"Let us never forget that authentic power is service." - Pope Francis
As we enter into the time of the Easter or Paschal Triduum
, the holiest days of the liturgical year, we have an opportunity to reflect, remember, and relive the great redemptive love of Christ, not only in prayer, but also through how we live daily this love. Day after day since his election, Pope Francis has offered us witness of how to live this love in the simple acts of our everyday life. Because what he is doing is seemingly different from the past, his actions are considered dramatic. They are, however, the non-dramatic, counter-cultural, and normal actions of an apostolic person, one who lives the love of Christ concretely in service to others
- as Jesus did when he washed the feet of the Apostles in the Upper Room. As bearers of the love of Christ to others, we join in their suffering, their pain, their rejection - as we unite with Jesus in his suffering and death on the Cross. Yet, we live in hope that the love of the Father which conquered sin and death and raised Jesus up on Easter morning gives us hope to continue our sharing of the love of Christ to all, no matter what the cost.
Please know that we are keeping you in prayer during this special time. If you have any special intentions that you would like us to pray for during the Holy Triduum, please send them to us
) and they will be remembered.
The entire Catholic Apostolate Center team wishes you a prayerful Paschal Triduum and a blessed Easter season!
May the charity of Christ urge you on! Fr. Frank S. Donio, S.A.C., D. Min, Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center wrote this piece for the Holy Week edition of the Catholic Apostolate Center Newsletter. Contact us to sign up to receive our news letter!
The Paschal what? Ever wonder what the Triduum is and when and how we celebrate it?Here are a few great resources to check out!
1. 18 Questions and Answers on the Paschal Triduum:
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has provided an excellent resource for us seeking a greater understanding of the importance of the Pashcal Triduum, which takes place this week. Questions range from simply, "When does the Triduum begin and end?" to inquires on Good Friday devotionals and liturgical norms during this time. With clear and direct responses to each of the proposed questions that commonly arise during Holy Week, it's a great resource no matter the depth of your theological background.
2. Holy Week reflection:
A brief reflection on the meaning of Holy Week
by Fr. Thomas Roscia, C.S.B of Salt and Light Ministries.
3. Holy Week in Two Minutes:
A resource of Busted Halo ministries
, this "Holy Week in 2 Minutes"
clip is a brief explanation of the importance of the events of this week in the life of the Catholic Church. An excellent resource that's ideal for sharing via social media such as Facebook and Twitter, it's worth 2 minutes of your time! Resources were gathered by David Burkey, Communications Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center
I am scared of Lent. There: I said it. This cradle Catholic, with plenty of Lents under her belt, is scared of one of the most sacred liturgical seasons in the Church.
I’m not saying I don’t love it. I do. I loved when my favorite priest buried the “Hallelujah,” and then emptied our Church of decoration, only adding more as we got further into Lent and into spring. I love (well, love/hate) fasting, and the way my mind is automatically drawn toward my dependence on God and solidarity with others. And my favorite color is purple. So, yeah, Lent is my season.
But I’m scared of it. Truth be told, I feel like I’m bad at Lent – never repentant enough, never serious enough, never sacrificing or doing enough. When I was little, I made charts to track my progress through the 40 days free of candy, or Facebook, or whatever I gave up. When I got older, I got smarter and started adding to my Lenten routine. More Scripture, more prayer, more almsgiving. Usually I do okay striking a balance between sacrificing for God and building toward God, but this year…all bets are off.
This year, away from home, family, and friends, I’ve been feeling so restless. Isn’t this season a time to rest in God, and prepare our hearts for that life-changing Resurrection? Part of me feels like, “God, haven’t I given up enough? I’ve followed you into this desert that is rural Kentucky!” But part of me (and I’m sure this is the part the Holy Spirit is dealing with) knows there is always more. We can always remove more that stands in our way to the fullness of God.
Yet, as Lent draws to an end, I still feel like I am figuring out what I’m doing. My housemates have all dutifully prayed; they have gracefully denied sweets and coffee and swear words. All I’ve managed to do is plod along through Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain, because hey – third time’s a charm, right? In the meantime, I thumb through my notebook still rewriting different versions of my Lenten plan.
And there lies my problem; I am still trying to plan Lent. I have turned it into some Christian New Year’s Resolutions/Get-Right Plan for Lent 2013. If I “do” A, B, and C, then the Resurrection will surely come! If I “do” Lent with enough sacrifice, enough Bible study, enough whatever, then I’m sure to feel the Resurrection like never before. But maybe that’s not the way to do it. The Rev. William Bradley, in a sermon given on the first Sunday of Lent, said, “The difference between us and Jesus is that he doesn’t run from…insecurity, rather he embraces, inhabits it as part of his life with God. Rather than trying to fill it with people, things, drugs, and busyness, he sits with his emptiness to see if God will show up.”
I haven’t quite figured out what I’m “doing” this Lenten season, and maybe that’s okay. Maybe I need to simply take my restlessness to God in prayer and sit with it, until I’m no longer with the restlessness but with the peace and grace that is God. Only once I can settle into being this Lent, can I start to actually do the life-giving practices of this holy season and rejoice in His resurrection that lies ahead.
Katherine Biegner recently graduated from Assumption College and is currently serving as a tutor and mentor in the Christian Appalachian Project in rural Kentucky.
Each year it seems that just as soon as we’ve concluded the joyous season of Christmas, we find ourselves putting away the carols and nativity scene just to replace them with our Friday fish sandwiches and talk of our Lenten sacrifices. At first glance it may seem that the coming of Lent each year calls for us to “put away” our joy. After all it’s a season of penance to bring ourselves closer to Christ through his suffering – not exactly the definition of joy. But is it possible to still have joy during this season of prayer and reflection?
Recently I read Fr. James Martin’s book, Between Heaven and Mirth
, in which he discusses how joy and our spiritual life don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Particularly he proposes ways in which we can incorporate joy into our prayer life, suggestions that we could put into practice this Lent.
First and foremost we must be willing to bring our joy to the Lord through prayer. Just as we might call up a good friend with exciting news, so also should we cultivate that same desire to share our daily joys with the Lord. Although we may be in Lent, our daily lives aren’t devoid of joyous occasions. What made you laugh today? What was your “high point” of the day? When I was growing up my family would sit around the dinner table sharing our “high point,” or our favorite thing that happened to us that day. Forcing myself to remember something good was always easier some days than others but it reminded me there was always something for which I could give thanks.
Additionally, beyond just recalling joyous moments, we can use our prayer to think back to the people, experiences and memories that perhaps we may take for granted. For myself, I can far too easily forget to recognize the blessings of being able to attend a university and pursue a degree, as well as the tremendous influence of my parents. Surely my years here in college and the lessons my parents instilled in me have also given rise to joy in my life; it’s just not something I always remember on a daily basis. Even more importantly, in remembering these people and experiences we may take for granted we develop a greater sense of gratitude and realize that our joy doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but because of these blessings that God has given each of us.
In this we see that joy is much more than just sheer happiness. Rather, it is a reflection of our prayer life and relationship with God. As the French philosopher Leon Bloy once said, “Joy is the most infallible sign of God’s presence.” The secular world often views joy as synonymous with simple emotional happiness, yet, according to Fr. Martin, the Christian definition of joy is happiness in God
and revolves around our relationship with Him. This is precisely what allows us to have joy in the midst of suffering, and yes, even Lent.
Although at its outset Lent may not seem an occasion for joy, it is an occasion to deepen our prayer life and our internal joy - our happiness in God. In this prayer we can develop a greater sense of gratitude for both the blessings in our lives and, especially this Lent, an appreciation for Christ’s Paschal mystery, all of which can lead to a richer relationship with our Lord. St. Paul sums it up best in his Letter to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God for you in Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).David Burkey is the Communications Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center
"Christ in the Desert" Ivan Kramskoi 1872
With the liturgical season of Lent – one of the holiest and most sacred times for our Church – now upon us, - many Catholic minds are churning in anticipation. While we prepare ourselves with the due reverence for Lent, we are equally busy devising just exactly what we shall sacrifice and how shall we keep it. While this great fast is meant to ignite a vision of our Christ, unyielding in temperance through the desert in the face of Satan’s temptations, our holy fast often is diminished to a game of “what is the best fasting practices to talk about with others?” or “I’ll kick start my diet by giving up sweets for Lent.” Suddenly our religious devotional practice becomes much less about Christ, much more about ourselves.
This is not to say our mismanaged practices are meant to only serve ourselves. It is also not meant to say that our “sacrifices” are not challenges. Nor is this meant to discourage anyone from giving up sweets. This is to say that there is a chasm in many of our modern, personal interpretations of our Catholic practice. Often, we attempt to fulfill the tradition without prayer or holy intentions and we boastfully bemoan our devotion with ironic agony to our friends and family “I won’t even have sweets on Sunday, not a bite!”
This, I believe, is not what is meant for our journey through Lent with Christ. This journey is a glorious opportunity for devotion and recommitment to prayer, abstinence, and almsgiving. We may share our devotions with others, but we should seek to share as a means of support and reflection without pride or seeking attention.
So, I propose a new kind of devotional practice. Instead of banishing the tasty treats from your pantry or giving up your favorite television show, let’s take one step closer to our Community of Faith in our Lenten sacrifice. These practices help us to grow closer to Christ. This year, why not try this through a prayer-filled recognition of the struggles that our brothers and sisters here on Earth face each day?
Practicing sacrifice with added prayerful reflection and a commitment to our community is much more doable than one might think! This Lent, park in the back of the grocery lot; as you walk towards the door, say a prayer for older adults who may be challenged to walk such a short distance Or, if you like to give up sweets, do so in celebration for the abundance of what you have been blessed with! The money that is not spent on sweets may be used to purchase non-perishables to donate to a local Saint Vincent de Paul societies. The idea is that while we make sacrifices this Lent, we do so in the spirit of Christ and in support of our community!
When we sacrifice of ourselves so that others may be blessed in the wake of our actions, we grow closer to Christ. As we sacrifice with a humble and gracious heart, prayer becomes a natural step towards not only a stronger relationship with Christ, but so too, with fellow members of our community. Brothers and sisters, let us prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Easter season by using the sacrificial Lenten season as a means to strengthen the bonds between Christ and community.
Samantha Alves is working toward a M.S.W. at Boston College and currently works for the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.
Mardi Gras, to me, is another example of the type of people we Catholics are—CELEBRATORY! How many other faiths enter into a season of contemplation, penitence and conversion with a party? Tonight, in my own community we will prepare for Lent by eating red meat—an occurrence that rarely happens in our house- drinking the rest of the good wine, and finishing the King Cake that was sent to us from our family down south. Many other Catholics across the country and world will follow suit- clearing their houses of all that they will be fasting from starting tomorrow.
The celebratory people that we are today are not denied tomorrow with the season of Lent. Rather, we recognize and value that to be a people who can rejoice completely and live fully alive we must first be a people of transformation and conversion. Richard Rohr writes, “If we do not transform our pain we will transmit it.” The season of Lent is a season to contemplate the pains in our own lives and transform them, so that in the rising of the Lord at Easter we can truly REJOICE.
Tomorrow we put on Ashes from the palms that we waved when we rejoiced in the coming of Christ into Jerusalem last year at Palm Sunday. These Ashes do not show our holiness, rather they outwardly show our recognition that we are a people who need to convert our ways and transform our pains. During Lent we enter into the silence of contemplation to strip ourselves of all things that keep us from pure joy and blind us from recognizing God among us. Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk and spiritual writer, stated the following about contemplation: “To enter into the realm of contemplation, one must in a certain sense die: but this death is in fact the entrance into a higher life. It is a death for the sake of life, which leaves behind all that we can know or treasure as life, as thought, as experience as joy, as being. [Every form of intuition and experience] die to be born again on a higher level of life.”
This is what we celebrate today! We celebrate being a people who wish to enter into the realm of contemplation for the sake of transformation; to enter a realm of difficulty, pain, and struggle in order transform our experiences of joy and life into pure joy and eternal life.
As Catholics we enter into the season of Lent by first eating rich foods, drinking merrily, and celebrating the lives that we have been given. This joy of being Catholic is then enriched when we can fast from all that distracts us from pure joy, give alms to those in which Christ resides, and deepen our relationship with our Savior through prayer.
Today we start with a party and tomorrow we live the transformation that our hearts desire so that in 40 days and 40 nights we can fully celebrate the risen Lord and rejoice as a celebratory people! Pam Tremblay is the Blog Editor for the Catholic Apostolate Center.
Just a short week and a half ago, I felt like I was on top of the world! I could sleep in without missing class, I didn't have to wear shower shoes, and was treated to delicious home cooking; yes, it was spring break! However, that week off from school seemed to pass too quickly, as it always does, and soon I found myself back at school, where a mountainous pile of work awaited me. The joy that came with the start of break, a result of time off from an often busy and consuming world of commitments, had quickly vanished, and was replaced by the stress of things to be done.
Today I came across a chapter, aptly titled “Joy”, in a book I’m reading by Cardinal Dolan. Here he gave some suggestions as to what actually helps us attain a true and lasting joy, some of which took me by surprise. He first proposes that the source of all joy is peace. Looking through an exterior lens these seem to be mutually exclusive, particularly when the thought of someone who is quiet and peaceful is juxtaposed with the image of a jovial, fun-loving and joyful person. But Cardinal Dolan is referring to an inner peace that gives rise to a genuine exterior joy and happiness. This peace is rooted in the conviction that God loves us and, in return, we reciprocate this overwhelming love through our actions and interior life.
Knowing and accepting this great love can be a challenge, and is something I still struggle with on a regular basis. A wise religious sister recently told me how we must first let God love us, even with our imperfections, before we attempt to change other people – a tendency of perfectionists such as myself. How right she was! This is often a major stumbling block in finding inner peace, which ultimately leads us to genuine joy.
True joy can come about through trust in God’s plan, but requires a complete surrender of ourselves and our desires. As cliché as it may sound, Cardinal Dolan suggests this simple ordering of our lives to reach this joy:
J => Jesus
O => Others
Y => Yourself
When we are ordered this way, and place ourselves last in the line of priorities, our happiness no longer relies on promotions, accolades, or spring breaks, but from a much deeper source that doesn’t fade away despite busy schedules and stressors.
Lastly, Cardinal Dolan highlights an important distinction between joy and pleasure. C.S. Lewis once said, “Joy is never in our power, and pleasure is. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted joy would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasure in the world”.
I realized that, while going to the beach in Cozumel, cruising the Caribbean, or simply sleeping in can all be good things and may bring me pleasure, these things will never be able to bring me real joy.
Perhaps we can all take a “Spring Break”, not in the sense of a vacation (although I’m sure none of you would object to that), but rather use Holy Week to take a break and reflect on what motivates our Joy. Is it an inner peace within ourselves and an acceptance of God’s immense love, exemplified in the Paschal Mystery that we will soon be celebrating? Or, is it based on the next compliment, promotion, or good grade? What do we need to change in order to reach this true Joy?
Fortunately, this joy is lasting; it is a joy that won’t leave you sunburned or yearning for more in a week’s time.David Burkey is the Communications Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center.
We’re now about halfway through our Lenten journey, and I for one am struggling to keep my Lenten obligations going. I didn’t “give up” anything per se, but sought to add more time each day for prayer and take advantages of the opportunities when God is calling me to greater communion with him.
I’ve been trying to schedule my day around God and set aside time for prayer throughout the day, but when I set aside the time sometimes I wonder what I’m supposed to be doing. How do I pray? How do I know I’m doing it right?
Fortunately, the weekend before Lent started, I had the opportunity to hear about prayer from the Archdiocese of Washington’s “iPray” campus ministry conference. Dominican Brother Justin Brophy reminded us that prayer is simply a relationship with Jesus Christ. It sounds easy, but often we are caught up in rubrics and novenas and can miss that the crux of our “prayer life” must be friendship with our Lord. As Brother Justin said, “You all know what relationships are and you have relationships, so you know how to pray.”
Brother went on to list his “3 A’s” of prayer: prayer is attentive, authentic, and accepting.
Prayer is attentive because in a relationship with someone you just don't see them for one hour and forget about them for the rest of the day. We must be praying throughout the day and offering up our works, joys, and sufferings to his infinite glory.
Prayer is also authentic. Jesus asks us to pray from the heart and not “babble like the pagans” (Matthew 6:7). Vocal prayers like the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Divine Office have a huge place in our prayer lives, but we are also called to deeper mental prayer
, going to God telling him what's on our heart and experiencing his presence in our lives.
This leads to the final “A:” prayer is accepting. God loves us unconditionally; He accepts us as we are and calls us to relationship with him despite our faults and failures because He is the Creator of the universe and knows us more perfectly than we know ourselves. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you
, and before you were born I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
As we approach the Easter season with joy, let us be renewed in our relationship with Christ and ask Him as the Apostles did, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” (Luke 11:1).Nick Wagman is the Project Management & IT Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center.