The Lenten discipline, you will recall, is threefold:
Praying the Stations of the Cross, or the Via Crucis, is a very good way to observe the third of these precepts. Many parishes schedule Stations every Friday evening in Lent. When the Stations are prayed at a church or shrine, a plenary indulgence is granted to participants. (See note below.)
There’s no indulgence to praying the Stations at home — except on Good Friday — but it’s still a worthwhile exercise which will bring you many blessings. And remember the old aphorism:
Pray as you can, not as you ought!
If you’re unlikely to get to a church to pray the Stations of the Cross, but it is feasible you will pray them at home, then pray them at home!
Yesterday’s post on Lenten resources attracted great advice from many readers on other online resources, so I’ve decided to highlight, each Thursday, a different set of Stations available online. Some readers may like to use them on the Friday.
1. St Josemaría’s Way of the Cross
So here we are with the first instalment, and I’m starting with my favourite: The Way of the Cross by St Josemaría Escrivá. These are my “default” Stations. Affective, but not too long. The text is available at escrivaworks.org. I know it by heart!
But there is also a video version, which incorporates scenes from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. It is very well done. I strongly recommend investing 42 minutes in it some time tomorrow:
(NB: There may be advertisements which interrupt viewing, but they are easily closed by clicking on the X in the right-hand corner.)
What is a plenary indulgence?
A plenary indulgence is the removal of all punishment due to sin. The Sacrament of Penance absolves us of our sins, but a punishment remains unless an indulgence is granted. A plenary indulgence is granted to anyone who piously prays aloud the Stations of the Cross at a designated church or oratory.
Of course, plenary indulgences are only granted under these conditions:
1. You are free from all attachment to sin;
2. You go to confession (7 days before or after);
3. You receive holy communion (7 days before or after);
4. You pray for Pope Francis and his intentions.
Here are two great resources I recommend for Lent.
Firstly, Fr Robert Barron is offering a series of short daily meditations to span the season. If you haven’t seen his Catholicism DVD series, you really should. If you have seen Catholicism, then you already know how eloquent Fr Barron is, and how conversant he is with Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
You can sign up at www.lentenreflections.com, but hurry. I think registrations close today.
Meanwhile, over at the The Gregorian Blog, Tom Hoopes has composed a useful list of suggestions for cyber-fasting this Lent. Read his blog post to get the detail.
1. Moderation instead of fasting on Facebook.
2. Turn off your phone.
3. Use paper in church.
4. Choose group entertainment.
5. Uproot your ear buds.
6. Give up video games.
7. Unplug the Internet.
8. Give up your extra technology for Lent.
9. Read real books for Lent.
10. Call people.
An eagle-eyed parishioner — who is also something of an early bird, but now I’m mixing metaphors — spotted me on Mass For You At Home last Sunday.
That’s bad, insofar as I was supposed to forewarn both of my grandmothers, and I forgot all about it. But they can always watch next Sunday, because I remember now that I also filmed Mass for the First Sunday of Lent.
This week’s homily was a hard one to translate into AUSLAN. I quoted at length from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, where Screwtape (a senior devil) expounds on the spiritual benefits of “living in the present,” and the rich field of temptations which accompany dwelling on the past and imagining the future. The passage abounds with abstractions like “eternity” and “temporality,” which just don’t lend themselves to sign language.
If I’m ever asked back to film Mass For You At Home, I’m resolved to deliver homilies which are practical and earthy, just to give the signers a break. They do a good job.
Lent begins this Wednesday, and it’s good for us to spend these next few days praying about our resolutions for Lent.
The Lenten discipline is a very personal decision. We’re all called to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but the days in between are left to individual discernment.
Pope Francis is calling on each of us to “give til it hurts” this Lent. He has famously said, “I long for a church for the poor and of the poor.” And to that end, he has asked the entire Church this Lent to embrace the poverty that our Lord embraced. He wants us to support the poor, not just by giving to the poor, but also by sharing their poverty.
We could take that literally, by turning off our electricity, living on bread and water for the forty days of Lent, and donating all the money we save to Project Compassion!
But remember: in the spiritual life, it’s better to think like small children. Heroic penances often invite failure, and worse: they can foster pride. The last thing Lent should do is transform us into Pharisees.
The solution, I think, is to “think little.” The modest sacrifices a small child could make won’t attract attention — much less admiration — but they can help us live the spirit of Lent.
This is our challenge in the next few days. To resolve, with God’s help, how we will embrace poverty this Lent, how we will give til it hurts, and how we will live spiritual childhood.
Young children can be very good at living the spirit of today’s Gospel:
Do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
If a young child’s parents are close by, they have nothing to worry about. When something troubles them, they turn to Mum or Dad for resolution. Then they quickly forget what troubles them, and return to their games.
As they get older, of course, that changes. Older children often look forward to the future: “When I’m a grown up . . . ” Adults are the same. We imagine our future life; we plan our studies and career moves; and we can easily live in the future at the expense of the present.
Adults also go to the other extreme: living in the past. Fondly recalling happy memories. Or stewing over old grudges. But again, young children can teach us a better way. When kids have cause for offence — and they do have a refined sense of justice, so they are offended, for example, when their slice of cake is smaller than their neighbour’s — they will object loudly. But children are also quick to forgive. They don’t hold on to bitter feelings. They don’t do resentment. Kids have short memories and live in the present.
Nearly all the vices are rooted in the future: fear; avarice; lust; ambition. But gratitude looks to the past and love to the present. Maybe this is why young children so excel at gratitude and love.
Today’s Gospel is one of those we should frequently read to ourselves and continuously strive to exemplify:
If you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? . . .
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
On this measure, it’s not easy to be Christian. It’s not easy to love those who have betrayed us. It’s even harder to love those who have hurt someone we love. But our duty is clear.
The good news is, we’re not alone. We can pray for the grace to love our enemies. We can pray for healing.
This extract comes from Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch Christian who resisted the Nazis and hid Jews in her home. Towards the end of the war, she and her sister were arrested, and sent to a concentration camp.
After the war, Ten Boom toured Europe, preaching a gospel of love and forgiveness. Her experience is a remarkable one, but it’s one we can imitate.
It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavy-set man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands.
One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
This man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp.
“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.
“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, …” his hand came out, … “will you forgive me?”
And I stood there — I whose sins had every day to be forgiven — and could not. Betsie had died in that place — could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
I stood there with coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion — I knew that. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the heart’s temperature.
“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand, I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.
Ten Boom’s most famous book is her autobiography, The Hiding Place. I think I first read it when I was in school, but I’ve also read it since. It’s worth finding.
The film version of this book is available in full on YouTube. I haven’t watched it yet, but I intend to.
Although I’m not getting much done in the way of blogging, I’m certainly getting a lot of other things done. More on that tomorrow.
For now, why not read a much better post than I could ever write on the subject of abortion, choice, and hope.
And on the thirty-minute drive home with my mom at the wheel, the sobs continued even as I had no tears left to cry. Devastation made way to numbness the more the reality set in. And in a moment of truly facing my reality, I considered the option that Dr. Wilson had put forth. Abortion. Such an awful, horrific word it had always been to me. Until this very moment. Until it was ME. Until it was MY life interrupted. MY heart writhing in pain. MY mind in a torrent of fear and shame and despair.
This could all be gone JUST.LIKE.THAT.