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Hi Journey of Hope Friends, I hope that this February note finds you all well. Crazy cold winter out there this year. As well, I just wanted to let you all know that I am anxiously awaiting the birth of my first grandchild over the next couple of weeks. We are all very excited. Any Gramma tips you can share with me will be much appreciated ! So hoping you will all keep my son Joe and his wife Danielle and the birth of their first child in your prayers. So for today, I stumbled upon some great wisdom from Bishop Robert Barren and his Lenten Reflections on Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving which are the 3 main common practices during the Catholic Season of Lent. His perspective helped me to understand and appreciate these practices a little clearer. I thought I would share them with you since Lent is just around the corner. So we are reminded to take a step back from our day to day hectic life to spend more time with Jesus during Lent. We all know this. We know that self denial and deprivation are key to the Lenten journey. We tend to make more room and draw closer to Jesus in our hearts when we practice denying ourselves of some of our comforts. First of all Prayer. What is prayer? He says “it’s the raising of our hearts and minds to God”. Thomas Merton says, the one thing we should do to improve our prayer life during Lent is to “take the time”. In Lent, we consciously take the time to raise our hearts and minds to God. We seek conversation and friendship with Him. How do we do it? Bishop Barren says to go back to basics. Pray the Rosary everyday in Lent, or perhaps pray a decade daily, whatever you can fit in. Try committing going to Adoration once a week during Lent. Pray in the car. When you are stuck in traffic, you have to slow down. Turn off the radio, pray and talk to God in the car. Secondly, Fasting. Why would any of us want to fast during Lent, or anytime for that matter? Sounds impossible to me ! Well, Bishop Barren says, we love all of life’s pleasures of the body. But sometimes, these pleasures can become a priority in our lives. Lent is a time to not let them dominate. Thomas Merton says, we are like small children. We want something right now. If we indulge little children all the time, they’ll soon be running our homes. We have to discipline children. The sensual desires are like that as well, for pleasure, food, wine, sex. They are good for sure, but they shouldn’t dominate our lives. So the idea in Lent is to fast from some of these comforts which in turn will allow for a deeper hunger for God to emerge. Bishop Barren suggests we follow some of the Church’s teachings on fasting: for example: abstain from meat on Fridays, have certain fast days or meals, pick something you love and limit it during Lent. Here’s one from me. Perhaps start that diet during Lent. If you do so, remember to ask the Holy Spirit in prayer to help give you the discipline and self motivation you need to diet. Ask Him to help decrease your appetite as well. Involving the Holy Spirit actually really helps when dieting. The third practice is Almsgiving. This is a very powerful exercise. We are all connected to each other says Bishop Barren. We are not alone in the world. He says that we are all part of this mystical body. We give alms to acknowledge this fact. The things we own are not just ours. Thomas Aquinas says “I have the right to private ownership but not the right to private use”. He says “the use of our private property must be for the sake of the common good”. So how do we live this out? Most of us probably have way to many material things. Overall, living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, we come from this extremely rich culture. Lent is a good time to give them away. Bishop Barren has a few practical suggestions. #1) Whenever you see a homeless person anytime during Lent, give them something. Don’t ask questions, don’t judge or weigh the pros and cons, just give them something. Keep a few coins and dollars ready in your car or a few old winter coats or boots in your car to give out. #2) Whenever you get something in the mail asking for money, give them something. I know, we are all on everyone’s mailing list. Maybe just give $5.00. #3) Whenever you are about to buy something, ie) a car, tv, kitchen appliance or gadget, pick the one you can afford, but then buy the next one down and donate the difference to the poor. It’s simple and challenging all at the same time. I know, I am in the same boat. I have to consciously make that extra effort to continue to give. 4) de-clutter your home of things and clothes and give them away during Lent. So, this is all more food for thought everyone. So I challenge all of us this Lenten season, to act upon more prayer, a bit of fasting and some conscious almsgiving. This will take some discipline. But remember, discipline makes us free. It doesn’t stifle us, it liberates us. Taken form Bishop Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflections. See you all next month as spring is soon around the corner. Blessings to you all, from soon to be Nan Nan MJ ! xo

MJ

MJ

Program Facilitator

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