February 15, 2018
Many ways through 40 days
BY TONI CASHNELLI
It's more than ashes and abstinence.
Lent is about personal intent, choices that flow from the phrases, "I will" and "I won't". And some of it is tied to sacrifice or the kind of discipline that eludes us the rest of the year. Whatever we decide to do for 40 days - give more, pray more, forgo chocolate - the hoped-for result is spiritual renewal.
Our observance relates to our culture, our catechist, our generation. We asked a number of friars what Lent means to the people they serve. Here's what we learned.
Last year Br. Tim Lamb asked young African friars in Nairobi, Kenya, what they wanted to do for Lent. In terms of sacrifice, "They wanted me to write a check." He told them they had missed the point.
"They didn't necessarily understand how it should be practiced," says Tim, Secretary of Formation and Master of the House of Theology for the Province of St. Francis in Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius. "They just wanted to pass money around."
PHOTO FROM St. Joseph & St. Maximilian Kolbe ParishLent is a time for renewal at St. Joseph & St. Maximilian Kolbe in Orlando, Fla.
"I think the idea was received well," Tim says. "The question was, who do we give it to?" Not the beggars at the front gate, they decided. That would create a culture of dependence, and those people were already being fed if they asked for food.
"The friars identified a person they'd met at the market where they were buying fruits and vegetables." Dealing with cancer, she was struggling to keep her business going. "It was decided to give her the money we saved by not eating meat once a week."
The amount they saved was $20,000 Kenyan Shillings, about $200. Presented with the money, "The woman was surprised, thrilled, touched and thankful," Tim says. For the young friars, "It was an example of taking what they'd been taught and making it a real sacrifice."
Since just 4% of Jamaicans are Catholic, "I am always baffled by the fact that Ash Wednesday is a national holiday," says Pastor Jim Bok of Mary, Gate of Heaven Parish in Negril. But beyond the trek to church for ashes, "I do not sense any kind of special 'sacrifice' on the part of the people during Lent."
This year, Bishop Burchell McPherson has tailored the Lenten observance to the needs of his flock. He wants Friday to be "a day of fasting and prayer for the broken state of our society," Jim says. "He is asking for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the churches which can be connected with our broken society. And he is encouraging crusades throughout the diocese." Those crusades would be "sort of like a parish mission" in the United States. "They would be a little more 'evangelical' than I would be accustomed to in parish missions."
Friar Colin King did one a couple of months ago at St. Mary's, near Negril, and "the folks were fired up," Jim says. Appropriately, the church is in a place called "Revival".
Aside from Christmas and Easter, "Ash Wednesday was always the best attended service of the year," according to Fr. Blane Grein, former pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, a Navajo Parish in Chinle, Ariz. Blane, now stationed in Fort Defiance, Ariz., has a theory about that.
PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLIAbove, Blane Grein with parishioners in Chinle, from 2012; top, Roger Lopez at Roger Bacon: “I need to put others ahead of me, and that is a sacrifice.”
"I have an idea that a Catholic Navajo thinks, 'Catholics have their way, we have our way, and they are both good. On Ash Wednesday I'll take advantage of this Catholic 'smudging' to ask God's mercies and prayers for Lent that follows.'"
This year, students in Theology classes at Roger Bacon will have a hard time escaping their Lenten resolutions. They're as close as the screen on their iPad.
They can thank Provincial Minister Mark Soehner for that. He suggested to teacher Fr. Roger Lopez Roger Lopez, OFMthat kids write their Lenten ideas on index cards, take a picture with their iPad, and use it as their wallpaper - so it's staring them in the face.
This week Mark outlined the idea during his homily for the Ash Wednesday service at Roger Bacon, even sharing his own index card and pledges. Roger loved the idea and made it a project for his 104 Theology students. "You're reflecting at the beginning of Lent, and putting it down on paper" to revisit as the season unfolds.
Among the cards filled out and anonymously shared are the expected abstinence from things like soda, candy and video games, "but some of them put 'Fasting from' things like 'pettiness', 'being negative', 'complaining to friends' and 'no biting nails and no extra sugar'," Roger says. Their "Giving" intentions are downright inspiring: "Putting myself in others' shoes"; "Be patient with people or things that annoy me"; "Be a better listener"; "Be more forgiving and trusting".
Getting the message across has never been easy, as Roger will attest. "I do use the word 'sacrifice'" in talking about Lent, he says, "and I think young people do not understand. Part of being young is selfishness. Part of Lent is to be a little selfish with ourselves, but it's a 'good' selfish," as in, "How do I need to change my life?" The answer: "I need to put others ahead of me, and that is a sacrifice. Any parent will say that's something that has to be taught and encouraged and grown and formed."
PHOTO FROM www.livingtheeucharist.orgThe Living the Eucharist program aims to help parishioners deepen their faith.
According to a survey of ethnic groups in America, "Hispanics are most likely to embrace the idea of sacrifice or giving something up" for Lent, says Christianity Today. Fr. Luis Aponte-Merced, raised in Puerto Rico, can relate.
During Lent when he was a child, "We didn't go to parties; we didn't dance. From Holy Thursday to Holy Saturday, we were not allowed to play. TV and radio stations would only play religious music." Nowadays, "It's different. The younger population is not so much into that anymore."
Luis Aponte- Merced, OFMLuis is Parochial Vicar at St. Joseph & Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Orlando, Fla., a blended parish with a blended staff: He serves alongside three brothers from Holy Name Province. Among the parish's 2,500 families, the Hispanic population is mostly from the Caribbean and Philippines. With today's less-strict Lenten observances, "It's not so much about giving up, but turning to God in special ways," Luis says. "Daily prayer is important, and attending Mass daily, doing the Stations of the Cross. Many of them will not eat meat on Wednesdays and Fridays. Some of the ladies dress more simply and don't wear makeup for Lent. One of them told me, 'It's sacrificial in a way that we feel it ourselves but don't go around telling everyone. We want a thing that will help us improve ourselves.'"
Within the parish, "What we're doing for Lent is a program called 'Living the Eucharist' by Paulist Evangelization Ministries." Meeting in groups of eight to 10, participants are immersed in prayer, Scripture studies and instruction in the Eucharist. Based on the number enrolled - 33 groups were formed - many are seeking to deepen their faith, for Lent and beyond. "What we're trying to tell people is that the Eucharist is not just something you come to church to receive," Luis says. "You take it with you."
(Learn more about the program at www.livingtheeucharist.org.)
Twice a month when Sunday Mass ends, about 60 people follow Br. Al Mascia across the street from Our Lady of La Salette Church in Berkley, Mich., for even more worship. In an era when some folks bolt before the last "Thanks be to God", it's a remarkable sight.
Parents are investing their time in a program called "Sunday Experience", which recognizes their role as a child's first and foremost faith educator. "We work with the entire household," says Al, Director of Faith Formation for the parish. While kids from grades 1 to 8 are nearby enjoying snacks, arts and crafts and online tasks, "I'm with the parents, who are just as much in need of catechesis [as the kids] and need to be reminded of their role as leaders within the domestic Church."
Built around a new evangelization that encourages manifest, visible expressions of faith, the Sunday Experience began in September and winds down after Easter. "The season of Lent is really a closing opportunity for families to put into practice a lot of what we've been talking about," Al says. "Lent is like a laboratory for us." For six weeks, "Everything that's part of the Experience, including arts and crafts, is focused toward themes of Lent. We're trying to make the season more sacred."
An example: "I suggested that parents consider a blessing of their children on a daily basis for Lent, thinking it would permeate the household. I gave them a simple formula and said, 'Just try it out.' It's an actual little ceremony that seemed to be well-received." In addition, "We've watched some videos getting ready for Lent. This has helped set the tone for parents to address the season in a different manner."
The parish gave him "a lot of leeway" to develop the program, says Al, who adds his own creative spin to the elements of care, encouragement and challenge. Although "it's hard to get people to commit to something like this, attendance has been outstanding." If kids and parents didn't enjoy it, "Trust me, they wouldn't be continuing."
Since the introduction of the Fitbit in 2009, wearable fitness trackers have taken the country by storm. Why do people love their fitness trackers so much? The main reason is that wearing the tracker motivates them to be more active! For many people, exercising is more rewarding when they can see numbers in black and white telling them how well they're doing. People get more excited about hitting a specific target, like 10,000 steps per day, than about the vague goal of being healthier. Trackers send messages to cheer you on when you meet a goal, giving you an ego boost.
While there are plenty of worthwhile fitness trackers, most come with a steep price tag. The best trackers range from $60 to $220. So are they worth the money? They have a variety of different functions, and some work better than others. Here's how fitness trackers or bands work:
Count your steps. Most carry a device that measures how fast something is changing its speed or direction so the tracker can count the number of steps as well as movements from side to side or up and down.
Measure other movements. Some can calculate your altitude to determine how many flights of stairs you've climbed. And a tiny GPS unit can track your location, which is handy for recording your route on a long walk/run or bike ride.
Check your vitals. Many trackers contain a heart rate monitor to measure your pulse both during exercise and while at rest. Some also detect your skin temperature.
Keep track of calories. Some trackers use your heart rate to estimate how many calories you've burned during the day.
Monitor your sleep. They detect motion while you're lying down to figure out when you're awake, in light sleep, or in deep sleep.
Sync with other devices. Fitness trackers often work with a smartphone app that can track your activity and sleep over time to help form healthy habits.
Send you messages. They can also notify you about incoming calls, texts, email, and even social media posts. And, they can send a "move alert" to let you know when you've been sitting still too long.
Still, it's not clear how well fitness trackers do at making people more active. Studies show mixed results.
The real bottom line is whether a fitness tracker will improve your health. Will you work out more when you're wearing it? Will you eat or sleep better? If a tracker can motivate you to make these positive changes when no other tool can, it's a good buy.
– Michelle Viacava, RN
There are a variety of fitness apps for the smartphone that can do many of the same things fitness trackers do, and even some things they can't. If you have your phone with you all the time, having your fitness app built into it means you can't forget it and it is all in one device. A simple pedometer for $30 or less can count steps better than a fitness band if that is all you want to do. So decide what numbers you want to know, whether you carry your phone everywhere, how much you are willing to spend, how you work out, and what drives or motivates you.
BY RICHARD GOODIN, OFM
Yes, yes and no. Yes, we have men applying to be in the next postulant class. Yes, I'm staying very busy animating vocations. No, I'm not doing it the way it has always been done. ;-) (that's how people nowadays indicate-with text-a joke; it is a wink when you look at it sideways).
The manner of operations in the current vocation office is one of modernization. Things went digital at the doctor's office and grocery store years ago. So, I'm just following their intelligent lead. Market research (fancy lingo for figuring out what people like or want) shows that our target audience (18- to 40-year-old Catholic males) doesn't watch the news, read the newspaper or magazines, and for the younger ones, "Facebook is for old people." Now, pause before you take offense! Because by "old people", they mean Fr. Richard, the 34-year-old Director of Vocations.
That's the raw context of vocation work. But after reading widely on "millennials" and collaborating with nationally successful vocation directors, graphic artists, social media gurus, and even highly successful military and job recruiters, I've learned a great deal and have a plan.
Richard explains the application process in a new video at https://youtu.be/4gd8Yonx68s.
But how does that relate to collaborating with all those other people? Well, they are the experts helping with the rest of the plan beyond prayer. So far, in a jam-packed month and a half, the vocation office has created a uniform social media presence (we Tweet too, like our President) under the slogan, "become a friar." We use that as a tag line at Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google, Snapchat, with emails and at becomeafriar.org. Then, based on that easy to remember and meaningful tag line we hired a pair of graphic designers in their 20s to "re-brand" our office and give us a fresh look.
That fresh look has images, colors and fonts designed to highlight the friar values of openness, simplicity and the centrality of the cross in our way of life. Those hired millennials even filmed at St. Anthony Friary and interviewed the director about how to #becomeafriar (the hashtag is a thing that links and tracks how often people use phrases across the Internet).
And all that branding work, alongside the slick professional videos, landed us another opportunity to be filmed! A millennial-focused department of NBC called "Left Field" (find them on YouTube, not on TV) also came to St. Anthony's and the vocation office to film a feature documentary on how our office is diving head first into social media and branding as a way to attract and welcome millennial men to join our way of life. The end product is yet to be published but such national attention seemed to validate our new approach.
Yes, we have two men in the formal application process (both strong candidates). Yes, I've filled you in on the content of my recent busyness (but I've left out all the travel and meetings!). And no, as it is likely now clear to you, I'm not doing it the way it has always been done. But on the other hand, we've always prayed for one another and that is the bedrock foundation of my approach. The rest is window dressing and technique. And please don't forget that each friar is called to vocation animation. And to that point the friars will soon be getting an old-fashioned letter (I know how those work, too) inviting each of them to help me help men to #becomeafriar.
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The drive from Chicago to Detroit last week was pretty scary. Luckily I avoided the snow machine that comes off Lake Michigan on I-94 where there was a huge pile up. Instead I moved at the glacial speed of 25 mph to a maximum of 55 mph in the good spots along the toll road of I-80. There was beauty, too, with all the snow on the pines. But my back and neck that night were a gigantic knot from the tension of driving in the slush behind trucks.
This week we begin the journey of Lent. It starts right in the middle of the week with Ash Wednesday. I was able to be with the students and faculty of Roger Bacon for this event. The shock of receiving a messy, ashy cross on one's forehead serves as a wakeup call. I need to stop my automatic living and pay attention to the Living God. God, who calls me the Beloved, but Whom I can easily forget. So, I go back to the Source on this journey, to the One Who originally called me by name. He holds me as I notice all the slush in my life.
This season is meant to lead us back to the waters of Baptism, where we were bathed, washed, and ritually drowned. Paul will ask us at the Easter Vigil: "Were you unaware that you were baptized into Christ's death?" Of course, we were unaware. We still are, but Lent is trying to revitalize that initial love-wake us up-to God's Presence shimmering under every event of our lives. John Barker reminded us during our last Provincial Council that we are on a journey to Revitalize, not rearrange deck chairs. Lent is this great opportunity, this chance, this Hand extended to us when all our emotional programs for happiness go flat or get slushy. No wonder they call it a Spiritual Springtime! Let's get out of the slush of our lives and move with Christ in this journey of Lent.
– Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM
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PHOTO FROM St. Joseph & St. Maximilian Kolbe ParishLent is a time for renewal at St. Joseph & St. Maximilian Kolbe in Orlando, Fla.He informed them, "It has to be a personal giving," and suggested they expand their fast beyond Fridays for Lent. What if, he suggested, "Each week we have a dinner without animal protein," then tally the money they saved at the end of 40 days. With 27 men in the house, that would add up.
In Roger's class, "We talk about Lent a lot, and students do a Lenten journal where they're focusing on a different question. We talk about what penance is, not something we should be afraid of, but something we should run and PHOTO FROM www.livingtheeucharist.orgThe Living the Eucharist program aims to help parishioners deepen their faith.embrace." Unfortunately, words like "suffering" and "hurtful" are always associated with Lent. Kids need to realize, "Maybe it's gotten a bad rap."
Richard explains the application process in a new video at https://youtu.be/4gd8Yonx68s.My plan starts with what I know (because formation taught me it and how to do it): prayer. Since the first minutes of being appointed the Director of Vocations I've been praying for the friars of the province. Day by day, one friar per day. A daily hour holy for my fellow friars. That we might live our life well and invite others to join us! Shortly, through the "snail mail", friars will receive a postcard about what day I prayed for each of them.