Lent is going. Hopefully your Lenten practices are going well. If not, if you have failed, don’t give up. Change is hard; especially sudden changes. If you have failed, stop, resolve to do them from here on out, and begin again.
Speaking of new beginnings…This coming Wednesday at 7 PM, we are having our Lenten Communal Reconciliation Service. (The religious education kids will begin in their regular classes at 6:30.)
This weekend we have an initiative called Safe Haven Sunday. In this first annual Safe Haven Sunday, the theme is, “Equipping the Family, Safeguarding our Children.” I know in some people’s eyes, the Catholic Church does not have much of a leg to stand on. However, no matter what horrible things members of the Church have done, the Truth about morality remains the same. The analogy I’ve been using is a math teacher. If the math teacher does something immoral, that doesn’t change the truth of what they taught. Five plus three still equals eight. The Catholic Church, especially the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, since the early 2000’s, has tried very hard to make life safe for our children and vulnerable adults.
It is not the only cause, but pornography certainly doesn’t help the situation. I was reading the excerpts from a rape case. The man said he had a right to the woman’s body. They also found pornography on his computer. With the internet one does not have to secretly obtain a “dirty” magazine. Pornography can come to us where ever we have an internet connection. So it is easy to say that it doesn’t do any harm. It is just me. Some people even use pornography to learn how to bring more pleasure to their lives, even to their marriages. Pornography is also used in in-vitro-fertilization. Pornography also contributes to the forces and urges that push for sexual human trafficking. If there was no demand for sexual human trafficking, the supply would not exist. Most of us aren’t going to rape someone, let alone think we have a right to someone else’s body. However, repeated pornography changes the way we see and interact with each other. We start to treat people more and more as objects and less and less as persons. Pope John Paul II says in his book Love and Responsibility in the positive, a human person is a being who deserves to be treated with love. In the negative, a human person is a being who never deserves to be used as a means to an end. Pornography never considers the person as a being to love, but always as an object to be used for self pleasure. We need to do all we can to be people of virtue not just for our own sakes, but also for those around us, especially our families, especially our children.
Sorry to dump so much on you, but next weekend (March 30-31) the Catholic Church is have another initiative called “The Light is On.” (Most other churches did the Safe Haven Sunday several Sundays ago, but since I was gone in the Holy Land, we waited.) The Light is On initiative is about inviting people to Church, to a deeper relationship with Jesus. I have found that most people who quit going to Mass do so not because of some difference in doctrine, but because of something personal that happened. Sometimes it was a priest who said something insensitive. Sometimes it is because other priorities took precedent. Sometimes it is because we feel like we are beyond the hope of God. To the first group, I would say, “Sorry.” The Catholic Church, being close to the graces of the Sacraments is so much bigger than one lousy priest or bishop. To the second group, I would just say that Jesus loves you. So much so that He died the Cross so you could be with Him forever in Heaven. In the end, our greatest desire is to be loved unconditionally, to be loved for who we truly are, good and bad. God loves us this way more than we can imagine. To the third group, I would remind them that there is no sin too great that God can’t forgive you. Often, it is not that God can’t forgive us, but we have a hard time forgiving ourselves. I know it can be scary to come back, especially to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Now that I’m a priest, I have a different perspective on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Yes, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is about our sins, but even more so it is about God’s mercy. I used to get caught up in the penance that the priest would give me. I would think why did the priest just give me three Hail Marys as my penance. Didn’t he hear what I did? I practically almost killed someone. (I didn’t, but that’s how I felt about my sins.) I felt like my penance should be climbing Mount Everest on my hands and knees until they bled or something like that. Certainly not three Hail Marys. But that’s just it. As a priest, you realize that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so much more about God’s mercy than it is about our sins. So in light of inviting people to Mass, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to a greater relationship with Christ, we are offering extra times of Reconciliation. Again, we have the Communal Reconciliation service on Wednesday at 7 PM, but we also going to have Confessions from 3:30-4:50 at St. Jospeh’s on Saturday, March 30. On Sunday, March 31, we will have Confessions at St. Teresa’s from 8-8:50 AM and from 2-3 PM at St. Matthew’s. Jesus is the Light. He shines brightly for us. Let’s invite ourselves and others to the Light of Christ.
May God bless and keep you,
I’m a bit more tan and a bit more jet lagged. As of Thursday morning I’m still getting up at 3 AM. I had an amazing trip traveling with 15 college students around the Holy Land, the very place Jesus, our Savior, lived when He was on earth. When I was in seminary in 2007, we got to spend three weeks in the Holy Land. So this trip was a little shorter. However, we still got to do some extraordinary things, even some things I didn’t do last time. It was especially mind-blowing to celebrate Mass as a priest at some of the holy sights. One of the many highlights was celebrating Mass at the altar next to Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
The most fun we had was probably playing in the water and mud at the Dead Sea.
It often beyond comprehension; to realize that you are walking in the very same places as our Savior walked. It is easy to just read the Bible, especially the Gospels and not really think too hard about the setting, the environment the events took place in. However, when you go to the Holy Land and see some of these places, the Bible takes on a whole new vividness. It is a great gift to have gone. Hopefully, the gift will bare fruit in homilies and other places.
It looks like the crazy weather might be over. There could be some freezing ice, but I think the snow for the most part is done. I see in 10 day forecast even has a day of over 50 degrees. It has been a wacky winter.
Next weekend we are going to celebrate Safe Haven Sunday. There is an insert that further explains what this is. Lent is a time to learn discipline so that we are in control of our desires instead of our desires being in control of us.
Monday, March 18, I am going to Winona for my annual visit with the Bishop, so please pray for me.
Yes, I am gone again. I believe this will be the last time until May. As you read this, I am with the college students touring around the Holy Land. So please pray that are souls are transformed as walk the very steps that our Savior walked 2000 years ago. As of now, our plan is to have Ash Wednesday Mass in front of the tomb of Jesus; where Jesus was laid after the Crucifixion. What a great gift it will be if it happens!
So yeah. This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. We have two services: 7 AM at St. Teresa’s in Mapleton and 7 PM at St. Matthew in Vernon Center. Father Bill Kulas will be praying the Masses.
So we are beginning the penitential season of Lent. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is one of the two days the Church asks us to fast. (The other being Good Friday.) Also on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays, we are asked to abstain from meat. These days, fasting and abstaining in the Catholic Church is spelled out as following: “For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.” So in other words, fasting means only three meals. No snacking. The two small meals together has to be less than the one full meal. However, you are dispensed from fasting if you have medical reasons. The rule on abstaining also leaves open the possibility that the child under 14 can have a steak while the parents have cauliflower and tofu.
We abstain from meat and fast to lessen our reliance on earthly things and focus more on our reliance on God. Also fasting and abstaining trains our wills, our souls, to be in control of our desires instead of our desires being in control of us. We fast and abstain in solidarity with those who do not have access to food every day. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert before He began His public ministry.
During this Lent, may we focus again on the three ways the saints have laid out for us to grow in holiness: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It doesn’t have to be just about food and money. Prayer. During this Lenten season, can you commit to more prayer each day; maybe just five more minutes? Fasting. Yes, what is something you can fast from? It doesn’t have to be food. It can be something like arguing with your co-worker. And almsgiving. What is something you are going to give to better the lives of others? Maybe volunteer at a food kitchen or second hand store. Maybe take time to write our government representatives to vote for policies that protect human life from conception to natural death.
Have a blessed beginning to Lent,