Tag Archives: time

Turning totally to God…

Every year, the Catholic Church goes into the desert.

For 40 days, Catholics pray, fast, and give of their time, talents, and resources. Lent is a season where Christians accompany Jesus in the wilderness and strip themselves of creature comfort to refocus on their spiritual journey.

“The main point of Lent is conversion. That doesn’t mean merely a small course correction or a small little thing we have to fix. Ultimately, conversion means we’re turning with Jesus, that we’re living truly with Christ,” said Father Roger Landry, a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts who serves as an attaché for the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.

Beyond a six-week grind

Seen through that lens, Lent is far more than a six-week period where Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays and “give something up” like chocolate or candy. In the three pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – this penitential season offers the opportunity for a “reset.”

“Anything short of that is not going to hit the mark that Lent points us to,” Father Landry said.

In Paragraph 540, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that during the “solemn forty days of Lent, the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” In the fourth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we learn that the Spirit led Jesus, after his baptism, into the desert “to be tempted by the Devil.”

For 40 days, Christ prayed, fasted and resisted Satan’s temptations to attain earthly power and test God the Father. Jesus emerged from the wilderness tired and hungry, but ready for his public ministry; a road he knew would end on Calvary.

Meaning of ashes

“The theme of Lent is given to us on Ash Wednesday,” Father Landry said. “It’s to repent of anything that leads us from the Lord and to truly grow in faith by believing the Gospel. Everything that comes afterward is for helping us turn more and more in faith toward Christ.”

The Lenten journey begins on Ash Wednesday, when faithful who attend church that day will have an ashen cross traced on their foreheads, with the priest or minister saying, “Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” That act symbolizes our mortality, our need for ongoing repentance, and the call to continual conversion and holiness.

Holiness in everyday action

“Lent is meant to make you holy, so everything that we’re going to do during Lent has to be with that end in mind,” said Father Landry, who generally encourages daily Mass or a half-hour period of daily prayer. Fasting has to take into consideration someone’s physical and psychological health, though it should be something that reminds one that they’re imitating Christ’s self-denial.

With regard to almsgiving, Father Landry said he encourages people to reach out to someone each day during Lent, such as a great aunt in a nursing home, an elderly shut-in neighbor with no living relatives, or a high school friend who recently lost a parent.

“A small reach-out can be a phone call, a letter, even a text message or email, to give alms of themselves each day during that season,” Father Landry said. “That is something that will help them reorder their relationship with their neighbor far more than writing one check to a good cause.”

Ordering the ‘interior house’

As a penitential season, Catholics are called to do penance during Lent. Interior penance can be expressed in many and various ways.

“Penance is sincere sorrow in action,” Father Landry said. “We can say sorry to God for our sin, but penance involves those practices that help us to turn our life around so that we’re no longer doing the same things that wound our relationship with God and others.”

In Paragraph 1434, the Catechism says Scripture and the Church Fathers insist, above all, on three forms of penance: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Those forms express conversion in relation to oneself, to God and to others.

During Lent, Catholics should dedicate a little more time each day for prayer. That could be a half-hour of contemplative prayer, reading the Bible, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, attending Daily Mass, a weekly Holy Hour, or renewing a devotion to the rosary.

Prayer, temperance attunes toward God

Popular Lenten devotions such as the Stations of the Cross on Fridays — where the faithful spiritually accompany Jesus during his Passion — are meant to deepen that pillar of prayer.

“They’re not just good holy practices,” Father Landry said. “They’re ways to help us attune our heart and our life to what God is doing.”

The Church calls on Catholics, ages 18 to 59, to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Canonically speaking, that means a person on those days is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two small meals that together do not equal to a full meal. However, that is a minimalistic approach that Father Landry said “is never going to make us holy.”

“At a practical level, we need to be regularly doing something that allows us to keep our appetite in check,” said Father Landry, who encourages people to abstain from soda, coffee, and alcohol and to only drink water during Lent.

He also advises people to give up all desserts, not just chocolate.

“If we’re able to do those types of things, it’s going to be much easier for us control our appetite in general, so that we’re able to obey God rather than our lower nature,” said Father Landry, who added that fasting also helps the faithful to cultivate mercy for the poor and hungry.

“There are almost 800 million people who go without adequate food in the world,” Father Landry said. “So fasting allows us to have a great solidarity with them as well.”

Almsgiving – the forgotten ‘other’

In that same spirit, almsgiving is “a witness to fraternal charity” and “a work of justice pleasing to God,” as the Catechism says in Paragraph 2462. Almsgiving can take the form of donating money and goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. Special collections during Lent, such as Catholic Relief Services’ popular Rice Bowl program, present opportunities to give alms.

Almsgiving, which is derived from the Greek word for mercy, is intended to transform the Christian’s heart to have genuine compassion for one’s neighbor.

“Like prayer gets our relationship with God right, almsgiving helps us to get our relationship with our neighbor right,” Father Landry said, “So that we recognize that God is calling us to love our neighbor as he has loved us first, to the point of real sacrifice.”

The Sundays of Lent, which are not counted in the season’s 40 days, retain a joyful Easter character. A tradition in the Church holds that those Sundays provide a weekly respite for people who are seriously fasting during Lent. Deciding whether to relax one’s Lenten fasting on Sundays is a matter of individual conscience.

Worthy Lent draws to True Christ

Lent ends on Holy Thursday, which marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum, which includes Good Friday and culminates with the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Easter Vigil. The Triduum is the summit of the Church’s liturgical year. Father Landry said celebrating the Triduum is essential to living a good Lent.

“If our Lent preparation is going to do its thing, then it’s going to help us live a truly holy Triduum as the most important time of the year,” Father Landry said. “It can make us holy by keeping us very close to Christ throughout the most important events in our salvation.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

A Matter Of Heart

The word “philanthropy” typically conjures up notions of wealthy donors who give large sums of money to worthy causes.

But several Legates through their charitable and professional involvement are giving greater depth to the word’s meaning. Through their work and generosity, all are showing that philanthropy starts with a desire to advocate for the good of others and goes well beyond financial giving.

Choosing between doing well and doing good 

As a graduate student, Legate Terrence Blackwell felt torn between doing well and doing good. After a summer life guard job led him to teach people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to swim, he landed in graduate school in education at the University of Pennsylvania, but also took elective classes at the university’s prestigious Wharton School.

About that time someone told him, “Until you make a definitive decision as to which hat you want to wear, you’ll be tormented. You can go after the dollars with the other Wharton guys or keep working with disabled people.”

Blackwell wrestled with the question, asking himself whether he could work with disabled people and make the most of the available resources in a way that had measurable impact. He concluded that if he could do that, he could really change the world.

Today, Blackwell, a member of the Legatus Baltimore Chapter, is president and CEO of Chimes, a nonprofit human service agency providing employment and training opportunities for people with disabilities. Chimes operates in Israel, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.

Before joining Chimes in 2016, Blackwell was chief operating officer of Services for the Underserved, a Manhattan-based agency that serves veterans and people with intellectual disabilities, behavioral and mental health and substance abuse issues. A licensed school principal, board-certified behavior analyst, and certified addictions specialist, he also has been a direct-care counselor for a community-based residence and led the development and operation of preschool programs for children with disabilities under New York’s state education department.

Blackwell said he would advise people who want to be more active in promoting the good of others to begin by looking at St. Teresa of Calcutta. “The problems society faces have always been so enormous and we think one person can’t make a dent in this. Her approach was, ‘I can only deal with one person in front of me.’ I think that’s a good way to live life.”

Filling the ‘empty nest’

For Jim and Jacki Delaney, philanthropy is about giving their time, talent, and treasure to ministries and organizations they believe will make a difference in society or the world.

That makes for a long list of involvements for the busy Philadelphia Legates, who this month on November 14 will receive the American Catholic Historical Society’s Barry Award for distinguished professional accomplishments and contributions to the Church and community.

Although the Delaneys learned the importance of giving from their parents and Catholic education, they said it was their participation in the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Church Ministry Institute that took their efforts to a new level.

“We were looking for something to do as we were becoming empty nesters and we read about the program in the church bulletin and signed up,” Jacki recalled. “The purpose of the Institute is to remind us that through Baptism we all are called to the mission of the Church.” Through three years of classes in Church history, ministry skills, lay mission, and spirituality, the couple learned about what it means to use their talents for the Church. Following their graduation in 2006, both became Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and lectors in their parish of St. John Vianney, Gladwyne, Pa. But that wasn’t all.

Jim’s ministry project for the program had been on starting a parish Bible study and he began one at St. John. “I had intended to do it a few years and move on,” he said, “but I stayed because the 15 people in the study were so excited about it, I couldn’t leave.”

The CEO of J.D. Capital Partners, Inc., Jim is chairman emeritus of the board of Neumann University in Aston, Pa., and last year completed a 10-year term on the board of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. He currently serves on the boards of the National Catholic Community Foundation, the Foundation for Catholic Education, Prayer Unites the World, the Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute (PHILO), and Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast High School in Drexel Hill, Pa. He also is on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops National Advisory Council and serves with Jacki on the Catholic Leadership Institute’s national advisory board.

In addition, the Delaneys have been involved with retreats for homeless people at the Malvern Retreat House, where Jacki is on the board and will become chairman in April, 2019. Jacki’s service also has included the Catholic Social Services board in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Barnes Foundation Alumni Association, of which she is president emeritus. For 11 years, she has been overseeing the Archbishop’s Benefit for Children, a year-long initiative that provides support for children’s charities in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

When the Delaneys receive the Barry Award this month, they plan to place a flyer at each guest’s place listing the organizations they are involved in with contact information on how to help. “We’re truly humbled by receiving the award in light of who the past recipients have been,” Jacki said, “but truly, it’s not about us. It’s about who we serve and we want them to be part of that award.”

Through the blessing of God

Though regarded as philanthropists by others, Joe Roxe and his wife, Maureen, would never describe themselves that way.

“We lead very simple lives and have been blessed by God with the means to support a small number of causes with which we have become deeply involved,” said Joe Roxe, a member of the Legatus Fairfield County Chapter.

Foremost among those causes is Catholic education, including Roxe’s alma mater of Chaminade High School on Long Island and Bishop Frank Caggiano’s efforts to expand Catholic education in the Diocese of Bridgeport, CT. Roxe said going to Chaminade, an all-boys school where he graduated in 1954, had a greater impact on his life than did attending Princeton University and the Harvard Business School.

The Roxes also support other causes, such as the arts, through a charitable foundation that bears their name. The foundation was established in 1998 after Joe sold the private company in which he had been a partner. He serves as the foundation’s chairman.

Additionally, the Roxes give of their time. Joe is a former trustee of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, and has served as a trustee of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and the U.S. Naval War College Foundation, as well as an overseer of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He is also a member of the Bridgeport Diocese’s Finance Council and Chairman of the Investment Committee of the Diocese.

“We find involvement with these prestigious institutions to be very rewarding, frequently mind bending, and always stimulating,” Joe said.

Joe, who is chairman of Bay Holdings, LLC, said he views the support he and his wife provide as very modest compared to “true philanthropists” who make multi-million-dollar gifts to some of the same institutions they consider it a privilege to help.

Maureen is an overseer of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and a former long-term trustee of the New York Medical College.

Joe and his wife are a Knight and a Dame of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and
of the Papal Order of Saint Sylvester.

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer

Life priorities must emphasize time itself

Prioritizing time is critical. Time cannot be recovered. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.

Steve Wood

Before I converted to Catholicism, I was an Evangelical pastor serving in Southwest Florida. Living in a community with a high percentage of retirees offered me opportunities to hear the life stories of the elderly members of my congregation.

One unforgettable afternoon, a retired executive shared his work and family life story with me. In less than three minutes, he told me about the high-level position he achieved with General Electric. For the rest of a very long story, he told me all the details about his children and grandchildren. It became obvious that nearing the final chapters of life brought with it a clear vision of life and family priorities that are often obscured during our working years.

How can we gain wisdom for priorities before nearing the end of our lives? One way is to hear the shocking news that you are facing a life-threatening illness. A prime example is how a cancer diagnosis affected Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

“Then came exile, and right at the beginning of my exile, cancer … it looked very much as though I had only a few months to live. All that I had memorized in the camps ran the risk of extinction together with the head that held it. This was a dreadful moment in my life.

“I did not die, however. With a hopelessly neglected and acutely malignant tumor, this was a divine miracle. Since then, all the life that has been given back to me has not been mine in the full sense: it is built around a purpose …”

Obviously, we want a way to discover a purpose-centered life without facing terminal cancer. Yet without some intrusion, interruption or input, the human condition tempts all of us to easily lose sight of the things that matter most.

There is a neglected method for gaining wisdom regarding time and life priorities, namely prayer. We need to regularly ask God to place his priorities in our hearts. My favorite priorities prayer is from Psalm 90 (the bolded words)

“The years of our life are threescore and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away… So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (verses 10 & 12).

As you begin praying for wisdom for priorities, don’t be surprised to discover that your family life takes on an increasing precedence over the endless stream of seemingly urgent things.

One important practical step is making a priority of having a family meal at least once a day, especially the evening meal. A survey of teens showed that high school students who seldom (or never) eat dinner together with their families are almost four times as likely to engage in premarital intercourse and half as likely to spend time studying than those teens who regularly eat dinner with their families. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reports that teens who regularly eat dinner with their family and attend church with their parents are less likely to use drugs.

The benefits stemming from restoring marriage and family priorities will have beneficial effects beyond the family circle. The Old Testament prophet Malachi described the familial, social, and religious deterioration taking place in his day. He warned that a “great and terrible” day of judgment was coming upon the land. In his mercy, God offers a family-based blueprint for restoring the crumbling culture and averting his wrath. “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:6).

As fathers (and mothers) turn their hearts to their children, children return to the faith and values of their parents. Spiritual restoration of the family, church, and culture is the result.

Portions of this article take from Christian Fatherhood by Stephen Wood and James Burnham.

STEVE WOOD is founder of St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers, and reaches large audiences through his TV/radio programs “Faith &Family” and “Luke 21 Radio.”  Former host of EWTN’s “The Carpenter Shop” and author of several books including Christian Fatherhood and Legacy: A Father’s Handbook for Raising Godly Children. Married 38 years, he and wife Karen, have eight children and nine grandchildren. www.dads.org