Lent with Br. Casey: Restoring What Has Been Distorted

Pleasure. A delicious meal,  a beautiful symphony at the theater,  a hot shower after a long day in the cold. With five senses and billions of nerves in the human body, there are an infinite number of ways to experience pleasure from the world around us. What a wonderful part of the human experience, am I right?

Mother Teresa: Our Guide through Lent

Mother Teresa tended to broken souls and bodies at every age and from every walk of life. From the Indian children at Nirmala Shishu Bhavan to the elderly in Nirmal Hriday (Home for the Dying), the Missionaries of Charity still uplift and comfort the truly desperate and helpless. They live and work right in the struggle, sinking their roots deep where they have been planted out of love for God. Often there is no miracle cure, not even a deathbed conversion for all the love and prayer they pour into their work. Yet they remain faithful to the work they believe God calls them to do.

Why We Love Our Ashes

Anyone who has worked in a Catholic parish knows what to expect on and around Ash Wednesday: telephone calls at all hours, strangers randomly showing up for ashes, folks leaving after receiving their ashes, but before receiving the Eucharist.

Among the “regulars,” there’s a lot of eye-rolling and headshaking, and an overwhelming desire to figure out why, on this day, getting ashes is the single-minded compulsion of every Catholic on the planet.

The Roots of Fat Tuesday, the Fruits of Lent

Fat Tuesday, for many Catholics, is an exercise in excess. It's a day where many eat probably more than they should before a season of sacrifice begins. But what are the Catholic roots behind it?

Mardi Gras, literally "Fat Tuesday," has grown in popularity in recent years as a raucous, sometimes hedonistic event. But its roots lie in the Christian calendar, as the "last hurrah" before the season of sacrifice begins on Ash Wednesday.

That's why the enormous party in New Orleans, for example, ends abruptly at midnight on Tuesday, with battalions of streetsweepers pushing the crowds out of the French Quarter towards home.

Lent: Entering into Silence

"Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, Return to the Lord, your God" Joel 2:12, 13.

Lent is not an intellectual exercise, but an affair of the heart. Ash Wednesday comes around each year. We get ashes. We remember prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We say we’ll do better at something, or not do something else at all.

Whatever sin or addiction has plagued us since the turn of the year, the one we have not yet managed to get rid of despite our New Year’s resolution to somehow dislodge it at the roots, Lent presents us with another chance. But how?

Finding Courage in Suffering: Blood, Sweat and Tears

I didn’t read the Bible growing up. The truth is, aside from Sunday Mass, holy days, weddings and the occasional greeting card or crossword puzzle, I was never really exposed to Holy Scripture. As I became friends with other Christians of all denominations, I was often amazed at their command of God’s Word. I also felt somewhat cheated by my own church for leaving me so ignorant of the Word of God.

Understanding the Two Sides of Love

The Italians have a beautiful expression for love: ti voglio bene. Though commonly translated as “I love you,” ti voglio bene more literally means “I wish you good” or “I want what is good for you.” This phrase reminds us that love is not primarily about what good feelings may be stirring within. Even less is it about what I can get out of a relationship for myself. The fullness of love is looking outward toward my beloved and seeking what is best for that person, not just what is good for me.

Reaching Out to Teens

Jessica was a seventeen-year-old high school junior when she attended her class retreat. The second evening of the retreat was, according to the teens who had attended the retreat before, “heavy, deep, and real” and tended to be their favorite experience of the retreat. Students were beginning to lower their guard and trust one another and the adult leadership team.

Leaning on Prayer in Difficult Times

The fog loomed so thick I could barely detect the street signs when I left for my weekly morning retreat of solitude and prayer by the Des Moines river. In spite of the blurred visibility, I kept on driving, confident the heavy mist would soon lift. It didn’t. By the time I arrived and parked my car facing the water, I could only see a white blanket of film in front of me. From past experience I knew the thick woods existed on the opposite bank and the attentive blue herons would be sitting on the branches waiting to snatch their breakfast. And so I sat there, enveloped in a world of indistinguishable reality, knowing I could do nothing to alter the landscape. I could only enter into it and wait silently for the obscure view to change.

San Juan Capistrano: Jewel of the California Missions

The charming ruins of the Great Stone Church and the beautifully preserved structures of this once-glorious “Jewel of the Missions,” convey a rich but tragic history. Junípero Serra founded it on All Saints Day 1776 as the seventh of the California missions. San Juan Capistrano flourished with a neophyte population of 1,361 at its peak. A main quadrangle encompassed a chapel, living quarters, kitchen, workshops, storerooms, soldiers’ barracks, and other ancillary buildings, while the outlying fields yielded abundant harvests of grains, corn, beans, peas, and lentils, and livestock on the open range.