Our Lenten Journey-Week Five

For many of us we will not have the Holy Week and Easter we wanted, have come to know or would desire to have. Fellow Christians from around the world mourn with you. In this last week before Holy Week, I cannot help but think how we can be co-creators with God to make these last few days, and next week special, life-giving, and holy.

At the Easter Vigil Mass, we hear of the Creation Story and are reminded that God is the Great Creator. From Him, all life is born. He also created us to create and invites us to co-create with Him to live fully alive the Vocation He set before us. Take time this week to plan how you would like to live the journey through Holy Week and ask God to help you find the spirit of faith, hope, and joy that we have come to love about the traditions of this time. Invite Him into your hearts and minds, into your homes, families, Zoom calls. Co-create something beautiful with God!

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.
Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.
Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.
Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.
Find a moment of Joy each hour of the day, each morning when you wake up, each week when you would normally be gathered in faith.
Create with the Lord! Create the light we seek. Create room to continue to grow in faith, hope, charity, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Co-Create with God

This Week’s Journal Question:
How can I open up my life to co-create with God during this time and throughout my life? What have I created with God in the past?

Prayer:
I invite you, Lord, to come and create with me during this time and always. You are the Great Creator, help me to bring beauty and goodness into my life.

Our Lenten Journey – Week Four (The Great Lent)

These Lenten reflections have been knocked off their original theme and arc, and have shifted in times of need and change. We are living our Lenten journey in ways we could not imagine before this time. The Great Lent. How are we remaining open to the will of God? How are we opening ourselves up to the possibilities of this time?

God has permitted this time to occur. That is clear, so, as a community of people going through this BOTH collectively AND individually, what are we doing to remain open to all that can still happen in these days of distancing, fear, and dark unknowns? It can be easy to fall into the darkness, but we must resist that urge and find the light that never dies. Seek out spiritual friendship. Find a spiritual director. Connect with fellow parishioners. Reach out to me. We are a community of faith, and nothing can destroy that. We can help each other navigate this Great Lent as artists, as creators, as children of God.

During these past two weeks, I have felt that for many of us we have never experienced a time that is fit for the imagination, creativity, the artist quite like this time. Each generation, each year provides new unknowns, darkness, light, challenges, opportunities, closed doors, and invitations. With God as our Creator, the Ultimate Artist, we too were created to be artists and creators. Two weeks ago I put out a call to create and to share in your creation. What have you created during this time that brings the glory of God into the darkness? What have you discovered about your faith, your relationship with God, with others, with yourself during this time? Have you discovered a spiritual friendship in being creative?

Last week we focused on seeking Joy. This week we refocus on creating for and with the Great Creator. We are over halfway through our 2020 Lenten Journey and how are we doing? No matter the world’s curveballs we can still draw closer to Christ, still prepare our hearts for Easter, still pray, give alms, and fast. How are you doing?

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.
Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.
Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.
Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.
Find a moment of Joy each hour of the day, each morning when you wake up, each week when you would normally be gathered in faith.
Create with the Lord! Create the light we seek. Create room to continue to grow in faith, hope, charity, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

This Week’s Journal Question:
How am I opening up myself to create a new with Christ during this time? How am I taking advantage of this Great Lent? What can I do in the remaining two weeks before Easter to embrace the spirit of the season and the joy of what is on the horizon?

Prayer:
Remind us oh Lord that you are the great Creator and that you have made us in your image, to be creators for your glory, your love, your joy. Help us finish these last remaining days of Lent strong in faith, knowing you are a God of great mercy and love.

Our Lenten Journey – Week Three

We are approaching Laetare Sunday, a moment during our Lenten journey when we remember the joy of our identity as an Easter People. It is a day of celebration. This year, for many of us this is the first or second Sunday we are not gathering as a faith community. We are unable to come together and the world feels a little darker, this Sunday a little colder. Because of this, we have an even more beautiful reason to find joy in the darkness.

This pandemic truly has shifted and played with all of our lives, in full ways. It has attempted to destroy the temporal needs and the spiritual needs each one of us has. I have heard stories of children in tears because they don’t know when they will be able to receive the Eucharist next, of families worrying about how the food will arrive on their table with lost work and wages, of feeling like we have been thrust into the unknown with a God who has abandoned us. I want you to know that God is with us, that our identity as His sons and daughters has not diminished or changed. We are marching into the unknown and we this week are called to joy.

Our Joy is beautiful. It will guide us through life’s twists and turns. It will help us cross the threshold of who we are now and who we are becoming, of what the world was into what the world can be. While we are called to sit in our homes we are called to joy. While we work at our jobs to help this country continue to put food on the table, remain safe, get from place to place, and help us in health we are called to Joy. Joy can fight fear in ways only God knows. Joy can be the light that helps a weary health care worker continue. Joy can be the assistants that can lighten the burden of our times. Joy can be what brings us closer to God when our faith practices and traditions are vanishing.

All that I shared last week is still true. God is still with us. Our Lenten journey and hopes are calling us to be flexible and adaptive. We are still called to give alms, to pray, and to fast but we were never called to rigidity or told we were failures if we didn’t keep our Lenten promises just as we have stated on Ash Wednesday. How are you being adaptive on your Lenten Journey?

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.
Allow God to nourish you when you feel dry, for He desires to see you Fully Alive.
Rely only on Christ when you are empty to provide you with the graces you need to move closer to Him.
Be open to the Holy Spirit to guide you when you are lost, to help you navigate times of hardship, crisis, tensions, and loss. Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you in line with the will of God.
Find a moment of Joy each hour of the day, each morning when you wake up, each week when you would normally be gathered in faith.

This Week’s Journal Question:
Where did you find joy today? How will you seek it out tomorrow? How will you be joy to one another?

Prayer:
Lord, in this time of dark unknowns, bring rest to the weary, temporal and spiritual assistance to those in need, and joy to each heart and mind. Guide the hands of those who care for us. Guide the minds of those who are leading us. Guide us, oh Lord! For in you, we have no needs, no worries, no burdens. In you we find rest.

Our Lenten Journey – Week One

This first full week of Lent has always been special for me. The newness of the season has not yet dissipated, and the promise of spring is tangible. Our Lenten journey of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are still fresh and likely intact. It is exciting and I sit in awe of the faith transformation that is in front of me if only I reach out to touch it. Reaching out to touch. If you have worked with me over the past few days or are on my email list for our Monthly Memos, you know that I made a change around here. The St. Dymphna Dementia Ministry is now The Hem of Christ. Much like the woman reaching out to touch the hem of Christ, believing she will be healed if she simply touches His garment, so too are those living with dementia reaching out to you and me. I have long since dreamt of finding a way to reach back out to these individuals in a new way. It will take a visionary and creative approach to shift the current narrative, to reach back out and to help heal. We learn through the beauty of art. We connect through our shared stories. We find the hem of Christ in one another. The details of how this ministry will take action will unfold over this next year, starting with this Lenten Journey. Join me in faith, friendship, and service to those reaching out!

Last week I encouraged each one of you to pick one thing, to keep your Lent simply yet meaning full. Have you thought of something? Do you know what you are doing over these 40 days? How will you pray, give alms, and fast?

Our Lenten journey, especially as care partners should be about rest or at least offer elements of rest. Christ alone can do something with nothing, but, we must be filled. We need to find ways to fill ourselves physically, socially, spiritually, emotionally. The great gift of this season is that we can fill all four of these elements through our faith journey. It seems odd to talk about being full in a season that has fasting at its core. Yet, in our fasting we allow ourselves to be filled more and more with Christ who strengthens us. When we live for and with Christ, we are becoming who we were uniquely created to become. We can give and serve those we are in this moment caring for each day. How will you allow yourself to fast so that you may become full? Resting in the Lord can be a form of fasting. By fasting from the world around us, the demands of email, social media, etc, and sitting in silence, with a rosary in hand, or in adoration, in a bible study with friends, at a prayer service, we are allowing ourselves to be filled. There is a science behind this (because God is a creative and design genius), and in doing this, by resting in the Lord, our bodies and our minds, are cleared and healed, and our relationships (because we have taken time to be in relationship with God) will flourish. We find ourselves healing body, mind, spirit, and communally.

Actions:
Rest in the Lord, for He is waiting with open arms to hold you close.

This week Journal Question:
How will you allow yourself to Rest in the goodness of the Lord this week?

Prayer:
Jesus, open your arms wide to hold us close so that we may find rest in You. Help us discover the freedom to live for You alone, to be relational with You, and to take the time we need to best be of service to You and my family in Christ.

Blending our Lenten and Dementia Journey

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” – Thomas Merton

As we enter this Lenten journey may we remember that we may not know where we are going. We don’t know the trials and triumphs ahead us. We are unsure of how we will grow and transform over these 40 days of Lent. And, as Care Partners twisting both the Lenten Journey and the Dementia Journey into one, we are reminded even more deeply of the unknowns that God has set before us and that we care called to something of a great ministry. We have in our hearts a desire to grow, to find the good, the true, and the beautiful along this path, but it can feel lonely as the needs of our day to day creeps further into our plans and we may not be able to keep our Lenten promises regarding prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We are not alone on this journey, for the Father always sees us, for Jesus knows our human desires and pain, and the Holy Spirit is guiding us always.

As we receive our ashes we are reminded that from dust we came, and to dust, we shall return. Those living with dementia are often hyper-aware of this fact. We see the mortality of our loved ones and ourselves through this journey. We experience loss far more frequently than others, yet, there is beauty in that, a cause for finding ourselves grateful for the moments we are given, and the gifts we still can give. As part of Lent, we are asked to give alms, to share our time, talent, and treasure. One thing that we can give as care partners, or as individuals with the diagnosis of dementia, is ourselves. We may not have the ability to give as we once did or would like to, but through our selfless giving, this can be by helping our loved ones attend Mass or a service each week during Lent, to sit a moment or two longer, or smiling at the CNA and other care partners who look down, lost, and in need of something to lift their spirit, we are giving what we have.

As we pray, let us not think about doing more, but doing what we can with great devotion. Don’t overload your plate with 3 different daily emails, devotionals, books, and prayer challenges. Find something that is simple that can be done with great love, well. Some ideas may be:

To follow along and pray the rosary with, The Peace with Dementia Rosary by Matthew Estrade,
Read Matthew Kelly’s book Rediscover Lent or Rediscover Jesus
Sign up for Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever
Join the #LentFit Challenge through the Catholify App
Participate in a Marian Consecration through Fr. Michael Gaitley’s book, 33 Days to Morning Glory
Pray one Our Father together with your family, or loved with dementia after a meal, when you first get up, when you stop by for a visit and take in every word of the prayer together.

Do one act of prayer, and do it with great love, devotion, and intention.

As we Fast we find ourselves in a pattern continual reminders as we long for that which we gave up, are Fasting from. Those living with dementia or over 59 not required to partake in fasting from food, but maybe there is something we all can do? We are called to holiness, to grow closer to God, and what will help us get there? Only you can answer this question, but again, there is no need to be extreme, maybe it is one simple thing that reminds you of the great gift God has given us through his Son, Jesus, and that we are from dust, and to dust, we shall return.

I am praying for you as you walk your Lenten journey, please pray for me. We are a community of sojourners on this Dementia Journey, but we are also a community walking together towards our eternal home. May God bless you, always!