Think about those times in your life when you have felt inspired to something really great. Where does that inspiration come from?
The Holy Spirit. God inspires us to do great things with our lives.
----Matthew Kelly

Who is TNSPC?

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, I'm just a Catholic empty nester trying to figure it all out. The views on this blog are my own.

How Walking the Dog Inspired My Spiritual Life

Picture of a white wildflower with a yellow center in the grass with the title words above and below
On one of the first warm days this season as I was walking my dog, it hit me: How cool is it that Lent is this time of year? I've never thought about it until this year: Lent begins in winter and ends in Spring. Seeing color popping up all over gave me inspiration. I took a good look at the trees: they look dead, but after taking a closer look, you realize that they are coming back to life, first by the buds that will grow into leaves and flowers.
skyward view of branches with buds on them
We see color popping up in the most unusual places. I think we should see that in our lives God pops up when we least expect it.
Small wildflowers covering a green field giving it color
Spring is a time for us to wake up and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. What was once sleeping or dormant is now bursting into life with all of the colors in the palette. Just as the trees and the flowers and even the weeds are coming to life with color, so should our spiritual life. We've made it through ordinary time and are making our way through Lent, so now is the time to start awakening.
Tree with purple flowers next to a bush with yellow flowers
With spring comes storms just as with our spiritual life we will have storms. Some may be rough and some not as rough as the others, but they will happen and we just have to trust in God that we will be safe. I think it's a beautiful thing that Lent starts in winter & ends in Spring because with the blooming of the spring flowers, so our hearts bloom for our Lord.
Red tulips, variety of garden flowers in the background with a flowering dogwood in front.
If the weeds can produce beautiful flowers then surely I, being the miserable sinner that I am, can also produce something beautiful. God gives us that chance to repent and to have our souls become beautiful again.
Small purple wildflowers in green leaves
Spring is a time of renewal: The earth wakes up and is renewed. The animals start the renewal of a new generation.
Male &  Female Mallard swimming in brook
I would encourage you to get out as soon as it's warm enough in your neck of the woods and take a walk. Take is slooooow. I'm usually all about getting around the park with the dog so I can get my 30 minutes in and be done with it. I am so thankful that I took the time when I started this post to take it slow and look...really look at what is going on around me. It is truly a wondrous thing, made more wondrous when putting it in the context of Lent and just how beautiful nature coinciding with the liturgical calendar is. I'm pretty sure it's no accident!

Songs to Help Me Focus on Lent

Earbuds laying on a table with the words "What's on your Lenten Playlist" under the earbuds
photo credit: Fey Ilyas Listen via photopin (license)
I love music. I love to listen to it, I love to play beautiful songs on my flute. I know it's a beautiful song when it makes me cry; I guess I'm sentimental that way. Or maybe I just appreciate musicians who touch my heart. Anyway, I compiled a list of songs to help me focus on Lent. These are songs that I've come across that help me reflect on how sacred this season is.
Here is a sample of my playlist:

♪ Once and For All-Lauren Daigle (I listened to this during Adoration.)
♪ How Beautiful-Twila Paris (An oldie but a goodie. I listened to this in Adoration and ended up with tears streaming down my face as I gazed at Jesus on the crucifix with the Eucharist under him)
♪ Feet of Jesus-Steven Curtis Chapman
♪ Remember-Laura Story
♪ Wounded Healer-Audrey Assad (She has so many beautiful songs that are so appropriate for Lent)
♪ Desert Soul-Rend Collective (This is a band from Northern Ireland. I just recently discovered this song.)
I made a Spotify playlist instead of listing all 50+ songs. Click on the picture below to be taken to it. Don't be confused by the username. 

What songs help you focus on Lent? Let me know in the comments what I need to add.




If Lent isn't Biblical, Why Do We Observe It?

Photo courtesy of Unsplash
Is Lent Biblical? I saw someone's Instagram post right as Lent began announcing that he was not observing Lent because it isn't Biblical. My first reaction: Of course it is. Jesus went into the desert for 40 days to prepare for "training, testing and preparing for something incredible" (Fr. Mike Schmitz) before he began his public ministry.  In addition, Lent is also 40 days because that is how long Moses stayed on the mountain (Exodus 24:18), and how long it took Elijah to travel to Horeb where he encountered the Lord. (Kings 19:8). So if Lent isn't biblical, why do Catholics, along with some denominations, observe it as one of the holiest seasons of the liturgical calendar?

The early Church had those preparing to come into the Church at Easter take 40 days before Easter to train, test, and prepare themselves. As Catholics Christians, I believe we are called to observe Lent to prepare ourselves each year for Jesus' death and resurrection. At the end of every Mass, we are called to go out and evangelize, to do our sort of public ministry. It will look differently for each of us, depending on our vocation. Lent is a way for us to rekindle and "re-arm" ourselves for our ministries. For me, it is a time of reading and studying, reflection and fasting. By the time Easter rolls around, I feel armed to take on questions and discussions that may be asked of me during other times of the year. Lent is my 40 days in the desert.

Be careful what you hear

I watched a Youtube video that supposedly quoted the Catholic Encyclopedia. The quote:
the real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare men for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ...One can effectively relive the mystery only with purified mind and heart. The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning men from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating in them the desire to do God's will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in all their hearts.
Sounds good, right? Completely makes sense. There wasn't a page number or a link to the source, and when I looked for it online, I couldn't find what he quoted. It isn't under "Lent", anyway. For some reason, the guy interpreted the passage to say self-purification, which it doesn't say at all. He goes on to say that Ash Wednesday isn't biblical because ashes aren't in the bible. (I think he needs to spend more time reading the Good Book!) He continues that it's on Wednesday because that day is named after Odin, a pagan god. But...aren't most (if not all) Christian holidays originated from pagan holidays? At least, the day that they are celebrated are. But that's a post for another day. Another error in the video: He says that in 8360, the Council of Leaticia (Spelling is probably incorrect)officially commanded the observance of Lent. Does anyone else see a couple of problems with this? First off, 8360 is over 6000 years away. The second thing is that there has been no Council by that name. (Find a list of Ecumenical Councils from The Catholic Encyclopedia here.) The First Council of Nicaea formalized the practice in 325. (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Lent) And people are actually paying this guy (whose channel is called "UNLEARN the lies") to spread untruths!

Ashing It Out

I think we all know that the ashes have biblical roots. The Huffington Post, in an article about Ash Wednesday, says ...there is no mention of Ash Wednesday in the Bible. But there is a tradition of donning ashes as a sign of penitence that predates Jesus. In the Old Testament, Job repents “in dust and ashes,” and there are other associations of ashes and repentance in Esther, Samuel, Isaiah and Jeremiah. By the 10th century, the monk Aelfric tied the practice, which dates to the eighth century, to the period before Easter, writing, “Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.” By the 11th century, the practice was widespread throughout the church — until Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, threw the practice out in the 16th century because it was not biblically based. There’s no Lent in the Bible, either, though many Christians see it as an imitation of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and battling with Satan in the desert.
Life Teen blog post indicates 40 passages from the Bible referring to ashes. The post also states that people have been receiving ashes for over 1200 years on dies cinerum (day of ashes). Ash Wednesday comes from the Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. (Catholic Online)

The Short and Long Answer

So the short answer would be that Lent is not specifically found in the Bible, but the long answer is "yes, Lent is Biblical, along with the Catholic Traditions". Not only does the Church rely on the Bible, but also on Traditions.
Joel 2:12-13:
Yet even now-oracle of the Lord-
   return to me with your whole heart,
   with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
   and return to the Lord, your God.
For he is gracious and merciful,
  slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, 
  and relenting in punishment.
As Saint John Paul II said, "We are an Easter people". Even if Lent has pagan roots and isn't Biblical, as long as it brings us closer to God and more spiritually mature, is that a bad thing?

When You're the Only Practicing Catholic in the House

I listened to a Momcast podcast in which Allison Gingras and Danielle Bean were discussing when kids leave the faith. I have to say that I did get a little frustrated while listening. We are a family of 5: my husband, myself, and our three grown male children. Out of the 5 of us, I am the only practicing Catholic. My husband converted when the boys were young but he has since discontinued going to Mass. He's basically turned into a "C&E". Growing up, he didn't go to church regularly as opposed to me being in Mass every Sunday and Holy Day...and then some.

Just as the women said in the podcast, I, too, did all most of the right things when they were growing up: I taught the boys the same night prayers that I learned from my mom, we prayed the blessing before the meal, they went to CCD/Faith Formation faithfully, they received the sacraments. One thing that we didn't do is pray as a family other than before meals. I don't think I ever even taught my kids to pray the Rosary! Yep, I feel like a complete failure.

Wise words to remember

At least, I did until I heard a Homily at a Daily Mass. The school system where I work had a snow day so I was able to go to Mass that morning. The Gospel that morning was Mark 4:1-20, the parable of the sower. The Deacon said something that stuck with me and has given me some comfort. His words:
Our job is to sow the seed of God's word. It is not to determine if the seed we sow will grow. Like Jesus in today's gospel, our job is to cast the seed widely, to sow it with abandon and without concern for the cost, regardless of what we may think about the soil that's receiving it, leaving its growth to God.
We must never filter out those people we think will not be receptive to God's Word. Our efforts are never wasted, even if it seems so to us. 
God can change hearts, softening even the hardest ground and transforming it into a rich, fertile soil that will nurture the seed we have sown.

When I start asking myself "What did I do wrong?" and when I start feeling a little resentful of my husband for not being the Catholic Husband I want him to be, I remember the Deacon's words. When I remember those times of loneliness of sitting alone in the pew with the boys (before my husband converted) and then alone in the pew the past few years, I remember the Deacon's words. I can't make my husband or my boys go to Church. I can't make them share my beliefs. I can't force them to return to the Faith. God gave us all self-will for a reason.

Mass first...then Starbucks

More often than not, when I come home from Sunday Mass, I find my husband either still in bed or in front of his computer. Every now and then he will be out of the house, having taken his dog to the dog park. When we talk about going to Mass, he insists that he prays to God when he is out in the mountains as well as during everyday activities. My dad told him that going to Mass is a form of discipline. I told him that even though he prays, he isn't receiving the Eucharist. And I remind him before Christmas and Easter Masses that unless his sins have been absolved by a priest (since he missed Sunday Masses), he shouldn't receive Communion. I make no comments if he receives Communion...that's between God and him. When I come home from Sunday Mass with a Starbucks cup in my hand, at times he'll raise his eyebrows and ask where his is. My reply: You go to Mass, you get to go to Starbucks.

Maybe I'm not a complete failure

Out of the 3 boys, only 1 of them attends Mass every now and then. Even though he isn't a "practicing Catholic" (following the precepts of the Church), he is a strong defender of the Catholic Church. When he was in law school, he even attended a bible study. I was shocked when he asked me to buy him a study bible and even more shocked when he called me from France to tell me he went to confession at Notre Dame. He attended law school in a "very Catholic" region of the US so at least the Catholic Traditions were being followed.

While discussing religion as an entirety (not just the Catholic Faith), one of my sons said he doesn't want to be associated with "those people"...the hypocrites who claim to be Christian but don't act like it. I reminded him that people can tell he's a Christian by his actions. He mentioned that he didn't care for "structured religion". The picture of him so very carefully carrying the host up for the gifts during his First Communion Mass keeps popping into my mind. Afterward, he said he was so scared he was going to drop it. We have a picture of this little guy in a suit looking down so lovingly at the host as he carried it to the altar. Surely that little boy is still in there somewhere.

I honestly don't know where the other son stands. I'm afraid to ask him because I'm afraid of the answer. I invite him to Adoration with me every week and will keep inviting him.  I just feel that if I could get him into that Chapel even for just a little bit great things will happen for him.

I know they have it in them

All 3 of my boys and my husband are such good men with huge hearts. I know that I have sown that seed. It's just so hard to try not to determine if the seed will grow. I pray constantly for patience, hope, and trust in the Lord. In her latest series on rest, Sonja Corbitt tells us that it took years for God's promises to come to fruition. In this day of immediate gratification, it's so very hard to have patience and to not give up. Seeing all of my men return to the Catholic Faith is just too important to give up on.  Lisa Hendey said it perfectly: ...my family is best served spiritually when I concern myself less with how holy my husband and sons are and worry more about my own personal relationship with God. (from The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living- Ave Maria Press) These are the words I have to remember when the doubts, sadness, and loneliness creep in. When those feelings start creeping in, what do you do? Do you have any words of wisdom that all of us may need to hear?

Memento Mori and The Beatitudes: How Each Reminds Us Of Our Ultimate Goal

Wow. That quote says it all, doesn't it? St. Paul told the Corinthians to not just look at today, but look ahead to eternal life; to PLAN for eternal life. I am amazed at how words written so long ago still speak to us today in the 21st century. As I listened to this scripture reading, I kept thinking "Memento Mori"..."Remember your death". We have no idea when our lives on this earth will end so we must prepare for it with every waking breath. St. Paul urged them to be ready and to not procrastinate...just as he's telling us today.

What will we be like in Heaven?

The Deacon gave the homily at the Mass when 1Corinthians 15:19 was the 2nd Reading. He mentioned St. Thomas Aquinas' Five Properties of a Glorified Body:
1. Identity. We will know each other when we are in Heaven. We'll be able to recognize family members and loved ones.
2. Quality. We will be at our highest powers.
(I think Catholic Answers combined these 2 into "Subtlety", meaning "we will have a spiritual nature as did our Lord..."  This reminded me of a book I read a few years ago: Angel on Board: Watch out for angels watching you! (EJ Thornton). Even though this book is fiction (although it's based on a true story), it will make you stop and think about things that have happened. Well worth a read!
3. Impassability. The glorified body will not diminish or change. It will not know sickness or any aches and pains.
4. Agility. This is the utter submission of the body to soul. We can go anywhere any time, all we have to do is think it and we will be there. Catholic Answers: We define agility as to be as our Resurrected Lord's ability to bilocate and travel great distances in an instant.
5. Clarity. We will be filled with beauty and light.

Is that not amazing? Doesn't that make you want to see Jesus right now? Deacon was really hyped up about it!

It's all about hope and humility

How can we plan for eternal life? Besides the 10 commandments, the Beatitudes is another good place to turn. In Luke 6:20-23, Jesus tells us how we will be rewarded with heaven. He gives us hope.  But then in Luke 6:24-26, it's almost as if He gives us a warning. In my opinion, He is telling us to have faith, to not get too comfortable with our earthly lives. He's telling us to remember our reason for being on this earth and what our ultimate goal is. To me, He's telling us to remain humble.

💜Woe to you who are rich...(Luke 6:24)Even though we may be rich monetarily, don't get sucked into the materialistic way of thinking. Live modestly and within your means. Don't get tricked into thinking that material things will bring you happiness.
💜Woe to you who are filled now...(Luke 6:25) How can we be filled if God isn't the center of our lives? And, if He is the center of our lives, we remain hungry for more of Him.
💜Woe to you who laugh now...(Luke 6:25) I don't think we're being told to be unhappy and to be all solemn all the time. There is a time for jokes and there's a time for solemness. We have to know the right time for each.
💜Woe to you when all speak well of you...(Luke 6:26) I hear this one loud and clear. Talk about humility! We shouldn't live our lives for God to be noticed by other people. If we are, then we aren't truly living our lives for God. It's not about us.
"We bow our knees
We must decrease
You must increase
We lift you high"
(From the song Humble by Audrey Assad)

The Beatitudes are words of hope yet still remind us to be humble...to not get too full of ourselves. Paired with Memento Mori, it's a pretty good way of keeping our ultimate goal at the forefront of our mind and our daily lives.
Other Related Posts:
A Catholic Woman's Perspective of Death
Deliver Me

Deciding How to Pick a Lenten Devotional Journal

Photo courtesy of Pexels
It's getting harder and harder to decide what to pick for my Lenten Devotional Journal. Who's with me? There are so many to choose from and not enough time to do it all. How do you decide? For me, there's the huge issue of "FOMO" (Fear of Missing Out); I see some that look really great on social media and I want to get them all. Unfortunately, Lent is only 40 days; last year it seemed to fly by. I wasn't ready for it to end because I enjoyed my Lenten journey.
Just a few short years ago I had trouble finding a Catholic Journal. There were plenty of Protestant Journals but none that were specific for Catholics. I think the first one I found was from Blessed is She. Now it seems like I get an offer for a different one every other day. Oh, sure, you can do your own journal by reading the Daily Mass Readings and writing down your thoughts (which is basically what I've started doing) but to me, Lent is different. I want a little more guidance during that liturgically time of the year. What follows is not an exhaustive list; included is some of the journals that I've found that may be of interest.

🕈 To the End: the story of sacrificial love Lenten Journal (Blessed is She). Written by BiS founder Jenna Guizar with Beth Davis and Nell O'Leary helping her out, the journal focuses on the Gospel of John 11-19. Included is a weekly examen and space to journal for Sunday Mass. Cost: $25 with free shipping in the USA. You can't go wrong with any of the journals from Blessed is She!

🕈 Give Up Worry for Lent: 40 Days to Finding Peace in Christ (Gary Zimak- Ave Maria Press). This journal presents scripture and advice based on scripture to let go of things beyond your control through 4 steps: Read, Reflect, Respond, Pray. This isn't technically a "journal" per se because there is no space in the book to write your thoughts. You'd need your own notebook for journaling. I'm going to remember this book for next year. Cost: $13.95 + $2.75 shipping

🕈 BEST LENT EVER Jounal (Dynamic Catholic). This journal is designed to use with the daily Lenten reflections that are delivered to your email box. There isn't a preview available on the website and the "About" section wasn't descriptive enough to be able to say more about it. I do love Matthew Kelly and everything the Dynamic Catholic crew is doing, so it's definitely worth a look. Cost: $14.95 + $5.95 shipping.

🕈 The St. Paul Center is offering a free online study: Genesis to Jesus. It explores how and why we should read the Bible. A participant workbook is offered for $16.00 + free shipping in the USA. Scott Hahn is "da bomb" when it comes to understanding our faith. When purchasing, one option is to also buy Dr. Hahn's book; I already had it. It's not necessary for the study but it appears to be a companion for further reading.
🕈 Remember Your Death A Lenten Devotional (Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP- Pauline Books) This may seem a little morbid, but dying is a fact, and we need to be ready when our time on earth is up. This devotional isn't a journal; however, it does have a section for journaling in your own book. Cost: $16.95 + $3.75 shipping.

🕈 Lenten Gospel Reflections (Bishop Robert Barron- Word on Fire). A friend gave me the Advent version which was awesome so I couldn't pass this up when I saw it. The reflections are based on the Daily Mass Readings with a short reflection by Bishop Barron and a suggestion for meditation and journaling. Space for journaling is included. Cost: FREE with $5.95 shipping.

🕈 If those weren't enough, the crew from Take Up and Read has a new book Hosanna. This journal uses Lectio Divina to delve into the Gospel of Matthew. This is where my FOMO comes in: I saw this all over Instagram and fear I may be missing out. I suppose if I called in sick every day during Lent I would get through everything I wanted to, but obviously, that isn't an option! Cost: $22.00 on Amazon, so if you have Prime you know what that means: free shipping!

🕈 Women in the New Evangelization (WINE) is offering Walk in her Sandals: Experiencing Christ's Passion Through the Eyes of Women (Kelly  M. Wahlquist) for their Lenten Book Club. You don't have to be in a "book club" to participate, you can do a self-study or follow along in their Facebook group. This was the book they used for Lent 2018 but the study guide is different. Cost: $15.95 (book only), $14.95 (journal only), or $25 (bundle-includes book, journal, and bookmark - members receive a discount!). Another case of FOMO settling in: Kelly Wahlquist is going to be the keynote speaker for our Diocesan CCW Convention in April, so I feel the need to get this and use it this Lent. Maybe something else will have to be put on the backburner?

🕈 A couple of other books worth mentioning: Scott Hahn's Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises (Franciscan Media) - which is recommended to accompany the free online study- (I did this last year along with the Blessed is She journal) and What Jesus Saw from the Cross (A.G. Sertillanges- Sophia Institute Press). Lenten Reflections' cost is $15.99 +  $1.90 shipping (if you spend $30 from Franciscan Media you receive free shipping); the cost of What Jesus Saw: $18.95 + $5.00 shipping for paperback and $9.95 for ebook.

Okay, Y'all: What did I miss? What are your plans for Lent, or have you not started thinking about yet? If you haven't, better get crackin'! Picking a Lenten Devotional is a very tough decision and it's getting harder with every year.

We Are Called To Not Be Silent

Isn't it funny how when you pre-read the readings for Mass something will get your attention, but then when you hear it during Mass your attention is drawn to something else? The phrase above made me sit up a little bit. We know we are all called to evangelize, to not be silent. But how does this fit in with the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11?

Having Confidence in Your Child

When the Wedding at Cana was read during RCIA last Wednesday, I found myself smiling at the thought of Mary being a typical mother, pushing her son into something he didn't think he was ready for. She had total confidence in him, just as we mothers do in our sons. She was not silent. This is in contrast to the Finding in the Temple when Jesus, at age 12, thought he was ready & Mary and Joseph knew the time wasn't right. She wasn't silent then, either.
At the Wedding of Cana, Mary had confidence that her son would something huge and embark on what he was meant to do, even when he didn't think he was ready. Looking at my boys men, I have so much confidence in each of them. I know they can do great things. I've given my boys a push when they need it. They each bring something different to the table- they each have different gifts (just like 1 Corinthians 12:4-11). I believe in those gifts and know they have so much to offer in finding their purposes in life. Their confidence levels are different; they are finding purposes at different ages. They are still searching. My prayer for them is that they understand that with God in their lives they'll have some clarity.

Don't Push Your Talents

I absolutely love 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 because it's so true. Every one of us has a different talent. The important thing is that we all serve the same Lord. I've had a hard time over the past year (and especially over the past few months) realizing that I don't have some talents that I really wanted to have. I read this reflection from epriest:

These weren't the reflections that went along with 1 Corinthians, but they very well could be. John knew his talents and knew that Jesus would come with greater talents than he. He didn't inflate his opinion of himself but he used them to bring people to God. He knew that his cousin would be the one with the glory. John was not silent, even to the very end.
What amazing role models we have! Men and women who were not afraid to speak up; who were not silent. People who proclaimed the word of God and let it be known that Jesus was the Messiah. We can silently evangelize while not being silent: the way we act, the way we treat others, the way we live our life is a testament to our Christian life. Some days are easier than others; some days I can definitely feel the pull of the evil one trying to get in my head. Especially on those days, don't be silent. Call on Jesus to come to your side and help you with the battle. Do not let satan win. Don't even let him claim a minor victory.  We are called to not be silent; we are called to be found guilty if accused of being a Christian.
The words "I will not be silent" on a blue background