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Great Lenten Resources


Aggie Catholics has a great post on tons of Lenten info, readings, videos, etc…worth a peak.

Ash Wednesday

And so, Lent begins and as usual my grandiose intentions of a well planned lenten season have failed before it even started.  This holy season is an invitation to return to the basics of our spiritual life–and perhaps I’ve stumbled upon the first lesson: don’t over-complicate the simple.  Just resolve to focus on the three simple practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Fr. Barron explains it well:

Pope Benedict’s Ash Wednesday Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the Church celebrates Ash Wednesday, the beginning of her Lenten journey towards Easter. The entire Christian community is invited to live this period of forty days as a pilgrimage of repentance, conversion and renewal. In the Bible, the number forty is rich in symbolism. It recalls Israel’s journey in the desert, a time of expectation, purification and closeness to the Lord, but also a time of temptation and testing. It also evokes Jesus’ own sojourn in the desert at the beginning of his public ministry, a time of profound closeness to the Father in prayer, but also of confrontation with the mystery of evil. The Church’s Lenten discipline is meant to help deepen our life of faith and our imitation of Christ in his paschal mystery. In these forty days may we draw nearer to the Lord by meditating on his word and example, and conquer the desert of our spiritual aridity, selfishness and materialism. For the whole Church may this Lent be a time of grace in which God leads us, in union with the crucified and risen Lord, through the experience of the desert to the joy and hope brought by Easter

Christus Mansionem Benedicat 20 + C + M + B + 12

Adoration of the Magi – Fra Angelico (ca. 1455)

May Christ Bless This House!
For most of the world , today is the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the 12th Day of Christmas, or “little Christmas”.  For dioceses of the United States we celebrate the Solemnity this Sunday.  The three magi, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, followed the star to Bethlehem to adore the new born King.  They brought gifts of gold because the Child was a King, frankincense because the Child was God, and myrrh because the Child was destined to be a sacrifice.  Since before the middle ages, Catholics would bless their houses by inscribing with blessed chalk the initials of the three kings above their doorways.

This tradition symbolizes the family’s commitment to welcome Christ into their homes throughout the year.  We don’t have to look back very far (40 years ago but some ethnic parishes continue this today) when priests would wander through the parish neighborhoods-holy water and chalk in hand-blessing homes and marking the portals.  In our home we continue this tradition and celebrate the Epiphany with food, gifts, chalk and a little holy water.  Santa gifts get top billing on Christmas day but on the Epiphany we each exchange a small present with one another.  The highlight of our celebration is the house blessing.  The children process holding candles to each of their rooms and take turns sprinkling them with holy water.  Fights usually ensue so we have to plan in advance who gets to do what (the boys share a room).  Dad inscribes the initials and each child can mark the crosses.  Mom (the reader) stands by with holy water/fire extinguisher.  We do all the doorways of the house but some customs only do the main entrance.  “More is better” is my motto.  Though we don’t bake a 3 kings cake (even Dora the Explorer has an episode on this) we have a festive meal.

It is traditions like these which build our Roman Catholic Identity.  When we know who we are we can more effectively share the gift with others.

Here is one form of an Epiphany House Blessing:

V.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
A.  Amen

V.  Peace be to this house and: to all who dwell here, in the name of the Lord.
A Blessed be God forever.

VA reading from the holy gospel according to St. John
AGlory to You, o Lord.

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be….. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3.14)

After the prayers of the blessing are recited, each room of the home is sprinkled with holy water. The year and initials of the Magi are inscribed above the doors with the blessed chalk (Casper, Melchior and Balthasar with the first two numerals of the year preceding the C and the last two numerals of the year placed after the B).

20 + C + M + B + 12

As you inscribe the initials say:  “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” which means “May Christ bless this house”.)

V.  Lord God of heaven and earth, you revealed your only begotten Son to every nation by the guidance of a star. Bless this house and all who inhabit it. May we be blessed with health, goodness of heart, gentleness and the keeping of your law. Fill us with the light of Christ, that our love for each other may go out to all. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
A.  Amen.

Blessing the Chalk
If you cannot obtain blessed chalk, it is permissible for the head of the household to bless chalk to be used.  Here is a simple formula:

V. Our help is the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.

Let us pray.

Bless, O Lord God, this creature chalk
to render it helpful to your people.
Grant that they who use it in faith
and with it inscribe upon the doors of their homes
the names of your saints, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar,
may through their merits and intercession
enjoy health of body and protection of soul.
Through Christ our Lord.

And the chalk is sprinkled with Holy Water.

What the "Nice Fornicators" Lose

From The Catholic Thing:

The Allegory of Chastity by Hans Memling (1430-1494)

Cutting Yourself With Your Own Knife

by Anthony Esolen

How does the practice we have been calling in recent columns Nice Fornication hurt those who practice it? How do they, as Chaucer put it, cut themselves with their own knives?

A good book could be written on this matter. They commit, objectively, a mortal sin. If they engage in this with full knowledge, they sever themselves from friendship with God. If they practice contraception, they separate sexual intercourse from the possibility of giving life, severing the act from its biological and theological meaning.

Whether they do or not, they behave with blithe irresponsibility toward the child they may conceive. They mimic marriage, and accustom themselves to some measure of deceit. They allow hedonistic experimentation to take root in the heart of the marital act, so that even after they are married they continue in the habits once established. For one of the curses upon those who pretend to be married when they are not is that they may feel no different after the ceremony.

Since all along they have justified themselves by a feeling of “being committed,” rather than by a public vow or a conferred sacrament, they will be helpless to understand why that vow should remain in force when the feeling disappears. You cannot treat the vow as a mere formality while you are fornicating, and then as solemn and eternally binding afterwards. It cannot be both. If it is a mere formality, the marriage itself is but a pleasant fiction. If it is solemn and eternally binding, then it demands that we behave accordingly, and not pretend with our bodies that we are married before we have made that vow.

But instead I should like to discuss one great blessing that the Nice Fornicators lose. I’ll illustrate it by a story.

When my father was engaged to my mother, he had to spend two years in the army first, and then when he returned he had to wait a little longer for my mother’s youngest sister to graduate from high school. That was because my mother was working to support the family, and would naturally quit that job once she was married. He loved her dearly, and he was a quiet young man, a tad on the lonely side, and deeply devout. Maybe he felt unsure of himself and wanted a guarantee of her love.

He asked her for the honeymoon before the marriage. I’m pretty sure he did so half wanting her to turn him down. These were two good-looking young Italians, healthy and strong. My mother was in a quandary. She spoke privately to the parish priest about it, and in a firm and kindly way he reminded her of the beauty of chastity, and of the solemnity of the act of marriage, which God had blessed in the beginning. So my mother in turn reminded my father of these things, and they preserved their innocence for the wedding. I was born eleven months later.

My father wasn’t one given to flights of poetry, but he thanked my mother ever afterwards for being strong when he was weak. I imagine them, in my mind’s eye, approaching the altar of the church where I and my brother and sisters were baptized, where we received Holy Communion, and were confirmed. They would there take one another fresh, as if made by the hand of God in the beginning. They would place God, in the order of time and the order of devotion, first in their marriage.

All the time before this moment, meeting one another and courting, going to dances, writing letters, would fade into relative insignificance. They would now know one another, as Adam and Eve, for the first time. Every chaste marriage is thus like a new creation, as if we were granted a vision of what it is like to be, as Charles Péguy describes Mary, “younger than sin.” They would be bound to one another in the holy vow, with God saying, “Be fruitful and multiply!”

And they left the church not as people old with the pseudo-knowledge of sin, but as youths, in mind and heart and soul a boy and a girl, ready to begin the world. My father and mother could say to one another something incomparably precious. It was not simply, “I will keep myself only for you,” but “I have kept myself pure in the sight of God, and now before God and man I give myself entirely to you forever.” Their lovemaking was born from the seed of the sacrament. And it flourished.

On the day my father was to die, we were gathered around him at home. He was sitting in his favorite chair in the parlor. He could no longer eat or drink.  Sometimes he fell into a light sleep, but mostly he was awake. My cousins had stopped by to make their farewells. The priest had been by to give him the sacrament.

Early in the evening his breathing grew heavy and erratic. We surrounded him, touching him, calling his name. My mother placed her head next to his. She was the only woman he had ever known, and he had known her only as coming from the hand of God. And now he was going back to God. He whispered his last words into her ear. “I love you,” he said.

Anthony Esolen is a lecturer, translator, and writer. His latest book is Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. He teaches at Providence College.