I have something of grave importance to tell you. Last weekend, a man came into our Perpetual Adoration Chapel and broke into the donation box in the Votive Lamp room. Because of our security cameras, we can see him and the large sum of money he pilfered by damaging the locks on the two larger votive lamp stands. The police are now investigating the incident and hope to have an arrest soon. Thank God, no one else was in there at that time, so no one was physically harmed. However, we did notice that the culprit entered the Chapel by putting in the code. How did he get it?? There are several possible ways, but they all lead to the breakdown in keeping the code absolutely secret once we have learned it – sharing it with absolutely NO ONE! All strangers who may ask for the code (for legitimate purposes) MUST come to the Rectory and give us their I.D., which we record. This is so that we can match any recorded I.D. with the camera recordings. So, when you need to know the code, you must present yourself to the office staff of the rectory, and have your name recorded. THERE WILL BE A NEW CODE VERY SHORTLY! This will probably cause an inconvenience for you, but that’s the price we have to pay because of someone who did not follow instructions carefully. So if you are coming after hours to be in the Divine Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, you will need to get the new code – and MUST KEEP IT TO YOURSELF – NOT TO BE SHARED WITH ANYONE, INCLUDING PRIESTS, SISTERS, RELATIVES, FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES!!!! If you violate this, you may be placing the security of people in jeopardy, as well as the votive gifts of decent people, allowing criminals to desecrate God’s sacred house, because telling another person leads them to think they can tell another, and so on.
Why do so many Catholics find it difficult to observe the spirit of Lent? Is it just because over the years we have grown spiritually lazy? Why do we let ourselves succumb to the power of the Evil One? What is it that seems to have a stranglehold on otherwise good Catholics?
We need to understand that the materialism of modern life, the constant modern emphasis on buying and consuming, is based on the falsehood that we “deserve” convenience and comfort; that our opinions and desires really matter. Of course, in the most important sense, we do matter. We’re infinitely precious in the eyes of God. But the world will forget us very quickly when we’re gone, and all of us will be gone sooner than we think. There are no exceptions.
So, the healthiest way for each of us to live Lent is to reflect on our mortality and take a hard, clear look at the behavior and choices that guide our typical day. If we don’t like some of what we see — and that should include every one of us, if we’re honest — then Lent is the time to begin changing our direction.
We need to think past the obvious things to “give up” — desserts, wine, the movies — and concentrate on those things we cling to that we don’t really need but like to indulge. It’s different for every person: shopping, dining frequently in restaurants, frequenting high-end coffee shops, etc. But even better is when we select some positive service to perform for another person, or volunteer our time where it is needed by our parish or a legitimate charity. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are a great place to begin our Lenten reflections. We should adapt them to our circumstances and make a real effort to live them actively as we prepare for Easter. Of course, some daily time spent reading Scripture is always very fruitful.
We also need silence. If we can create some time every day — even just half an hour — when we eliminate all the distracting noise of the American lifestyle, our spirit will naturally begin to grow. Daily life in the United States is so filled with appetites and tensions stimulated by the mass media that turning the media off almost automatically results in deeper and clearer thinking. That interior quiet can very easily lead us to God.
But probably the single most important thing we can do during this Lent is to seek out the Sacrament of Penance on a regular basis– every other week would be ideal. Nearly everyone can do that if they try. Nothing has a more powerful and positive effect on the soul, other than the Holy Eucharist itself.
If you want to know how hard it can be to live a Christian life, just try overcoming one or two of your own worst faults. This takes humility, honesty, courage self-knowledge and persistence — and this is exactly the task of conversion that all of us are called to every Lent. All of these virtues also underpin effective public witness. If you take your faith seriously enough to conform your own life to it, you’ll have very little trouble living and witnessing your faith in the presence of others, including the wider public square. Authentic Catholic witness is something the nation needs more than ever. That witness begins now, with each of us individually.