How are you Lenten practices/penances going?

A.M.D.G.
J.M.J.
A.T.C.

Laudetur Iesus Christus!
Nunc et in æternum! Amen.

Second Sunday of Lent

So, we’re about two weeks into Lent, how are things going with your penitential practices?  Doing pretty well?  Have you screwed up a bit?  If you have, what have you done?  Have you thrown up your hands and said, “Meh.”  Or have you picked yourself up and kept going with it?

I’ve been pretty good.  I have forgotten or just yutzed out a few times.  But I usually catch myself and amend it.

I gave up soda so that means no Coke and no Shirley Temples with extra grenadine and cherries.  Been drinking lots of Pellegrino because I love the fizz and all it is is fancy Italian mineral water.  One of my priest friends got me hooked on it years ago and I always become a Pellegrino junkie during Lent.

Pellegrino

Helps me get my fancy fizz fix during Lent.
I am very hydrated this Lent.

I also drank this stuff like crazy when I was in college and when I was in the convent.  Both times because the tap water was not so great … the city water in Grand Rapids is … nasty.  I would fill a glass in case I got thirsty during the night, I would wake up and see all the crud settled on the bottom.  *shudder*  Made me miss tasty Detroit water (which is apparently some of the best in the country).

Besides abstaining from soda (Pellegrino is not cheating, thankyouverymuch), I decided to continue a tradition that I have had since I was a young un but made my own during college.

Since I was a little girl (not much has changed height-wise), my family has always gone to Stations of the Cross on Fridays during Lent.  We would always arrange our Friday evenings around it.  It became tradition and I think that’s one of the things that led me to develop a devotion to the Passion of the Lord.

That and I have probably served hundreds of Stations services.  Even when I was in college and technically retired, if I was home and they didn’t have anyone, I would pinch hit.

There is something beautiful about walking from station to station, meditating on each and coming to a more profound understanding and more importantly, appreciation of all that the Lord went through for us.

He went through the terrible Agony in the Garden where He sweat blood (which is physiologically possible when a person is under extreme stress and anxiety) and begged the Father to “let this cup pass from [Him]” but only if it was His Father’s will.  I have been told that part of His agony and probably throughout His Passion, He saw all of the sins that would ever be committed and all the people who would reject Him and His love.  If I were Christ, I think that would be cause for such extreme pain and agony.

And yet He went on.

He endured being falsely accused of blasphemy and was willing to undergo humiliation and torture.  He had His skin pretty much flayed off His body when He was scourged.  At any moment, He could have recanted.  At any moment, being God, He could have willed us to be saved and that would have been that … but He didn’t.  Such was His love for each of us.

Carrying that heavy Cross to Golgotha and falling thrice under its oppressive weight, the oppressive weight of sin and death weighing on His shoulders.

He encounters His Holy Mother Who was closest to Him in so many ways.

Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry the Cross when it becomes clear that the Lord is having extreme difficulty doing so and since the guards don’t want Him to die on the way to His place of execution.

Veronica makes her way out of the crowd and past the guards to wipe His bleeding and disfigured face with her veil.  A show of selfless kindness in the face of so much animus.

He meets the women of Jerusalem who are wailing for His Passion and yet the Lord reminds them to weep instead for themselves and their children since it is their sins that have caused all of this to happen to the Son of God.

He is stripped of everything when His clothes are ripped off His body and thus re-opening the wounds that had tried to begin healing and bringing back the pain acutely all the more.

Laying Himself on the Cross, watching, and feeling the huge nails being driven through his wrists and feet.  Pure agony and excruciating (ex cruce … from the Cross) pain.

All for love of us.  Knowing full well that we would sin and that some of us would reject His love and His Truth.

And then, He gives us His own Mother to be our Mother by means of his words to her and the disciple whom He loved.

Then, finally, realizing that all was accomplished, He commended His spirit into the hands of His Father and died.  After which, He was laid in His Mother’s arms and then laid in a borrowed tomb.

All for love of us.

I always loved being able to serve Stations.  It was honestly one of my favorite Church services at which to assist.

When I was in college and away from my home parish and thus unable to attend Stations, I wanted to continue that devotion because I had derived so much grace and strength from it.

Thank the Lord for Father Z.

Why?  Because the Stations of the Cross that were offered on campus were dubious social justice/environmental “Stations of the Cross.”

Seriously.  Stick with what works.  No need to make the Stations of the Cross into a whole schtick about carbon neutrality and all that stuff.

Could have gone to the Stations at the traddy Polish parish but schedules kept me and my friends from going usually.  They even had Polish Stations once every Lent and they always had a fish fry.  A good solid Catholic parish.

Why was I so grateful for Father Z?

Because he has a few recordings of various traditional meditations on the Stations of the Cross!  No “green” Stations in sight!  Amen! (can’t say the other religious “A” word … old Catholic school taboo … if someone said it during Lent it was a line of *scandalgasps* and stares … yes, I have been conditioned and well).

Via Crucis

Since I feel generous, Imma share the links to the various versions of the Stations that Father Z has shared.:

This link will take you directly to a post where he shares the Stations with meditations written by one Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI … at least until Thursday *tear*) and the Stations with meditations written by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri.  These are my favorites.  Father Z even gave some variety with the Saint Alphonsus Stations in that he gives one version with chant and one without.  Change it up a bit!

And, this is a more recent addition to his collection of meditations on the Via Crucis: a recording of the Stations with meditations written by Blessed John Henry Newman.  These are also very nice and prayerful.

With these loaded onto my iPod, I would high-tail out of class (which almost always allowed for me to pray the Via around 3pm-ish) and head to the chapel.  Walk upstairs to the one thing in the chapel that wasn’t made out of gnarled wood (save for the lovely mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the token Mary statue that was in the stairwell that was donated by a class in the 50s back when AQ was shamelessly Catholic): the Stations which were donated by the neighboring parish when they renovated their church (don’t like the sanctuary arrangement but the new Stations of GORGEOUS!).

I would put the veil on, pull out the iPod, and get to holy bid-ness.  Sometimes friends would join me but usually I was by myself save for my angel and Jesus Who was in the tabernacle closet in His golden box that looked like a Simon game (I know they had a nice traddy tabernacle but who needs aesthetics anyway?).

Though every once in a while a tour would come through and I would hear the “ambassador” talk about the “services” that happened here.  I would always go “*cough* Catholic Mass *cough*” (though in my humble opinion, it was borderline invalid but still … it was no Christian Reform service … I went to one once … got into a debate with the pastor about total depravity and predestinantion … might have had a bit too much fun with that.  The look on his face when he found out that my friends and I were Catholic (don’t worry, we fulfilled our Sunday privilege) was priceless).  Yeah, I had a reputation on campus.  lol

It would usually take me about an hour to make the whole Via but I loved the alone time meditating on the Passion of the Lord.  It really became a part of my Lenten traditions when I was in college.  It was a little bit of home and it was a great source of grace for me.

When I came home from college, I got back into the groove of weekly Stations at church and I even got to serve them several times (I loved it).  Then I entered the convent but didn’t stay long enough to experience Lent there (the Lord had other plans).  So I came back home and here I am.

After I left the convent, I had formally retired from most of my ministries with the parish the first one being my 10 years of serving Holy Mass and being an MC (though I did get to MC a Mass with the Archbishop once; it was a great experience) and finally I have retired from being an EMHC.

Since I had retired from serving Mass, I could no longer serve Stations.  I would no longer be able to walk the Via to which I had gotten so accustomed for the past ten years.  I had to find something to fill the gap.  I would still be attending with my family but there is something I love about walking from station to station.  There is something about the physical moving from one point to the next and so on that adds a dimension to the devotion that just standing in my place and genuflecting just doesn’t have.  One of the many things that makes Catholicism such a beautifully holistic faith, it incorporates the whole person.  It doesn’t just rely on the heart or the mind.  It uses the body in order to reinforce and aid the person in growing in grace.

So, I decided that after morning Mass on Fridays, I would make my own private Via in church or, if there was a funeral (my parish has a lot of funerals and winter is a busy season), in the chapel of the parish office where there are also Stations on the wall.

I am so glad I decided to do that!  It’s been an immense comfort for me and I have loved it so much!

Mysteries of the Rosary

Another thing I picked up once again from my college days has been my daily Rosary walk after Mass.

When I lived in a convent on the campus of the motherhouse of the OP sisters who founded my alma mater, there was a quarter mile walk to campus everyday.  I didn’t mind it at all.  Even during the winter since it was a scenic walk, partially through woods and partially through a nice residential area (I would cut across a huge field to save time).

When I would leave the convent for campus, I would pull out my trust iPod (I lived on that thing in college) and grab my beads and pray the Rosary.  I would time myself by how far into the Rosary I was.  It was a quarter mile walk to the outskirts of campus and it was another distance to get to the building where most of my classes were.  So, by the time I got to campus and then to my classroom, I had to be toward the end of the Rosary.

During Lent, I would pray the Sorrowful Mysteries every day until Easter Vigil when I would transition to the Glorious Mysteries.

The Sorrowful Mysteries are my favorite of the 20 mysteries (15, if you are into the traditional mysteries).  I love meditating on the Passion of the Lord and all that He went through for love of each of us.

So now that I have the grace of assisting at Mass every day, I pray my Rosary on the way home.  Walking through the brisk Michigan winter air, the snow, and sliding on the black ice-covered sidewalks reminds me of the walks around campus and the motherhouse when I was in college.  Except for the hills.  Campus was a lot hillier than metro Detroit.

And, since it’s Lent, I resumed praying the Sorrowful Mysteries all Lent.  I love it.

So I have incorporated those two things into my Lenten observances aside from the little penances and bits of self-denial I have undertaken.  I find that my Lent is more growth-filled when I don’t just give something up.  When I do that and do something extra for the Lord, I find that He just gives us more grace.

Lent is really one of my favorite seasons of the Church year.  Some of my friends tell me: “Allie, if you enjoy Lent, you’re doing it wrong.”

I think that’s kinda erroneous thinking.  Yes, Lent is a penitential season.  Yes, Lent is a preparatory season for the coming Passion and Death of the Lord.  But did not the Lord say:

And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Saint Matthew 6:16-18)

Yes, we’re supposed to be doing penances and all the other practices associated with Lent (prayer, fasting, and almsgiving) but I don’t think that means we have to be all dour.  Sure the Lord will offer His life on the Cross and die for us but it doesn’t end there … there is the Resurrection.  So long as we do not skip the Cross and head straight for the Resurrection, I think we’re all right.

I find Lent to be an immensely beautiful season.  The only time during the Church year that I love more is Triduum.  Triduum is my favorite.  Probably because I got to serve the Triduum Masses and services (Good Friday does not have Mass) almost every year I was a server/MC so those days have special meaning for me since I had the privilege of being so “close to the action.”

Penitential does not need to equal dour and crestfallen.  We shouldn’t take our sinfulness lightly but we should not let it weigh us down to the point that we do not recall the hope and joy of the Resurrection is that Christ won by His Cross.

All right, I have to get ready for bed.  Vespers and Compline are a’callin’.

About Ms. Allie

I am a Catholic young woman who works as a Theology teacher at a Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of the Detroit. In Spring of 2015, I graduated with an MA in Theology with a concentration in Systematic Theology. My MA thesis was titled: "Mary as Woman of the Eucharist in the Theology of Pope Saint John Paul II." I also hold a BA in Theology (with a dabbling in Philosophy) and is a member of Theta Alpha Kappa (θΑΚ), the National Theology/Religious Studies Honor Society. Prayers are appreciated.
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