Despite a very public beginning on Ash Wednesday, the Lenten season is a time of inward preparation.
Lent has 40 days with which to enter purposeful suffering and other spiritual disciplines. The end result creates a heart that’s better equipped to embrace the crosses of life like Simon of Cyrene, confident in recognizing the truths of the faith like Veronica or eager to spread it like St. Mary Magdalene did on Easter morning.
A pre-Lenten retreat at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Feb. 25 strengthened the hearts of 75 women from across the Valley to “suffer, act and be silent.” To translate that to Lenten terms, they geared up to fast, give alms and pray. Those are the pillars by which the Church denotes a spiritual springtime. They allow Catholics to cooperate with God while still maintaining free will, explained Dr. Monica Breaux, who wrote and directed the retreat.
Trading in resentment and other poisonous sins of anger for inner peace is a good place to start.
“God always gives us the grace to carry our cross, but there is no grace to carry the cross carried because of our resentments,” Breaux said.
More broadly, Lent is a time to “re-think what we’re doing that’s not helpful to us, God or the other and we’re going to relent,” Holy Cross Father Bill Faiella said during a morning of reflection March 9 at St. Patrick Parish in Scottsdale.
Special Lenten events
➤ Women’s retreat, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., March 25 at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Queen Creek. Info: CArmesQC@cox.net or retreat flyer
➤ Mission with Dcn. Harold Burke-Silvers, March 26-29, St. Bernadette in Scottsdale. Info: saintbernadette.com/mission
➤ Mission: A Little Bit of Heaven, April 3-5 at St. Benedict. Info: stbenedict.org/mission
➤ Recharge with Patrick Coffin, 6:30-8 p.m., April 4 at Our Lady of Joy in Carefree. Info: oloj.org
Relenting can mean dropping a habit altogether (e.g., cursing, smoking) or lightening it up because the indulgence was too excessive (e.g., social media, TV habits). The faithful can also relent from judging, the priest explained.
The alternative to judging? Evaluation of behavior, said Fr. Faiella, who runs St. André Inner Healing Ministry, which provides pastoral counseling, spiritual direction and retreats for special interest groups.
As we evaluate, he said, we need to “get on the continuum of helpful and unhelpful.”
Something might be objectively wrong, but there are factors to weigh in that affect the level of culpability, Fr. Faiella said.
Lenten fasting also pertains to food and physically cleanses the body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It also heightens awareness of those who starve on a regular basis.
That’s one reason why the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops encourages support of the longstanding Lenten “Rice Bowl” program. It wraps solidarity, prayer and action into one. It helps individuals and families tithe meager amounts each day of Lent to Catholic Relief Services by dropping coins and $1 or $2 deposits — or maybe the amount they’d otherwise spend on fast food or coffee — into a cardboard bank that’s shaped like a small rice bowl.
Accompanying materials share meatless recipes alongside stories of people CRS funds have helped. Funds go to 40-45 impoverished countries where CRS serves with 25 percent remaining in the local community. The Diocese of Phoenix generally raises about $70,000. Of that, about $17,500 remains in Arizona. Last year, 36 parishes, five schools plus homeschool groups raised $55,000. Sr. Maria Crucis Garcia, RSM, coordinator of CRS for the diocese, attributed the decline to extra local projects parishes took on during the Year of Mercy instead of the Rice Bowl.
Either effort embodies this year’s theme: “Encounter Lent.” The first priority is encountering Jesus, Sr. Maria Crucis said. “As an extension of our encounter with Christ, we encounter each other. We consciously turn our eyes toward our brothers and sisters in need — in our own diocese and around the world — and reach out to help them through our almsgiving.”
Praying for those served by Rice Bowl donations is just one small way to go deeper into prayer during Lent. Some rely on apps, daily emails and other e-resources to do so.
The newspaper at Xavier College Preparatory is posting a weekly podcast offering a reflection through the eyes of the Blessed Mother. Fr. Will Schmid, pastor of St. Mary Magdalene in Gilbert, is offering a weekly video reflection titled, “Journey into the Desert: Reflections on Worship.” It’s available online and through the parish’s Flocknote group.
Fr. Faiella advised using Lent as a time to let go of prayer forms that aren’t bearing fruit. Those that do, he said, help Catholics become less judgmental, worry less, live more in the present moment, appreciate nature more and recognize social justice issues and act on them.
He often recommends quiet prayer “where we talk less and listen more.” Quiet prayer is a way to embrace difficult feelings like anger and hurt. Only then can the person accept it and hand it over to the God who bore it all with Him upon the cross, Fr. Faiella said.
Abortion sites are modern day Calvaries. Many Catholics and people of other faiths spend Lent trying to transform the culture by supporting the 40 Days for Life worldwide prayer movement. Vigils are planned outside of abortion facilities throughout Arizona through April 9 with many parishes covering time slots.
Shawn Carney, president of 40 Days, called Lent a perfect season to pray for an end to abortion. He spoke live on Facebook from outside of a Planned Parenthood in Chandler March 1.
He said 40 Days for Life allows prayer warriors to reflect on their own sin and dependence on God while recognizing the culture’s need for His love and compassion.
“When you enter into a 40 Days for Life campaign, … you’re joining a movement of converts, a movement of hope and a movement of joy. There’s a lot of joy in life. There is no joy in the lobby of Planned Parenthood. There is no joy inside of an abortion facility. What a great opportunity to bring the love, joy and mercy of Christ out to the sidewalks,” Carney said.
By the end of the third day of the campaign, 11 lives had already been saved. The figure doubled a day later and climbed to 69 by press time adding to the 12,668 others lives that have been saved since 40 Days for Life was born in 2007.
Weekly Lenten activities
➤ Lenten podcasts through the eyes of Mary, Sundays
➤ Journey into the Desert: Reflections on Worship, YouTube series. Sign up at video flocknote.com/smarymag
➤ In Presenza Di, 7-8:15 p.m., Mondays at St. Patrick in Scottsdale
➤ The Pivotal Players of the Catholic Church video series, 9-10:30 a.m. or 6:30-8 p.m., Mondays at St. Theresa
➤ Leaving Egypt Behind, 7:30 p.m., Tuesdays at St. Daniel in Scottsdale
➤ Spiritual Weapons for Serious Times, 7:30 p.m., Tuesdays at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral
➤ Taizé prayer, 7 p.m., Thursdays at the Old Adobe Mission in Scottsdale and Fridays at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale
➤ 40 Days for Life, join Most Holy Trinity Saturdays after 8 a.m. Mass at Phoenix rally site. Info: 40daysforlife.com