Preparing for Lent and Announcing a Lenten Preparation Novena – 21 February

“Come Back to Me with All Your Heart”

Lent with All My Heartcome back to me with all your heart - lent 2019

Each year, when Lent comes near, I easily return to my old instincts that Lent is supposed to be a time when I do some sacrifice to please God for six weeks.   I know, in my head and heart that this isn’t the meaning of Lent but it is deeply ingrained in me, and I suspect it is for many of us.

The first Preface (the prayer that introduces the Eucharistic Prayer) of Lent is titled: “The spiritual meaning of Lent.” It sets the tone for Lent with this prayer, worthy of our reflection:

For by your gracious gift each year
your faithful await the sacred paschal feasts
with the joy of minds made pure,
so that, more eagerly intent on prayer
and on the works of charity,
and participating in the mysteries
by which they have been reborn,
they may be led to the fullness of grace
that you bestow on your sons and daughters.
(The Roman Missal, Third Typical Edition, 2011)

We are invited to await the Three Holy Days – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday – “with the joy of minds made pure.”   Rarely does it seem that we are going through Lent with joy, or that this joy comes from “minds made pure.”   And, rarely is it so clear that the “fullness of grace” to which we are led comes from being “more eagerly intent on prayer” and “on the works of charity.”   Finally, this journey is framed at “participating in the mysteries by which they have been reborn.”

I want to begin Lent this year, using Ignatius’ naming of a grace I desire:  “Lord, lead me to the fullness of your grace.”   I want to ask that I might be more intent on prayer and works of charity.    And, I want to experience, through the readings and the liturgies each week during Lent, that I’m really reliving the mysteries of my rebirth and salvation.

I desire that this be what I “do” during Lent.   This gets me closer to a Lent experience that is about what God wants to give me, rather than what I try to give God.

When we are more “intent on prayer,” what will that look like?   If we let our prayer become more personal – more about our relationship with Jesus – we will discover all we need for our Lenten journey.   We will discover who we are.   We will discover pockets of independence, areas of resistance, patterns that are unhealthy and sinful.   And, if we stay open to graces being offered us from Jesus who always desires a deeply relationship with Him, we will be drawn – reading by reading – story after story – into admiration and affections for Jesus, His way and His invitation to us.   Lent can become a day-by-day process of being more and more aware of the gift being offered us.   The gift becomes a person and a more intimate relationship with Him.   We will be drawn to greater freedom and deeper self-sacrificing, dying-to-self love.

It is in this context that sacrifices will come.   The Preface above suggests that what flows from this kind of prayer is “works of charity.”   It seems to imply that when we desire to be closer to Jesus in prayer, we live that out, not by giving up candy or alcohol, or even by chipping away at our bad habits.   It appears that the next step in living out a closer relationship with Jesus is to offer ourselves in service of others – that is, to love as Jesus loves us.   Lent will lead us to ask who we are called to love and serve.   Often, it will be those who are closest to us.   Sometimes, it will be purifying and transformative to let our hearts be open to and compassionate for those who are deeply in need in our city, or in our world.   Almsgiving has long been a central part of Lent.   It allows us to exercise compassion.   But, there may also be times when we can find ways to do more – to let ourselves experience greater proximity with those on the margins of our world. Sometimes we may only be able to exercise that desire by intentionally reading more about their plight, and growing in compassion that way.   At other times, we may take acts of solidarity that lead to political advocacy on their behalf.   We may even decide to take the step of going to and serving in a place when we can meet and let my heart be touched by, personal encounters with people in need.

When we let ourselves fall in love with Jesus and then let our hearts desire to be more like His, Lent comes alive.  Then, Lent moves quite directly to celebrating His love for us on those major feasts and a profound desire to love as He has loved us.   What a fruitful Lent that could be!

May our Lent with all my heart, be a journey of desire, that my heart be more like His.
Fr Andy Alexander, SJ

The Lenten Preparation Novena

begins Monday 25 February

I will be away during the Novena (though I will pre-schedule it) and back on Ash Wednesday.preparing for lent 2019.jpg


Posted in IGNATIAN/JESUIT - Reflections, Jesuit Saints and more, LENT, MORNING Prayers, PRAYERS of the SAINTS, The HOLY CROSS

Our Morning Offering – 23 July

Our Morning Offering – 23 July – Monday of the Sixteenth week in Ordinary Time B

A Prayer to Seek the Consolation of the Cross
By St Alphonsus Rodriguez S.J. (1532-1617)

Jesus, love of my soul,
centre of my heart!
Why am I not more eager to endure pains
and tribulations for love of You,
when You, my God,
have suffered so many for me?
Come, then, every sort of trial in the world,
for this is my delight, to suffer for Jesus.
This is my joy, to follow my Saviour
and to find my consolation
with my Consoler on the Cross.
This is my happiness,
this my pleasure:
to live with Jesus,
to walk with Jesus,
to converse with Jesus,
to suffer with and for Him,
this is my treasure.
Amena-prayer-to-seek-st-alphonsus-rodriguez-16-feb-2018-no.2. used 23 july 2018. lenten-prayer



Sunday Reflection – 25 March 2018 – Palm Sunday

Sunday Reflection – 25 March 2018 – Palm Sunday

St Augustine (354-430) Father & Doctor of the Church

Sing to the Lord a new song;  His praise is in the assembly of the saints.   We are urged to sing a new song to the Lord, as new men who have learned a new song.   A song is a thing of joy, more profoundly, it is a thing of love.   Anyone, therefore, who has learned to love the new life has learned to sing a new song and the new song reminds us of our new life.   The new man, the new song, the new covenant, all belong to the one kingdom of God and so the new man will sing a new song and will belong to the new covenant.

There is not one who does not love something but the question is, what to love.   The psalms do not tell us not to love but to choose the object of our love.   But how can we choose unless we are first chosen?   We cannot love unless someone has loved us first. Listen to the apostle John:  We love him, because he first loved us.   The source of man’s love for God can only be found in the fact that God loved him first.   He has given us Himself as the object of our love and He has also given us its source.   What this source is you may learn more clearly from the apostle Paul who tells us:  The love of God has been poured into our hearts.   This love is not something we generate ourselves;  it comes to us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Since we have such an assurance, then, let us love God with the love He has given us.   As John tells us more fully:  God is love and whoever dwells in love dwells in God and God in him.   It is not enough to say:  Love is from God.   Which of us would dare to pronounce the words of Scripture:  God is love?   He alone could say it who knew what it was to have God dwelling within him.   God offers us a short route to the possession of Himself.   He cries out:  Love me and you will have me for you would be unable to love me if you did not possess me already.

My dear brothers and sons, fruit of the true faith and holy seed of heaven, all you who have been born again in Christ and whose life is from above, listen to me, or rather, listen to the Holy Spirit saying through me:   Sing to the Lord a new song.   Look, you tell me, I am singing.   Yes indeed, you are singing, you are singing clearly, I can hear you. But make sure that your life does not contradict your words.   Sing with your voices, your hearts, your lips and your lives:   Sing to the Lord a new song’.

Now it is your unquestioned desire to sing of Him whom you love but you ask me how to sing His praises.   You have heard the words:  Sing to the Lord a new song and you wish to know what praises to sing.   The answer is:   His praise is in the assembly of the saints – it is in the singers themselves.   If you desire to praise Him, then live what you express.   Live good lives and you yourselves will be His praise.his praise is in the assembly of saints - st augustine - 25 march 2018 palm sunday


Our Morning Offering – 25 March 2018 – Palm Sunday

Our Morning Offering – 25 March 2018 – Palm Sunday

To You, O Jesus
By St Bonaventure (1217-1274) Doctor of the Church

To You, O Jesus,
do I turn as my true and last end.
You are the river of life
which alone can satisfy my thirst.
Without You all else is barren and void.
Without all else, You alone are enough for me.
You are the Redeemer of those that are lost;
the sweet consoler of the sorrowful;
the Crown of Glory for the victors;
the recompense of the Blessed.
One day I hope to receive of Your fullness
and to sing the song of praise in my true home.
Give me only on earth some few drops of consolation
and I will patiently wait Your coming,
that I may enter into the Joy of my Lord.
Hosanna! you, o Jesus - by st bonaventure - palm sunday - 25 march 2018

Posted in FATHERS of the Church, HOLY WEEK, LENT, MORNING Prayers

Palm or Passion Sunday – 25 March 2018

Palm or Passion Sunday – 25 March 2018

Today we commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem for the completion of the Paschal Mystery.   In the old calendar before Vatican II, the Church celebrated Passion Sunday two Sundays before Easter and then Palm Sunday was the beginning of Holy Week.   The Church has combined the two to reinforce the solemnity of Holy Week.Entry into Jerusalem Van Dyck

The Palm Sunday procession is formed of Christians who, in the “fullness of faith,” make their own the gesture of the Jews and endow it with its full significance.   Following the Jews’ example we proclaim Christ as a Victor… Hosanna to the Son of David!   Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.   But by our faith we know, as they did not, all that His triumph stands for.   He is the Messiah, the Son of David and the Son of God.   He is the sign of contradiction, acclaimed by some and reviled by others.   Sent into this world to wrest us from sin and the power of Satan, He underwent His Passion, the punishment for our sins but issues forth triumphant from the tomb, the victor over death, making our peace with God and taking us with Him into the kingdom of His Father in heaven.palm sunday.infopalm sunday

Homily of St Andrew of Crete (650-740)

Palm Sunday marks the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.   But he entered in humility, not in pomp and power.   To humble ourselves and make our souls the garments that we spread before him, this is the greeting he desires says St Andrew of Crete (650-740), one of the Early Church Fathers – his Memorial is 4 July.

Let us go together to meet Christ on the Mount of Olives.   Today he returns from Bethany and proceeds of his own free will toward his holy and blessed passion, to consummate the mystery of our salvation.   He who came down from heaven to raise us from the depths of sin, to raise us with himself, we are told in Scripture, above every sovereignty, authority and power and every other name that can be named, now comes of his own free will to make his journey to Jerusalem.   He comes without pomp or ostentation.   As the psalmist says:   He will not dispute or raise his voice to make it heard in the streets. He will be meek and humble, and he will make his entry in simplicity.

Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish.   Then we shall be able to receive the Word at His coming and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us.

In His humility Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and He is glad that He became so humble for our sake, glad that He came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to Himself.   And even though we are told that He has now ascended above the highest heavens – the proof, surely, of His power and godhead – His love for man will never rest until He has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory and made it one with his own in heaven.

So let us spread before His feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither but ourselves, clothed in His grace, or rather, clothed completely in Him.   We who have been baptised into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before Him.   Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of His victory.   Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel.

This Lenten or Holy Week reading on the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem in humility is an excerpt from a Palm Sunday sermon (Oratio 9 in ramos palmarum: PG 97, 990-994) by Andrew of Crete, a bishop and Early Church Father who died in 740 AD.   It is used in the Roman Catholic Office of Readings for Palm Sunday with the accompanying biblical reading of Hebrews 10:1-18.

Christ's Entry into Jerusalem by Hippolyte Flandrin c. 1842PALM title image final gpalm sunday by james tissot no 1james tissot - palm sunday

St Andrew of Crete
St Andrew of Crete (c. 660-740) was born around 660 AD in Damascus and eventually entered monastic life at Mar Saba.   He later served at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and was ordained a deacon at the great cathedral of Constantinople and mother Church of Eastern Christendom, Hagia Sophia, around 685.   Always exhibiting great pastoral solicitude for orphans, widows, and the aged, Saint Andrew spent his last days as Archbishop of Gortyna on Crete, a position to which he was elevated in 692. Attrbuted by many with the invention of the canon as a style of religious writing, his works display not only great rhetorical skill but an incomparable depth of theological understanding.   He is considered one of the great spiritual writers on the theme of repentance and his Great Canon, prayed during Lent in the Eastern Churches of Byzantine tradition, stands as a great testimony to man’s repentant cry to God, our merciful Father.  Saint Andrew of Crete is numbered among those great Christian writers known as the Early Church Fathers or “Fathers of the Church.”st andrew of crete


One Minute Reflection – 23 March – Friday of the 5th Week of Lent 2018 and the Memorial of St Turibius of Mogrovejo (1538-1606) – Today’s Gospel John 10:31-42

One Minute Reflection – 23 March – Friday of the 5th Week of Lent 2018 and the Memorial of St Turibius of Mogrovejo (1538-1606) – Today’s Gospel John 10:31-42

The Jews took up stones again to stone him...John 10:31

REFLECTION – “If all goes well with you on earth, how can you expect to be crowned in heaven for a patience you never practised? How can you be Christ’s friend if you will not be opposed? Therefore, you must suffer with Christ and for Christ, if you want to reign with Him.”…Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471) The Imitation of Christ, Book 2if all goes well with you on earth - thomas a kempis - 23 march 2018

PRAYER – Lord, through the pastoral care, suffering and zeal of St Turibius, You built up Your Church in Peru. Grant that the people of God may continually grow in faith and holiness. Accept his prayers on our behalf, that we may always be willing to stand at Your Cross. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever turibius pray for us - 23 march 2018


Our Morning Offering – 23 March – Friday of the 5th Week of Lent 2018

Our Morning Offering – 23 March – Friday of the 5th Week of Lent 2018

Go to dark Gethsemane
James Montgomery (1771-1854)

Go to dark Gethsemane,
you that feel the tempter’s power,
your Redeemer’s conflict see,
watch with Him one bitter hour.
Turn not from His griefs away,
learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

Follow to the judgement hall,
view the Lord of life arraigned,
O the wormwood and the gall!
O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame or loss,
learn from Christ to bear the Cross.

Calvary’s mournful mountain climb,
there adoring at His feet.
Mark the miracle of time,
God’s own sacrifice complete,
“It is finished” hear Him cry,
learn from Jesus Christ to die..go to dark gethsamane - james montgomery - 23 march 2018