Wednesday, January 30, 2013

50 More Suggestions for Lenten Acts

Following a previous post, here are 50 more suggestions for Lenten penance.  These try to be contemporary, and go beyond the "give us sweets" understanding of this important season.  Remember, pick one or two--not all 100!  (Also, refrain from telling your friends or enemies which of these acts they should do in Lent.  The log is always bigger in our eye.)

51-60 For Those With Lives Out of Balance

  1. Go for a walk each day.  Take a friend or loved one and talk about your faith life.
  2. If you have children, take your kids to a park for carefree time.
  3. Give up fast food and give the money to charity.  [OUCH, this one would be hard for me!]
  4. Exercise daily.
  5. Sit down with your spouse once a week for 30 minutes and have a meaningful conversation about your marriage.
  6. Go on a Lenten retreat; or schedule yourself to go on a retreat during the summer.
  7. Pray with the website "Sacred Space" ( ) often.
  8. Commit to pray for the poor every morning.
  9. Begin the online "34-week Retreat for Everyday Life."
  10. Give up your most unhealthy habit.

61-70 For Those Who Need Spiritual Nourishment
  1. Read the four constitutions of the Documents of Vatican II.  Begin with Gaudium et Spes.
  2. Buy "The U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults" and read a chapter a week.
  3. Sign up for an adult formation course in your parish or a nearby parish/retreat center.
  4. Join a bible study.
  5. Attend the Stations of the Cross.
  6. Read "The Imitation of Christ" or purchase a subscription to a Catholic magazine.
  7. Listen to a Catholic book by rented audio in your car.  Or listen to the audio version of the New Testament books in your car.
  8. Find a spiritual director for yourself.
  9. Read "The Introduction to the Devout Life" or the "Confessions of St. Augustine."
  10. Read Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, or one of his three-volume reflections on the Gospels, "Jesus of Nazareth."  

71-80 For Those Who Need to Increase Their Service to the Needy
  1. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen, pantry or food program.
  2. Coordinate a blood drive at your church.
  3. Find out who is sick in your parish and offer to visit them.  If you do not have transportation, inquire if your church has a "card ministry" of sending cards to the shut-ins and sick, and participate.
  4. Call your local Catholic Charities office and volunteer your time.
  5. Begin making visits to a nearby nursing home or hospital.
  6. Help an elderly or disabled person in your neighborhood with yard work or rides.
  7. Find out if your diocese has a legislative action committee, and assist in lobbying political leaders on important social/moral legislation.
  8. Become part of a prison ministry team.
  9. Coordinate a clothing drive.
  10. Make rosaries and give them away.

81-90 For Those Who Wish to be More Active in Their Parish
  1. If your pastor doesn't know your name, introduce yourself after Sunday Mass, and ask if you can take him out to breakfast.
  2. Become a lector or eucharistic minister or usher/hospitality greeter.
  3. Volunteer to help with the parish youth group, or preparing funeral luncheons for the bereaved.
  4. After Sunday Mass introduce yourself to someone sitting next to you whom you don't know.
  5. Join the Knights of Columbus.
  6. Call the religious education director and offer to be a Confirmation sponsor.
  7. Sing at Sunday Mass.
  8. Help with the RCIA program.
  9. Volunteer to the parish business manager to do lawn work, maintenance, or some professional service.
  10. Think of a ministry that your parish does not have, talk with the pastor, and offer to begin it.

91-100 Potpourri for Lent
  1. Make a personal commitment to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation three times a year.
  2. Give up foul or vulgar language, or viewing pornography on the internet.  Put a dollar in a bowl for every time you slip, and give the money away.
  3. Hold yourself back from gossiping.
  4. Study the lives of saints who interest you.
  5. Begin practicing socially conscious investing.
  6. Inform yourself about the seven principles of Catholic social teaching.
  7. Take your pastor out to lunch or dinner. [Sorry, that's so self-serving.]
  8. Pray for your bishop and the pope.
  9. Smile. 
  10. Resolve to know Jesus in a personal way as a friend by the end of Lent and the celebration of Easter.

P.S.  I found most of these on the "Young Fogeys" blog of Father Jay Toborowsky, of New Jersey, from a post dated February 23, 2012.  He attributed most of them to a friend of his, Father Greg Shaffer, a chaplain at George Washington University in Washington, DC.  An internet thanks to both of them.

A Super Bowl Dilemna

This Sunday is the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Boy Scout Sunday, and Super Bowl Sunday.  Guess which feast will warrant a party?

I picked the Packers over the Patriots back in September.  As the "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" blogger says, "All bets wrong or your money back."  For SB XLVII it will be the San Francisco 49ers versus the Baltimore Ravens.  Head coach Jim Harbaugh versus older brother head coach John Harbaugh.

The dilemma for Pittsburgh fans (if they even bother to watch) is, who to root for. The Baltimore black birds beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh (although our Steelers returned the favor in Baltimore), and hung on to be the division leader in the AFC North.  The Steelers, of course, lost three of their last four games and did not make the NFL playoffs.  With Ray Lewis doing a Jerome "Bus" Bettis--announcing this is his last season before retirement--the Ravens were underdogs as they beat Andrew Luck and the Colts, Peyton Manning and the Broncos, and Tom Brady and the Patriots on the way to their second Super Bowl appearance. They are our rivals, and have been since they came into the AFC North division.  Let me say this again.  The Ravens are our HATED rivals.  Lewis and his teammates hope that the same magic that rode the 2005 Steelers to their fifth Super Bowl win in Bettis's hometown of Detroit in SB XL will lead to a Ravens victory.

But...the 49ers have five Super Bowl wins.  They haven't appeared in the biggest pro football game since 1994, but as the "team of the decade" in the 1980s, San Fran won four led by Ringgold High School's own Joe Montana and one with Steve Young.  One more SB win, and the 49ers tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for most wins, 6.  And...the 49ers have no losses.

So, who are you rooting for?  (And I don't mean for best/funniest/oddest commercial.)

No one does it better than cartoonist Rob Rogers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette!

Who am I rooting for?  For some years, I've had my principle, and I stick to it.  When the Steelers are not in the big game, I root for the team with the fewest SB wins.  I'm picking Joe Flacco to pick apart the 49er defense, just as he did the Patriots defense.  Ravens 30, 49ers 21.  First borns rule!

50 Suggestions for Lent Activities

In two weeks another Lent will be here.  Ash Wednesday is February 13 in the Latin calendar, and calls for 40 days of preparation for the Great Three Days of Easter.  Fasting, praying and almsgiving are the three ancient penitential practices that help us in this preparation.  

In preparing for my weekly column in the parish bulletins, I came across 100 ideas for a fruitful Lent.  I'll offer 50 here, and 50 in another post in a few days.  They are a mix of the traditional and the new.

These proposed Lenten resolutions begin with some personal questions, to assess our current spiritual state:

  • What habits do I engage in that are destructive to my spiritual health?
  • To what material things am I too attached?
  • What areas in my life are unbalanced?
  • To what do I devote too much or not enough time?
  • Where is my life heading?

1-10 The Usuals:
  1. Give up candy or sweets.
  2. Give up television time.
  3. Give up eating snacks between meals
  4. Give up or reduce soda or coffee.
  5. Give up or limit video games.
  6. Spend more time with family.
  7. Give generous donations to the poor, or those who work with the poor.
  8. Do an extra chore each day.
  9. Perform random acts of kindness.
  10. Spend more time in prayer.
11-20 Prayer:
  1. Read one or more books of the bible throughout the season of Lent.
  2. Attend one weekday Mass each week.
  3. Pray the rosary each day, along or with family members.
  4. Each day pray one meditative prayer (Suscipe, or Magnificat, or--very slowly--the Our Father).
  5. Begin a prayer notebook, write down special spiritual or biblical quotations, and keep a list of all the people you want to pray for daily.
  6. Learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
  7. Make a commitment to attend Eucharistic Adoration regularly.
  8. Commit to examining your conscience each evening (using St. Ignatius of Loyola's Examen).
  9. Pray the Jesus Prayer at various times during the day.
  10. Pray the Angelus each day at noon.
21-30 For Those Addicted to Popular Culture
  1. Switch from talk radio or pop music to a Christian music station or Catholic talk radio (#129 on Sirius XM satellite radio).
  2. Avoid watching movies or shows with gratuitous violence or sex.
  3. Give up or limit watching sports on television.  [This would be VERY HARD for me!]
  4. Listen only to classical music during Lent.
  5. Drive to work in silence.
  6. Read a work of classic literature, instead of the supermarket checkout magazines.
  7. Read a Catholic classic.
  8. Read a story to a child.
  9. Sit for 15 minutes each day in silence.
  10. Write a letter to God each day.
31-40 For Internet Users/Bloggers
  1. Set time limits on overall online usage.
  2. Limit Facebook time
  3. Limit Myspace time.
  4. Resist making or adding to lists that rank people.
  5. Share one spiritual video with your online network each week.
  6. Blog about the poor once a week.  
  7. Add a spiritual blog to your list of favorites.
  8. Subscribe to a prayer podcast like Pray As You Go or Pray Station Portable.
  9. Leave an encouraging or positive comment on a different blog each week.
  10. Help a new blogger by sending traffic their way.

41-50 For Those Who Want to be More Grateful
  1. Each week, write and send a letter of thanks to a priest, bishop or pastoral minister who has helped you.
  2. Each week write a thank you note to your parents (even if they are deceased).
  3. Write a poem of praise for each persons in your family.
  4. Pray one of the Psalms each day.
  5. Write a list of the ways God has blessed you in your spiritual notebook.
  6. Over dinner talk about how you were blessed that day by God.
  7. Make a CD or iPod playlist of praise and worship music and listen to it often.
  8. Make a point of saying "thank you" to people in your daily life.
  9. Help your children or grandchildren to write a thank you letter to their teachers.
  10. Offer prayers of thanks for deceased relatives and friends.
Remember, no one person does every one of these.  Pick one or two or three that you are attracted to, or that you know you need, and exercise them during Lent.  Have a happy, holy, healthy Lent!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Confessions and confessing

It's no secret that the number of confessions priests hear have gone down dramatically.  In the 1950s and 60s, it was not unusual for lines to form on Saturday afternoon and evening [no anticipated Sunday Masses back then!] in churches as the faithful went to confession in droves.  No priest snickered if the penitent said, "It's been one week since my last confession."  The priests, however, did fall asleep, as third-grader after third-grader sing-songed, "I disobeyed my mommy and daddy, I fought with my brothers and sisters, and I pulled the tail of my puppy."

Confession lines have all but disappeared, except for those once-a-year Lenten penance services [is it general absolution or just a long service?] parishes conduct.  Yet, people may not be going into "the box" or "the reconciliation room" to voice their sins to the church's authorized representative in a sacramental act, but the need for confession remains.

All you have to do is watch tv.  Whether it be on Jerry Springer's dispicable show, or 60 Minutes, or CNN with Piers Morgan, people confess to what they have done wrong all the time.  The difference here is that they do their confession in public, not behind a screen confidentially.

Which brings us to Lance Armstrong.  As the whole Western world now knows, later tonight the Texan cyclist will appear with stand-in confessor Oprah Winfrey on her OWN network and confess to taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs and then lying about doing so for over ten years.  He is doing this after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency issued a damning, 1,000 page report last December that accused him of masterminding a long-running doping scheme. 

One of the important aspects of true confession is a sincere desire for repentance.  Many commentators have questioned the timing of Armstrong's tv apology.  It's no secret that he wants to continue to be a competitive athlete  now in endurance triathlons  and only if the USADA rescinds its ban on his participation can he compete.  The USADA will only reduce or rescind its ban if Armstrong spills all the beans, not just gives a weepy interview.

There are also many legal issues.  Since his wins in the Tour de France came as his cycling team was sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service, some have claimed that he owes the federal government his winnings and sponsorship money--potentially in the tens of millions of dollars.  Others suggest that coming out of the liars' closet is to protect him from civil suits.

Myself, I was never invested in Lance Armstrong's cycling exploits, or the controversy over doping.  So many sports figures have said one thing for years, and then admitted "I dun it" later, that you get to a point of saying, "They're all liars."  Just check out what the baseball writers did to Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens a week ago in not voting any of these players with great statistics into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But I am sure of one thing.  The need for confession, and its good for the soul, is ever present in human hearts. 

By the way, St. Vitus Church has availability for confessions on Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (two priests!) and 5:30 to 6:00 p.m.  St. Vincent de Paul Church from 3:00 to 3:30 p.m.  Mary Mother of Hope Church from 3:00 to 3:30 p.m.  And St. Joseph the Worker Church has reconciliation time from 5:00 to 5:45 p.m. on Monday evenings.  No waiting!

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Request for Prayers

It is every parents's nightmare:  to bury their child.  Yet that was the sad, sad duty of Gary and Dana McQuiston of Pulaski, Lawrence County, yesterday.  Their 15 year old son, Shane, was killed in an automobile accident in Lawrence County last Friday evening, January 4.  He was a passenger in a pickup truck with a friend driving, when a deer struck the truck, drove it off the road, and into a creek.  The truck was upside down in 3 1/2 feet of water, in which Shane drowned.

By all accounts Shane was a bright, active and well-liked kid.  He played on the golf team, raised a cow in his backyard, and enjoyed the close company of his dad for outdoor activities.  More than 2,000 classmates, friends and family waited in line for as long as two hours on Wednesday evening outside the funeral home to offer their sympathy, condolences and prayers to Shane's parents, sister, and grandparents.  The Wilmington Area High School, where Shane was a sophomore, brought 180 of his classmates to the funeral Mass at St. Vitus Church yesterday.  Shane played trumpet in the band, and in his memory the brave trumpeters played "Amazing Grace" as his casket was brought into the church.  Over 400 came to the Mass and prayed for Shane and with his family.

Please pray for the McQuiston family as they "grieve the loss of one so young."

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, 
and let your perpetual light shine on him.
 May he rest in your loving peace.

Finally, Pro Hockey!

The owners (billionaires) and players (millionaires) of the National Hockey League have finally decided to agree on a ten year contract between the league and the players' union.  Pro hockey in North America again will come very soon to an arena near you--after 108 days of  lockout.

In today's Washington Post, Capitals forward Brooks Laich offered a blunt assessment of the damage he believes the stoppage caused the NHL and hockey as a whole.  “I’m honestly really embarrassed by the lockout, like personally embarrassed,” Laich said. “I feel terrible about it. I feel like we just punched our sport in the face. And I feel bad for everybody that was affected by it directly or indirectly.”

At least he is bluntly admits the problem.  Perhaps the long stalemate between owners and the players union reflects the culture of conflict, which is best  (worst) seen in U.S. politics.  Perhaps the personalities clashed, getting in the way of an agreement.  Certainly both sides did not have "the big picture" in mind, nor "the good of the game."  I saw one commentator who said the NHL did a quiet survey and found that hockey fans in Canada and the U.S. are the most rabid, and most committed, of any of the major pro sports.  If that allowed league president Gary Betman to abuse his authority on behalf of the owners, a pox on their house and all the rats inside.

Well.  Now we can get back to seeing our "flightless birds," the Penguins, on the ice again at Consol Energy Center.

Captain Sidney Crosby

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury

Scoring champion Evgeni "Geno" Malkin

Coach Dan Bylsma

Where the Penguins want to hoist the Stanley Cup once again!

Go Penguins!

Final Christmas Scenes

This Sunday is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which formally ends the Christmas Season in the Latin Church.  Most of you have already taken down your Christmas trees and put in the attic your creche scenes.  (Even some of our churches have done so, leaving in place the thriving and colorful poinsettia plants.)

To end the Christmas Season, here are some of the players from the St. Vitus pre-school Christmas Play.  Our kids really know how to put on a joy-filled Christmas show.  Enjoy!

The scene in Fabbri Hall...

The angels...

The shepherds...

Handsome Joseph and his wife Mary...

The Magi (a.k.a. "the wise guys")...

Mary and her son...

Hey, how'd he get in here?  The pastor and Luckas, one of his youngest parishioners...