Lenten Reflections (A 7QT Post)

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LentI’m not a very good Catholic blogger this week. It’s Lent and I haven’t even acknowledged it. Well, we’ll fix that today.

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Does it bother you every year that the Gospel on Ash Wed says “take care not to perform righteous deeds for other to see,” and we immediately follow it up by getting big honking ashes on our foreheads to show off all day?

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This brings up a pretty big topic, actually: how does one weigh the balance between evangelizing, whether by silent sacramentals or by overt speech and actions, and Jesus’ aforementioned admonition to do your good deeds in private? I mean, most evangelization by words, outside church at least, ends up pushing people away rather than drawing them in. And yet Jesus also says “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Can’t do that without a little overt religious display. The whole thing seems like a conundrum to me.

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Fasting was really hard this Ash Wednesday. I mean, I haven’t really had to do it in quite a while. Pregnancy and breastfeeding excuses a lot of fasting when your kids are as close together as mine! I’ve always tried to do something, but this year it’s time to do it for real. Only…what is considered a fast when you’ve already cut 15-20% of your caloric intake for weight loss? I decided to try to keep the count under 1200 instead of 1600. I managed it, but…I confess that I had half a graham cracker for a snack, because hunger was morphing into a blood sugar imbalance.

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H&R Block TaxCut Box Art Series 3 of 4

Leave the TaxCut software out of it, and this is pretty much me this week. (Photo by

This is one of those Lents that I just wasn’t–still am not–prepared for. In the last three days before Ash Wednesday, I came up with half a dozen really hard spiritual disciplines for Lent. Each of them seems as necessary as the next….because each of them arose from its own unique moment of deep, unpleasant self-recognition. They’re all things I need to address to become a better reflection of God in the world. But I know I can’t do them all. I’ll self-destruct and end up even farther away. I’m still trying to work out how to honor all that self-revelation at once.

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Which makes it hard for me to to start doing Lenten activities with the kids. My own journey seems overwhelming at the moment.

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This looks like a nice countdown for a Lenten activity to use with kids, don’t you think? Maybe something like this is just what I need this year…. :/

Bonus: a morning add-on. When I was leading music for Life Teen at our local Newman Center, oh, twelve-thirteen years ago, there were two brothers named Ike and Kemi who were just rock-my-world awesome people. Beyond high school they’ve gone on to become Life Teen musicians–Ike with his own band, Kemi with Matt Maher. Last night on FB we got word that Kemi’s wife had delivered their baby at 23 weeks. They had three hours with her. Donations are being accepted here to help with hospital/funeral costs.

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 207)

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17 thoughts on “Lenten Reflections (A 7QT Post)

  1. Tamara

    ‘Go and make disciples of all nations.” Can’t do that without a little overt religious display’

    Baloney. Live your values as best you can and let other marvel (if you did it well) at your life. If they want the peace you demonstrate they will ask you about it and then you can share. Buddhist or not I have to consciously not punch people who ask me ‘have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior?’ Evangelists and ‘witnesses’ are a big turnoff. Living saints, a draw.

    • Yes, absolutely, and the personal savior language is a huge turnoff for me, too. But sooner or later, even if the draw is quiet (which it almost always is), the next step, the actual learning, has to involve words. Communication. That was the case with you and Buddhism, too.

  2. I had to laugh when I read #2 because that’s always puzzled me as well. Over the years I’ve become more comfortable with working my spirituality into everyday conversations with friends, family, and co-workers; but I still draw the line at casual acquaintances unless THEY bring it up or offer an obvious opportunity for me to bring it up. I think a big part of progressing with this (for me at least) is just to be a better listener – listen for the opportunities God gives me to bring others closer to Him.

  3. Kelley

    I think, as Tamara said, evangelism gets a bad rap. Live your life so that your light shines brightly and people will hopefully take the time to wonder what the difference is. Don’t be afraid to share, but don’t throw it in their face. You know this.

    I also think the whole issue with the Gospel reading you mentioned is really a heart issue. If you are donig something with the intention of “looking holy,” then you are guilty of doing what Jesus warns against. Probably the best evangelization comes as a biproduct (how do you spell that word, anyway?) of a life well lived and an intentional following of Christ. Even for people who’s job it is to preach and teach the Gospel…youth ministers, for example. You have to earn the right to be heard. The thing that makes teens want to listen to me is not my ability to be a convincing speaker or “evangelizer.” It’s not my theological training (good thing) or my great ability to tell jokes. Hopefully they see something different in me…in the way I approach them, in the way I live my life, in how I care about their lives. After all that, then they might just consider what I have to say.

    Sad as it is, even Jesus had to earn his right to be heard–not necessarily by the words that he said but by his life, by how he was unlike any who came before. When people saw him, they tried to discredit him at every turn. Some people saw something in him that was different, and that’s what made them listen and follow.

    Well, since this isn’t my blog, I should probably stop writing. Peace out.

  4. Jan Selby

    Kate, I think Christ said to pray in secret. Didn’t check but I don’t think he said do your good deeds in secret, just don’t show off with them, I just discovered your blog. One more to read. lol

  5. #2: Ironic, isn’t it?
    #3: I evangelize in the way I treat people, the way I speak to them, etc. I could talk about Christ’s love until I’m blue in the face but if I’m being a hateful person, it means nothing.
    #7: My friends Kate and Adam are good friends with them. (They’re involved in LifeTeen in Tucson.) It’s really sad.

  6. Alice

    I’ve certainly heard sermons on the ashes-on-the-forehead problem, although I can’t remember much of what they said at this point. The prominent ash crosses are a somewhat recent and not a universal problem, though: in Montreal I’ve seen it done the *very* old fashioned way (maybe even the Medieval way, although I hesitate to say that with certainty, as it’s been some time since I read up on this) in which they just sprinkle the ashes on your head– and I believe the pictures of the Pope’s Ash Wednesday mass showed the same practice.

  7. Emily

    From what I remember about the Homily at OLL on Wednesday, Father said that it is the one time during this personal trial of Lent that we get to see that we are not undergoing the process alone. That we, as a community, are making the journey together. However, I was wrestling with a 2 year old most of that time, so I could be mistaken. 🙂

  8. barbaraschoeneberger

    Ashes on the forehead is a non-verbal witness to Christ in much the same way as abstaining from meat on Friday. It’s a reminder to everyone who sees it that there is a great reality beyond this world. If the Holy Spirit moves somebody to ask about it, fine. If not, just do our daily duties and be quiet. Maybe also we should be a lot more conscious of how we are behaving when we are witnessing silently. I don’t do these things because I’m holy. I do them because I’m a sinner and really need God. So there’s no conflict here for me.

  9. Colleen

    I am a big believer in not letting your right hand know what your left is doing when it comes to some charitable works and almsgiving.
    I agree that we need to evangelize. There are many ways to do this that are not “in your face” kinds of things. For example, wearing a crucifix. Wearing a t-shirt with some kind of Christian theme on it.. People will often say something or ask a question. Certainly writing books! And giving talks and retreats. Writing blogs!
    Praying grace in a public restaurant.
    Etc, etc.
    Mostly however, I think we evangelize by our life and how we speak and treat each other.
    People see what we treasure most.
    And Ditto to what Barb said!

    • Yes, I suppose it also makes a difference how you approach it. You know, I don’t think we should go around saying, “Oh, nooooo, I can’t possibly go out to eat with the office because it’s FRIIIIIDAY during LEEEENT, and I can’t eat meat on FRIIIIDAYs during LEEEENT!” My husband has had “birthday luncheons” at his office during Lent and he just quietly, without fuss, orders a salad or something, and then sometime down the line people go, “Oh wait, I forgot it was Lent, you should have reminded us, and we wouldn’t have gone to the barbecue restaurant!” But it’s a better witness not to make a big deal of it, just do it and not make a big deal of it.

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