Blessed Lent, everyone!
"Remember, thou art dust
And shall to dust return:
Then place not in the world thy trust,
Its delusions spurn;
Prepare thee for the mighty change
Impending over all;
Give to thy thoughts a loftier range
And heed Heaven’s call.”
— J. Beste, 19th century
Image: “The Temptation of Christ in the Desert” by Duccio di Buoninsegna
Happy almost-Lent, everyone! Some of you have asked me about suggestions for Lenten sacrifices, so here I am doing just that. Let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we? If you read nothing else in this post, read the quotation below. Then read it again. Let it simmer for awhile. In my mind, it really is all you need to know about Lent:
"Lent is a journey, it means accompanying Jesus as He travels to Jerusalem, the place where the mystery of His Passion, Death and Resurrection is to be fulfilled. It reminds us that Christian life is a ‘road’ to be travelled, consisting not so much in a law to be observed as in the person of Christ Himself, Who must be encountered, welcomed and followed" - Pope Benedict XVI (who else?)
If you’re still hungry for more, I present to you The Evangelista’s Three Simple Rules For Having a Meaningful Lent (tested by my experience):
1. Keep it simple.
My tendency is always (ALWAYS) to make things more complicated than they are, and Lent is no exception. I get all excited and start piling on the fasts to the point where I’m ready to throw in the towel after only a few days. Do not fall into this trap, my friends. KISS. The Church makes it SO EASY for us. The three traditional elements of Lenten observance are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. All you have to do is pick one way to embrace each and voila! you’ve paved the way for the Lord to do beautiful things in your heart for the next forty days (and beyond).
-Fasting: Sure, you can give up your favorite food(s) or alcohol, but fasting isn’t limited to food and drink. You could fast from Facebook. Or Instagram. Or shopping. Or wearing perfume. Or using the data plan on your smartphone (i.e. just use it for phone calls and texts). Or listening to secular music. Or listening to music at all in the car. You get the picture.
…regardless of what you give up, make sure that it’s making more room in your life for Christ. In those moments when you’re REALLY craving cashews or are sipping on club soda at happy hour, offer up a prayer for someone you know who’s suffering. Use the time you save by not surfing social media to pray, read, bake, call someone, or just be still. Fasting doesn’t help much if all that happens is you curse your grumbling stomach or use the time you would’ve spent on Facebook surfing Pinterest.
-Almsgiving: In my experience, almsgiving is most effective when it’s directly related to a fast. For example: in the past, I’ve given up shopping for clothes for Lent. Instead of pocketing the cash, I gave it to the poor. When I was tempted to shop, I prayed for my students who were suffering.
-Prayer: I try to pick up one new prayer habit during Lent, in hopes that it will stick for the rest of the year. It could be going to daily Mass, making a weekly/daily holy hour, reading your Bible every day (seriously changed my life), praying compline every night, making an examination of conscience before bed, reading a few pages of a spiritual book, praying a rosary every day, spend five minutes every day in silence allowing the Lord to speak…you really have an infinite number of options.
2. Take full advantage of feast days.
EVERY Sunday is a mini-Easter, so there’s no need to fast—in fact, you should feast! And no, it’s not “cheating.” Also, make sure you party it up on St. Joseph’s feast day (March 19th) and the Annunciation (March 25th). These days are great reminders that Christ has already won the victory over sin and death, so pop some bubbly and eat some dark chocolate, for goodness’ sake!
3. Try, try again.
Discouragement is the tool of Satan. If you fail to be faithful to your Lenten fast (and chances are you will), don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t throw in the towel! If you need to scale back, scale back. In the end, these Lenten practices are meant to be instruments of God’s grace in our lives, not temptations to Pelagianism (i.e. thinking that we can somehow perfect ourselves through our own efforts). If your Lenten sacrifices don’t lead you closer to Christ, ditch them and try something else. The only one who needs to know is Jesus. And he understands.
Still want more suggestions?
100 Things to Do for Lent (Held By His Pierced Hands)
Out of the Box: 66 Things to Take Up or Give Up For Lent (Catholic All Year)
Lenten Reading Recommendations (The Anchoress)
And in case you’re curious, here’s my reading list for these 40 days:
Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition by Gary Anderson
The Love That Made Mother Teresa by David Scott
Behold the Pierced One by Joseph Ratzinger (because a Lent without Ratzinger/Pope B16 is like a night without stars…obviously.)
Last year, I read Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week and OH MY GOSH it is amazing. If you want to learn more about the Scriptural accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection/want to fall more in love with Christ, READ THIS BOOK. That is all.
Papa Francis, take us home:
"It has been said that the only real regret lies in not being a saint (L. Bloy); we could also say that there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ." —Pope Francis, Lenten Message 2014
"With all my heart, with all my love, with my prayer and all my strength – with everything in me – I’d like to work for the common good of the church and all humanity. I feel your kindness so much."—Pope B16, as he took leave of the Vatican a year ago today. May we all follow his Christ-like example and live humble lives in service of the church and the world. #popebenedictxvi #catholic #pope #church #vatican #rome
Happy Friday! Here’s something beautiful to meditate on:
“What God asks of us is..an advance of confidence. He says to us: ‘I know you don’t understand me yet. But trust me anyway, believe that I am good, and dare to live by that trust.’ There are many instances of saints and great individuals who dared to trust and, in consequence, found for themselves and for others true happiness amid the greatest darkness.”
Image: detail of “The Healing of the Paralytic”, Netherlandish, 16th c. (Photo taken at the National Gallery of Art)
#christian #catholic #popebenedictxvi #art #beauty
Happy Valentine’s day! In the midst of all of the flowers and chocolates, let us not forget that the greatest act of love is to lay down your life for another (cf. John 16:13), as St. Valentine did. May we all have the courage to die for Christ, in little and big ways!
“Let’s not think that there is martyrdom only in the shedding of blood. There is always martyrdom.”—St. Jerome
Dear Pope Benedict
On this day last year, I cried in my car on the way to school as I contemplated the news of the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI. Today, on the anniversary of his retirement, in an effort to further explain my (admittedly unusual) love for our Pope Emeritus, I wanted to share with you this slightly-edited version of a letter that I sent to him in October via my landlord, Dr. Schindler, who had the privilege of meeting with him and personally giving it to him. Yes, that’s right: Pope Benedict XVI, one of my favorite people in the entire world, received my letter personally. Dreams do come true, friends. (No, he didn’t write me back, but I didn’t really think he would. I *did* get a blessed rosary in the mail, courtesy of his secretary, so I can’t complain.)
Dearest Holy Father,
I hardly know how to begin this letter, as it is a dream come true to even have the opportunity to write it. I’ve long wanted to write to you, but the fact that you probably would never actually see a letter I sent through the mail kept me from doing so. When Dr. Schindler, my good friend and landlord, told me of his impending visit with you and offered to carry my letter to you, I was overjoyed. That you will read my letter personally is the answer to a prayer held deep within my heart; a prayer I was almost afraid to utter for fear of being disappointed. What a gift it is to be loved in such a particular way by the Father! Thank you for the honor of reading my letter, and for your prayers, which I know I’ve long enjoyed even if you did not know me by name.
My name is Christina Grace and I teach Scripture, Christology, and Ecclesiology at a Catholic high school in Washington, DC. While I studied theology at the University of Notre Dame, most of what I do each day with my students could be categorized as basic evangelization and remedial catechesis. I feel profoundly unworthy of this task, but am indebted to the Lord for elevating you to the Chair of Peter during my senior year of college, thus giving me such a wonderful guide in the practice of “intellectual charity.” I can’t imagine my post-graduate theological education or my teaching career or my life of faith without the constant witness of your faith and the ways in which you taught me so clearly that “Man lives on truth and on being loved: on being loved by the truth” (Jesus of Nazareth).
When I read something—anything—that you’ve written, I am always led closer to the Truth. Concepts that were once shrouded in darkness become clear for the first time. The significance of the precepts of the faith impresses itself upon me with a new gravity. The face of Christ becomes clearer. HIs love becomes more tangible. I am not exaggerating when I say that the way in which your writings have and continue to lead me to the Truth is a small taste of the beatific vision, when we will all stand before the Fullness of the Truth with our eyes free from the darkening effect of sin. Thank you for being Christ’s instrument of Truth in my life, and by extension, in the lives of the hundreds of students I’ve taught in the past seven years.
As I was preparing for a talk recently, I re-read the homily from your inaugural Mass in 2005 and was struck by the closing exhortation:
“Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.”
I began to cry while reading these beautiful lines…because Christ speaks so clearly through you and touches not only my mind, but my heart in a way that no other theologian, pope, or even Saint does. You have taught me how to let go of my fear and dare with God. Your witness moves me to share the Gospel with more zeal and to cherish the beauty of my faith—which no one can take away from me—with deeper gratitude than I thought possible. Your pontificate taught me anew the value of the gift of Apostolic Succession. Your humility and lack of concern for safeguarding your own personal legacy convicts me of my own pride. The closeness to you which I feel, inexplicable from a natural standpoint, continues to confirm the truth of what you once said: “there is no great distance between Christians, for all share the same fundamental reality: Christ within us.”
Dearest Holy Father, thank you for being my most important teacher and spiritual father. Because of you and your faithfulness to Christ, my faith is deeper and stronger and my love for Christ is truer. I know that I am not unique in having this experience; you have probably received thousands of letters like mine. I also know that I could have waited to tell you all of this when we embrace at the eternal Wedding Feast, but I couldn’t wait until then to tell you of my deep, abiding love for and gratitude to you. Know that you will always be in my daily thoughts and prayers, and that for whatever it is worth, a 29-year-old high school religion teacher in the United States appreciates the suffering you endured to be her Shepherd for eight years….
Thank you, Holy Father, for loving me without even knowing me, and for being one of the clearest signs of Christ’s love for me that I have encountered in my young life.
Your loving daughter, sister, and fellow Christian,
Most Popular Posts
This photo has nothing to do with my most popular posts, but it is without a doubt my favorite photo of my niece and me. I mean: how can you resist the cuteness?!
Confession: I’ve never actually checked my Google Analytics. I have NO idea how many people read my blog (except for the sense I get from comments/Facebook likes and shares/re-tweets) or how many people read each post. I do this for several reasons, but the biggest one is that my pride and vanity really know no bounds and I’d rather not give them any extra room to run rampant (either because I have more readers than I think or because I have far fewer readers than my ego would like) . :)
Regardless of my lack of statistical knowledge on ye olde blog, I I DO have a pretty good sense for which posts have been most popular with my dear readers and decided to compile a little list, linked now on the sidebar on the RIGHT hand side of your screen. If you’d like to take a look at it (especially if you’re new to The Evangelista), click here.
I’m currently working on a new post, but continue to ask for your prayers for a precarious situation in my life. Know that I often pray for my readers—particularly those of you who have contacted me via email—and that I’m so thankful for the opportunity to share with you what the Lord has shown me in the course of my short life.
(Thanks to my dear friend Susan for taking the photo. If you live in Central Texas and are looking for a photographer, let me know and I’ll give you Susan’s info!)
A Prayer Request and a Links Round-up
Hello dear readers,
Sorry for the radio silence, but I’ve been under an unusual amount of stress for the past week or so which has sapped pretty much all of my emotional energy and I’ve just been too exhausted to write. I’m really OK and the Lord is providing me with the grace I need every day, but please do pray for me if you can: for wisdom, guidance, prudence, and superabundant charity—and for energy to write again soon!
In the meantime, I figured I’d at least share with you some of the best reading I’ve done on the interwebs recently. Enjoy!
Lent is a month away (!), so why not read Pope Francis’ Lenten message. Guaranteed to make you feel uncomfortable. (L’Ossovetore Romano)
Speaking of Papa Francis, is the honeymoon between the MSM and our beloved pontiff almost over? (Blog of the Courtier)
Also, you should listen to the HBU podcast, "The City." It’s great fun and is my second favorite thing to listen to during my commute (#1 is Fr. Barron’s homilies, obvs.).
Two fantastic pieces by Marc Barnes: one on the scourge of TMI on social media and the other on why the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate was functionally worthless. (Bad Catholic)
Things CS Lewis did NOT say.
10 historical quotes we all get wrong. (Telegraph)
May all-time favorite band, Nickel Creek, is reuniting! And this new song of theirs is fantastic! And I’m going to see them in concert! And it’s causing me to use an excessive amount of exclamation points!!!
Drop everything you’re doing and read this incredible short story by Graham Greene. Trust me.
One of the best titles for an blog post EVER: "If I can’t Accept You At Your Worst, Then Maybe You Should Stop Being So Horrible."
This video about the oldest living Holocaust survivor may make you cry. #SorryNotSorry
The only two shows I watch regularly are Parks&Rec and Sherlock, so I loved this post on what makes Sherlock and Watson’s friendship so unique. (Acculturated)
And last, but not least, Fr. Barron on evangelizing through beauty: