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Father Muench Says...

A challenge to ‘dedicate your Lent’

February 25, 2015

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Dedicate your Lent. Choose to remember your time of special prayer and acts of mortification for Lent as the intention of praying for someone, someone who needs prayer, someone who is suffering or in need.  Or possibly, you might chose to dedicate your Lent to a cause that you feel strongly about.

I guarantee this will change the spirit of your Lent; it will become more than just some various spiritual acts.  Rather Lent will be a campaign of bombarding God, seeking the Lord’s help for someone in need.  This will make Lent a time of something special for someone important to you.

I would also like to suggest that you find a spiritual guide for your Lent.  I am thinking of a special saint who will become your guide to drawing you closer to the Lord.  It may be reading some of that saint’s writing. It may be in joining in that saint’s spirit in prayer and meditation.

This year one of my guides for Lent is Catherine Doherty, the foundress of the community of Madonna House.  I have listened to Catherine often during her life and read what she has written.  She is not a canonized saint yet, it is easy for me to recognize her holiness.

The important message for me this Lent is her call to me to love prayer and silence.  So, I hope that she will lead me to this silence and prayer. This, I believe, will open me to the presence of Jesus.  Her writings may make me ready to allow Jesus to bring peace into my life and find silence in which to pray.

Catherine Doherty writes this about silence: “Silence is the greatest expression of love.  Such silence is deep, unfathomable and endless.  Such silence partakes already of eternity. Such silence touches the face of God, upon whom without God’s grace, more cannot gaze and live.  This kind of silence embraces Christ, touches the face of the Father and knows by experience the reality of the Holy Spirit. (from “Soul of My Soul” by Catherine Doherty).
Another of my guides this Lent will be Thomas Merton.  He has frequently been a guide for me, especially through his writings.  He wrote often about encouraging us to pray by taking the time – again, in silence – to find the Lord who is with us.  He calls this centering prayer.  We seek Jesus within us.  He guides me to make the Lord the very center of my being.

Merton writes this:
“The things we really need come to us only as gifts, and in order to receive them as gift we have to be open.  In order to be open we have to renounce ourselves, in a sense, we have to die to our image of ourselves, our fixation upon our self-willed identity.  We have to be able to relax the psychic and spiritual cramp which knots us in the painful, vulnerable, helpless “I” that is all we know as ourselves (from Merton’s “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander”).

This is exactly what Lent is about – truly dying to ourselves so that we are open to the presence of the Lord.
Each of you have your own saints – canonized and not canonized – who have truly touched your lives.  So, I encourage you to choose a saint to become your guide for Lent. It begins with discovering that quality that his saint is recognized for – that quality that made them saintly. 

An example would be St. Francis of Assisi who found his spiritual strength in the cross of Christ.  He spent long hours praying before the cross of Christ. He found strength and peace meditating in the crucifixion of Jesus. St. Francis is leading many during Lent to the cross of Jesus.

Let me again quote Catherine Doherty:
“Throughout the year we realize what Christ has done for us, but in Lent we realize it more vividly.  He has died on this terrible cross, and it is a death for love – He loved us so much that he died for us. Let us allow this reality to flourish in our heart.
(from “Seasons of Mercy” by Catherine Doherty.)  

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