I experienced many firsts this Lent. First Lenten bible study (Above All devotional by the Take Up and Read community), first time to a Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter church, and first adoration at the Altar of Repose from Maundy Thursday mass till midnight.
Other notable highlights include my second talk on the signs and symbols of the Sacred Triduum, second Easter Vigil, and third woman’s silent retreat.
I received an epiphany during Maundy Thursday mass and at Easter Vigil.
Having said that, I also experienced a real low where I struggled with anger for a week. Also, fatigue from being a busy Martha throughout Lent and Holy Week.
Lenten Plan: Prayer
I learned that our chaplain and forty alumni and students are undertaking the Nineveh 90 challenge . I chickened out at the fasting requirements (just bread and water/ juice on Wednesdays and Fridays).
So I decided that in addition to my daily rosary and mass, I would undertake the following:
1) takeupandread Above All Lenten guide
2) Footsteps to Mercy by Marian Press
3) Lenten Daily Devotionals by Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
4) Adoration, whenever possible
Lenten Plan: Above All devotional
This daily Lenten devotional by Elizabeth Foss and her team was a Godsent. I was deciding between the Blessed Is She devotional, She Who Believed, and this. I eventually chose this because it came highly recommended by the Catholic woman I follow on Instagram.
It enforced a Lenten rhythm and discipline even though I skipped days (and one whole week/ the fifth week of Lent). However, I would play catch-up and cover it eventually.
It gave my Lent an intentionality, unlike previous years where I would be hyped up on Ash Wednesday and Holy Week, while the rest of Lent fly by in a blur.
- Elizabeth Foss
Good listening: When I only half listen, I devalue the person who talks. When I listen with my full attention and fix my eyes on his face, I assure him beyond a doubt that he matters. Listening well is an act of respect, of honor, and of selfless ❤️.
Poor listening turns a friend away and rejects her heart. Good listening gathers her in and holds her close. Empathetic listening serves other people. Good listening gives a person a hallowed place to give voice to the ponderings of soul.”
Hypocrisy: Hypocrisy is a cunning, creeping voice. It often begins with a child who is taught it is very important to care what the neighbors think. That child learns her value rests in the opinions of others and she grows into a well-intentioned people-pleaser who gets a little dose of Christianity and thinks that if she does all the right things, all the right people can check her good behavior on the Good Christian Checklist and she’s set for life. And eternity.
You commit sins of hypocrisy when you say you love God but you love your selfish sins more. Hypocrisy cares more about what the crowd thinks than what God knows.
Pride: If our sense of what is best rests upon the evaluation of other people, pride is what is driving us. In her proud arrogance, the proud person wants power. She worries that she lacks sufficient power and prestige. There is a constant, ceaseless jostling for position and affirmation, a constant, creeping anxiety that keeps whispering “never enough”.
2) Mary Lenaburg
Forgiveness: Forgiveness is like an L-shape (which stands for LOVE. It goes in an upwards direction when you seek forgiveness from God, and it goes outwards when you seek forgiveness from others (and yourself).
3) Meg Hunter Kilmer
She is better known as the Catholic Hobo, and is a charismatic speaker. In her live video, she shared insights regarding anger, which is the mortal sin that I struggle with the most. I would like to share her nuggets of wisdom:
Anger is about choosing yourself. Anger is not about ❤️, it is about me.
Saint Therese’ reaction to a Sister she disliked was to ❤️ her so hard that she is flooded with grace. So much so that the Sister thought that she is Saint Therese’ favorite!
If you have to confide in someone, seek out a person who will ask if you have taken it to prayer and whether you have forgiven the person. Choose a person who wants you to be a saint!
The tongue is the holiest member of my body since I receive Holy Communion with it.
The person I resent is who Jesus felt was worthy to die for.
Lenten Plan: Fasting
The three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I struggle with fasting the most so I made a conscious effort to fast on Fridays, other than the obligatory fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I did well the first few Fridays but faltered in the last two or three Fridays.
Good Friday was tough. The long and late service was trying for our tired child who was teetering on the edge of a meltdown. I was spent trying to keep our child under control. Being hungry makes me cranky, so I observed the silence, not because of spiritual reasons but because two hangry (hungry = angry) people in the household do not make for peaceful conversations. I did not want to commit the sin of anger on Good Friday!
Ash Wednesday (Feb 14)
I was marked with the largest cross I have ever received and our child had a distinct one as well.
Stations of the Cross
I LOVE stations of the cross but was faced with a fresh challenge this year – a curious toddler.
Our first stations for Lent (on February 16) went well considering we attended it right after mass. Our child spent it nibbling a carrot, giggling and blazing around the church.
Our second stations (on March 3) did not turn out as well but we managed. A happy moment was when our child pointed to baby Jesus and exclaimed excitedly, “baby!”
Lent Silent Retreat
This is the third woman’s silent retreat I attended by our chaplain and a brother priest-in-residence. My first retreat was the most powerful – I was healed and learned about the importance of the Sacred Heart devotion. My second retreat moved me to seek out service opportunities. This third retreat gave me the confidence to know I am enough and I am good. I will blog about this seperately.
I am also grateful to our FOCUS missionary who drove me to and fro the retreat. It was a lesson in God’s providence! She wanted nothing in return, not even gas fee. She shared with me how our fellow retreatant, Teresa, showed her charity throughout her illness. This taught her how to give without expecting anything in return.
I received the Sacrament of Reconciliation twice.
During the first confession (on March 3), the priest gave me some personal advice.
The second (on March 29) was to confess my sin of anger which took place just after my retreat and before Holy Week. I procrastinated my examination of conscience and made an eleventh-hour confession just before Maundy Thursday mass!
First Sunday of Lent
Our priest-in-residence shared Father Thomas Dubay’s concept of conversion in three degrees of depth.
1. The first degree of moral conversion is the rejection of mortal sin.
2. The second degree is the effort to avoid and eliminate venial sin.
3. The third and highest degree is “… loving God and neighbor without limit, giving oneself beyond the call of duty, going all the way with God, living like the saints lived.”
I am nowhere near but am striving towards doing everything out of a pure motive, which is love for God.
Second Sunday of Lent
Our chaplain preached on simplicity and humility.
Father shared people often approach him, expecting a quick fix to their problems. He would inquire if they have taken it to prayer. The typical reply is they desire something more than that. The solution, however, is simple – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Passion Sunday (March 18)
We drove to our first High Mass at a Fraternity of Saint Peter parish on Passion Sunday. This is the only parish in our diocese dedicated to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
Although I felt at home with the veiled mums struggling to keep their babies and toddlers quiet during mass, it will be near impossible for us to commit as it is a long drive and mass timings are during our child’s lunch and naptime.
Holy Week: Tuesday talk
Our chaplain lectured on the signs and symbols of the Sacred Triduum. It was a good refresher and I learned quite a bit during the talk, and even more while (fact-checking on Google) writing up the article on this blog.
Holy Week: Maundy Thursday Homily and Holy Communion
My husband cared for our child so it was a luxury to immerse myself in mass.
Our chaplain’s homilies never fail to inspire me.
His homily was about Jesus’ washing of His disciples’ feet at the last supper.
It is the duty of slaves to wash the feet of guests. Jesus, however, insisted on washing his disciples’ feet as an act of humble service. He washed the feet of Peter and Judas even though he knew they would betray him.
Jesus chose these “failures” to be his bishops.
Right after Jesus chose Peter to be the pope and gave him the keys to heaven (Matthew 16:18 “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church”), Jesus called him Satan.
Jesus was explaining he would be crucified and resurrected in three days. Peter vehemently protests this, to which Jesus “turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23).
Judas did not believe God will forgive him for his betrayal even though God already knew he to betray him. As such, he took his life. Peter, on the other hand, sought God’s forgiveness and went on to do great things for God’s kingdom.
Judas believed Satan. Satan who lies to us and makes us believe we need to keep one part of us secret or we will be unlovable if it is revealed. Touche!
It is Satan who deceives us into believing that even after Confession, our sins are so grave God can love everyone else but us.
Everybody makes mistakes. This is normal. We must believe this in order to allow God and others to love us. And believe God can and will still use us, the way he used Peter who denied him thrice before the cock crowed.
Since the washing of the feet celebrates the institution of the priesthood, our chaplain beseeches us to pray for priests who experience betrayal and loneliness.
I teared up after receiving Holy Communion. This homily spoke right to my heart – the wound that weighs me down even though I have confessed and yet carry that shame and guilt with me.
I felt God affirming me, that I love you, even if…
I love you, despite…
I LOVE YOU.
Holy Week: Maundy Thursday Altar of repose
I sat in the last row in church. As we processed to the altar of repose, I ended up being directed right in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It was a luxury to spend time in adoration and I tried hard not to be distracted by my to-do list. After all, our chaplain once said we have to learn to waste time with God.
After kneeling for as long as my knees could withstand, I sat and journaled about my day and reflections in the Above All devotional.
After which, I started to recount every year of life… what I did, and where I was walking towards and away from God. It led me to recall a dark period of my life where I struggled and committed the most unimaginable sins of my life (from 2008 to 2015). Not proud.
I recount them now with renewed faith as I have confessed all my sins and received absolution. I am forgiven. I will not allow the devil to taunt me needlessly (although I wake up some nights from nightmares of people I have not reconciled with etc.). I now know what it means to be life-giving, and endeavor to teach our children well.
Before I knew it, our chaplain walked in and it was already midnight!
Holy Week: Good Friday
Good Friday was penitential…
It started when my husband decided to walk to church rather than drive as it could be challenging to secure parking. I ended up huffing and puffing to church. Not a great start.
Our child refused the hair clip vehemently. Failed negotiations and an impending outburst resulted in me standing at the entrance throughout the veneration of the cross. It was a two-hour long service and way past our child’s bedtime.
I was disappointed that my husband did not ask our child to kiss the cross and the first class relic of the true cross. He has an issue with being imposing so I understood. But I was disappointed as our child loves to kiss crucifixes, prayer cards, and statues of Mother Mary and Jesus at home!
Holy Week: Easter Vigil
It was a mad rush to the vigil after putting our child to sleep but I made it!
Our chaplain delivered a passionate homily.
God created the world and all was good. But we did one thing (Adam and Eve’s sin) and it was bad. God never planned Jesus’ death during Creation, but because of our sin, He sent Jesus to die for us.
This grace that pours out from Jesus’ wounds on the Cross, is poured out to us at every mass and confession.
God never tires of hearing our sins. He is not defeated by our sins. The only time God was defeated was on the cross. Fron then on, He has never been defeated again.
I claimed the graces of this vigil for my goddaughter in hospital. I am grateful that she could spend Easter 2018 with her family :).
I also thanked God for my sister’s loved one who was baptized into the faith this Easter Vigil!
Veiling and kneeling during Holy Communion
I was self-conscious to veil and kneel to receive Holy Communion but the faith of the altar servers and mothers with babies who veiled and knelt touched me and gave me courage. I was fearful of tripping over my long dress or forgetting to clasp my hands behind me. But I did fine.
After Holy Communion, I experienced a beautiful epiphany. I had reflected on my life during Maundy Thursday and regretted dressing immodestly in my backless, cleavage showing wedding gown. At this moment though, I dressed modestly and presented myself to Christ as His bride.
I was grateful to God for the grace to kickstart my conversion process (since my Conversion Experience Retreat in July 2015) and bring me to where I am today. Still flawed, but more intentional about holiness and modesty.
I was grateful to Teresa and Ricardo for sitting beside me at mass, and fetching me home thereafter.
Holy Week: Easter Sunday
We attended mass with our child’s best friend and her mother. It was hard to pay attention as we were on the upper floor and the acoustics were bad. After mass, however, the two children started kissing and hugging Mother Mary incessantly which was so cute and innocent.
Lenten Social Media
I participated in the Catholic Moms Chat loop on Instagram.
The theme for February 16 is self, and I posted a question on self-care rituals to maintain inner peace. Prayer and journaling sustain me.
The theme on March 2 is the domestic church, and I posted a question on inspiring literature to build up our domestic church. It made me realize how little I know.
Catholic Studies Course
The Lenten period coincides with the fifth course (on Mariology) in my year-long studies.
It was fitting as I read about Mary’s role and presence at the Crucifixion.
“This is Mary’s Beloved. She consented to this. Let no one say she is not Coredemptrix, she who gave him this body and consented to his birth and death both. She was spiritually crucified with Jesus. What you see on the Cross is not only the measure of Jesus’s love for you, but Mary’s too.”
– Keith Berube
I received Easter cards from various organizations (Association of Marian Helpers, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Seraphic Mass Association, and Maryknoll). I sent them to family and friends in the U.S.
All in all, I had a fruitful and blessed Lent and Holy Week and Easter has only just begun!