Sunday, Feb. 14, is the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, Cycle II) and St. Valentine’s Day. Wednesday, Feb. 17, is Ash Wednesday (not a holy day of obligation).
Feb. 17, Ash Wednesday, at 4:30pm Pope Benedict XVI begins the “Statio” penitential procession from the Basilica of St. Anselm to the Basilica of St. Sabina, where he will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass with the imposition of ashes at 5pm.
This Valentine’s Day, decide what to give up for Lent. Suzanne Temple created a wonderful craft that’s just right for the occasion. She describes it at her blog. To find that entry, Google the name of her blog and the post’s name, in quotes: “blessed among men” “restless hearts.”
First, she had her boys write down things that they like: ice cream, snow, etc. One way to do this: Give the child a few cutout hearts on which he can write his name and his “love.”
Then she asked them if any of these things could make them happy forever.
“Could we eat ice cream and nothing else for the rest of our lives?” she asked. “Wouldn’t we grow tired of snow if spring never came?” The boys agreed.
Then, she told them how each came from God. “In fact, every good is found in God, and that is why he alone can make us happy forever.” She quoted St. Augustine: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you,” and told them, “The heart without God is forever searching for something new to fill it up, growing tired of that thing, and searching again. But the heart that has God has all things and can finally rest.”
Then, she decorated the boys’ doors with the hearts, after she put them on white doilies to symbolize their “resting” in God.
Since Valentine’s Day is the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, you can add another step: Once the kids have listed these superficial “loves,” help them choose one that they might give up as a special sacrifice this Lent. Take those and put them on your own bedroom door as a reminder to everyone what they are forgoing in order to rest in even more in God.
Jeremiah 17:5-8; Psalm 1:1-4, 6; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20; Luke 6:17, 20-26
Recent news showed the great lengths Pope John Paul II went to in order to practice penance, including often sleeping on the floor (and making his bed appear slept in) and fasting.
It remains true that mortification is an important part of spiritual growth. We don’t need to go to extremes, but denying ourselves comforts in order to build in ourselves the capacity to fill our hearts with God is healthy and spiritually necessary.
Today’s beatitudes reading gives a good guide to what we can sacrifice for Lent.
• “Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.” We can give a significant amount to the poor as our almsgiving this Lent.
• “Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.” We can give up a meal on a Wednesday, or give up meat an extra day each week.
• “Blessed are you who are now weeping.” We can give up distractions that fill our lives unnecessarily (radio in the car, favorite television program or morning news shows) to learn to find depth and not just skim over the surface of the world.
• “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you.” We can risk a little more by prudently broaching that unmentionable topic — faith — more in conversation: Share how important Mass is to you, or how freeing confession has been.
The rest of the Gospel continues with the “woes.” “Woe to you who are rich … who are filled ... who laugh.”
Along with the first reading and Psalm, it’s a helpful reminder that when we practice sacrifice and self-giving, and when we risk humiliation, we actually end up more peaceful. By rooting us in God, self-sacrifice is a remedy for superficiality, and therefore it’s a remedy for stress.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.