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February 22, 2012

Embraced by Lent: Our Online Lenten Retreat

Getting Back to Basics: What Lent IS and IS NOT
Who of us of a certain age cannot remember that wonderful scene from the Sound of Music as Maria (Julie Andrews) attempts to teach the Von Trapp children to sing? For some reason they are clueless. So Maria, in her own way teaches them:
“Let’s start at the very beginning
a very good place to start
when you read you begin with A-B-C
when you sing you begin with DO-RE-MI…”
The words of this song are ingrained in most of our collective memories. If we are too old to sing them, then we are just too old!
As we begin this Lenten Retreat together, perhaps it’s a good idea for us to “begin at the very beginning” and understand what the season of Lent is truly all about. Perhaps the Prophet Joel, whom we hear in the first reading from the Ash Wednesday liturgy, should be our jumping off point. (Click here for the complete readings.)
“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts and not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.”(Joel 2:12-13)
I remember attending church on Ash Wednesday as a child, being signed with the ashes and then trying to make it through the school day with those ashes still in place. We stood out, people looked at us, many understanding, others perhaps smirking behind our backs.
We wore those ashes like badges. But as a child, did I truly understand the meaning of it all? Not really. Actually, even as I move into “the not-so-golden–era” of my life, I am still trying to understand what this Lenten journey is all about.
Lent is NOT about spiritual gymnastics. Will I make it through the next 40 days, sticking doggedly to my resolutions? Will this be the year that I finally root out all that is in me that is still not of God? Does that even happen here or somewhere after the grave? Truthfully, I can’t answer these questions.
I believe that Lent is simply about being honest and admitting, as much as it may hurt, that I am not God. I don’t have all the answers even when I pretend I do. I am not the best apple in the barrel, nor am I the worst. Truth be told, I am somewhere in-between. That is what Lent is for me this year. In the midst of life changes, between the ups and the downs, the highs and lows, I drift somewhere in-between.
This Lent let’s begin at the very beginning. STOP! BREATHE! LISTEN! FORGIVE! LOVE YOURSELF! LOVE GOD! LOVE OTHERS!
Will it be as easy as singing DO-RE-MI? Perhaps, for some of us. Maybe we just have to be patient and practice

Father James McDonald professed vows as a Redemptorist in 1984 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1990. He is currently stationed at San Alfonso Retreat House in Long Branch, NJ.



Who are the Redemptorists?

Two thousand years ago Jesus said, “He sent me to preach the Good News to the poor.” Since 1732 the Redemptorists have followed in His footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned. Our congregation of missionary priests and brothers was founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori. Like the first Apostles, our mission—and our joy—is bringing the message of salvation to all people. As Redemptorists, we have a special devotion to crib, cross, Mary, and the Eucharist. To learn more, explore our website and connect with us on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.

Comments (15) total

Daniel Francis | Wed 02/22/2012 8:03 AM

Great beginning Jim and I'm not just parroting your own words. This will be a terrific retreat for our many online congregants and I want to thank you profoundly for accepting to do this retreat.

Dr.Thomas J.and Marcy Bonfiglio | Wed 02/22/2012 8:16 AM

The spiritual reflections are a great way to prepare for Easter.If we reflect on Easter and The Resurrection of our Savior Jesus, Lent will have more meaning. We are looking forward to next weeks reflection.

MIRIAM ROE | Wed 02/22/2012 8:43 AM

What a joy to have this as my first thing this Ash Wednesday morning. I pray I will keep this resolutions in mind on my 40 days. God bless you all Redenptorists I have you in my daily prayers. May we all have a holy Lent Season.

Cheryl | Wed 02/22/2012 9:13 AM

Beautiful reflection Fr. Jim. I think this is a perfect fit for you.

LORIE C WEEDEN | Wed 02/22/2012 10:13 AM

Fr Jim; good words to ponder one's mind for the rest of this Lenten devotion up to Easter celebration. Lorie

Bill Moore | Wed 02/22/2012 10:26 AM

Thank you Father Jim so very much for your inspirational thoughts. Hope you will be a regular contributor here. Missing you at Lima St. Gerard. Bless all the Redemptorists.

Gordon F. Celender | Wed 02/22/2012 11:27 AM

Dear Fr. Jim, Thanks for your very down to earth recommendation about how to begin this Lent without turning it into a fearful time of spiritual "Gymnastics". I do a good bit of fasting regularly as part of my spiritual life, but I know that my relationship with Jesus is much more about how I respond to the many graces and inspirations He senda me every day, and especially those people He puts in my path and invites me to love & serve. Let's pray for each other as this wonderful season of transformation and intimacy with God unfolds. Pax et bonum.

Barbara | Wed 02/22/2012 12:58 PM

Thank you Father for your inspirational comments. Looking forward to following you this Lenten season.

Genny | Wed 02/22/2012 1:56 PM

Well, here I am at 65 years of age, and STILL striving to get into spiritual (and Lord knows, physical) shape! But this is great. It will help me take a closer look at myself and weed out the things that keep me from coming closer to Jesus. Thank you Father Jim for becoming an instrument in my Lenten journey. God bless you, all the Redemptorists and every one they come in contact with.

Tom | Wed 02/22/2012 3:54 PM

I'm grateful this online Lenten retreat is available. I cann't always attend such services at parishes. I look forward to following Father McDonald's insights/advice during the next 40 days. Peace to all Redemptorists. St. John Neumann has helped me out more than once.

Marlene Olenick | Wed 02/22/2012 4:54 PM

Thank you Father Dan for making me aware of this wonderful online retreat! I am sharing the Redemptorist homepage with others so they too can partake of your spiritual nourishment for us as we journey together in these 40 days.

Lynda Makley | Wed 02/22/2012 8:23 PM

So glad I came across your reflection. It will give me another goal for my lenten journey. God bless you on this endeavor.

Pat Bellocchio | Wed 02/22/2012 8:47 PM

Thank you Father. A good beginning I pray I return each day and have a good lent worthy of Easter Sunday.

Stephanie B | Sun 02/26/2012 6:31 PM

"STOP! BREATHE! LISTEN! FORGIVE! LOVE YOURSELF! LOVE GOD! LOVE OTHERS!" Thank you Father Jim, for such inspiring words as we begin Lent. And possibly these words could be carried forth into our daily lives these 40 days, after Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. If we are to become risen people of Jesus, than we need to walk gently with Christ beside us, so that we can be his hands, words, and thoughts to others. And than find peace in our own minds and souls.

joelle R. | Tue 02/28/2012 6:40 AM

Fr. Jim, I am looking forward to this online retreat so much. Thank you for so much for taking time to do this. I attended a retreat, last Lent, at St. Mary's, and it was one of the MOST profound experiences of my life. Looking so forward to all that you have to share.

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