Tag Archives: Lent

7 Quick Takes on My Shipping, Techie, and Lenten Skills

— 1 —

I am so glad that today is Friday! The week blew by, and I had an unusually busy day at work, so I am very appreciative of the two days of no working ahead.

On a related note, I am absolutely adding “skilled at packing and shipping” to my résumé in the future.

— 2 —

I survived the Weekend Without Wi-fi, although it was a close call. If I hadn’t had 4G LTE on my iPhone, I probably would have fallen apart completely. I used it sparingly, though, because I have never gone over my data allowance and I am not about to start just when I’m crawling out of the broke hole I was in for most of last year.

I used my time helping my now-old roommate move out, cleaning the house like I do every other Saturday, cooking dinner, and watching A Series of Unfortunate Events. I also managed to finally unpack my last box from my own move in July. Hooray! The walls in my room are still mostly bare, but I have my framed photos up now, so it looks like I actually live here now.

Sunday was a much easier day to be without wi-fi. Reading a real book while eating breakfast (instead of getting sucked into BuzzFeed) was the best motivator for getting my hair and grocery shopping done before Mass. I lectored, we counted the collection unusually quickly, we ate at Jason’s Deli, and I survived the ridiculously blustery night to swing by Target on the way home.

— 3 —

By the time I got home from work on Monday, we had wi-fi again! Well, almost. My new roommate, Samantha, had come home to let in the Internet guy, and he had hooked up the modem to my laptop with an actual Ethernet cable. That was the first time since I moved to Austin that I’d been hard-wired to the Internet.

You see, I discovered when I signed up for service that we could save about $12 a month by switching to a modem-only setup, as opposed to our previous “wireless modem.” I had not known such a thing existed before I moved in here. It was handy to have just one box, but we have plenty of tech space since we’re not gamers or big media people.

So when I got home, I completed the setup on my wired-up laptop, then immediately set up the wireless router I’d purchased when I had this same provider during my first year in Austin. I had to do a factory reset (with a paperclip and everything) since I have no clue what the old password was, but it worked. I gave the router a nice, holy name and a strong password, and I even remembered to change the router login credentials.

And I did all of that in about 40 minutes while reheating and eating a bowl of leftover homemade turkey chili. My stealth techie card is still valid!

— 4 —

I celebrated Fat Tuesday excellently this year. Some friends and I met at a local restaurant for dinner. I ate so much that I actually had a mild stomachache, but it paid off in my ability to skip breakfast and wait until lunch to eat on Ash Wednesday.


I should have taken a photo of my king cake before I ate it. The remnants should attest to its deliciousness regardless.

I have been remarkably social for the last few weeks, and although it is taking a lot of energy, it feels good to be out having fun. The world through my computer screen is only so big.

— 5 —

This was one of the better Ash Wednesdays I’ve had in a while. It was so strange to not have to work extra hard. I did miss seeing the Ash Wednesday Clown Car, but I enjoyed being able to just be a regular parishioner.

I decided to go to Mass well after work. I’ve been making an attempt to go to my actual parish for events, even though there are two other closer parishes. Even with Austin traffic, I was able to get into the neighborhood early enough to make a stop at the nearest library branch for a few books and bit of Facebooking via library wi-fi on my phone.

When I got to Mass, I was on time and so relaxed. It was the best decision. It was also an act of humility, because I didn’t wear my ashes all day. I got to sit among friends, and the homily was actually pretty good. Fr. Pastor focused on forgiveness and invited everyone to come back on Sunday, especially people who don’t usually go to church.

— 6 —

Wednesday also marked nine years since I returned to the Catholic Church. I’d made the decision before then, but I hadn’t actually gone to church until that day during my freshman year of college. And look at me now!


Benefit of social media: evangelization through #ashtag.

That first Ash Wednesday, I heard a homily about forgiveness. This year, I heard the same. There are no coincidences.

— 7 —

So far, I haven’t told anyone what I’m giving up for Lent. I always read a reflection booklet my best friend Sarah’s mom gave me years ago. I’m not generally a fan of Henri Nouwen, but even after flirting with the Little Black Book, I’m happy that Christ Our Hope has been my constant companion. I also give up alcohol every year, even though I don’t drink much anyway.

My main Lenten discipline is a doozy, and I know I will be holier if I can accomplish my goal by Easter. These first few days are like Lent training wheels: if you got wobbly or fell already, just brush yourself off, get a lollipop and a sticker (unless you gave those up), and get to riding again. Lent is a marathon, not a sprint! Holiness takes time.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

The Annual Ash Wednesday Clown Car

No, I haven’t invented a fasting-friendly beverage of some sort. (And I swear I’m not hung up on the “no alcohol for Lent” thing!) This past Wednesday was, of course, Ash Wednesday. I was a little miffed to get to work extra early and find an Aggie car in my regular parking spot, but then I remembered that Ash Wednesday is really not the time to be getting easily frustrated, and we were expecting an Aggie priest for the first Mass of the day. He gave a delightful homily about God’s “scandalously strong” love for us despite our sins. It reminded me of the homily I heard the day I came back to the Church.

We had three more Masses that day, plus an ecumenical Christian service with Episcopalians, Lutherans, and ashes, but no communion. Mass attendance has been up in general this year, but I have honestly never seen that many people come to Mass in one day, and the ecumenical service attendance was also way up. And it’s not even a holy day of obligation! (I like to call it a holy day of non-obligation.) The long lines of people coming through the door (and shaking the priest’s hand on the way in, one by one) made it seem as though a penitent Catholic clown car had just unloaded at the curb.

My annual befuddlement over where all these people come from (and why they never come on any of the actual holy days of obligation—including every single Sunday) made me toss around some ideas with my coworkers. There must be something compelling beyond the annual communal call to repentance. Perhaps it’s the clear and visible sign that you went to church that day: black ashes in the shape of a cross, right in the middle of your forehead. You don’t have to be Catholic to receive ashes. As long as you agree that you are dust that will return to dust (or in the lesser-used form, that you will turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel) and are okay with being marked with a Christian symbol, step right up. The prospect of getting free stuff is a draw for anyone.

I drew this in some of my Christmas cards; I could totally draw it on a forehead.

The underlying problem—why people show up on Ash Wednesday but then not even every Sunday—could potentially be solved by giving out more obvious signs on other holy days. Ashes say, “I’m in the Catholic (Christian) club,” for better or for worse. We just need to give people more things that have the same effect.

My suggestions:

  • All Saints Day: Two words: Mini halos
  • Christmas: Body glitter on the forehead in the shape of baby Jesus (it might take a while to put on, but so does holiness)
  • Immaculate Conception: Stickers that say “I prayed” with a picture of the rosary (like the U.S. flag ones you get after you vote)
  • Ascension: Red face painted up arrows on the forehead (toward heaven, of course)
  • Assumption: Same arrow, but in Marian blue
  • Mary, Mother of God: Smack a blue M sticker on the back of the hand (Mama [of God] loves you, but sometimes you do dumb stuff, so she smacks you like your earthly mama would)

It’ll be the biggest draw into the Church since The Light Is On for You!

Stumbling Through Mass

Work has been epic lately. Among other things, I was on retreat with my students last weekend. That’s the first time I’ve attended Mass outside of a regular church since the Revised Roman Missal went into effect, since we use a big multi-purpose room on retreat. It wasn’t until Mass was about to begin that I realized we were a tad unprepared.

I’m at about 95% for remembering to use the new responses, possibly thanks to Hey Girl Catholic Ryan Gosling here:

I'm not huge on Ryan Gosling, but this is so clutch.

However, I can only do the Gloria if I sing it, and so far I only know the setting we’re using at work (the Black Mountain Liturgy). We tried to recite it for the solemn form of the procession for the Feast of the Presentation, and it was like a teeny train wreck to start Mass. I can’t quite swing the new Nicene Creed yet, either. Most people can’t do those yet, though, even if they go to daily Mass, as I do.

So when we had Sunday Mass, we all stumbled through the Gloria to start things off. The music staff had decided not to use the Black Mountain Liturgy, which was probably a good idea, since it’s piano-driven, and we only had two guitars for musical accompaniment. The problem is that, even if you know the new words, learning a new Mass setting takes time. They chose Matt Maher’s Mass of Communion (download mp3s and sing-along sheets for free!), which I love, but even I didn’t know it well enough to sing along properly. The spirit was willing, but the lips were weak.

We had a similar stumble-fest during the Creed. Our priest was on top of it, but he had the missal to read from. In hindsight, we should have put the words on the PowerPoint slides we’d been using for praise and worship all weekend long. By the next retreat, we should be better at the words, but there’s no guarantee.

Now that Lent has started, there’s no more Gloria to worry about. We’ll have to start relearning at Easter. A more pressing issue that I was pondering was that, even though we’re not using the Mass of Communion, even if we wanted to, it lacks a Lenten Gospel Acclamation. Since we won’t be using the Alleluia, we have to use substitute words. I did some Googling and found only one person talking about that Mass, so I asked him what he would do for Lent, and he created a whole YouTube video to answer me!

Oh, Lent. You inspire us in so many ways.

The “Meat on Fridays” Fight

It’s Lent (she says to the three people in the world who missed the last five weeks). That means that all Catholics ages fourteen and up have been obliged to abstain from meat every Friday. I stopped eating meat on all Fridays about two years ago. In the wealth of Catholic resources online, I discovered that, although the USCCB gave us permission to eat meat on Fridays outside of Lent, we were supposed to choose an alternate act of penance. I chose to just not eat meat, and have stuck by that decision ever since (excluding solemnities and the occasional major feast).

However, with every Lent come the traditional fights. How many days are there? Do Sundays “count”? And, is it really so bad to eat meat on Fridays of Lent?

Well, yes. Not because eating meat ought to be a crime (thanks, PETA), but because Christ gave the Church the authority to decide things like this. As with all sin, though, the situation isn’t cut-and-dry. Marcel at Aggie Catholics submitted a post to Catholic Carnival 162 about the objective and subjective natures of this issue.

If you have nothing to eat but meat on a Friday of Lent, you can eat it and not be in sin. Fr. Gurnee (former GWU chaplain) was building a Habitat house in North Carolina when a man offered his group home-barbecued spare ribs. You don’t reject a Southerner’s gift of free food. I once ate half a beef taco before I realized what I was doing. I kept eating it. My friend Joey accidentally got a chicken wrap for lunch last Friday. I advised him that wasting the food and money was worse than just eating it and taking up another penance (like the Stations of the Cross). Fr. Kyle gave the same advice just minutes later.

The penance is the point. At Real Life Rosary, James discussed fasting way back on the first Friday of Lent. Fasting is hard. Sometimes it’s really, really hard. But when we take on hardship and give forth charity and kindness despite our suffering, we give such glory to God. When we give up, we walk right into Satan’s outstretched arms. You can’t win the race unless you run so as to win.

Embracing the Dirt

Today’s Mass readings—one of the infrequent matching quartets—were about humility. The always-fabulous Bible Geek pointed that out, but I’d gleaned it from my own study as well. He says that the word for “humble” in Greek means “from the ground” or “from the dirt.” To humble yourself is to lower yourself to the ground. To be humble, you must embrace the dirt.

“I must be like the dirt.” That’s not an easy thought for anyone, but it’s important. The Holy Spirit never disappoints: I’ve been noticing a distinct lack of humility in my behavior. I’m so loud. I speak when I know it’s more prudent to stay silent. Sometimes it’s a straight volume issue. Other times, I think I’m too important. A good example was dinner at Chili’s last night. Lynelle took us girls from her FOCUS Bible studies to hang out with Tyler’s Bible study guys from the Naval Academy last night. I sat next to a very quiet guy (like Andrew), which made my loudness even more acute. Being quiet is good for me. On a superficial level, not speaking makes you seem smarter. On a spiritual level, it’s hard to listen while you’re talking.

I’ve also had opportunities to be humble. I’m the CSC Lector Coordinator, so I schedule the lectors every weekend. Due to Superbowl Sunday, I had to lector at 7 p.m. Mass. I almost always attend noon Mass; I get to enjoy our beautiful Memorial Chapel as well as the convenience of midday. But being in charge often means covering for everyone else, so I got up to attend the Spring Retreat Team meeting at 1:30, but not Mass. Matt missed me, which was touching, if more of an ego booster than an opportunity for further humility. I stayed at the CSC until nearly 5:00, waiting for RCIA to dismiss so I could put away the CDA books after our officers meeting. In less than two hours, I returned to prepare for Mass. Even that was humbling, as I performed the classic comic routine Girl Tries to Strike a Match to light the candle under our Marian icon. Fr. Cole, our visiting celebrant, has some unusual mannerisms. He used an unfamiliar Eucharistic prayer that I loved, but he also used intercessions for the memorial of St. Blaise (which is supposed to be automatically superceded by Sunday). So, though I didn’t get to read the prepared General Intercessions, I got last year’s throat blessing renewed.

Lent is about conquering ourselves. Our Lord suffered terribly for us, knowing that his sacrifice would merit our redemption. My suffering can’t redeem anyone but me and the Holy Souls in purgatory, but I’m glad for the opportunity. This season should cultivate that spirit even further.

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