your own. We all truly do have our crosses to bear.

when you suffer jeff cavinsJeff Cavins’ new book When You Suffer is steeped in the wisdom of St. John Paul II, who suffered right in front of the world for several years at the end of his life, displaying an exceptional courage and grace.

Jeff Cavins tackles a complex subject in a clear, concrete and approachable manner. Right up front, he maintains that “there is meaning in suffering if the suffering is joined with the suffering of Christ” (p. 1). The first seven chapters of the book deal with the history and purpose of suffering, including the Passion and death of Christ. The final three chapters are more personal, allowing readers to examine their own suffering and how it can be offered up:

Your suffering provides you with an incredible opportunity to work with [Christ] in redeeming the world, and it is an incredible opportunity to love the way he loves (p. 95).

Cavins makes a point about suffering that I’d never considered: it has a purpose. It can help us grow in grace, to grow closer to Christ–if we choose to allow that to happen.

During Lent, when we voluntarily take on suffering in small ways, such as giving up a favorite treat or creature comfort, the message of this book is particularly timely. It’s a perfect book to read as we approach Holy Week.

This is the first book I’ve read by Jeff Cavins. It won’t be the last.

When You Suffer is published by Servant Books.

Buy this book through my Amazon link to support Franciscanmom.com!

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

#WorthRevisit: Dread vs. Hope

Do you hate Lent?

There’s nothing fun about penance, to be sure, but Lent has its hopeful side. Today I’m revisiting a post I wrote on the First Sunday of Lent in 2007:

Why is Lent something we seem to dread?

It’s only been three days so far, and I’ve lost count of the people who have expressed to me how much they “hate Lent.”

This morning a fellow church musician mentioned that she finds Lenten music to be full of Gloom and Doom.

Granted, this is not a cheerful time, in the sense that Christmas and Easter are cheerful. But it is certainly a hopeful time. It is a time to look forward to the holiest Three Days that we celebrate as a Church. As we remind ourselves each week as we recite the Memorial Acclamation, “Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Savior of the world.”

At Mass today our choir will sing this song by Dan Schutte:

Let us ever glory in the cross of Christ,
Our salvation and our hope.
Let us bow in homage to the Lord of life,
Who was broken to make us whole.
There is no greater love, as blessed as this,
To lay down one’s life for a friend.
Let us ever glory in the cross of Christ
And the triumph of God’s great love.

Let us tell the story of the cross of Christ
As we share this heavenly feast.
We become one body in the blood of Christ
From the great to the very least.
When we eat of this bread and drink of this cup
We honor the death of the Lord.
Let us ever glory in the cross of Christ
And the triumph of God’s great love.

(copyright 2000, OCP)

During this season of Lent, may we remember that it’s not All About Us. It’s not about whether we can abide giving up chocolate, or soda, or colored sprinkles. These sacrifices are small potatoes indeed when we meditate on what Christ was willing to do for our sakes.

May we walk through this Lent with a joyful spirit.

Saint Bernardine of Siena wrote that Saint Francis once said:

May the fiery and honey-sweet power of your love, O Lord, wean me from all things under heaven, so that I may die for love of your love, who deigned to die for love of my love.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!