From My Heart to Yours: A Lenten Devotional

From My Heart to Yours: A Lenten Devotional

Lent is fast approaching.

Even though I’ve been consistently thinking about Lent over the past few weeks and prepping my students and small group for it, I still haven’t fully decided what I will be giving up/adding to my life for the next 40 days. Many ideas are swirling around, but I haven’t landed on specifics yet. This morning, I was talking with one of the prisoners and after I explained a little about Lent, he asked what I would be doing for it. Great question, friend, I thought, I’m not quite certain yet.

However, there is still time to decide. Time to prayerfully consider how we can draw nearer to the Lord’s heart as we wander into the desert so that He may speak to our hearts more intentionally.

To that end, I created a Lenten devotional for you (and me)! I’m excited about this little project and I hope that it will enable us to have a more fruitful Lent. (Click picture below for the pdf)

Continue reading “From My Heart to Yours: A Lenten Devotional”

“Beauty and the Beast” Gave Me the Perfect Phrase for Holy Week

“Beauty and the Beast” Gave Me the Perfect Phrase for Holy Week

I watched Beauty and the Beast this weekend and I’ve been turning one lyric over and over in my mind ever since.  “How in the midst of all this sorrow can so much hope and love endure?” (from ‘Days in the Sun’)  For several reasons, it seemed to be the perfect phrase to carry into this Holy Week.

In the midst of experiencing again the Passion of Jesus Christ, how can we still find hope and love?  When I read the news, how can I find hope and love in the events of strife and discord?  In tragedy on a personal or community level, how can I wade through the hurt and find hope?

The short answer is that it is difficult to do, but it must be possible.  It isn’t a matter of denying the pain or sorrow.  The Lord knew we would experience pain.  He understands the depths of feeling forsaken and abandoned.  His closest friends fell asleep during His moments of great agony.  When soldiers came to arrest Him, the apostles all fled.  Jesus isn’t asking us to deny pain or to act like it doesn’t impact us.  Rather, He is asking us to choose to find the Resurrection in the midst of every crucifixion.  Or, at the very least, to acknowledge that there will be a Resurrection, even if death seems to be victorious right now. Continue reading ““Beauty and the Beast” Gave Me the Perfect Phrase for Holy Week”

A Mercy Divine

A Mercy Divine

“My people, what have I done to you or how have I offended you?  Answer me!  I led you out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom, but you led your Savior to the cross.  My people, what have I done to you?  How have I offended you?  Answer me!  For forty years I led you safely through the desert.  I fed you with manna from heaven, and brought you to a land of plenty; but you led your Savior to the cross.  What more could I have done for you?  I planted you as my fairest vine, but you yielded only bitterness: when I was thirsty you gave me vinegar to drink, and you pierced your Savior with a lance.”  (Reproaches of Good Friday)

Good Friday is a day of worlds colliding.  We acknowledge the death of Our Lord and our role in it, but we also recall this as the glorious means for our salvation.  The cross is an instrument of torture and yet we take time to exalt the cross, coming forward on bended knee to kiss Our Savior as He is fastened to it.

Today, we begin the Divine Mercy Novena which concludes on Divine Mercy Sunday.  After the Good Friday service, we prayed the first day of the novena.  And I couldn’t help but remember another time when I had prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  It was about six years ago and I stood on the cold, snowy ground of the Auschwitz concentration camp.


For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

We had already toured Auschwitz I.  There I saw picture after picture of people who had entered that place of death.  Next to each picture was a little card that gave the person’s name, their entrance date, and the date of their death.  But the faces were what became engraved on my heart.  I had heard for years about the number of people who died in the Nazi concentration camps, but to see only a fraction of their pictures changed statistics into human lives.


In silence, we loaded the bus so that we could go to Auschwitz II.  Here we saw long barracks and miles of barbed wire fences.  And we struggled to understand that human beings did this to other human beings.  We saw cattle cars that humans arrived in and we surveyed the watchtowers that were situated to keep all under surveillance.


In the last few minutes of being there, we prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  Because what else can you do when surrounded by such a witness to the depravity of humanity?    We could only make appeals to the mercy of God.  I could not offer to God my own merit or good works because they are insufficient in the face of such tragedy.  I can only offer His Son back to Him.

Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

Kneeling during the Good Friday service and during the Divine Mercy Chaplet, I could not help but consider this again.  In the wake of the death of Jesus Christ, I can offer nothing to atone for it.  These hands were not physically there, but my sins were bought and paid for with His blood on that day.  Even if I lived a perfect life, I could not make up for what has been done.  The only offering I can make is Jesus Himself.

A couple years ago, I considered the words of the Divine Mercy Chaplet and I realized that it is truly a mercy that can only come from God.  We plead our cause by offering to God the very One we killed.  In any other situation, this would seem laughably grotesque.  Imagine a murderer asking for clemency from a mother or father by invoking the name of the child killed.  Not simply through their name but asking that through the child’s death mercy and forgiveness will be shown to the murderer.  Such mercy is what can only come from God.

Good Friday comes down to accepting that I cannot do anything.  In the Passion narrative, I am the one calling for His crucifixion and claiming that He is not my king.  And I must say those words because I profess them often enough with my life.  Good Friday isn’t about beating yourself up or trying to make yourself feel lousy.  It is about accepting the role we have played in the death of Jesus Christ.  He didn’t die, though, so that we could wallow in guilt and self-pity.  He came to make us new.  He came to utterly transform us.  He came to take every part of us and to pour His perfect mercy over all the parts of our heart that most need it, yet are too fearful or prideful to plead for it.

Christ says “Give me All.  I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You.  I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it.  No half-measures are any good.  I don’t want to cut off a branch here and there, I want to have the whole tree down.  I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out.  Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked–the whole outfit.  I will give you a new self instead.  In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.” (Mere Christianity, p. 166)

Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion–inexhaustible,  look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.
(Closing prayer for the Divine Mercy Chaplet)

The Triduum

The Triduum is an experience for all of the senses.  While I’ve never been anything but Catholic, I cannot imagine another church matching the beauty of the Triduum and the way the liturgies invite us into the Pascal Mystery.

Holy Thursday begins with joy and beckoning us to the table of Our Lord’s Last Supper.  I can imagine Christ bending low to wash my feet as the priest in persona Christi stoops to wash the feet of the young men called forward.  After the Eucharistic prayer, I approach the priest to receive from him my Lord, the Word made flesh and remaining in the appearance of bread and wine.  Tonight, I am an apostle from another century, experiencing the Last Supper and encountering Christ in a tangible way.  My senses are alive as the Eucharistic procession weaves its way around the church.  An incense thurible fills my nose with the sweet, rich odor I link only to the Eucharist.  The priest is embracing Jesus as we sing Pange Lingua Gloriosi.  Our Lord is carried to an altar and the faithful are invited to come and wait with Him.

I fulfill my role of a disciple well.  In the intimately dim chapel, I wait with Jesus and I drift off to sleep at times.  Can I not wait one hour?  Apparently not.  It is beautiful to see the others in adoration, praying with Jesus before He is hidden from us, when the stark reality of the Pascal Mystery will become more obvious.  Then the time of waiting in the Garden is over and we depart in silence.  Talking seems inappropriate.  Nearly anything seems inappropriate on such an evening.

Good Friday is spent anticipating and remembering the Passion of Jesus.  The simplicity of the Good Friday service is unnerving and striking.  I can always feel an ache in my heart.  The tabernacle is left open and I am continually reminded that He is gone.  Approaching the cross so as to venerate it, I am questioning where to kiss Jesus.  My stomach feels the hunger of fasting and I kiss the crucifix with the kiss of Judas, with the kiss of John the beloved.  Good Friday fills me with a longing and with a sorrow.  The rest of the world seems to be continuing at its typical pace but I cannot carry on as normal.

The waiting of Holy Saturday is difficult.  Christ has been crucified and laid in the tomb.  He has yet to rise, though.  Fasting is not obligatory yet the feasting of Easter is still premature.  We wait.  Waiting is perhaps the focal point of Holy Saturday and it makes it all the more difficult.

Yet the Easter Vigil will arrive with its dark and quiet entrance.  A fire lit and from it, a flame passed to light all the candles in the darkened church.  There is a stillness of expectation.  We know the story, we know Christ will rise, and yet we are waiting for it to be lived out, to be fulfilled in this sacrifice.  Darkness turns into light.  As a church we are led through salvation history, to hear how God remains ever-faithful and is responding to the longings and yearnings of His people in an unforeseen way.  We are reminded that we are a part of something far larger than ourselves or our parish.  We are united to a Church that is truly universal and timeless.  Joy mounts in my soul as we continue through the Mass. As the beautiful music announces a living reality in my life: Christ has risen.  He rose 2,000 years ago and He rises today in my heart.  The highest feast of the Church is celebrated with all the pomp owed to a King who mounts a cross as a throne and gives Himself as the food for the wedding banquet.

Easter Sunday is bright and joyful, a renewal of the joy felt the night before.  While Easter Vigil tends to hold a heavy joy for me, Easter Sunday is a light, uplifting joy.  The sun must shine on such a day and if it does not, the joy of the feast becomes a light of its own right.  The lilies decorate the Church and we sing words that we have refrained from saying for weeks.  It adds a depth to the joy that would not be found if one simply arrived at Easter without the Lent.  The Easter Sunday celebration continues for the Easter Octave, each day the Church repeating the joy of the resurrection.  Liturgically, we celebrate the Easter Mass repeatedly.  We cannot move on, we must make it known that this is the highest of all celebrations.

The Triduum and Easter season are for all of the senses.  Breathing in the incense from the Eucharistic procession, waiting with Jesus in the Garden, saying the words of the angry crowd as Jesus is condemned to death, kissing the cross of Our Lord, waiting as Jesus is held in the tomb, lighting our candle from the Easter candle representing the light of Christ Himself, and singing with exultation the joy central to the Catholic faith: we worship a God made man who rose from the dead.  The Triduum calls us to live out the final days of Christ and to enter into the mystery by which we are saved.  In a beautiful combination of music, art, sights, and sounds, the Church transports us to the time of Jesus Christ.  Or, perhaps, she causes us to acknowledge that the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus are truly timeless events that we experience now through the beauty of the Body of Christ, the Church in her tri-fold magnificence.