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The First Week of Lent:
Join the Journey! “Bend your knees, mend your heart, and lend your hands.”
“Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” James 1: 19
In his weekly Wednesday Audience of December 15, 2021, Pope Francis spoke about the urgent need for deep silence, which is much more than the mere absence of sound. He quoted the French Philosopher Blaise Pascal who observed that “all the unhappiness of people arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.”
The cultivation of silence is indeed essential for true human happiness because it is in silence that we learn the important skill of listening. It is in silence that we learn how to listen to our own deepest truths and yearnings; to one another’s thoughts and needs; and even for God’s voice. In the same audience, Pope Francis referenced the Book of Wisdom underlining that it was “While gentle silence enveloped all things, your [God’s] all-powerful word leaped from heaven.”
The gift of silence and the virtue of listening go hand in hand, yet sadly both are lost on most of us. We have become uncomfortable with silence, and we have lost the art of listening.
During this First Week of Lent, we invite you to: mend your heart by fasting from noise and needless speech; bend you knees while engaging in Centering Prayer; and lend your hands by listening intently to others.
- Mending our Hearts: Fasting from Noise and Needless Speech
- Our world is filled with constant noise. As individuals and as a society we have become estranged from silence. Worse, it seems we have become fearful of silence as we constantly surround ourselves with sound.
- At the same time, the art of listening has been lost. And the voice that seemingly matters most is not the voice of the one who knows most deeply but rather from the one who speaks most loudly.
- So, during Lent let’s fast from all the noise that surrounds us and let us give up all needless speech.
- Bending our Knees: Engaging in Centering Prayer
- Centering Prayer which is a form of contemplative prayer is a perfect companion to our attempt to fast from noise. Centering Prayer is the prayer of silence. As we reach beyond thoughts, words, and emotions we open our mind, our heart and our soul to the presence of God.
- For more information on Centering Prayer, we invite you to visit:
- Contemplative Outreach: https://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/
- Minnesota Contemplative Outreach: https://www.minnesotacontemplativeoutreach.org/
- The Basilica Centering Prayer Group: https://www.mary.org/ministries-education/spirituality/centering-prayer#.XoIyaupKh8w
- Lending our Hands: Listening Intently to Others
- Not only have we lost a sense of the importance silence we also have lost the willingness to listen. We have made up our mind on so many things and our willingness to listen to others is limited to those who think like we do. This is the perfect way to keep polarizing and dividing our community and our church.
- We need to reclaim and relearn the art of listening. Only if we listen intently and open ourselves to what others have to say can we properly communicate and interact with one another, which is the basis of civil society.
- Let’s open ourselves this week to the art of listening, deep listening to our own deepest yearnings, intent listening to the needs of others, and intentional listening for the voice of God.
And please remember to be patient with yourself and others and don’t let yourself be overwhelmed. Lent is neither an endurance test nor a time to prove our Christian heroism. Rather, Lent is a time to slow down and ponder what is essential to our faith and thus to our life as Christians. So please pace yourselves. Give yourself and others the necessary space. And above all be patient with yourself and others.
Join the Journey! “Bend your knees, mend your hearts, and lend your hands.”
The word "Lent" comes from the Anglo-Saxon word 'lencten' which is rooted in the Germanic word for lengthening. It was used to reference the season of Spring because it is the time when the days indeed become longer.
During Lent the days indeed become longer and more light is gained every day. By the time Easter comes around we will have 13 hours and 36 minutes of daylight. That is almost 5 hours more daylight than when we celebrated Christmas.
And as we gain more daylight it is our hope that we gain more spiritual light as well through the traditional Lenten disciplines of praying, fasting and almsgiving.
In a Lenten sermon preached a few years ago by Fr. Jerry Kurian, this Syriac Orthodox priest suggested a new approach to these traditional disciplines as he asks us to take the time during Lent to “bend our knees, mend our hearts, and lend our hands.” And he warns us that our Lenten practices are for naught if they do not change who we are and how we act.
Every week of Lent we will send out a simple communication with some suggestions for a fruitful observation of Lent looking at how we might bend our knees, mend our hearts, and lend our hands. But before we begin Lent we have some suggestions to ready ourselves.
Getting Ready for the Journey
In preparation of our Lenten Journey we suggest that you consider doing the following:
- Create Time for the Journey:
Sometimes we may wonder if we are still in charge of our own lives. Our calendars are filled with appointments and deadlines. In addition, there is the unrelenting barrage of e-mails and texts, while Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and other social media are vying for our time. The blessing of electronic communications has also become a challenge as the lines between worktime, time with family and friend, time to play and time to pray have been blurred.
Lent invites us to set boundaries and re-claim control over our own time and thus over our own life. So, before Lent begins, decide on how you might best create time for your Lenten Journey.
- Prepare a Space for the Journey:
We are keen to assign certain activities to certain rooms and we associate specific rooms with specific activities: we cook in the kitchen; we eat in the dining room; we relax in the living room; we sleep in the bedroom; etc. Each room connotes a specific activity.
When it comes to the primary space we use for prayer, The Basilica undoubtedly comes to mind. Yet, as we try to create more time for prayer and meditation during Lent it is good to set aside a space in our homes that is dedicated to prayer and that is accessible at any given time.
So, before Lent begins, dedicate a room or a corner in a room to be your prayer space. You might place your favorite cross there, or an image of a beloved saint, your bible and a candle as a focus for your prayer.
- Allow for Enough Spiritual Bandwidth for the Journey:
Silence is difficult to find these days. Even when we are by ourselves, our minds are filled to the brim with so many things, most of which are of little consequence. Some people call it mind-chatter, random thoughts that prevent us from having the bandwidth for profound thoughts.
So, before Lent begins let’s commit ourselves to the work of emptying our mind of the unnecessary chatter so we can create the necessary band-with for meditation and prayer. Turning off the mind-chatter is not an easy thing to do. It will take time and dedication as well as a good deal of intentionality.
During the Journey
- Be Patient with Yourself and Others during the Journey:
Lent is not an endurance test or a time to prove our Christian stamina. Rather, Lent is a time to slow down and ponder what is essential to our faith and thus to our life as Christians. Therefore, pace yourself. Give yourself and others some space. And above all be forgiving.
After the Journey
- Carry you Lenten Experience with you after the Journey:
Lent is not a time for spiritual gymnastics which are abandoned as soon as the Easter Bells toll. Lent is a time of heightened “rehearsal” in what it means to be a Christian in our world today. So, as we engage in our Lenten practices let us be sure that they “change who we are and how we act.”
May this Lenten season of 2022 be a blessing to all of us.
7:00am, Noon*, 5:30pm*
Eucharist with the Distribution of Ashes
After a COVID-19 hiatus, we are pleased to offer two opportunities for fellowship, community, and soup on Ash Wednesday (March 2, 2022).
- Please join us after Mass, either at 1:00pm or 6:30pm in the Teresa of Calcutta Hall (lower level of the church).
- Pre-registration is appreciated for planning, and capacity is about 100 people to allow for some distancing.
- Guests are encouraged to wear a face mask other than when actively eating/drinking at their table.
- The event is free, but offerings are accepted. To register for either soup event, please click here.
Please also bring canned soup with you on Ash Wednesday to support our neighbors who utilize St. Olaf Church's Food Pantry in downtown Minneapolis. They especially appreciate hearty soups, chili, or stew, or any other shelf-stable canned items. Look for receptacles in church for your canned food donations.