Tag Archives: Saint Christopher’s Church

Lenten Sacrifice

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the holy Christian season covering approximately six weeks until Easter.

During the Lenten season, Christians traditionally prepare for Easter through a process of increased prayer, penance, and sacrifice.

Of course, we are all supposed to be praying regularly, asking repentance and making atonement for our sins, and finding ways to sacrifice some part of our own blessings in the form of charity all during the year.

Lent is a good time to both get yourself back on track if you have let some of that spiritual responsibility slip, and also a good time to strengthen your commitment to areas of your life that perhaps need more attention.

To meet these increased spiritual goals during Lent, Christians often make what amount in the secular world to New Year resolution-type promises of change. Only these are promises to God from themselves. The promises can involve saying a daily rosary, returning to Church and the sacraments, and giving up something of importance to them.

That last part, the giving up of something important, is known as a Lenten sacrifice. Remember, the whole point is to prepare for the events of Good Friday and then Easter, when Jesus Christ sacrificed his own life for your sins. Keeping that much sacrifice in mind, how tough is your own?

Each year, I also try to make a Lenten sacrifice. I’ve usually had success in the past, but this year I am going a little more ambitious. I am personally building a number of elements into my Lenten sacrifice. Maybe one or more will inspire you as well.

First, I am actually simply going to continue a spiritual exercise which I began all the way back in November. At some point in mid-November of 2013, I began to say a full rosary each day. Somehow, I have been able to keep it up every day. I have found lately that there were a couple times where I almost just let it go. Lent will be a good time to increase my commitment to it.

Next, I am going to commit to going to Church more often. My own local St. Christopher’s Roman Catholic parish will be offering Mass on a nightly basis. I will be going a few times. I am also volunteering more in my role as a church Lector to do the readings at Mass during this period.

Also during Lent, I am going to make sure that I participate in appropriate sacraments more often. Most specifically, going to Confession, doing Penance, and sincerely attempting to stay away from the occasion of sin. I’m planning on making a Confession now, at the start of Lent, and again closer to Easter.

These things should go a long way towards meeting my goals of increased prayer and penance during Lent, and your own adoption of any would help you do the same. So now, on to the sacrifice part. What am I “giving up for Lent” this year?

First, we’ll start with the treats/goodies category. I will be giving up all cakes, cookies, pies, candy, ice cream, and other similar desserts and treats. Only exception will be for breath mints, which some might consider as “candy”, but which I slot into their own special category as someone who has a lot of dealings with the public.

Next, a bit tougher one thanks to specific circumstances. I will be giving up soda as well. However, I am giving myself a “special dispensation” on St. Patty’s Day weekend to allow for drinking soda at events surrounding that upcoming celebration. Better that than imbibe in too many “adult beverages”, especially when driving. Outside St. Patty’s weekend, no soda either.

Not just a “don’t do that” period, Lent is a time to “do”, to take action where it may be needed. I am going to begin seriously getting back into a regular physical workout routine. Starting with daily walking, and then building up to more as the Lenten season advances and I get in better physical conditioning.

And then I added on a new one this year, limiting my use of personal social media, particularly by refraining from Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media during the Lenten season with two exceptions only.

Those two social media exceptions will be this blog, where I will actually attempt to write MORE, something that I have been trying to get myself to do anyway. And also my professional Twitter account @PPDMattVeasey, where I have an expected responsibility to participate for my employer.

I have also undertaken a couple of more personal restrictions for Lent, and we’ll just keep those between me and the Lord at this point. Oh, and all of my fellow Catholics should remember to refrain from eating meat today, Ash Wednesday, and every Friday through Good Friday. Also, today and each Friday you should limit yourself to one full, large meal.

I think that if I can successfully accomplish all of that, it adds up to a solid, legitimate personal Lenten observance. Prayer, penance, and sacrifice all built into the plan. So, there’s my plan for Lent – what’s yours?

You are worthy

One of my favorite things to do over the past few years has been serving my local Catholic parish church, Saint Christopher’s, as a lector. I get to utilize the gift of public speaking that was given to me by God in presenting his Word to my community of believers. That is, quite frankly, a humbling honor.

In doing so, not only do I read something out loud, but I also am reading for myself. It is not only an exercise in dramatics or presentation meant to inspire my fellow parishioners and visitors to our church, but also a learning exercise, an educational and inspirational one, for me as an individual.

The topic of the readings at this week’s Sunday Mass services were, as they frequently are, tied together in a theme that is very appropriate for both the time of year, but also one that presents a message of importance for every human being alive today.

The message is that God believes, no matter what your actions, your thoughts, or your current state of belief, disbelief, or practice, that you are worthy of his love.

In the first reading, taken from the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah tells the story of a vision in which he is presented with God sitting on his heavenly throne, and then of angels appearing to him.
His home shakes and fills with smoke, and he trembles as his unworthiness engulfs him: “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips” thinks Isaiah.

Isaiah feels that he is unworthy of being in the Lord’s presence, unworthy of his love. But one of the seraphim approach and shows him the Lord’s power of forgiveness. The Lord then asks aloud, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah immediately responds, “Here I am, send me!

In the second reading, taken from the New Testament, Saint Paul speaks of the ultimate Truth: that “Christ died for our sins..was buried..was raised on the third day” and then Paul goes on to recite as proof the appearance of Jesus to Cephas, and then the twelve disciples, and then to numerous other believers, many of whom were still alive. The Lord then appeared to James and all the apostles. And then Paul recounts his personal meeting with our Lord.

Last of all..he appeared to me..for I am the least..not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Paul was lamenting his past in that brief moment. A lamentation that today holds many back from fully embracing their true path. Paul’s story is the ultimate one of good triumphing over evil, of man’s ability, with God’s loving grace, to overcome even his worst sins.

For those who do not know Paul’s story, I will try to paint a quick picture. Born as Saul of Tarsus, a Roman citizen, he was about a decade younger than Christ, and he grew to become a zealous persecutor of the nascent Christian church. He had or helped get early believers imprisoned, tortured, and even killed. He was as vocal and active an anti-Christian as one could possibly become.

One day while traveling along the road to Damascus on a mission to bring some believers to Jerusalem for punishment, Saul was met by the resurrected Jesus, and he underwent a conversion experience that would change both his life and the history of the world. Taking the new name of “Paul” given him by Christ, he became one of the two greatest apostles in the history of early Christianity.

In recognizing the overcoming of his early sins against the church at the completion of this week’s reading, Paul, after his self-admonition of being unfit to be called an apostle, went on to speak confidently of his current state: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me.”

There are many out there who may believe that they are too far gone to even seek God’s forgiveness, let alone to expect to receive it. Some may even have publicly denied Jesus, spoke of him in folly, made fun of his followers. They may feel a desire inside, but fear to be shunned as hypocrites, or worse, as idiots by their friends who feel as they have in the past. None of that is important, and none of that has anything to do with ultimate truth.

No one, not the worst sinner, is too far gone from seeking God’s forgiveness. No one is too far gone from embracing fully the Word and the Truth of Jesus Christ. All you need to do is embrace that Truth and begin to commit to a deeper understanding of it, and also to begin to fearlessly go public with your belief. You may lose friendships. You may be scorned and ridiculed by non-believers. But you will be gaining everything important in return.

I myself drifted from my church, drifted from God, and certainly have sinned. But I have always felt pulled back to him. I have never felt abandoned. I have ultimately turned to his good. It’s nothing you can’t do yourself.

On Wednesday we celebrate the occasion of Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season known as Lent, a season of repentance that leads us up to the ultimate sacrifice made by Jesus Christ in his death on the cross for you as an individual. This is a perfect chance at repentance, conversion, sacrifice, and renewal.

Never let anyone, least of all yourself, tell you or in any way make you feel that you are not worthy of God’s love, that you are not worthy to take up the cross of Jesus Christ. You are worthy, you are loved, and you are important to him. You only need to make him important to you. Begin today.

Time, talent, and treasure

This morning for the first time I processed up the main aisle and on to the altar, and then stepped up to the lectern in front of my fellow parishioners at the 7:30am Mass at St. Christopher’s Church in Somerton to present the first reading from the Old Testament.

The selection was from the 1st book of Samuel, one of the ‘Historical Books’, and told the story of how a barren woman named Hannah prayed to God for a son and promised that if the Lord so gifted her she would turn the child over to the priesthood. God granted her desire, and she kept to her promise after weaning Samuel as a small child.

God had given Hannah a gift, and Hannah responded in kind by sharing her gift with the Lord. It was this very gifting process that led me to the lectern on Sunday morning through a ‘Stewardship’ program beginning to spread through the Catholic church and other Christian denominations as well.

Stewardship is the process of realizing that all that we have and all that we are is a gift from God. This makes us ‘stewards’ of these gifts in that we manage them on behalf of the Lord during our time here on earth.

In managing these gifts we are not only encouraged but are expected to share them with the body of the Church. In evaluating exactly how each of us can best share our gifts we should examine in our own lives the opportunities that we all have to give of our time, our talents, and our treasure.

The first opportunity, to give of our time, can take on many forms. The very least amount of time that we should be giving is that 1 hour each week to attend Mass. The normal 7-day week consists of 168 hours. God only asks that you come to His house for one of those. The very least you can do is give Him that hour and keep holy the Sabbath.

Of course what we are really talking about in Stewardship is giving more than the minimum. So more than the minimum of your time might involve some other activity on behalf of the Church. You could volunteer to help clean the church building prior to Christmas or Easter. Every parish or church community has volunteer opportunities ranging from smaller commitments to larger ones.

Another way to increase your Stewardship would be to share your talent. For some that might be a physical gift. Perhaps you are good with carpentry or plumbing and could volunteer to help your church in those areas. I am a police officer and a teacher with a great deal of public speaking experience, thus my decision to become involved in sharing that talent as a lector.

Not everyone is cut out to be a lector. Many people have a fear of speaking in front of large crowds, or just simply are not very good readers, or both. Neither of those has ever been a problem for me. But where tools are concerned, I’m lucky that I can even screw in a light bulb. Every one of us has some type of talent or career experience that we can share. Again, your individual church will have opportunities available for you to help.

Finally, you can share your treasure. This means exactly what it sounds like it means – money. You can do this through direct giving, increasing even slightly the amount that you place in a church envelope or collection, for instance. It could also mean bequething property or valuables to the church on your passing.

There are many skeptics when it comes to giving money or valuables to what they perceive to be an entity as large as the Catholic Church. Keep in mind that every individual parish runs largely on it’s own resources. Your directed gift or increased contributions will go directly to help the church that services your very own communities spiritual needs.

You don’t have to do anything. You can just keep going along the way that you are right now. Many Catholics and other Christians, and members of other faith systems, have drifted away from church almost entirely. Many Christians joke of becoming ‘Chreasters’, where they attend services only on Christmas and Easter. Others say things flippantly such as “I’m good with God, me and Him talk directly to one another.”

Jesus turned to Peter and told him that he would be the rock upon which “I will build my church, which will overcome all the evil forces arrayed against it.” Jesus also taught that “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” In these specific but in many other example of his teachings and his living he showed the importance of gathering as a church community.

Personally, I have decided to begin with the small steps of volunteering with my church Lector Society to do the readings at Mass. My wife and I have decided to slightly increase our Sunday collection offerings. I am going to begin to look for other opportunities, and we will continue to build our own stewardship role with our church over time.

God calls each of us to the role of Stewardship, the sharing of those gifts which He has given to us in this life. It is up to each one of us to more closely examine our lives and our abilities, to get in touch with our own church, and to find an opportunity to present and share those gifts of time, talent, and treasure in honor of the Lord.

NOTE: This is the final ‘Sunday Sermon’ entry of 2009, a regular series of which all previous entries can be read by clicking on to the label below this posting at http://www.mattveasey.com

Say a little prayer

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Another Sunday, another topic on spirituality and religion, and this one covers one of the single most important things that every one of us can be, and should be, doing on a regular basis. I am talking about the simple act of prayer.

Taking just a few minutes, heck even just a few seconds, to ask God for his help, guidance, protection, and assistance in some matter of importance to us. Our prayer can be for almost anyone or anything, and can take on many forms, formal and informal, in a group or in solitude.

I believe that it is important to keep a running dialogue with God as a part of your life. First of all, He wants it. God wants you to stay in touch with Him, to talk to Him, to open yourself up to Him. And second of all, He deserves it. He is your Creator, the Maker of all that was, is, and ever will be.

For bringing you in to this wonderful world that He has created, you owe Him your regular interaction. It is the one thing that He really wants more than any other, your love and acceptance of Him as your Father.

There are many things that you can pray for, and people as well. The vast majority of us have family members who can use our prayers. Perhaps a parent going through a difficult physical illness or condition, a sibling having familial or financial or career problems, or a child dealing with some difficulty, even just the normal day-to-day situations involving school and friends.

Even if we have no family, we usually have friends or co-workers going through a situation that could be helped by our prayers. Everything from pregnancy to death, from work to vacation traveling, from physical to financial situations, they can use a prayer to God for help in their situation.

And in the end, if you think that you simply have no one worth praying for, you have yourself. Heck, that alone can be something to pray for: someone that makes you feel strong and close enough to pray for them.

A great way to pray is in a group situation, usually at Church. For instance, in a little over an hour my wonderful wife and I will be joining the good folks of our Saint Christopher’s Church parish community at the noon Catholic Mass service. We will join them in praying formally, such prayers as the ‘Our Father’ and the ‘Apostle’s Creed’, and informal prayers for our individual intentions.

The power of prayer as a community should never be underestimated. Jesus Himself blessed the practice when he said “whenever two or more of you are gathered in my name, there shall I be” and as the song says, there is love.

Of course you can, and should, take time to pray alone each day. I pray every night before going to sleep with a practice that I began almost a year ago.

Each year, I try to stick to a particular New Year’s resolution, and the past few years have had good luck in doing so. My resolution for 2007 was to do something spiritual, because I felt the need to return more strongly to my faith. So I undertook what to me was an interesting project, combining my interests in articles of faith and my own education.

What I did was that I learned to say the Lord’s Prayer, the ‘Our Father’, in Latin. I took one sentence from the prayer and committed it to memory each month, so my ability to say it increased monthly until by the end of 2007, I was able to say the prayer in Latin. Now that is my habit before sleep, to say the Lord’s Pray, ‘Pater Noster‘, in Latin.

While doing so to think over my children and my family, as well as any friends or associates who I know may be facing a particularly difficult situation, and commit these thoughts as prayer intentions.

I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that God hears my prayers, because He has answered them for me in many ways, many times over the years of my life. He doesn’t always say ‘yes’ by the way, and doesn’t always grant those prayers exactly as I requested, but He always answers and I usually have recognized those answers.

No matter what, I accept God’s will as He presents it to me, and continue to pray on a regular basis. You can pray while driving, while at a ball game, while watching TV, while taking a walk, while working, while reading this blog posting.

You should take some time alone, set aside specifically for a couple of minutes of prayerful interaction with God each day. And as we discussed in last Sunday’s entry, you should get yourself to Church and pray with your community on a regular basis.

No matter where, when, how, why, or for whom you may pray, make sure that you do it. The simple thought to yourself of ‘God, please help ______ with _______ ‘ is plenty good enough. And if you are having a hard time right now thinking of something or someone to pray for, toss one my way. I would be honored.

God knows that I need all the prayers that I can get in my life for a variety of reasons and situations. Say a little prayer for me, and may God bless everyone who reads this with increased faith, awareness, and acceptance of Him.