Plan Your Work – Work Your Plan

We are now fully into the penance of the holy season of Lent.

I’ve already messed it all up.

This to me, is the beauty of Lent. It reminds me every year of just how hard it is to be the person I really want to be, the person I think God is calling me to be. It sets me up to fail, to remind me that without God, I truly am powerless.

Every year, I use Lent almost like New Years Day, a time to reset my life to what I think it should be if only I were a better person. I have in my mind the idea that if I can just create the habits of being good, that somehow that will fix most of my problems. Lent teaches me again and again, year after year, that it is just more complicated than that. It reminds me of my fundamental laziness, my sloth, my pride.

It’s not that I don’t really want to be a good person, I truly do. I truly wish to become a saint, as holy as I am able in this transitory life. The problem is wanting to be a saint right now. I have this constant vision of what I think holiness looks like, and want to somehow reach it, but in the moment, I think, “I’m tired, I know I should pray my rosary, but I really just want to lie on the couch and watch some Netflix.” Then one show becomes three, and I’ve blown my whole evening. I can’t help but feel so defeated, and I feel like just giving up.

The first Sunday of Lent, we heard the story of Jesus in the desert, being tempted by Satan. Again and again Satan tries to trick Jesus, and he does it in the most devious way possible. He uses scripture! He tries to present sin to Jesus as if it is a good thing, as if God would really want him to do these things. Jesus is not fooled, but I am fooled almost every time. “Come on Dance, you know you are tired, I know God wants you to have some free time to yourself,” the serpent whispers. Yes, of course he does, but not at the expense of leaving Him or my commitments I’ve made to Him! And I certainly don’t need THAT much rest!

How does Jesus fight back? He has a plan. A real plan, and a good plan. Jesus knows he is going to be tempted, and he is prepared. For Jesus, he has prepared by knowing his scripture, and he’s ready to fight the devil head on.

Satan will attack us this Lent as well, every day of it, and if we too don’t have a plan, we will fall victim to his lies.

This is NOT a good plan! Sadly though, this is often the only plan we have.

You know what your main sins are. I certainly know mine, I confess them over and over again every time I seek Reconciliation. Do you have a plan for how you are going to deal with the temptation that most affects you? When you have the temptation to gossip, what is your plan? When you have the temptation to be rude, what is your plan? When you have the temptation to be lazy, what is your plan? When you have the temptation to consume too much, what is your plan?

Take your spiritual life seriously this Lent, treat it as you would any other enterprise. You would not build a business without a plan, neither can you build a strong spiritual life without one. Take notice of your weaknesses, and careful decide how you will defeat the sin that have plagued you. That way, like Jesus, you will be prepared when the tempter comes.

Then, this will be a Holy Lent indeed.

Rite of Candidacy

Or is it the Rite of Confusion?

The main problem we had was not the Rite itself, that is pretty straightforward. The Rite of Candidacy is simply the Church calling you forward as a candidate for Holy Orders. It would seem to be so simple, right?

Alas, no! The problem is not what the Rite is, but WHEN to perform it! Different dioceses through the world will perform this Rite at different times. Here’s the rundown on the hows and whys, skip a couple paragraphs if Church rules bore you!

When a priest is ordained, it is process that involves many steps, one of them being ordained to the diaconate. So for bishops and priests, it makes sense to want to follow the same order through which they were ordained. I mean, a deacon is a deacon, whether he is permanent or transitional, right? So it would just make sense that you would follow the same order, the same path to get there. This order is: Aspirant -> Lector -> Acolyte -> Candidate -> Deacon -> Priest.

Here things get a little confusing though, as the Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons from the Congregation for the Clergy implies that Candidacy comes right after the propaedeutic period, also known as aspirancy. This is BEFORE actual classes begin, upsetting the order defined in priestly formation. The new order described is Aspirant -> Candidate -> Lector -> Acolyte -> Deacon.

In our diocese, our bishop decided the priestly order was more in keeping with the spirit of the Rite as he saw it, and as such, this was the last Rite before ordination. For us, this was quite unlike our previous Rites, as it was a very small and private affair between our brother candidates, our wives, our formation team and of course, our bishop. He was kind enough to spend the day with us in retreat to prepare.

I think I would describe this Rite as “comfortable”. If I were to be honest, this was the first time I felt at ease during the whole process. Let me explain.

The whole time, all these years, I felt as if I was on the chopping block. I was desperate to not make any big mistakes, or to make too loud a noise, as all it would take was a word to have me removed from the program. I had felt as if I had to keep my head down and not make waves, to not speak too loud when I felt classes may be getting off course or be leaning in a direction that I felt wasn’t in keeping with the spirit of the Church’s faith. Frankly, I didn’t want to piss anybody off, lest I become the confrontational guy. For example, I was told to stop writing this blog, and I obeyed. It feels like you are walking a knife’s edge, and over years, this becomes a wearing feeling. Ordination is not guaranteed, and the fear that you will be removed was always present.

This Rite was pleasant, and full of the symbolism of the Church choosing us for this Sacrament, which was beautiful, but the fear still lingered. So I shared a little of my fear with my bishop. I will never forget what he said, and it was like a wave of peace flowing over me. I felt suddenly and completely released, and it enabled me to finally let go and begin preparing spiritually for what was about to come.

He said, “The only thing that can stop you now is you, me, and God. Don’t worry about anyone else.”

Freedom.

All that was left was a quiet six months of classes, a retreat, and my own prayerful preparations. I cannot describe the feeling of that weight lifted. Praise be to God.