Monday, March 31, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Monday, March 31


March 31, 2014
MONDAY OF THE FOURTH WEEK OF LENT

Isaiah 65:17-21 * John 4:43-54

Our lives are constantly busy. Whether a college student with tests and projects, a parent with kids, work, and a home to run, or anything in between, there is always something to plan for, something to look forward to. Often times, we fall victim to worry and stress, and momentarily forget to rely on God for strength and wisdom.

But, today’s readings remind us what our ultimate goal really is. It is not to be the richest, the smartest, the most popular, or the most successful. No, our ultimate goal is to meet our Lord in the “new heaven” where “things of the past shall not be remembered.” We pray our sins will one day be forgiven, and we will reside with the angels and saints. Nothing earthly will matter anymore, because after all, we cannot take anything with us.

In the rush of life, it is easy to lose sight of what we are truly striving for. This Lent, let us reflect on our daily lives and how we can be better Catholic Christians, always knowing that the Lord will rescue us if we live out our earthly life trying our best to do his will and praising him.

  • What in my life causes me the most worry/stress/anxiety?
  • What can I do to overcome these situations?
  • Where can I distribute more of my time to be a disciple and servant of Jesus? (i.e. volunteering, sharing talents, etc.)

Allison Pelzel
Class of 2014
Major: Supply Chain Management and Business Honors
Future Plans: I plan to work for KPMG Strategic Sourcing and Procurement.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Sunday, March 30


March 30, 2014
THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT

1 Samuel 16:1B, 6-7, 10-13A * Ephesians 5:8-14 * John 9:1-41

In today’s Gospel, a blind man receives his sight and sees more clearly than the Pharisees. The blind man is able to see more clearly through the darkness that clouds the minds of the Pharisees because, through his encounter with the Lord Jesus, Christ’s light entered into the darkness of his heart. For this reason, he was able see the truth clearly through the darkness. As Christians, we are called to live and judge the world by Christ’s light. This demands that we be close to Christ and allow his light to penetrate more deeply into the dark places of our hearts. We place a particular emphasis on need for conversion of heart during the Lenten season in order that his light may fill our lives more fully.

Throughout this season, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are practiced with special intensity to renew our commitment to an ongoing conversion of heart, which is an essential aspect of Christian life. By baptism we have already become Children of Light, but we are not yet perfected. This is why the whole of Christian living is a life of sanctification. As we open the dark parts of our hearts to the light of Christ, the darkness is overcome and we burn a bit more brightly. By the sacraments, we participate in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; and by our participation in them, Christ’s saving work is made present to every time and place. Through our participation, we carry Christ’s light with us, and our very lives give witness to his truth. Together we pray for our continued sanctification and that we may see and judge the world by Christ’s light.

Deacon Craig DeYoung
Class of 2006
Major: Industrial Distribution
Future Plans: God willing, I will be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Austin in 2014.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Saturday, March 29


March 29, 2014
SATURDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK OF LENT

Hosea 6:1-6 * Luke 18:9-14

Interestingly, all the readings have to do with mercy and our relationship with God. What really jumps out at me is the contrasting actions of the characters in Jesus’ parable. Jesus said the Pharisee “spoke this prayer to himself,” while the tax collector “prayed.” The Pharisee’s actions are entirely self-fulfilling, whereas the tax collector is truly humbling himself and acknowledging that he needs God. It’s a noteworthy difference.

The Pharisee was being self-centered. He isn’t asking God for his help and mercy. He’s being prideful, saying how perfect he is—he doesn’t need to ask anything of God. He even “took up his position” so everyone would notice him praying. How arrogant!

The tax collector separated himself from the others. He wouldn’t raise his eyes to heaven—maybe out of shame or humility. He prayed, addressing God (not himself, like the Pharisee) and owns up to his sins, asking for God’s mercy. The tax collector is focusing his prayer on his own humanity and need for God.

Like the tax collector, we all need God’s help. Let us prepare our hearts for Easter instead of telling God we are already saved without him.

  • Is my prayer life more like that of the Pharisee or the tax collector?
  • How have I made prayer about myself rather than about God?
  • What about my life can I change to strengthen my relationship with Christ?

Monica Wyrem
Graduate Student

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Friday, March 28


March 28, 2014
FRIDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK OF LENT

Hosea 14:2-10 * Mark 12:28-34

What other gods do we put before the Lord in our lives? This question is an oft-repeated examination of conscience with which almost every Christian is familiar, but this concept takes center-stage in the readings today. In the first reading, the Lord calls upon Israel to discard their reliance on foreign alliances, on human power, and upon idols; and to return to him, for it is because of his blessings that Israel is able to bear great fruit. In Hosea’s time, Israel had lost its way, with many of the Jewish people leaving the faith to worship false gods.

We live in a time where materialism dominates our culture and a new atheism seeks to scatter the Lord’s flock. During this season of Lent, the Lord calls us to return to him and to love him. We are called to open our hearts to the words of the Psalmist – “I am the Lord your God: hear my voice.”

But what does this look like in our lives? Jesus gives us the answer in the Gospel: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These simple words are what we struggle with and fight for every day in our faith.
  • What things in my life to I elevate to greater importance than my faith?
  • Where have I failed to love my neighbor in my everyday life?
Christopher Russo
Class of 2012
Ph.D Student in Aerospace Engineering

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Thursday, March 27


March 27, 2014
THURSDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK OF LENT

Jeremiah 7:23-28 * Luke 11:14-23

I remember being on a retreat a few years back, sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I felt nothing but frustration. My internal prayer dialogue probably went something like…

ME: Jesus, please just help me to feel SOME kind of connection. Give me a sign or some guidance. Anything.
GOD: ………
ME: Okay, well maybe if I could just have a tiny bit of clarity on where you want me to focus my current decisions?
GOD: ………

Then I looked over at a friend who was in front of Jesus snoring, sound asleep. The next day, she told me that she had learned that God speaks in whispers. Setting aside time to be present with him is often more beneficial than trying to force emotion. Her sleeping was not a sign of disrespect, but rather her being able to be at peace with no walls up in the face of God.

Being able to listen to God’s voice when he isn’t necessarily giving us the answers we want is a gift. Even setting aside five minutes a day to sit in silence without the expectation of a grand solution to some worldly problem can move mountains in our prayer lives.

  • Have I let frustration in the lack of specific answers distance my heart from God in my prayer life?
  • What can I do to recognize God as origin and reason for the good fortunes in my life?

Amanda Entringer
Major: Marketing
Class of 2014
Future Plans: I would like to be a fashion buyer in Los Angeles.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Wednesday, March 26


March 26, 2014
WEDNESDAY OF THE THIRD WEEK OF LENT

Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9 * Matthew 5:17-19

In the readings for today, God gives us a clear message that if we follow his commandments, we will be great. In the first reading, Moses tells the people of Israel to obey the statutes and the decrees of the Lord, because it will make them a great nation. The Psalm tells us to glorify and praise the Lord for his statutes and ordinances. And in the Gospel, Jesus encourages us to follow the commandments that God has given us, and he tells us that whoever does this will be called greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

In our world today, some see the Catholic Church as just an institution that gives us a bunch of rules to follow. And if we follow all these rules, we’ll get into heaven. I know in my life I find myself sometimes “just following the rules.” At times, that’s all the Church is to me. However, the Church is so much more than that. There is a reason God gave us commandments. It’s not just a list of things we have to say “no” to. God knows that if we follow his laws, we will be truly free. We will be great. Just imagine what the world would be like if the United States followed the laws of the Lord. We would truly be the greatest nation in the world.

  • What are some laws of the Lord that I have trouble with? Can I clearly see that by following the Lord’s commandments I will be happy and free?
  • Do I thank God for giving me his statutes and ordinances so that I can know how to be the best person I can be?

Cecilia Stevenson
Class of 2014
Major: Telecommunication Media Studies
Future plans: I want to work in Catholic media.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Tuesday, March 25


March 25, 2014
SOLEMNITY OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD

Isaiah 7-10, 14; 8:10 * Hebrews 10:4-10 * Luke 1:26-38

What does it take to accomplish great things? Intelligence, resilience, exceptional skills, wealth, power? We know the names of historical figures, but many of us cannot relate to them. Are great things only for a few people? In God’s perspective, though, the question is: what is the greatest thing that can be accomplished? It is the salvation and redemption of humanity. What does it take? A simple “Yes.”

God asked Mary to choose his plan and to welcome in her womb and her life the Word himself. Mary didn’t question God’s plan, nor her worth or capacity to fulfill it. She simply and courageously said: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

We too are called to accomplish a unique mission, essential to the history of salvation, and therefore great. But the key that opens our hearts is our “Yes;” he needs all of us, qualities, weaknesses, defects, and fidelity in every little thing that constitutes the fabric of our daily lives. The secret? Forgetting about ourselves and keeping our eyes fixed on the Beloved for whom everything is possible.

  • Are we ready to say “Yes” to God from the moment we get up in the morning, and as we go about our commitments and duties of the day?
  • Do we believe that great things can be accomplished by God in and through us, remembering that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed hidden in the details of our daily lives?

Sister Celestina Menin
Sister Celestina Menin is an Apostle of the Interior Life Sister at St. Mary’s Catholic Center.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Monday, March 24

March 24, 2014
MONDAY OF THE THRID WEEK OF LENT

2 Kings 5:1-15B * Luke 4:24-30

In the Gospel today, Jesus Christ speaks to us about how we must always be attentive and not distracted by what others may be able to do. We have a call to realize that every person in our life was put there by the Lord for a reason. The Lord desires us to joyfully view and respect the mission and gifts of our fellow Christians and love them for all the beautiful things he is doing in their lives.

If we are attentive to what he is trying to speak to us and not distracted by our own enmity, we will realize that we have knowledge and understanding to gain from all people, especially those who come into the places we are most comfortable and speak something new. The head of all of this is Christ, who so lovingly speaks into our lives and helps us understand the ways of holiness each day. So today, I would urge you to spend time reflecting about the people the Lord has placed in your life whom you know have wisdom to share, and thank him for this gift.
  • How can you continue to see the gift that each person is in your life and allow them to know you?
  • In understanding the abundant love that the Lord has for each of us in all our weaknesses, how can we learn to love others as he does?
Livia Gomez
Class of 2012
I am a recent graduate of Texas A&M and now works as a missionary with St. Paul’s Outreach at Our Lady of Wisdom Parish in San Marcos, Texas.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Sunday, March 23

March 23, 2014
THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT

Exodus 17:3-7 * Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 * John 4:5-42

The fundamental message of Jesus’ dialogue with the Samaritan woman at the well is one concerning the mysterious workings of God’s grace. This Gospel must be considered from two different perspectives that mutually inform each other. On the one hand, the reading can be approached as an explication of the “living water” and its source. On the other hand, the Gospel illuminates the human need for living water by revealing the sinful state of humanity. Interestingly, it seems as if the full significance and even appeal of the living water, which is grace, as St. Thomas Aquinas explains in his commentary on John’s Gospel, can only be truly embraced in light of the sinful state of humanity.

When the woman asks Jesus to give her the living water, which she misunderstands as physical, he redirects her to reflect on her sinfulness, thereby enlightening her need for this living water, which is grace. Scripture scholar William Barclay writes in his commentary on this passage, “There are two revelations in Christianity: there is the revelation of God and the revelation of ourselves…Christianity begins with a sense of sin.” This sense of sin, when viewed in the light of God’s grace, illuminates the depth of our brokenness and need for that grace. Thus, as the Paschal solemnities draw closer, let us prayerfully examine our lives in light of the mercy of God to lead us to a deeper surrender to the mystery of God’s grace.

  • Where do I see God’s “living water” at work in my life?

Henry Carter Finch
Class of 2014
Major: History
Future Plans: I am currently in my second year of philosophy studies in seminary. If the Lord wills it, I will complete seminary studies and be ordained to the priesthood.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Saturday, March 22


March 22, 2014
SATURDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK OF LENT

Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 * Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Everybody knows the story of the Prodigal Son, and it is easy for us to quickly read this passage without letting it really sink in. God is the Father in the parable, and he is our Father as well. The Father gave his son, you and I, all of the wealth that we need. Being human and sinners, we misuse what the Father gives us. Like us, the Prodigal Son turned to the things of this world to satisfy him, but he was still starving. When the son realized how far from his father he had fallen, he begged his father for forgiveness and mercy, and the father gave him what he asked for and more.

Just as the father in the parable awaited his son’s homecoming, so does our heavenly Father await our return! God is waiting for us to return to him once more so that he may forgive us and generously bless us with more than we could imagine.

Return to him, cast all of your sins and worries before him, and allow him to love you just as the father in the parable loved his son.

Taylor Hollmann
Class of 2015
Major: Biomedical sciences

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pope Francis Tells Mafia To Repent To Stay Out Of Hell


The Pope made a bold and strong statement against mafia at a prayer vigil for the victims of mafia violence and for the families of victims. The vigil took place before the 19th “Day of Memory and Commitment” in remembrance of the innocent victims of organized crime, sponsored by the “Libera” foundation.

Pope Francis met the relatives and loved-ones of the roughly 700 victims, whose names are being remembered one-by-one in the ceremony.

A few quotes:
"You have power and money now from much dirty business and many mafia crimes - it is blood money and blood power, and you can't take it with you to the afterlife,"
"Men and women of the mafia, please change your lives. Convert. Stop doing evil ... There's still time to stay out of hell. That's what's waiting for you if you stay on this path."
Watch:

Lenten Reflection for Friday, March 21


March 21, 2014
FRIDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK OF LENT

Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13A,17B-28A * Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

God, the generous landowner, prepares his vineyard with a protective hedge, equips it with the tools needed to make wine, and builds in it a solid structure. He does this so that we, his tenants, may have success in tending to the land and bearing fruit. God gives us the protection, tools, and foundation we need to produce a life glorifying him, worthy of the Kingdom of God. Just as the landowner in the parable leaves his vineyard in the trust of his tenants as he goes on a journey, God allows in us freedom to do what we will with our vineyard.

Along the way, as we have been in the field, gotten our hands dirty, successfully done the work asked of us, we develop a sense of entitlement to the fruit we produce. We seek recognition for our work, especially when it yields plenty. God reminds us that it is through his Son that we are able to share in the inheritance that God promises. When our goodness becomes a reflection of ourselves and not of Jesus, we no longer share in the Kingdom of God—we share in the empty kingdom of ourselves.

  • In what areas of your life are you getting your hands dirty with the work of furthering the Kingdom of God?
  • In what situations is it hard to remember that all goodness is from the Lord? Is it when there is much fruit or very little fruit from your labors?

Jordan Stavinoha
Class of 2014
Major: Psychology
I am currently living in Honduras, serving as a catechist in an orphanage called Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Killing The Red Lizard of Lust


Below is one of my favorite passages from any book. It is from CS Lewis' book The Great Divorce. The book is about the reality of the afterlife. In the book a bus-load of people are brought to the border of Heaven and of Hell. In the passage below, they are on the border of Heaven where they appear as ghosts, because in the presence of the reality of Heaven, they are not really who they are made to be. Even the grass of Heaven is painful to them.

In the passage below one man battles lust, in the form of a red lizard who whispers temptation into his ear. Lust is one of the seven deadly sins. Lust is most commonly thought of as using others as a means to sexual pleasure and not an end unto themselves. But, more broadly, it is the self-destructive and immoderate seeking of pleasure. It is tied to our base desires and can control us.

So, this passage might speak to you as someone craving sexual pleasure or maybe a pleasure of another kind (think of the things that you are attached to in this world).

I think a good goal might be to read this passage prayerfully and then consider what you might give up for Lent.
I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder. Like all the Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from one another as smokes differ. Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily. What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. "Shut up, I tell you!" he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then be turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains.

"Off so soon?" said a voice.

The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.

"Yes. I'm off," said the Ghost. "Thanks for all your hospitality. But it's no good, you see. I told this little chap," (here he indicated the lizard), "that he'd have to be quiet if he came -which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won't do here: I realise that. But he won't stop. I shall just have to go home."

'Would you like me to make him quiet?" said the flaming Spirit-an angel, as I now understood.

"Of course I would," said the Ghost.

"Then I will kill him," said the Angel, taking a step forward.

"Oh-ah-look out! You're burning me. Keep away," said the Ghost, retreating.

"Don't you want him killed?"

"You didn't say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that."

"It's the only way," said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the lizard. "Shall I kill it?"

"Well, that's a further question. I'm quite open to consider it, but it's a new point, isn't it? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here-well, it's so damned embarrassing."

"May I kill it?"

"Well, there's time to discuss that later."

"There is no time. May I kill it?"

"Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please-really-don't bother. Look! It's gone to sleep of its own accord. I'm sure it'll be all right now. Thanks ever so much."

"May I kill it?"

"Honestly, I don't think there's the slightest necessity for that. I'm sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it."

"The gradual process is of no use at all."

"Don't you think so? Well, I'll think over what you've said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I'd let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I'm not feeling frightfully well to-day. It would be silly to do it now. I'd need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps."

"There is no other day. All days are present now."

"Get back! You're burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You'd kill me if you did."

"It is not so."

"Why, you're hurting me now."

"I never said it wouldn't hurt you. I said it wouldn't kill you."

"Oh, I know. You think I'm a coward. But it isn't that. Really it isn't. I say! Let me run back by tonight's bus and get an opinion from my own doctor. I'll come again the first moment I can."

"This moment contains all moments."

"Why are you torturing me? You are jeering at me. How can I let you tear me to pieces? If you wanted to help me, why didn't you kill the damned thing without asking me--before I knew? It would be all over by now if you had."

"I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?"

The Angel's hands were almost closed on the Lizard, but not quite. Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it was saying.

"Be careful," it said. "He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you'll be without me for ever and ever. It's not natural. How could you live? You'd be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn't understand. He's only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn't for us. Yes, yes. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren't they better than nothing? And I'll be so good. I admit I've sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won't do it again. I'll give you nothing but really nice dreams--all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent .... "

"Have I your permission?" said the Angel to the Ghost.

"I know it will kill me."

"It won't. But supposing it did?"

"You're right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature."

"Then I may?"

"Damn and blast you! Go on can't you? Get it over. Do what you like," bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, "God help me. God help me."

Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken backed, on the turf.

"Ow! That̢۪s done for me," gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.

For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man. Then, brighter still and stronger, the legs and hands. The neck and golden head materialised while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man--an immense man, naked, not much smaller than the Angel. What distracted me was the fact that at the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed. Its hinder parts grew rounder. The tail, still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks. Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, rippled with swells of flesh and muscle, whinneying and stamping with its hoofs. At each stamp the land shook and the trees dindled.

The new-made man turned and clapped the new horse's neck. It nosed his bright body. Horse and master breathed each into the other's nostrils. The man turned from it, flung himself at the feet of the Burning One, and embraced them. When he rose I thought his face shone with tears, but it may have been only the liquid love and brightness (one cannot distinguish them in that country) which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it. In joyous haste the young man leaped upon the horse's back. Turning in his seat he waved a farewell, then nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I well knew what was happening. There was riding if you like! I came out as quickly as I could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes; but already they were only like a shooting star far off on the green plain, and soon among the foothills of the mountains. Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up, scaling what seemed impossible steeps, and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape, so high that I must strain my neck to see them, they vanished, bright themselves, into the rose-brightness of that everlasting morning.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Thursday, March 20


March 20, 2014
THURSDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK OF LENT

Jeremiah 17:5-10 * Luke 16:19-31

Our Christian faith is founded and dependent upon our hope in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Jeremiah highlights the vacancy that exists within the soul of a man who is not trusting in the Lord. His life will be empty, contrasted to the life of a man who trusts and hopes in God. His soul will be full.

In the Gospel, Jesus points out that this does not mean that the lives of the faithful will be easy or without trials. Lazarus lived as a social outcast not knowing where his next meal would come from, but his hope was planted firmly in the Lord. This is contrasted with the rich man, who lived lavishly, but failed to place his hope in the Lord. As a result, the earthly pleasures and treasures that he enjoyed counted for naught after his death.

Do we put our hope in the Lord? Do we truly place all of our hopes, desires, wants, successes, failures, dreams, pains, joys, and disappointments in the hands of our Savior? Or do we hold onto some secret sin or misconception that we have about ourselves, thereby failing to place all of our trust in the Lord? We have the opportunity to follow the example of our Blessed Mother and also say “be it done unto me according to thy word.” We can also look to our Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done.”
  • How can we place our hope in the Lord?
  • How can I actively live out this hope?
  • How can I ask God to help me place all of my hope in him?
Timothy K. Walker
Class of 2012
Major: History

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Wednesday, March 19


March 19, 2014
SOLEMNITY OF ST. JOSEPH, SPOUSE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

2 Samuel 7:4-5A, 12-14A, 16 * Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22 * Luke 2:41-51A

A good father is faithful to his children and his spouse. He does everything and would sacrifice anything for their good because he loves them. St. Joseph is the example par excellence of Christian fatherhood. He, like his ancestors David and Abraham, is faithful to God’s laws, living them out in their truest sense.

He is the protector of the nascent Church, likely at a great cost to himself when he takes Mary into his home after she is found with Child during their betrothal. He is the guardian of Christ’s silent years through whom the Child Jesus learned to be a man. Imagine the many hours he and Jesus spent together in the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth as Mary watched on. Imagine the fear and haste motivated by love with which he ran back to Jerusalem when they couldn’t find Jesus. Though he knows that Christ is not his own biologically, he nevertheless regards him as a son.

By his example, St. Joseph images for us God the Father, who is and will always be faithful to us as his adopted sons and daughters claimed by Christ at baptism. Let us pray to him to help us to be faithful to God’s plan for us.

  • Are there parts of my life where I have not allowed my faith to transform—where I believe I am self sufficient?
  • Do I see God as my father?

Will Rooney
Class of 2013
Major: Biological and Agricultural Engineering
Future Plans: I am a seminarian preparing for the priesthood for the Diocese of Austin at Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Why Is Masturbation Wrong?

Q - Why is masturbation wrong? Is it not healthy, based in science?


A - Thanks for the question. I hope I can help you out a bit. I will note that we will discuss this issue quite directly and without hemming or hawing.

The problem with any intentional act of sexual self-gratification, including masturbation, is they are contrary to the purposes of the act of sex. Sex is intended to be an expression of love between a married man and woman. They express this love through a complete self-giving to one another in the act. Love never takes or is selfish. It should always be about the other person, not me.

Masturbation is an exact opposite act - it is all about the selfish feelings one derives from the act. By the very nature of the act, it turns one in on oneself. This is the opposite of love, because it isn't about another person.

While many young people suffer from compulsive self-gratification, it is not impossible to stop. The temporary relief and feelings quickly lead to emptiness and in many cases shame. It is like being thirsty and trying to quench your thirst by drinking water from the ocean.

Bad habits are not easy to stop, but they are worth it.

As for the gravity of the sin, here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
2352: By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. "Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action." "The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose." For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of "the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved."

To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.
Now, as an objective standard (not applied to any individual case) it is gravely sinful. But, as the Catechism points out, the gravity of the sin can be venial with extenuating circumstances - immaturity, habit, anxiety, etc.

But, don't automatically tell yourself that you are not doing anything "too bad" if you struggle with masturbation. Your confessor should be able to help you sort through it all. But, don't neglect to go to confession if you are committing this sin.

Sex ought to be so much more than mere pleasure. It is intended to be an amazing act of love between to committed people. It can be life-giving and powerful. It should be intimate and a means to receive grace. Finally, it can be a powerful opportunity to glorify God. But, only if done in the proper context. Don't let sex become something less than this wonderful vision.

A few practical tips for those that struggle with this sin:
  • Try to understand what makes you want to indulge sexually. Is it boredom, self-hate, stress, etc. Then try to prepare yourself to battle during theses times.
  • You must fill up the negative thoughts and lustful images with positive ones. Sacred Scripture and holy images can help.
  • Stay away from moments of temptation - the computer, being alone, watching movies with sex, etc. Have a battle plan to combat these problems.
  • You MUST work on your spiritual life. The closer you draw to Jesus in prayer and the Sacrament the more you will conquer this problem.
  • Most people need some kind of accountability to stop once they acquire this habit.
  • Learn more about the Church's teachings on sexuality. I recommend finding a good book on the topic. Some I recommend here.
  • You can read more tips on things you can do to help in this area here.
As for whether it is healthy or not. Some studies show that masturbation might help with a healthier prostate for men and have a few other small health benefits. But, these are negligible. There are some reports of problems in sex with their spouses for men who masturbate frequently - esp. premature ejaculation. So, health-wise, there is no good reason to masturbate.
"you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body" -1 Cor 6:20
I hope this helps.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Tuesday, March 18


March 18, 2014
TUESDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK OF LENT

Isaiah 1:10, 16-20 * Matthew 23: 1-12

In today’s Gospel, the scribes and the Pharisees are living life as a spectacle. Their actions are loud and visible, and they require attention from others so that they may feel more esteemed.

It can be easy to feel the need to vent or complain to others when things are going wrong. It gives us the sense of release, like a weight has been lifted off of us. And the compassion we receive can be addicting. However, when we lay our burdens on others, we don’t perform the necessary work to overcome them. The problem won’t be solved, only shuffled.

Instead, we have created our own spectacle, our own performance. But why do we do this? Compassion. Empathy. Knowing that someone is listening. Feeling loved.

This is where prayer steps in. As humans, we feel the need to be praised, especially when we fall in comparison to others. The next time you feel the need to vent, take a moment and ask:

  • Have I talked about it more than I’ve prayed about it?
  • How do I feel when I tell others my burdens?
  • How do I feel when I tell Jesus my burdens?
  • What is one area of my life that I am not willing to take to prayer?
  • Why am I afraid to pray about this?

Kendall Cherry
Class of 2014
Major: Communications
Future Plans: To move to Nashville to pursue a career in music marketing.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

7 Suggestions on the New Evangelization by Fr. Robert Barron

Below is a very good presentation on the New Evangelization by Fr. Robert Barron. I have put a summary of major points below it, but I recommend you watch the entire video (you can skip to around 4:00 to start).



7 Suggestions on the New Evangelization

1 – Lead With the Beautiful.
Less threatening. We are a beautiful religion. Truth/Goodness make people defensive. You can come to learn to love from beauty. To the goodness of the faith, then to the truth. Look at what Pope Francis is doing by leading with the beauty of a holy life, then lead them to the good and the truth.

2 – Don’t Dumb Down the Message!
Doesn’t help when we keep the faith the one thing that is dumbed down in our society. Evangelize by being clear, articulate, and smart – with the full arsenal of our tradition. A dumbed-down Catholicism will not serve.

3 – We Have to Preach With Ardor!
We need some fire! People only listen to a really excited speaker. Muster up some excitement for the Gospel!  “I don’t think the purpose of Vatican II was to modernize the Church. The purpose of Vatican II was to Christify the world. Was to send us out as light-bearers to the end of the world.” The risen Jesus is the Good News! People don’t die for myths, legends, and literary devices – they do it for a resurrected Jesus! We need to be clear about that.

4 – To Be a Good Evangelist – You Have To Tell The Great Story!
There is a temptation to present a “pure Christianity” without the Old Testament story. This means the story is an abstract version, who is more of a “Gnostic guru”. There is something haywire in presenting Jesus without the Old Testament. He is an Israel. If we forget Israel, we forget who we are. The fulfillment of the story of salvation needs to have the story told from the beginning. Jesus can’t be understood without placing him within the history of Israel and the Messiah that all of Israel has always waited for. He is the new Adam, Moses, Abraham, David, etc. The New Eden is now established in the person of Jesus. If you de-Judaize Jesus, He becomes just another spiritual teacher. Evangelization is a subversive message there is a new King in town!

5 – God does not need us – and He loves us anyway.
Irenaeus understanding of God is perfect - What a great story! "There is no greater humanism possible than orthodox Christianity." His love is perfectly selfless. He is not a rival to us or wanting to get something out of us. He wants us to be “fully alive”. The bush that is on fire, but not consumed, is an image of God coming into man. He never destroys us when He comes into us. He enhances us. Jesus is the burning bush.

6 – We are Made For God.
We are wired to want a relationship with God. Everybody has a hungry heart (to quote Bruce Springsteen). We are all looking for God. We don’t just want truths or goods – we want truth and goodness itself. To evangelize is to tap into that desire. We all sometimes run after false gods, but The Church needs to be the new Elijah who publically and vigorously challenges the priests of the false gods (wealth, pleasure, honor, power). Only in giving yourself away in love is meaning found. The Church is meant to be a light to the world, so we can’t keep it to ourselves.

7 – Use the New Media
 Become very adept at old media of books first. Immerse ourselves and others in the tradition of the Church. But, yes, yes, yes to the new media. We would be horribly derelict if we don’t use the tools we have before us. We can’t allow others to control the world of new media. The majority of those that become atheists are doing so through new media, stats show.


We need to declare the Lordship of Jesus Christ always – with new expression, method, and ardor.
---

BONUS VIDEO - What helps Protestants become Catholic.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Monday, March 17


March 17, 2014
MONDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK OF LENT

Daniel 9:4B-10 * Luke 6:36-38

How this first reading rings true with the human heart! On a daily basis, we are faced with our own sinfulness, and yet are simultaneously astounded by God’s never-failing compassion and forgiveness. We try to hide in the darkness of our own shame and sin, but the light finds a way in and we are overwhelmed by God’s bright healing rays of love and forgiveness. How can he be so merciful?

The Gospel seems to make it all so simple: “forgive and you will be forgiven.” Even when we fall for the same temptations? Even when we fall into the same traps? Yes. As long as we recognize that our own brothers and sisters in Christ come to him with their own struggles and we choose not to bind them to their sins, we are free and forgiven. We need not hide our sin and our shame; we must simply imitate our Father and show the world the same mercy he shows us every day.
  • How do our own feelings of inadequacy keep us from showing mercy to our brothers and sisters in Christ?
  • How can we step out of our own darkness and bring the light of Christ to others?
Lauren Lyssy
Class of 2014
Major: Food Science & Technology
Future Plans: I want to work in product development to create new foods that are just as enjoyable as they are healthy.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

St. Patrick Pray For Us!


St. Patrick's Day isn't just about shamrocks, green beer, pots of gold, pinching people without green on and Irish pubs.

It is about an amazing man of God who brought Jesus to an isle of pagans.
Here is St. Patrick's breastplate, a great prayer he wrote:
I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
As a fan of Irish hymns (who has had four different Irish pastors through my life), I have one of my favorite Irish hymns below:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Sunday, March 16


March 16, 2014
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT

Genesis 12:1-4A * 2 Timothy 1:8B-10 * Matthew 17:1-9

Whenever I read the Gospels, I often find myself becoming jealous of the apostles for what they get to experience. Matthew’s version of the Transfiguration includes a detail not found in any of the other Gospels that makes me especially jealous. After Jesus is transfigured and the apostles fall prostrate on the ground with fear, Matthew tells us that “Jesus came and touched them.” (Mt 17:7) Jesus touched them. He could have just said their names or waited for them to have the courage to look up, but instead he goes to them and touches them, reassuring them of his presence and concern for them.

Touch is a very intimate action; the only people we allow to touch us are those we are closest to. I have lost track of how many times I have been immobilized from fear and have longed for the touch of Christ to comfort me and assure me of his closeness to me. I think the apostles have once again experienced something that I never can.

Pope Francis disagrees. In his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, he says, “By his taking flesh and coming among us, Jesus has touched us, and through the sacraments he continues to touch us even today.” (LF 31) Jesus is always reaching out to touch us. He desires to intimately encounter us in the sacraments. Let us pray for the faith to feel his touch even today.

  • When have I felt the touch of Christ in my life?
  • How can I better prepare to encounter Jesus in the sacraments?

Kevin Pesek
Class of 2010
Kevin Pesek is a campus minister at St. Mary’s Catholic Center.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Saturday, March 15


March 15, 2014
SATURDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF LENT

Deuteronomy 26:16-19 * Matthew 5:43-48

I have heard people say with pity or contempt, “Oh, you Christians, you have so many rules to follow. Your religion is so strict,” as if our faith is terribly burdensome.

On the contrary, God’s law is perfect, refreshes our soul, and sets us free. Psalm 119 speaks of how the Israelites delighted in God’s law and his promises. Were they delighting in rules imposed upon them? Or rather, were they rejoicing in the fact that God so cared for them that he wants to teach them how to be his followers, his very own people?

In the Gospel, Jesus calls us further to “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” This is difficult, but it is so necessary because Jesus is teaching us how to love as he loves! We are learning to love with a love that is unmistakably of God—because it is a love that surpasses mere human strength. We cannot do this on our own, but only through friendship with Jesus. The closer we are to him, the more we can love with his very own Love. Praise God, who loves us so much that he wants us to be holy as he is holy!

  • Do I become discouraged when I fail to follow God’s commandments to love? Or, do I continue to seek communion and friendship with Jesus, trusting that the more united I am with him, the more my love will conform to his own?

Amber Forness
Class of 2014
Major: Math with a minor in Spanish
Future Plans: Only God knows as of right now.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Friday, March 14


March 14, 2014
FRIDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF LENT

Ezekiel 18:21-28 * Matthew 5:20-26

We can sense God’s frustration in the first reading. We hear him subtly asking us “You really think you know the best way to live?” However, more than hearing the Lord’s frustration, we hear his desire to bring us back into the reality of himself, and that reality has everything to do with what he wants for us. He is pure love after all, so he’s always thinking about what’s best for us. What he wants is for us to be holy, the-best-version-of-ourselves—that is, saints.

The only way we can become the best-version-of-ourselves is by falling in love with God. This is the dynamic of the first reading. The wicked man turns from his wickedness, out of love for God, and lives, while the virtuous man rejects his love for God, and dies.

This is what the Lenten season is about; falling in love with God and letting him turn us into the best-version-of-ourselves. I know for me, thinking about my Lenten sacrifices in this way makes the season a joyful one because God is giving us a chance to fall even more in love with him! Which is awesome!

  • How would I define my relationship with God?
  • What keeps me from loving God more? Perhaps vices, an unhealthy relationship, a hectic schedule, a lack of daily prayer?
  • Life begins at the end of our comfort zone, and Jesus is the life. How is he specifically calling me outside my comfort zone?

Monica Schulz
Class Year: 2014
Major: Animal Science
Future Plans: I’m postponing my application to veterinary school in order to be a FOCUS missionary after I graduate. 

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Thursday, March 13


March 13, 2014
THURSDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF LENT

Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25 * Matthew 7:7-12

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us not only to ask, but to seek and to knock. How is seeking and knocking any different than just asking him for what we need and want? I think it means that God wants us to go to him and find him, and not only during this Lenten season, but every day of our lives.

To truly seek Jesus, to go to the gates of heaven and knock: that takes devotion and true desire. Jesus tells us to seek him because he wants to invite us into his heart. He wants us to enter into him so that we may know the true desires of our own heart.

When we know Jesus, we know truth and goodness and love. We can rest in him, and he will give us what we need. Jesus only asks that we go to him sincerely, with the intention of knowing and loving him.

How can we do this? Sometimes my prayer is as simple as this, “Fill my heart like a jar, Lord.” It helps me to be open and so grateful for what he has to give me. It also reminds me that I am called to share my heart with others, and return to God so that he may replenish me.

Truly seek the Lord, and he will give you peace and the desires of your heart.

  • How is the Lord calling you to seek him during this Lenten season?

Alyce Anderson
Class of 2014
Major: Management Information Sciences
Future Plans: I am pursuing a Masters in Education and hope to use my business degree to one day advocate for students and education.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Wednesday, March 12


March 12, 2014
WEDNESDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF LENT

Jonah 3:1-10 * Luke 11:29-32

“Littleness” is a theme that runs throughout the readings. The Ninevites reacted by donning sackcloths, fasting from everything, and hoping against hope that God would change his mind.

They had sinned, reflected on their mistakes, and want to do something about it. Does that sound familiar?

What do you offer God? “For you are not pleased with sacrifices; should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.” (Psalm 51:18)

As Catholics, we are called to examine our consciences to become aware of our sinfulness, and frequent the sacrament of reconciliation. When it comes to forgiveness, God calls us inward, not outward. That’s the miracle of the Messiah! He doesn’t want us to slaughter our fattened calf in the new covenant. He wants his gift to be unmatched. As he saves us, he asks for only one thing in return—contrition.

  • Christ loves me more than anyone in the world. He wraps me in a bear hug and has pulled every thorn from my side. He has made me young and whole. How grateful am I to him?
  • When I go to confession, do I approach the sacrament with contrition? Am I truly sorry for my sins, even those which I seem to confess over and over again?

James Halpin
Class of 2016
Major: Supply Chain Management

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Tuesday, March 11


March 11, 2014
TUESDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF LENT

Isaiah 55:10-11 * Matthew 6:7-15

So often in life we feel as though God isn’t near, he isn’t listening, whatever he wants of us isn’t working out, and we can’t figure out why. The readings today give us such a light of hope. Rain and snow fall to the ground to nourish it and provide it with life. So too will God send his word, his promises, and his love down to nourish us, to provide us with life, to change us. His word doesn’t return back to him empty. He wants it to bring us life. He desires for us to be changed by him, his love, and his mercy.

God also knows what we need before we ask him. He desires for us to be close to him. He wants to be our best friend and to love us in the way only he can. He wants us to draw near to him so that we can be changed by him.

This Lent may we all find peace in God’s beautiful promises. He knows what we need before we ask. May we realize that even when we feel like our lives are filled with total chaos and we have no idea where we are headed, God is still working in us. God is nourishing us; he is providing us with life; and he is changing us. God sent his son to die for you, because he didn’t want to spend eternity without you. Let him love you. Let him change you. Let him bring you life.

  • How can you draw near to God this Lent? How can you let him love you?
  • How has God’s word changed your life? How is it working in your life now?

Madeline Hill
Class of 2016
Major: Psychology
Future Plans: I eventually want to end up working in campus ministry, but we will see where the Lord takes me

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Monday, March 10


March 10, 2014
MONDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF LENT

Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18 * Matthew 25:31-46

Are you a sheep or a goat? It’s an interesting question. In the first reading God lays out a list of auxiliary rules to the Ten Commandments that he had given to Moses earlier in Exodus 20. Now God “fleshes” them out for all of Israel, all humanity, in and through the words of the Word, Jesus, and sums up these rules within the context of the last five of the Ten into one great command (see Mt 22:36-40), love thy neighbor as thyself.

Who is my neighbor? Everyone; especially the least of these: the destitute, the lame, the blind, the poor, the imprisoned, and the outcasts. Jesus lays this out plainly in the Gospel: our neighbors, and through them himself, are all around us and everywhere we go. Jesus beckons us to go out of our way to serve our neighbor, to lower ourselves as he did (see Mt 20:20-28, Mk 10:35-45, Jn 13:4-20), and to treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve as children of God.

Heaven is unattainable without them, without approaching our neighbors through the innocence and openness of the eyes of a child (see Mt 18:54-6, etc.). During this Lenten season, ask yourself, what am I doing for the least of these? What am I giving of myself, beyond simple sweets or favorite pastimes, for them? Am welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, or visiting and caring for the infirmed or imprisoned?

  • Am I a sheep or a goat?

Raymond Fontenot
Class of 2010 and 2015
PhD Student, Aerospace Engineering

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Fr. Barron on Original Sin

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Free Tickets To Son of God Movie


I am guessing you have, by now, heard of the new movie, SON OF GOD. I happen to have a couple of tickets to give away, if you want to see it.
From the producers of the record-breaking miniseries "The Bible", Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, comes SON OF GOD, the first major picture on the complete life of Jesus Christ in nearly 50 years. SON OF GOD was released by 20th Century Fox in theaters nationwide on February 28, 2014, featuring powerful performances, exotic locales, dazzling visual effects and a rich orchestral score from Oscar®-winner Hans Zimmer.
To enter the drawing for tickets, just leave a comment (may not show up immediately - all our comments are moderated) with your favorite Bible verse. We will draw 1 winner on Tuesday, 3/18 (for 2 tickets). You must have a comment in by Monday, 3/17 to be eligible.

Lenten Reflection for Sunday March 9


March 9, 2014
THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT

Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7 * Romans 5:12-19 * Matthew 4:1-11

Lent is a time for fighting against sin. The collect prayer for Ash Wednesday describes Lent in military terms as a “campaign of Christian service;” and today, on the first Sunday of Lent, we see our leader in the fight doing battle himself. He goes out into battle against the devil, the enemy of the human race, and he emerges victorious. We, of course, often have that battle with temptation thrust upon us in a way that we cannot avoid, but Christ, being almighty God, could have avoided the ordeal. Why then did he go out to the desert to fight? I think that, in part, it was to give us an example of how, clinging to the word of God and spurning the suggestions of the devil, we too may fight against and overcome temptation. Like soldiers who see their captain bravely charging first into the fray, we ought to take new courage for our battle against sin.

We do not have to be content to stay where we are and never to make progress. With Christ’s gracious help, we can cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. We can put our trust in Jesus Christ and resolve anew, this Lent, to fight against temptation and advance towards God. What soldier would not be glad to join the noble battle, when so great a captain, so glorious a King, is the one who leads him?

  • Against what temptations might I struggle against more vigorously this Lent?
  • What concrete steps can I take to make progress?

Doug Jeffers
Class of 2010
Future Plans: I am a seminarian preparing for the priesthood for the Diocese of Austin.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Saturday, March 8


March 8, 2014
SATURDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY

Isaiah 58:9B-14 * Luke 5:27-32

This Gospel illustrates two key points of our faith. The first is Christ’s calling of Levi. Levi left everything behind to follow him. At the time, tax collectors were some of the wealthiest men. So when Levi left “everything,” he in fact left a very comfortable life. Similarly, we may be called from a comfortable lifestyle in order to serve God. We are never forced to follow his calling though. It is through our proper discernment and utilization of free will that we must follow his call.

The second main point from this Gospel is Jesus’ statement on calling sinners to repentance. At times, it may seem that our spiritual life has become stagnant. We may see others, whom we view as not having a strong faith life or religious background, reap benefits from “finding God.” It is at times like this that we must focus on the love of God. God is happy with us when we have a strong prayer life and are continuing to speak with him. We also know that God will never forsake us. But, it brings him even more joy when a sinner has returned to a state of grace. Knowing this, we should take great joy for every person who repents. This is a victory against Satan.

Ben Klaffke
Class of 2014
Major: Biochemistry and Genetics
Future Plans: I plan to pursue a Ph. D. in Genetics and perform cancer research.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Friday, March 7


March 7, 2014
FRIDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY

Isaiah 58:1-9A * Matthew 9:14-15

Today, the readings are urging us to reflect on the way we fast, and to be consciously aware of what we are doing. We must center our fasting on God and his glory, and prepare our hearts for his passion and resurrection. In addition, the readings urge us to go beyond fasting.

The first reading asks us to live out our faith and help those in need, and gives us insight about what God wants us to do. Whether it is lending an ear to a friend or a hand to those in need, we are called to serve the community with the talents God has given each of us. During this time of Lent, it is important that we find those gifts he has given us and use them to bring him glory.

As we start off Lent, let us reflect on what God is truly asking of us during these 40 days. Let us strive to look at each other as sons and daughters of God and to treat each other as such, reconciling with one another, and keeping Christ at the center of everything that we do.

Prepare your heart for Easter. Participate in the sacraments. Fast. Reflect. And above all, glorify God in all that you do.

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (For the Greater glory of God)

Tanya Macias
Class of 2014
Major: Agricultural Communication and Journalism
Future Plans: After graduating I could be anywhere. I’m really taking this semester to figure out where God wants me to go. It’s hard not knowing, but I trust God will reveal his plan for me in due time. All I can do is trust in him and continue to work hard on my education.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent at 3pm. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Behind The Scenes Look at Jim Gaffigan

A great comedian. Catholic. Father of 5. Husband.
Quiet witness to life.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Thursday, March 6


March 6, 2104
THURSDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 * Luke 9:22-25

Many of us view suffering as painful, and feel the need to rid ourselves of it rapidly. When we suffer, we must look to Christ and to his love. Suffering can be love. Christ suffered on the cross as an act of his pure love for us. He suffered greatly, and was rejected; nailed to the cross for our sins. Instead of looking at our suffering with pained eyes, let us look at it with love. St. Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church, had a heart for suffering. In her short life, she suffered loss, and disease. Yet, she is named the patron saint of missionaries. She took up every cross daily with love and trust. “I understand that to become a saint one had to suffer much, seek out always the most perfect thing to do, and forget self.” (Story of a Soul, p. 27)

Yet take heart, you will never suffer alone. In Christ, you have a consoler. He will take care of you. Rely on him, be vulnerable with him. He will share his heart, and in return he is asking for yours. It may not always be easy, but take the leap of faith.

In denying ourselves with love, we can see him. Let us be open to his Spirit. Let us look to him, and to our Blessed Mother, as we take up our crosses, deny ourselves, and follow him.

Paulina Pesqueira
Class of 2014
Paulina Pesqueira is a campus ministry intern at St. Mary’s Catholic Center.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent at 3pm. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Children of War

We take too much for granted, as this video aptly proves:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lenten Reflection for Ash Wednesday


March 5, 2014
Ash Wednesday

Joel 2, 12-18 * II Corinthians 5:20-6, 2 * Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Today we begin an inward journey through our heart. We daily listen to God—especially Jesus Christ—speak to us through the scriptures in the weeks ahead. We also take practical steps to respond to his call for conversion. Lent invites us to renew our faith that makes us pilgrims bound for the Kingdom or Reign of God. Our model and guide is Jesus Christ.

Lent provides us two specific opportunities to respond to him: We take steps to “…put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14) and we focus our life on him rather than just “doing Lenten things” such as “giving up” dessert. Lent calls us to return to the Gospel in order to live a life of deep union with Christ. Struggles will confront us as we leave behind sin, but new insights will help deepen the love in our hearts for Jesus. Our relationship with him will transform our way of viewing and living life. In turn, this lived-out experience of change will impact our way of thinking, deciding, and acting in our circumstances of life—especially in dealing with all God’s people. Our unique, inward journey through our heart as disciples of Jesus and pilgrims of faith guides us on our way to heaven. We are truly blessed!

Perhaps a daily portion of our private PRAYER this Lent could focus on the people we need to love and to forgive. Perhaps our FASTING this Lent could mean less time spent on cellular telephones, texting, and video games to have quality time for face-to-face conversations with others. Perhaps our ALMSGIVING this Lent might lead us to review our understanding of tithing and put it into practice to help the needy pointed out to us by Pope Francis.

Father Charlie Banks, O.M.I.
Father Charlie Banks is a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate and offers spiritual direction at St. Mary’s Catholic Center.

------------
St. Mary's Catholic Center will post a daily reflection from a student, former student, or staff member every day of Lent at 3pm. We have compiled these reflections into a handout, given to our students on Ash Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Wow...Wow

The little things in life...

6 Simple Ways to Share Your Catholic Faith on Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is a great time to share your Catholic faith with others. Below are five simple suggestions on how to do just that.

6 Simple Ways to Share Your Catholic Faith on Ash Wednesday
  1. Explain why you have ashes on your forehead. It is inevitable that if you get your ashes early enough in the day, you will run into someone who tells you that there is something ("dirt", "smudge", "stuff", etc.) on your forehead. Remember, they are being polite in telling you this. So, return the favor by explaining what the ashes are for (a Biblical sign of repentance) and share your faith by explaining Lent and Ash Wednesday to them. As long as we don't flaunt our faith for a show, it isn't against the biblical directive of doing pious acts of faith for others to see.
  2. Invite someone to Mass with you. Anyone is welcome to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday in a Catholic Church. They need not even be Christian to receive them. This isn't the case for Communion though, so it is a good time to explain our liturgy, belief in the Eucharist, basis for Sacraments, etc. to them. If you don't know a good way to explain why a non-Catholic cannot receive the Eucharist, then this explanation should help.
  3. Discuss lent with your social media network. Most of us are connected to others through social media. With these connections come the availability and opportunity to help them come closer to Christ and His Church. So, start a discussion about what lent is for, what it means, or what you are doing for lent. Keep it positive and encourage all to participate in lent.
  4. Fast and Pray for others. The heart of evangelization is found in our prayer. We cannot help others if the source of our spiritual life is not deeply rooted in Christ through prayer. Since lent is a time of "increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving", we should use this increase in our prayer and fasting for others.
  5. Witness to another person about your faith, if the opportunity arises. There can be multiple opportunities to talk about your faith with someone throughout Lent. If a chance arises, take advantage of it. The point isn't to convince, preach, or change someone's mind. The point is to share an important part of your life with another person. We talk about sports, weather, and other unimportant things freely, why not discuss something of real value, your faith?
  6. Invest yourself in a relationship with a new friend. To make any relationship work you have to invest time and effort into it. You must open yourself up to the other person and truly love them. True love would always want what is best for the other person. What could be better than helping them know Christ and the Catholic faith better? Ultimately all effective evangelization comes down to good relationships. So, spend your time investing in others!
Related Links:
**Evangelization is Hard and Scary
**Intro to Evangelization
**Do's and Don'ts of Evangelization and Apologetics
**10 Reasons To Come Back to the Catholic Church

LENT 2014



Once again, it is time for our Aggie Catholics annual Lenten mega-post.  Links, videos, and resources will be added and updated throughout the Lenten season. Please leave your feedback and anything that needs to be added in the comments. Thanks for reading about Lent 2014.

Things you will find below include:
  • LENT FAQ
  • MORE QUESTIONS ON LENT
  • LENTEN SUGGESTIONS
  • LENT LINKS
Scroll down to get to all the goodies.

LENT FAQ
When Does Lent Start in 2014?
Lent starts on Ash Wed, Mar 5 and ends with the start of the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, which is the beginning of the Triduum. Easter Sunday is April 20.

What is Lent?
Lent is a time when the Catholic Church collectively enters into preparation for the celebration of Easter. Lent originally developed as a forty-day retreat, preparing converts to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. It is now a part of our Church's liturgical calendar and a season of conversion for all. Conversion is the process of turning away from sin and turning to God. 

Are Sundays a part of Lent?
Sundays are always a day of celebration of Christ's passion and Resurrection, so we celebrate on these days. While still part of the season of Lent, they have a mixture of both celebration (because it is Sunday) and repentance (because it is Lent).

Does this mean I can "cheat" on Sundays?
Since Sundays are not part of the penitential season, you are not required to practice signs of penitence on these days. But, there is no reason you can't do them either. If you feel you are "cheating" then it isn't helping! Since the Church has some conflicting information (different documents state different things) I think you should do what you feel is best regarding the Lenten season and Sundays. In other words, follow your conscience. 

Why forty days and not some other number?
Because 40 is a special number in the Bible. It signifies preparation for something special - as in the 40 day flood of Noah.
  • *Moses stayed on the Mount Sinai forty days (Ex 24:18),
  •  Jonah gives the people of Ninevah forty days to repent (Jon 3:4) - (there are many other Old Testament stories)
  • *Jesus, before starting his ministry, spent 40 days in the desert in prayer and fasting (Matt 4:2).
So, as in the Bible, we spend 40 days in preparing ourselves to rejoice at the Resurrection of our Lord at Easter.

What is Ash Wednesday all about?
Ash Wednesday is so named because this first day of Lent is where we are marked with ashes to show the repentance of our sins and mourning. This is also a Biblical sign that we live today. We can see this in several verses.
  • "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (Dan 9:3)
  • Other verses include: 1 Sam 4:12, Jon 3:6, Esther 4:1 and Matt 11:20-21
Today, ashes are still this same sign of repentance and mourning for our sins. They also represent our mortality. "I am nothing but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27). We started as nothing and our bodies will become dust and ashes after our death. Reminding ourselves that nobody escapes physical death, we look forward to eternal life.

So, why are the ashes made into a cross on the forehead?
Because it is the ancient sign of being marked by Christ in our baptism. We are no longer our own, but Jesus Christ owns us. The book of Revelation tells us that all the elect will be marked by the sign of Christ - "On Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads." (Rev 14:1)

Where do we get the ashes?
They come from burning the palms from last years Palm Sunday Masses.

Who can receive ashes?
Anyone can receive ashes on Ash Wed. While we have communion only for Catholics who are in good standing with the Church, all may receive ashes.

Is Ash Wed a holy day of Obligation?
No. But all Catholics are strongly urged to attend, because it is the start of the Lenten season. 

Do we have to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wed?
Yes. This means that all Catholics from 14 and up are required to abstain from meat and Catholics 18-60 are required to eat only one average meal and two snacks without anything else. Children, the elderly and those who are sick are not obligated to do this.

Why fast?
Again, this is because we are called to by Jesus. By denying ourselves something good, we remember what the highest good of all is - GOD. We also practice self-discipline and self-mastery, which we need in order to achieve holiness. Jesus fasted in the desert and calls us to as well.
  • "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." (Matt 6: 16)
  • "and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer." (Luke 2:37)
  • Fasting also helps focus us in our prayer. *Yet when they were ill, I...humbled myself with fasting.” (Psalm 35:13)
Why abstain from meat?
Because of the spiritual discipline it provides. "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . 'I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.'" (Dan 10:1-3) We give up meat, which still today is a luxury in some parts of the world, as a good thing that we offer up in order to remember that Christ is better than food and needed more by all of us than anything else.

Why is fish not considered meat?
Because it was the food of the poor who could not afford meat, yet could catch fish to sustain themselves.

So, what are the other days of fast and abstinence?
Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence from meat, this is because Christ died on a Friday.

So, why do people "give up" things during Lent?
While we are not required to “give something up” we are required to do something penitential. Lent is a great time to break a bad habit and give it to the Lord. These sins and vices we should not take back after Lent. It is also a time to give something up that is good during this season. This is why people give up something they enjoy. In doing so we can draw closer to God by our temporary sacrifice. We should find an appropriate balance of giving something up and not completely cutting ourselves off of good things. We will find our need for God if we do it correctly.

What else then IS required during Lent?
The Church asks us to increase our prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is assumed that we are already doing these things and should merely increase them.

Got any suggestions?
First off, pray about what you are going to do for Lent. Ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your spiritual practice of Lent. Then find a few things that you feel called to do. Don't do too much or too little. Stretch yourself, but don't pick things you won't stick to.

MORE LENT QUESTIONS

LENTEN SUGGESTIONS
Increased Prayer:
  • Wake up 20 minutes early and start the day in prayer.
  • Daily Mass 1-2 times a week.
  • An hr. in Adoration a week.
  • Go to Confession.
  • Read Scripture daily.
  • Go to a Lenten Bible study.
  • Read a spiritual book.
  • Start to pray a daily Rosary.
  • Pray the Liturgy of the hours.
  • Pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet.
  • Stations of the Cross on Fridays.
  • Pray for your enemies.
  • Watch The Passion of the Christ and then meditate on Christ’s life.
  • Read about the life of a saint.
  • Do an extra spiritual activity at Church
  • Get involved in your parish if you aren’t already.
  • Memorize Scripture verses.
  • Check out a book on spirituality from the parish library.
Increased Almsgiving:
  • When you fast from a meal, give the money you would spend to the poor.
  • Use a coin box from and put all change into it for the poor.
  • Volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul or another charitable organization.
  • Spend more time with your parents.
  • Visit a nursing home.
  • Start tithing.
  • Make a pledge to a worthy charity.
  • Forgive an old grudge.
  • Invite someone to Church.
  • Share your faith with someone.
  • Give someone a Catholic tract or CD.
  • Exercise patience and love.
  • Speak in a pleasant tone to everyone.
  • Look for extra ways to help others.
  • Go out of your way to talk to someone who is shy or difficult.
  • Offer to watch a mother’s child(ren).
  • Drive with love.
  • Write a letter to a relative you haven’t seen in a while.
Increased fasting:
The following are good things we can fast from and have back at a later time:

The following are things we fast from and continue to give up:
  • Fast from speeding.
  • Fast from sarcasm or gossip.
  • Fast from envying what others have.
  • Fast from being lazy or procrastination.
  • Fast from not studying / working hard.
  • Fast from complaining.
  • Fast from some other bad habit.
LENT LINKS
Here is a list of links about lent. If you have any to add, then leave in the comments or shoot me an email.

Prayers, History, Lenten Suggestions:



Archbishop Chaput on Lent:


Archbishop Gomez on Ash Wed and Lent:



Apostleship of Prayer on Lent:
Ash Wed and Lent in 2 minutes:


Listen and Pray along - Allegri: Miserere:
The goofiest Lenten video ever is by Nick Alexander (done to the song "King of Pain" by The Police) - This Time of Forty Days:

Please help me find more by putting links in the comments. Thanks.