Category Archives: Lent

Dead Tree Decor

What the heck is with the dead trees? When did this become a Lent thing?

Seriously, I can’t think of a church I have been to in the last few years that doesn’t remove the pretty flowers arrangements that scatter the church and replace them with dead twigs.

Now I’m not saying we should have pretty flowers everywhere during Lent, that is clearly nonsensical. This isn’t a time for finery, it’s a time for penance. Are the dead bushes really all that relevant though?

Now I realize that our amazing, dedicated altar ladies group is just trying to get us into the spirit of the season, I’m just not sure it’s the season of dead things. I totally get that we should be in the desert with Jesus, hacking at the nasty bits of our souls. I’m all there.

Dead trees? How does that really help us understand Lent?

Let me tell you what I think. I think they just want to make pretty stuff, and since they can’t use flowers, they are going to find some other arrangement that they think still looks nice, but is in line with the season. I think the dead branches are more about the desire to decorate, and less about Lent.

I’m not complaining, I swear. The dead tree arrangements do actually look nice in their crystal vases, all tied up with purple ribbon. I am extremely thankful for all the hard work these ladies put in to make our place of worship beautiful. The amount of effort they put into Christmas and Easter is obvious, and it simply looks stunning. Beyond that, it really help me get into the season when the altar is surrounded with lilies or evergreens. I am so thankful for the hidden efforts of these amazing women.

I just don’t understand the dead tree thing.

I don’t have a decorating bone in my body, so it would be asinine for me to start throwing out suggestions on how to decorate the church. I’m not even going to attempt it. Any desert motif I put out there even as an idea would look more like a kindergartner was walking around the sanctuary throwing sand and desert stuff rather than real decorating. It simply isn’t my skill.

So if you cringe as I throw out my idea, I’m okay with that.

Lent is a time of penance, right? We Catholics are overly sensual, yes? We love our stained glass, our statues, our candles, our incense, right? So why not just be plain? No frills, no ribbons, no flowers, no fancy altar cloths, just the bare minimum.

I hearken back to the practice of covering all our statues with purple cloth, removing any consolation and hiding the beauty for just a short while.

It just seems so much more Lent than dead trees.

St. Joseph Never Has Enough Candles.

Every church has them. They are obligatory. We have a statue of Mary on the left, and a St. Joesph on the right. More often then not, we also have a small rack of candles in front of each for folks to light and pray.

The candles for our Most Holy Mother are always lit. There are enough candles over there to heat up the entire church. It’s like a holy bonfire.

St Joe is lucky if he has one.

Poor St Joseph. Somewhere along the line we have just seemed to forget about him.

So I ask the question, what is the next big holiday coming up? Here, in the midst of Lent, what reprieve can we expect? Celebrations in Lent always seem so much brighter.

Why St Patrick’s day of course! Green clothes, green beer, corned beef and Irish music is the fare, and boy are we excited. It just a plain fun day, we celebrate it to the hilt. Pull out the accordions, and let’s throw a party!

And we should. St. Patrick was an awesome guy, and dangit, I love being Irish.

St Patrick’s day is however, an optional memorial, a day that we may, if we like, remember a great man, and how an entire nation can be changed by just one person. A day we can celebrate, not one we have to.

Just two days later though, it the lonely forgotten feast of St Joseph. Oops, I messed that up. It’s not a feast, it’s a Solemnity. As in really big important day. Christmas, that’s a solemnity. St Joseph’s feast day is just that big of a day.

But we don’t even notice it. We let this day just slip by as if nothing has happened.

Poor St. Joseph. He has just been forgotten.

St Patrick would be ashamed.

Take the time to get to know the man among men. Take the time to learn of Joseph, his sacrifice, his dedication. If you are a father, know that St Joseph is your patron. It was he who carefully took care of the virgin, and the Child which was not his. It was he that worked every day by the sweat of his brow to feed our savior. It was he that trained the Christ Child to carve yokes, so that He might free us and give us a yoke with a light burden.

Seriously, St Joseph needs more lit candles, especially in this time of economic hardship.

I Bit Off More Than I Can Chew…. Again

I do this every year.

I have these great plans for Lent. I’m not just going to give up chocolate, heck no. I’m going to totally remake my life. I’m gonna be a new man. I’m going to put my entire life back in order in one fell swoop.

Heck yea! I’m gonna man it up! I can do it! I’m going to start that exercise regime! I’m going to read the entire bible by the end of Lent! I’m going to pray like a monk in a cloister! I’m going to get all my business in perfect order! I’m one tough guy!

Then I pull it all off for one day, namely, Ash Wednesday, and by the end of the day I’m so exhausted I can hardly stand it.

Today is my own personal reconciliation day. It is always the first Thursday of Lent, and it always sucks.

It is today that I always wish I were a better man than I am.

I am not. I am just me, and while I think I can perform my way into sanctity, today is always the day the Lord reminds me how weak I truly am. I really cannot do anything without Him at all. It’s altogether humbling. I suppose that is the point.

Today, I really understand St. Paul in a way that most of the year, I must admit I frankly miss.

“Yet it was only through the law that I came to know sin. I should never have known what evil desire was unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”” Romans 7:7

“I cannot even understand my own actions. I do not what I want to do but what I hate.” Romans 7:15

“So with my mind, I serve the law of God but with my flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:25

It’s maddening. I simply am unable to do what I know should be done.

There is hope in this of course. I look at how I have changed over the years, and the wonders that God has worked in my soul and in my life, and I know that change is happening. God is moving even though I cannot. Every task I try to perform for Him seems to fall flat on it’s face, and yet, I am not the same man as I was ten years ago.

I may not like that God has not just remade me, given me strength instead of weakness, but I have to admit that His process is most definitely working, and mine is not.

He is quite seriously, divinely effective.

I suppose this Thursday is a good reminder that I cannot lean upon myself, but instead must be carried by Him.

Lord, remake me into yourself. (the sooner the better!)

Catholic Face Painting

This evening our priest had to deal with a sudden emergency, so our deacon and I were asked to do a communion service with the distribution of ashes.

I just love surprises, especially when I have no idea what the heck I am doing.

Now I realize it’s not all that big a deal. The only thing I had to add was ashes right? How hard can that be? It’s not rocket science. You just dip your thumb in the ashes, and mark a cross on the forehead of everyone that walks up, right?

Well, first you have to realize I found out about the change about five minutes before the service started. I also was suddenly appointed to read the readings for the day, which I had not read. Not to mention that this particular service was held in the middle of adoration, so the monstrance and all appropriate paraphernalia had to be put away as well. So in the rush to get the alter prepared, I did not have time to even look over the readings, and of course the church was packed to the brim.

Then it happened. Our lovely and wonderful choir director asked me to sing the psalm, which I also have not looked at.

Crap.

You get the picture. I’m suddenly overly involved in a service where I had planned on sitting in the pews with my family. As our deacon was doing the introductory prayers, I’m reading the readings for the first time. As everyone is saying the confiteor, I’m studying the music for the psalm.

Everything went alright of course. I read okay, and while I started the psalm a little high, I was canting so there was no accompaniment to showcase it. So as I came back to the pew, I was thankful that I had pulled it off. I thanked the Holy Spirit for His guiding hand, and then I was suddenly reminded.

I have to do the ashes.

I just didn’t think about it at all before. Yes, yes, I knew I had to do it, but until that second I just didn’t really think about it. As the deacon was reading the gospel, it suddenly dawned on me that I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t remember what to say!

My mind is racing back to last year, “What was it that they say?” Something about ashes? The phrase “dust to dust” kept rolling through my mind. Crap! Crap! What to say?! I am seriously freaking out.

It’s time. I just walk up as confident as possible, while inside I am a dang whirlwind of Lenten phrasology. (Yes, I know that’s not a word, but at this point I’m making up words left and right.)

Then the obvious happens. You probably already saw this coming. The deacon crosses my head, and says everything I need to hear. “Repent, and turn back to the gospel.” Now I know what to say.

Phew. Let the finger painting begin!

I have to say, I think it’s awesome that all these people are coming up to have me wipe black stuff on their foreheads. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally into the solemnity of the moment, but I just can’t escape the fact that this is plain fun. It’s like kindergarten all over again.

I love watching the kids give me that blank stare, feeling their foreheads as they walk away. You can almost feel the fear from well dressed women, “Oh I hope he doesn’t make the cross so big that my whole forehead is black.” (By the way, I have found that getting underneath a woman bangs is quite an exercise in dexterity!) The men are all acting tough. “Go ahead man, mark me, do your worst.” I have this wonderful duality going on through my mind, the solemn atmosphere of penance, coupled with the fact that this is absolutely hilarious.

We should do this all the time.