FEBRUARY 2 THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD
On this feast it is the first time that we see Jesus in the Temple. Simeon, who has been waiting for the Messiah his entire life, gives us the beautiful prayer which is prayed in the Night Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours: Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace…for my eyes have seen your salvation which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples, a light for the revelation to the Gentiles and the glory for your people Israel. This blind man sees the light, but also knows that this light is a sign of contradiction. Some will follow him, others will deny him, holding on to their own designs rather than submitting to the King of Kings. We ourselves struggle between following him and selfishly going our own way. And so we pray for God's grace. At night we examine how we have cooperated with that grace. As we continue to conform our lives evermore to Jesus, we come to recognize the free gift of grace and mercy in our lives and so are able to share the good news of his mercy with those we meet.
Yes, we just finished Christmas. You are probably still finding needles from your Christmas tree and random ornaments that you forgot to take down around the house. The altar at church may still be surrounded by poinsettias … but Lent is coming.
Lent starts one month from Sunday. Ash Wednesday is February 26. Are you ready? Is your parish ready to welcome the PACE Catholics… those Catholics who show up on Palm Sunday and Ash Wednesday and Christmas and Easter?
For many Catholics who do not attend Mass regularly, there is something, perhaps nostalgia, that draws them to Church to "receive ashes." Is there something this Lent at your parish that you can invite them to? Perhaps nothing to intense, but something to get them connected to the community? Invitation to soup suppers with, or without, at speaker, or a movie series. If not, even just saying hello to people you haven't seen in a while and welcoming them as they arrive can mean a great deal. And if they are nostalgic enough to come get ashes, perhaps they might be interested in Stations of the Cross … invite them, personally.
The other thing that can be helpful is to have some resources available that they, and regular parishioners, can take home.
Some suggested resources:
This is a good book for the average Catholic who wants to know more about the faith. At the time of this writing, I have not yet seen a copy, but it available for pre-order (and is affordable in bulk!). The author is Michael Barber who has written other books that I have appreciated, such as his books on St. Paul and on the Psalms.
The Ascension Press Lenten Companion: This is a daily meditation booklet for Lent. Each day had a scripture verse and meditation and then offers a scripture passage (you will need your own bible) followed by a prayer/meditation/journaling prompt. What is nice about this particular meditation booklet is that it also comes with 5 supplemental video reflections that are available online.
Dynamic Catholic offers this year's version of Best Lent Ever Journal. It is a simple journal, focussing each day on a particular topic, then suggesting a daily video (available online at BestLentEver.com) and prompts to help you journal your own reflections. The Journal this year is based on the book Rediscover the Saints and each day also includes recommended reading from that book as well as scripture passages, but the journal also works well without that additional reading.
Ave Maria Press has a great selection of Lenten material. Two suggestions would be:
The Living Gospel: Daily Devotions for Lent by Dcn. Greg Kandra: Daily reflections on the Gospel of the day by a great writer.
Lent: One Day at a time for Catholic Teens by Katie Prejean McGrady and Tommy McGrady
Daily meditations, prayers and challenges for teens by experienced Youth Ministers that truly meets teenagers where they are at. Katie Prejean is also the author of Follow: Your Lifelong Adventure with Jesus which one the 2019 Assoc. of Catholic Publisher Awards in Teen Books. She also hosted the 2019 NCYC.
Of Course, Bishop Barron and Word on Fire offers Lenten Gospel Reflections . Each day has the full Gospel reading and a short reflection by Bishop Barron and journaling pages. The book also includes a Stations of the Cross. You can get one for free (just pay for shipping and handling.)
Little Black Book for Lent - published by the Diocese of Saginaw are wonderful little prayer books . Each day walks you through the Sunday Gospels, and also has quotes, information and thoughts. The idea is that the booklet has no title on the cover, so you can read it anywhere without feeling self-conscious that you are reading a "religious" book. Each daily prayer can take as little as 6 minutes … and everyone can find six minutes in their day.
Next week, we will review some online resources and apps.
JANUARY 26 THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Jesus begins his public ministry after John the Baptist is arrested. Repent, and believe in the Gospel. Gospel means good news. What is this good news? The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light. Many around us are sitting in darkness, struggling to find meaning in life, struggling with sin, many of them without hope. Can we bring them the light of Christ and share with them the Gospel, the Good News?
There is a new program on the block for evangelization and making disciples in your parish. It is called The 99 - a new program from Ascension press.
I have recently purchased the program (videos, leader guide and book) for our office and will be piloting the program at St. Mary of the Fort for Lent.
The program consists of three parts: A Masterclass (6 sessions); The 99 Experience (3 videos with various options for presenting) and then a book to go deeper.
The idea is that first you use the Masterclass to train leaders for the program. Each session of the masterclass is broken into three segments, using beautiful video and experts to explain what evangelization is about, common fears we might have in sharing the faith, and what is necessary to develop the desire and conviction to evangelize because Jesus has made a difference in our life. The Masterclass then continues to help us to put the gospel in a simple format that we can easily share and how to develop and share our own witness in word and action and how to invite others to a relationship with Jesus. Further videos continue how to reach the culture and those on the periphery , how to invite others, the power of small groups and building real community, how to accompany others on the journey and how to deal with suffering finally, how to go on mission with Jesus and the Church.
Leaders who are formed in the masterclass can then lead The 99 Experience - a three session (can be used as a day of reflection or a three evening parish mission in various suggested formats for others in the parish or those whomay have wandered away like the lost sheep. Part of the Experience is session at the end of part 2 that covers mercy. This could easily become a lead-in to a parish reconciliation service or adoration with confessions available.
The last part, the Handbook, goes deeper and created disciples in love with Jesus, who would be then be ready to start a masterclass and start the cycle over again, thus reaching ever wider circles.
Watch the promotional trailer here:
How will it work in reality in our parishes? Stay tuned. I will facilitate a masterclass in one of our local parishes and will keep you updated. If you think your parish would be in a place to start The 99, check with your pastor and let me know. I would be happy to set up another Masterclass group in one or two other parishes. Also, I have bulk ordered books for the program, so if you are interested in just the book discussion just to start, check with me and we can share the books at a lower cost.
JANUARY 19 SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John the Baptist points Jesus out with these words. If he was interested in his own following, looking for his own glory, he could have remained quiet, but he pointed Jesus out. This was his mission. Some of John's disciples followed the Lord. These would be some of the first Apostles who would bring others to Christ. At every Mass we hear the same words: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. We too, like the Apostles are first called to follow, but then, to introduce Jesus to all those we meet.