Chapter Chats: Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta

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We are exactly one week away from the start of the Lenten season.  Even though Lent is late this year, it still seems like it sneaked up on me.  After all, didn’t we just finish the Christmas season? But ready or not, here it comes. So pour yourself a latte and pull up a chair – let’s have a heart-to-heart.

Every Lent it seems that I resolve to give up something I like (coffee) or put into practice a spiritual habit (getting up in the morning to pray). And each Lent, after about a week, I lose my stamina and the season starts sliding downhill for me.

If you know where I’m coming from and also struggle with this beautiful season of preparation,  there’s hope for us yet.  After all, the Church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners. And this Lent, I’m checking myself in for a serious case of spiritual neglect.

Life has been crazy for the past couple of months, and as things start to settle down, I’ve realized where I can improve.  For me, this Lent provides an opportunity to grow closer to God in conversation and prayer – with an emphasis on my need to develop listening skills in prayer.

So I was excited to receive a book to review for the Lenten season (this is just one of two books I received – watch for another Chapter Chat post soon!)  Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations  by Heidi Hess Saxton could be just what the spiritual doctor ordered.

What I love about daily devotional books like this is that there is a daily appointment. In past years, to avoid the temptation to let the book slip after reading the first day, I place books that I’m reading through Lent on my pillowcase.  Now I can’t go to bed without picking it up and reading a  short meditation.

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The book is designed to be read once a day during the 40 days of Lenten preparation. Each day starts with the scripture readings from the daily Mass.  Then, Heidi Saxton pulls a thought out of the readings and highlights it.  For example, this is the scripture passage she selected for Ash Wednesday.

We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

After scripture, Heidi reflects on what the passages meant in the life of Saint Teresa herself.  For the Ash Wednesday reflection, Heidi speaks on how we are called to love over and over, to pick up our cross  of love even when it is inconvenient.  Lent is not about posting our #GetYourAshToMass selfie, but about how we live the next forty days without the cross on our forehead to remind us of what this season means. Heidi ends her reflection with a quote from Saint Teresa:

I’m very happy if you can see Jesus in me, because I can see Jesus in you. But holiness is not just for a few people. It’s for everyone, including you…Holiness is the greatest gift that God can give us because for that reason He created us.

Then, Heidi offers moments of reflection. Here’s what the questions for Ash Wednesday look like:

  • Look in the mirror and study the cross on your forehead. What kind of cross were you given to carry? Is it big and bold? Barely visible? What is God saying to you about what He wants for you this Lent?
  • Is it time for you to go to confession? The Church teaches that we need to go to confession at least once a year, or whenever we are conscious of having committed serious sin (CCC 2042). Don’t worry if it’s been a while – God is waiting to meet you there. Don’t settle for ashes alone when you can receive absolution and a fresh start! 

Finally, she ends the devotion of the day with a quick prayer.  Here’s what the Ash Wednesday prayer looks like:

Lord Jesus, as I start my Lenten journey, I confess that I still have far to go on the “road of reconciliation.” Give me the courage I need to follow you, as St. Teresa did, even when the road is hard. Holy Spirit, work in me so that one day I too might be a saint! Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.

This is the first Lent that we celebrate with Mother Teresa as a Saint – I can’t think of a better way to get to know her better throughout this Lenten season.

Do you have a favorite book you’re revisiting for Lent? Or perhaps you’ve picked up a new title to discover through this season? Tell me about it in the comments !

You can purchase the book Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations from Franciscan Media here.

* This post contains links to Franciscan Media
* Although this post is sponsored by Franciscan Media, all opinions are my own.
* In exchange for the review of Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations, I received a free copy of the book from Franciscan Media.

Christ’s Wedding Day

Good Friday.  The day we set aside once a year to commemorate the death of Our Lord for our sins and the opening of the gates of Heaven for our salvation. We remember God, who took on human nature and all of it’s messiness in order to spend eternity with us, His beloved children, and His beloved bride, The Church.

What if we thought of Good Friday as a a wedding feast in conjunction with Christ’s sacrificial love?  In his book, Jesus the Bridegroom: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, Brant Pitre examines the actual event of the crucifixion in the light of historical Jewish wedding.  He places Christ as the Heavenly bridegroom and the Church as His eternal bride.
In an earlier post, I wrote about how Christ yearns to be intimate with us, emptying Himself into something so simple as bread and wine so that He can physically be within our very bodies.  In Mass tonight, the Homily focused on Christ’s desire for us to know God – to be intimate with Him.  Not just to know about Him, but to really know Him as the most important thing in our lives. 
In Biblical terms, the phrase “to know” indicates a physical relationship, or an absolute knowledge of the other. The Hebrew word is “Yada.”  John  W. Ritenbaugh in his study of the old testament Hebrew language wrote, 

“At times, the Bible uses “to know” as a euphemism for sexual intimacy. Paul is not saying here [in Philippians 3:8-10] that he desires sexual intimacy with Christ, but that he greatly desires spiritual intimacy with Him. He wants to be so close to Him that he experiences the same level of life as Jesus did—even to the point of suffering or dying as He died, if that is necessary to be made like Him in every possible way. He desires to glorify God in every aspect of his life just as Jesus did.”

 In Joshua 23:14, Joshua gathers the people to tell them about their relationship with the Lord.  “Behold this day I am going into the way of all the earth, and you shall know with all your mind that of all the words which the Lord promised to perform for you, not one hath failed. ” 

In Luke 1:34, Mary’s eternal virginity is emphasized with her lack of previous intimacy and full knowledge with any man. “And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?

Christ desires to be intimate with us.  To have absolute knowledge of us.  In John 17:3-4, He prays to the Father before His passion. “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.”  
And what is more physical than Christ’s passion and death for our salvation?  He is betrayed with a kiss from a close follower, and then goes through the most physically excruciating death imaginable for a person in the fist century.  He is covered in His own blood, the physical life of His body (and the spiritual life of ours), and drags a wooden beam through streets crowded with the jeering of the souls He is on His way to die to save.  His body is fastened and hoisted in the sky, where He physically must thrust Himself up to fill His lungs. 
All the while, He thinks of you.
And when the crowds yell at Him to come down from the cross and prove that He is God, He thinks of you.  “I can’t come down from the cross.  I have to stay up here for (insert your name) because one day, even if it’s over two thousand years in the future, they are going to need me.  And how can I teach them of the beauty of suffering if I give up now?”  
And then, “It is finished.”  There is a spear thrust into His heart that is so full of overflowing love for our soul despite how much pain we have caused Him that blood and water flow from His side.
Brant Pitre points out the significance of this final physical aspect of Christ’s death. “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took out one of his side (Greek pleura) and closed up its place with the flesh; and the rib which the Lord had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to man….so too Jesus falls into the sleep of death, and blood and water flow from his side (Greek pleura) And just as the miraculous creation of the first bride from the side of Adam is the foundation of marriage of man and woman, so the miraculous flow of blood and water from the side of Jesus is the origin and foundation of the marriage of Christ and the Church.”
So Christ pours out His very life on the altar of the Cross on Good Friday, that supposedly dark day that ushered in the redemption of our souls from a debt that we could never pay off.  And the Catholic Mass taps into the eternal sacrifice at Calvary.

 In The Faith of Millions, John A. O’Brien said, “The Mass is the renewal and perpetuation of the sacrifice of the cross in the sense that it offers [Jesus] anew to God . . . and thus commemorates the sacrifice of the cross, reenacts it symbolically and mystically, and applies the fruits of Christ’s death upon the cross to individual human souls. All the efficacy of the Mass is derived, therefore, from the sacrifice of Calvary.”

What will your wedding gift to Christ be?  A Sunday morning hour when convenient for you? He sacrificed His entire life for you…are you willing to do the same for him? 

Goodbye Comfort, Hello Greatness

Lent.  We all know it, we all have mixed feelings about it.  But the truth of the matter is that, in a mere thirty five minutes, Lent 2015 starts.

What’s the point?  Why not eat meat, give extra money away, pray more and toss the Alleluia and Glory to God out the window?

We’ll walk around with ashes on our heads and a little spot in our hearts wishing that Easter was already here so we could indulge in that chocolate that we’ve been craving all week.  And let’s not even talk about the Catholic phenomena about how McDonald’s hamburgers never sound good until a Friday during Lent.

But if it’s all just mortification and the ever present message that we’re going to die some day in the not-so-far future, why even do Lent?  It can be depressing, and the weight of the sacrifice can feel incredibly heavy sometimes.  And if it’s all for naught anyway, why even bother.

I’ll let someone with a much more rich theological knowledge help out:

“Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God” – Pope Benedict XVI.

The Deepest Hunger.

But how true!  We hunger for food because in this world there is food that will fill our stomachs and stop the hunger.  We thirst because in this world there is water (or coffee, whatever the case may be) to quench our physical thirst.

We crave love because there is an infinite and fulfilling love out there, ready to take our souls by storm and turn our lives upside down with His passion for us.

A passion and desire that God has for us to be with Him that is so great that he He wants to consume our very lives with it’s power.

Not just six hours of our lives until Easter.  Don’t let your lent become something you do when it’s convenient or when you happen to be at Mass on Sunday.

God is crazy in love with you.  And not the feel good warm fuzzy love.  The beaten to an inch of his life, thrown down and nailed on a cross, take every sin that was and will be onto his soul and lay it all out for YOU.

God thinks you are worth pursuing.

And what a beautiful opportunity Lent is – the chance to connect your suffering to the cross and relieve the burden of sin from Our Lord’s back!  The beauty of a crucifixion that exists outside of the human concept of time is the ability that we have to connect our suffering to Christ’s as He hangs on the cross for you.

Don’t let this Lent pass you by.  Don’t sit in the pew on Easter morning and think “Man, Lent went by fast this year!  I missed the chance to do anything…again.”  Seize this Lent as a chance to become a better version of you (thank you Matthew Kelly) and become fully alive.

“The world offers you comfort but you are not made for comfort.  You are made for greatness.” – Pope Benedict XVI.

Let’s make this a GREAT Lent.