Monday, February 12, 2024

From Father Frank

It’s 10:00 pm in Rome on February 9th as I write this. I was in the chapel praying and felt inspired to share these thoughts. As Lent approaches, I am missing being in the community of St. Teresa of Avila. I haven’t heard much,  which means you are being cared for so well by Fr. Ed and his wonderful spirit. Plus, the entire pastoral staff and our lay leaders are doing an unbelievably beautiful job showing  the way through selfless service. I’m grateful for you all.

As Ash Wednesday draws near, we are all thinking what we can do during Lent to move us to a conversion of the heart. Conversion is a life long process of deepening our life of prayer, surrendering our lives to Christ’s mercy. His mercy keeps deepening our relationship with Him, allowing us to “see” more clearly the light that is the lamp of the heart. A divided heart is Satan’s joy. Christ and the Spirit desire our hearts to be simple, whole, giving birth to a Joy that destroys the divisions.

We can “do” extra things during Lent, like being involved in ministry, reaching out to those on the margins, fasting, giving up things we are attached to, and the list goes on. These are all beautiful and noble ways of living our Lent. But I would like you to think about giving more to a life of prayer. Being involved in acts of charity, outreach and justice are called for by the gospel and Christ, Himself. But Jesus wants us to be His “disciples” or friends. Discipleship must be rooted in quiet, solitary prayer.

During this time a sabbatical, I’ve been struck by how much Jesus prayed in the gospels, alone, to the Father. His relationship with  the Father is the foundation of all His miracles, teachings, sermons, and ordinary experiences of life. Jesus was rooted in prayer and this relationship with the Father and from this “grounding” He acted. Prayer must come first.

One practice that might be helpful to you is to try and use the Scriptures, particularly the gospels, to anchor your time of prayer. Start with Matthew’s gospel, a pray slowly through one chapter each day of Lent. Begin each time of prayer by asking the Spirit to guide your reflections; begin to slowly read and when a word or phrase or a section strikes you, STOP, close your eyes and ruminate, mull over what made you stop; let go of your thoughts and REST in the Lord’s Presence; continue to read and pray, stopping, ruminating, resting.

If you engage in this practice, by the end of Lent, your life of prayer will have emerged from Scripture. I’m not sure why, but I felt compelled to share this with you. However you spend your Lent, I will be with you all in prayer. I have all your names right in front of me on sheets of paper that  I frequently bring to daily Mass. I’m lifting up your individual names in prayer. May you have a blessed Lent leading you to rise in your healed and undivided heart with Christ on Easter. I return Easter week, which will be a personal experience of Resurrection.