Lenten Reflections from Pope John XXIII

Lent arrives Wednesday. One of the nice things about blogging is that you can write out your own thoughts or bring others directly to articles or direct passages by others. Lent makes me want to search out writers who can inspire me to cooperate with the great grace of metanoia that the Lenten season may bring, a prelude to Easter. From two yellowed and marked up books by Pope John XXIII (Journal of a Soul and Prayers and Devotions) come these exhortations. College students and other 20-somethings may discover a tone and depth of spirituality in the Good Pope's writings:

Lent: this means seriousness, temperance, mortification, recollection, prayer. Such is my life these days. O Jesus, I join you in spirit as you fast in the wilderness for forty days and with prayer prepare for your public life. May I learn something from you at this time, so that Easter Day may mark another step forward in the path of virtue, of union and glorification of the spirit with you. (Journal of a Soul)

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Many of us are inclined to think of all the physical sufferings of this world as evils, absolute evils. We have forgotten that pain is a legacy we have inherited from Adam; we have forgotten that the only real evil is sin, which offends the Lord, and that we must look to the Cross of Jesus as the Apostles, martyrs, saints, teachers and witnesses looked to it. For in the Cross we find strength and salvation, and in the love of Christ there is no life without suffering.

Thanks be to God, not all souls turn rebellious under the burden of pain. There are some infirm people who understand the meaning of suffering and are aware of the opportunities they have been given to contribute to the salvation of the world--and so they accept their life of pain as Jesus Christ accepted his, as most holy Mary accepted hers on the Feast of her Purification, and as her chaste and faithful husband Joseph accepted his.

We entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says: At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation (II Cor. 6. 1-2).

This entreaty is particularly precious and timely during the forty days of Lent. Every one of us, looking into his conscience, must find out how far his own life is ruled by faith, in what way and to what extent he indulges in acts and words contrary to the Christian law, and in what measure he practices the virtues, particularly those of patience and self-denial. And although our fond Mother the Church has softened the former severity of the laws about fasting, no one can consider himself dispensed from making voluntary compensating sacrifices for the good of his soul. (Prayers and Devotions)

Angelo Roncalli (now Blessed John XXIII) brought varied life experience as stretcher-bearer in World War I, intense diplomatic service in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, and France, as well as archdiocesan administrative experience as Patriarch of Venice to the papacy. His writings have an immediacy in that he frequently examines his own life very carefully without excuse-making or description of extenuating circumstances/situations and hence are good material for Lenten reflection. I hope readers will note some of their own Lenten reading recommendations below.

William Van Ornum

 

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we vnornm
6 years 8 months ago
Thanks Bill for these two great meditations for Lent - pointing us to the value of recollection, prayer and sacrifice, and of searching for the meaning of suffering. John XXIII was a very pastoral and spiritual prophet, and I am happy you to be reminded of his beatification. The Spirit does animate the People of God.
Kayna Pfeiffer
6 years 8 months ago
Cheryl (#2)
 
Thanks for sharing. I especially loved comment #16. I agree that when a person makes sacrifices such as fasting in the name of the Church they should do it for the right reasons and not for attention. By doing this they are making a statement that they are dedicated to the church out of their love for God and are not attention seeking and looking for people to pity them. I have the utmost respect for people in society who do extraordinary things or who make sacrifices and do not expect a penny in return. A person should perform a good deed out of the kindness of their heart and not for getting a reaction out of the people.
Juan Lino
6 years 8 months ago
Two wonderful extracts from two great books - thanks for posting them Bill.  I will write again to share what I am reading for Lent.
Cheryl Benjamin
6 years 8 months ago
This post brings back some reflection to the lessons learned in the Catholic Primary and sceondary schools I attended. Every time i think of Lent, other than giving something up, I think of the passage that they read at every mass. This passage is permanently stuck with me but it is a good passage to reflect on...
1 Make sure you don't pray or fast or give to the poor, just so others will see you. If you just show off, you will not receive a reward from your Father in heaven.
2 When you give to the poor, don't blast it around town like the hypocrites do. They show off in synagogues and on street corners so others might admire them. They've already received their reward! 3-4 Instead, give to the poor so quietly even your best friends won't notice. Your Father who sees how quietly you give will reward you.
5 When you pray, do not show off like the hypocrites. They love to stand up and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so they will shine before others. They've already received their reward! 6 Instead, go off by yourself and pray to your Father quietly. Your Father who sees how quietly you pray will reward you.
16 When you fast, don't pretend to look sad like the hypocrites. When they fast, they look dirty on purpose so they will shine before others. They've already received their reward! 17 Instead, when you fast, wash your face and comb your hair. 18 This way, you'll shine quietly before God, not before others. Your Father who sees how quietly you fast will reward you.
we vnornm
6 years 8 months ago
Juan and CBenjamin, thank you! bvo
RUTH ANN PILNEY
6 years 8 months ago
I actually was 20-something when I read Journal of a Soul, and I did find it inspiring.  If I hadn't already made my choices for this Lent, I might return to it.

First I will read Biblical Meditations for Lent by Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P.  He treats both the Sunday and daily Lenten readings from Mass, giving both background and practical applications.

Then I will read Tools Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life by Mary Margaret Funk, O.S.B.  Her book explains a variety of prayer practices, both ancient and modern.  The one that particularly interests me now is the practice of the presence of God.  However, she also includes many others.

Juan Lino
6 years 8 months ago
Ruth Ann - Sr. Funk's book are wonderful.  I am currently reading her book on "Lectio Divina" and I highly recommend it.
6 years 8 months ago
Over the years I've used various devotional books and materials during lent, but I always come back to the Stations of the Cross which are most meaningful to me.  The visual impact of the stations helps me to meditate on the sufferings of Jesus and his Mother.  As a mother myself, like many other mothers, I can easily identify with Mary's agony at seeing her beloved child humiliated, tortured and crucified.  We do agonize along with our children when we see them hurt.  This month I plan to be at a weekend retreat at the Prince of Peace Abbey, a Benedictine abbey in Oceanside, Ca.  The Abbey is in a wooded area overlooking the Pacific and is the most peaceful place I can imagine being to pray and meditate.  There are outdoor Stations of the Cross on a cliff by the ocean.  Beautiful.  As I have gotten older it has become imperative to me to resolve any conflicts I have with family and friends.  I want so badly to be able to forgive and be forgiven for faults and mistakes and to find reconciliation with any persons I have hurt.  That will be the focus of my prayers and mediation at the Abbey and throughout Lent.
6 years 8 months ago
Thank you for sharing.  This Lent instead of giving up something, I think I will do something more for others.
6 years 8 months ago
Oh, God Bless you Janice. I am so glad for you. After learning in the news of a particuarly egregious act at a Catholic hospital, I have been grief stricken. Long story short, a a result, I came across Our Lady of Kibeho.You can learn more here:

www.michaeljournal.org/kibeho.htm -

As you probably know, Our Lady appeared to several young people prior to the genodice with her message, which is always the same her apparitions: prayer, penance and conversion. 

In the midst of my anger and grief, upon leaning of this great injustice done to someone, I also discovered Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows and the 7 Dolors Devotion. The Devotion is particuarly appropriate for Lent:

www.catholictradition.org/Mary/7sorrows.htm -

You see? Nothing is ever lost in God's economy. So, I will meditate on the "Seven Dolors" this Lent. Thank you, Mother Mary.

True story. For reason I cannot fathom, I remember, distinctly, as if it were yesterday, the exact day and year Pope John Paul XXIII died: 6/3/1964. I was a child. I had just watched a large tree fall, and, as it fell, I thought: he lost his life, so fast, like the felled tree. Even as a child, he somehow seems lovable to me...
6 years 8 months ago
Mea culpa. Typos.

Oh, God Bless you Janice. I am so glad for you. After learning in the news of a particuarly egregious act at a Catholic hospital, I have been grief stricken. Long story short, a a result, I came across Our Lady of Kibeho.You can learn more here:

www.michaeljournal.org/kibeho.htm -

As you probably know, Our Lady appeared to several young people prior to the genodice, in Rwanda, with her message, which is always the same her apparitions: prayer, penance and conversion. 

In the midst of my anger and grief, upon leaning of this great injustice done to someone, I also discovered Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows and the 7 Dolors Devotion. The Devotion is particuarly appropriate for Lent:

www.catholictradition.org/Mary/7sorrows.htm -

You see? Nothing is ever lost in God's economy. So, I will meditate on the "Seven Dolors" this Lent. Thank you, Mother Mary.

True story. For reason I cannot fathom, I remember, distinctly, as if it were yesterday, the exact day and year Pope John Paul XXIII died: 6/3/1964. I was a child. I had just watched a large tree fall, and, as it fell, I thought: he lost his life, so fast, like the felled tree. Even as a child, he somehow seemed so lovable to me...
Juan Lino
6 years 8 months ago
I am going to read the following during Lent:

1. All the Gospels again!

2. The Language of Silence: The Changing Face of Monastic Solitude

3. Anima Christi: The Soul of Christ by Mother Mary Francis
6 years 8 months ago
Blessed John XXIII died 6/3/1963, not 1964. Incorrectly entered. Mea culpa.
Christine Castellana
6 years 8 months ago
I love CBenjamin's comment (#2)!!

I am currently giving up the stereotypical "sweets"- no cookies, pies, cakes, muffins, candy, etc, etc.  I am not really even doing it to lose weight or to get attention, I just think I should respect my body more...and hey, God gave it to me, I might as well take care of it while I am here!

I enjoyed all of these comments and I hope that everyone is successful with whatever they want to accomplish :)

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