Prayer & Spiritual Life

The Skull is Talking to Me; Lent is Upon Us!

by Steve Ray on February 18, 2015

THE SKULL TALKS TO ME EVERY MORNING!

SKULLIt says, “As you are now, I once was; as I am now, you soon shall be — remember your mortality!”

No better way to approach Ash Wednesday and 40 days of Lent.

Artists have painted St. Jerome with a skull on his desk. Popes were known to keep skulls in their libraries.  I now have a real human skull sitting next to me in my home office.

Durer-jeromeThe famous Capuchin Church in Rome has a labyrinth of rooms filled with bone which are not just stacked in piles, but are used to decorate. The lamps are made of human bones, designs on the walls, altars, everything is made of bones of the monks who have died there over the centuries. The sign above the entrance says the same thing the skull pictured above is saying to me.

Are Catholics morbid, obsessed with bones and relics, consumed with the thought of death. Yes and  no. We are concerned about these matters, but we are not morbid. We are realistic. We know that life is short and we need to keep things in perspective and our priorities straight.

5126259069_786db5ddb6We also know that life is full of vanities. Much of what vies for our time, energy and money is like a puff of smoke that detracts us from what is really important. Notice the skull to the right, look closely. It is entitled “All is Vanity.” If you look closely you can see a picture inside the skull. (You can click on the image for a larger picture.)

I wanted to buy my coffin in advance–one to my liking and made of carved oak–to use as a coffee table in our living room. I wanted it there to remind me that someday my body would spend a lot of time in there–under the ground. But my good wife nixed my plans. She said I could get one to stand upright as a bookshelf, but not to set on the floor looking like a funeral parlor.

My goal is to pour out my life for the Savior in this life and to remind myself every day that from dust I came and to dust I will go. The skull reminds me every moment that ”it is appointed for men once to die, and after that the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). I want to be ready.

What is the Chocolate Connection with Lent? Nice article here.

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Nine Things You Should Know about Lent, by Jimmy Akin

by Steve Ray on February 17, 2015

Jimmy is one of my good friends and favorite guys, especially when it comes to biblical, Catholic and apologetical issues — and square dancing :-) I also love the looks of his bushy red beard. You can visit him at http://jimmyakin.com.

Now, on to the matter of Lent:

1. What is Lent?

According to the Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar [.pdf]: 27. Lent [is a liturgical season that] is ordered to preparing for the celebration of Easter, since the lenten liturgy prepares for celebration of the paschal mystery both catechumens, by the various stages of Christian initiation, and the faithful, who recall their own Baptism and do penance.

 2. Where does the word “Lent” come from?

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:

The Teutonic word Lent, which we employ to denote the forty days’ fast preceding Easter, originally meant no more than the spring season. Still it has been used from the Anglo-Saxon period to translate the more significant Latin term quadragesima (French carême, Italian quaresima, Spanish, cuaresma), meaning the “forty days”, or more literally the “fortieth day”. This in turn imitated the Greek name for Lent, tessarakoste (fortieth), a word formed on the analogy of Pentecost (pentekoste), which last was in use for the Jewish festival before New Testament times.

 3. When does Lent begin and end?

The Universal Norms state:  28. The forty days of lent run from Ash Wednesday up to but excluding the Mass of the Lord’s Supper exclusive.

This mean that Lent begins at 12:01 a.m. on Ash Wednesday and runs to just before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday. As soon as the Mass of the Lord’s Supper starts, it’s a new liturgical season: Triduum.

4. Is Lent exactly forty days long as currently celebrated?

No, it’s actually a little longer than forty days. The number is approximative, for spiritual purposes. More info on the precise number of days here.

 5. Are the Sundays in Lent part of Lent?

Yes. See question 1 for the duration of Lent. It runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday. No exceptions are made for Sundays.

Furthermore:   30. The Sundays of this time of year are called the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent [emphasis added]. The Sixth Sunday, on which Holy Week begins, is called, “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.”

6. Why is the number forty significant?

Pope Benedict explains:

Lent recalls the forty days of our Lord’s fasting in the desert, which He undertook before entering into His public ministry. We read in the Gospel: “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry” (Mt 4,1-2). Like Moses, who fasted before receiving the tablets of the Law (cf. Ex 34,28) and Elijah’s fast before meeting the Lord on Mount Horeb (cf. 1 Kings19,8), Jesus, too, through prayer and fasting, prepared Himself for the mission that lay before Him, marked at the start by a serious battle with the tempter [Message for Lent 2009].

 7. What are the rules for fasting in Lent?

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast. The law of fast binds those who are from 18 to 59 years old, unless they are excused for a sufficient reason (e.g., a medical condition that requires more frequent food, etc.).

According to the Church’s official rules (as opposed to someone’s personal summary of them):  The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom [Apostolic ConstitutionPaenitemini, Norms, III:2].

The system of mitigated fasting that is required by law thus allows for “one full meal” and “some food” in the morning and evening. The Church’s official document governing the practice of fasting does not encourage scrupulous calculations about how much the two instances of “some food” add up to, though obviously each individually is less than a full meal, since only one of those is allowed.

More on the discipline of fasting here.

8. What are the rules for abstinence in Lent?

Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence (as well as Good Friday). An exception is if a solemnity falls on a Friday, but no solemnities fall on Fridays in 2013, so all Fridays are days of abstinence.

The law of abstinence binds those who are 14 years old or older.

According to the Church’s official rules:

The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat [Paenitemini, Norms III:1]. More on the discipline of abstinence here.

9. Do you have to give up something for Lent? If you do, can you have it on Sundays?

The traditional custom of giving up something for Lent is voluntary. Consequently, if you give something up, you set the parameters. If you choose to allow yourself to have it on Sundays as to promote joy on this holy day, that is up to you.

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Tears Singing Good Ole Baptist Hymns

by Steve Ray on February 10, 2015

The old Baptist hymns still stir me and bring tears to my eyes. They take me back to my childhood when the family would dress up, us kids in our little suits with cheesy ties and short-legged pants. Dad would always give us candy during the service and put his arm around us while tickling our ears. The good old days.

Dad used to tear up at the old hymns. As he lay in his bed dying a few years ago we put the Bill Gaither Trio (YouTube) albums on the iPad I bought him. He would listen to the classics over and over again. I think he could already see the Lord and was ready to go.

Sunday we sang two of those old classics at Mass. I looked over expecting to see my dad and mom sitting their in their 50′s suit and dress, smiling as their three boys fidgeted in the pew waiting to back to our ponies and swimming pool. Yeah, I had tears running down my checks.

When I got home I called my brother Tim. He said he cannot even sing those hymns at Mass without choking up and the words stop coming. Mom and Dad were the best; those old Baptist hymns are surely sung in heaven and I have fond and loving memories on my Baptist upbringing.

The hymns from last Sunday were “What Can Wash Away My Sins, Nothing but the Blood of Jesus” and “How Great Thou Art” (YouTube video).

Put the hymnal away — I can sing those by heart and from my heart. I still sing them with my mom who still love them and with dad who is surely watching from heaven — still praying for his boys.

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus. 

    Oh! precious is the flow
    That makes me white as snow;
    No other fount I know,
      Nothing but the blood of Jesus. 

For my cleansing this I see–
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
For my pardon this my plea–
Nothing but the blood of Jesus! 

Nothing can my sin erase
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
Naught of works, ’tis all of grace–
Nothing but the blood of Jesus! 

This is all my hope and peace–
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
This is all my righteousness–
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

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Desire of the Everlasting Hills

February 9, 2015

If you haven’t watched this 1 hour video yet, do so. A good friend told me about it at a men’s conference this weekend where I was speaking. Janet and I turned it on tonight and were captivated. If you want to understand the homosexual lifestyle, the sadness and emptiness it brings — this is [...]

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Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead?

January 17, 2015

It seems apparent that St. Paul DOES pray for the dead. Here is my short article that gives a pretty clear example of St. Paul praying for a dead man, a man named Onesiphorus. This will be interesting for those who deny prayer for the dead and must find supposedly find everything explicitly in the Bible before they [...]

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Is God Like a GPS System?

December 28, 2014

There are a million reasons why God is NOT like a GPS system but I am in Australia and I made a wrong turn and my GPS started reprimanding me and saying “Recalculating!” For those who don’t know, GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a nifty little device that links up with positional [...]

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“Sunday Mornings in Ancient Times” or “Why I Teared up Last Sunday”

December 22, 2014

Tears welled up in my eyes — again — at Mass last Sunday. It was not always so. As a former Baptist I used to think the Catholic Mass was a sacrilege and an abomination. How could anyone worship a piece of bread? Really! However, last Sunday I was overcome with emotion while sitting in [...]

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Family Rosary Pledge Campaign

November 25, 2014

My friend Karen from New Hampshire wrote: The Family Center has just kicked off a Family Rosary Pledge Campaign! Our aim is to get 1,000 + families to pledge to say the Rosary together weekly – we want this to spread world-wide! I’ve got my son on it at the International Theological Institute – he [...]

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A One-Hour Jaunt through the Rosary Sites

October 21, 2014

I recently did a one-hour radio show with Dina Maria Hale, host of KBVM in Portland Oregon. The title was “Mysteries of the Rosary: Then & Now.” We wanted to give everyone an idea of what the places were like at the time of Mary and Jesus, and what they are like today. We also [...]

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“The Sinner’s Prayer” – All You Need to Get to Heaven?

October 9, 2014

When I was a kid, the “Sinner’s Prayer” was a big deal. It was at the heart of everything we knew about Jesus and getting saved. It was almost used as an incantation. My mom coached me to pray the Sinner’s Prayer when I was 4 years old. We knelt together in front of the [...]

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Family Matters: Priorities in our Lives: Radio Show MP3 on Sean Herriott’s Show

May 7, 2014

Sean Herriott and I are doing a series of shows on Family Matters (which has two meanings if you didn’t notice :-) We’ve done Raising Daughters, Raising Sons, Loving Your Spouse — and this month we did Priorities in the Family. You can listen to it here http://relevantradio.streamguys.us/MA%20Archive/MA20140506c.mp3  Questions and Comments we addressed:  Jesus is always [...]

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Sherlock Holmes an Idolater – Praying to People?

March 21, 2014

Last night my wife and I were watching an episode of Sherlock Holmes on TV. He has always been one of my favorite characters and I can remember reading all the stories to our kids as they grew up. On TV I think Jeremy Brett does the best portrayal and it is always a delightful [...]

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Dealing with Cancer: Amy Carrico’s Story

December 16, 2013

This is a heart-wrenching, yet beautiful story of a wife and mom with cancer and how she’s decided to deal with it. She’s a inspiration to us all – living in the heart of her family, God and the Church. For other beautifully crafted Catholic and personal videos by Fr. Josh and Lolek Productions, click [...]

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Amazing Miracles still Happen and the Use of Sacramentals

December 9, 2013

From my friend Leonard Alt: He had been in a coma for ten days, no speech, no voluntary movements of the body. His condition was such that the only question was whether he would live. There was no question of recovering from what was diagnosed as permanent and inoperable brain damage… I was about to [...]

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My Defiant and Proud Declaration for My Few Remaining Years

November 28, 2013

Next year I will turn 60 years old. It is a time to examine what I’ve done and what I will do if God grants me a few more decades. It is sobering to hit a milestone and realize that at best I will have about twenty strong years left, maybe thirty. What will I [...]

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We Need Saints without Cassocks

November 26, 2013

By an unknown author (falsely attributed to Pope Francis) We need saints without veil or cassock. We need saints who wear jeans and sneakers. We need saints who go to the movies, listen to music and hang out with friends. We need saints who put God in first place, but who let go of their [...]

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