Parish Blog

Remembering the lessons of life’s journey

In elementary school, attending the Stations of the Cross became my favorite part of Lent because Mass at that time felt like a routine -- similar to brushing my teeth or shampooing my hair. I’ve got to do it, but it’s not exactly the most enjoyable part of the day.

But during Lent, things felt differently, more somber and less routine. And, even as a child I enjoyed a good story. Fast-forward to present day and I understand the Stations of the Cross a lot better than my elementary school self did. But I still sometimes struggle with how it relates to my own life -- how it’s more than a story.

One recent morning as I was lamenting to myself about all the troubles and trials I’ve been dealing with these last few years (Ignorantly thinking that no one else could possibly be going through what I’m going through), I forced myself to ask:

Who the heck do I think I am?

Why wouldn’t I have to deal with daily challenges?

If God’s own Son went through challenges, why shouldn’t I have to deal with a life filled with ups and downs? Now that didn’t necessarily make me feel better and in no way am I on par with Jesus, but it was a “slap me in the face” kind of thought.

We all carry crosses in our lives -- whether it be losing a loved one to violence, battling a chronic illness, losing a job, finding out a friend isn’t a friend, not being able to find love, the list goes on and on. Life is tough every single day, but we must recognize that God gives us the strength to keep going.

And, there are also glimmers of hope as when Veronica wiped Jesus’ face or when Jesus found the strength to get up each time he fell. Kindness exists in our lives. It could be someone who gives up their seat for us on the bus because our arms are full or that friend who randomly checks in with a quick text or call. Those acts of kindness from our neighbors give us the strength to stand up, dust ourselves off, wipe away our tears and start again down life’s path.

For me, Lent is about:

●      Refocusing my mindset so that I remember that I’m not alone -- we all have crosses we must carry. It’s about how we handle each of those crosses that defines us and makes us stronger; and

●      Remembering that I must be the woman who wipes Jesus’ brow. I must be the person who sends the kind text or gives up my seat. I must help my neighbors with empathy and kindness.

Lent reminds me to embrace the journey and be there for others when their crosses get too heavy. The Stations of the Cross are more than a story told at Lent, but instead a road map for how to deal with life’s challenges.

 

Olivia Silver is a former journalist and current communication specialist who handles media relations for a law firm. She volunteers at St. Columbanus by assisting with communications projects. Her Twitter handles: @OliviaSilver and @OliviaClarke312.

Learning to Forgive Ourselves

I recently reconnected with someone who I have been out of touch with for many years.  He needed someone to talk to, and despite how long it had been since we last spoke, he felt confident that I would be able to talk him through some troubles he was currently facing.  He feels as if the sins of his past are the reasons why someone he loves is currently mistreating him.  But I disagree.  Oftentimes, when faced with some sort of suffering, we ask ourselves if these injustices are happening to us because of a wrong we may have committed in our past.  We hope that maybe this will justify our current struggles.  Instead of focusing on what happened in the past and whatever mistakes we may have made, we should seek forgiveness and find a way to forgive ourselves.

As it is written in Psalms 103:10: He has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our wrongs deserve. And God won’t.  God is love and God is always bountiful in His mercy to us. How much time do we spend beating up on ourselves after we made a mistake?  We tend to beat up on ourselves so much that there is no room for God to deal with us as our sins merit.  God forgave us, but how come we cannot forgive ourselves? 

As I reflect on learning to forgive myself, I offer some tips on how we can do this:

  •  Forgiveness means letting go of the past.  In other words, we should not allow our past to be a constant part of our identity. We are not the same as we were yesterday; yet, God’s love for us never changes.
  • God forgives your sins, but our bodies won't. As we grow in our relationship with God, and we learn from past transgressions, we work towards forgiving ourselves by releasing the emotion attached to that wrong. Forgiveness requires our whole self: mind, body, and spirit.
  • We never really forgive and forget. We may never forget our past, but our memories can be healed. This is a process that takes time. We begin by acknowledging that we have made mistakes or have experienced hurt in our past. Healing is a gift that is offered to us from God.

This Lent, instead of giving something up, we should take on the task of forgiving ourselves.  We must be willing to go so far as to forgive someone whose hurtful actions still reside somewhere in our hearts.

Jennifer C. Reid is the Pastoral Associate at St. Columbanus Church. Her Twitter handle is @Corliss615.

Making the Lenten Experience Unique

As we commence the season of Lent once again it can be both easy and difficult to enter the holy season. It’s easy because we’ve done it before; it’s hard because we wonder how it is any different from last year. The traditional tenants of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving seem easy on paper, but difficult to live out in our everyday life. How can you make this Lent special besides just giving up chocolate? Here’s some ideas using the three tenants of Lent as a basis:

Prayer: We have a lot of things in our life that need prayer. Family, friends, the world, and our city (say some extra prayers!). This Lent, make a prayer list. Every Sunday take 10 minutes and write down the things you want to lift in prayer that week. It will help your prayer be focused and come Holy Week you’ll be surprised at how many people and how many situations you’ve lifted in prayer to God.

Fasting: The perennial question: What should I give up for Lent? Lots of people give up chocolate, sweets, alcohol or something else for Lent and that’s great! But if you’ve done that for the past five years and you’re feeling bored with it you can always change it up. Don’t be afraid to give up new things; don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.

Almsgiving: This is can relate to your fasting. Let’s say you go our every Friday night with your friends and you spend on average of $60 each time you go out. A Lenten practice could be to abstain from spending the money that you would normally spend on drinks and donate the money to Catholic Relief Services or Catholic Charities. You’ll be surprised at how much money you end up giving to help those most in need.

This Lent, allow yourself to dive more deeply into the mysteries of the season and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.

Fr. Michael Trail is the associate pastor of St. Damian Catholic Church in Oak Forest.

Twitter: @FrMichaelTrail

Celebrating Ash Wednesday

Fr. Matt O'Donnell is the Pastor of St. Columbanus Church. His Twitter handle is @FrMattODonnell

Fr. Matt O'Donnell is the Pastor of St. Columbanus Church. His Twitter handle is @FrMattODonnell

Today Christians around the world celebrate Ash Wednesday. It is a holy and sacred day that begins the season of Lent. Too often we think of Lent as a time to give things up, but this way of thinking doesn’t capture the true purpose of Lent. Lent is a time of preparation; it is a season of getting ready for the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

On this Ash Wednesday we hear the words “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Ashes are placed on our foreheads in the sign of the Cross. What we remember today is that we are created by God. It is God who formed us and fashioned us, it is God who breathed life into the first human person. It is God who breathes life into you and me. We reflect on the fact that there will come a day when our earthly bodies will return to the dust from which we were once formed. This day recalls what we hear in the first chapters of Genesis.

It might seem that all of this is just a reflection on our mortality. This talk of returning to dust might seem like a strange way to begin this season. How often do we stop to reflect on the fact that we are created? Have you taken the time to think deeply about what it means to be created in God’s own image and likeness? God is the creator of all that exists and we are so intimately connected to the created world around us. Ash Wednesday helps us focus on our origins.

So, why celebrate Lent? During these sacred days you can be reminded of God’s unconditional love! By entering completely and totally into these 40 days you can grow in your relationship with God. These days afford you an opportunity to reflect more deeply on what makes you human.

The practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us journey more deeply in our relationship with God. I encourage you to use this season of Lent to grow in your relationship with God! Let this Lent be different! Let this Lent change you! Let this Lent be a time of increased faith!