A communal Lenten check-in

| Deacon Gordon Bird | March 21, 2019 | 0 Comments
Prayer group, Lent


OK family and friends, how is your observance going two weeks and a few days into Lent? As for me, I’m pondering that question as I peruse through my Daily Roman Missal, reminding myself of its two-fold theme: to embrace a spirit of repentance, and to recall and renew my baptismal promises as a child of God. Thank you, Jesus — Lord and Savior, brother and friend — for making this possible.

Lent is not for keeping a scorecard on personal progress, but it is helpful to engage in relationships that include insightful discussions, prayerful discernment and plain ol’ encouragement because we all want to grow in our Catholic faith. This liturgical season in particular gives us that opportunity for recollection, detachment and gift of self in trying to live as Christ taught.

By serendipity or grace — God knows — I came across five friends recently in a local café who were sharing their Lenten thoughts and plans with each other in an informal, accountability fashion — listening fraternally and astutely to one another. In their kindness, they invited me to take part in this practical, spiritual activity. For context, this is before some of us were heading off to work.

It’s heavy stuff in which to engage before switching gears to your day job. Nonetheless, similar to the men returning to Jerusalem from the road to Emmaus — “hearts burning within” (Lk 28:32) — these men are authentic in their faith life. With confidence, I can sense that their immense love and desire to live for Jesus is undivided; it is evident whether at home, work, leisure or fellowship. They’re a genuine, trustworthy crew to commune with on prayer, fasting and almsgiving progress.

Refreshed — just back a few days from a three-day silent retreat — I delved into the dialogue. Sharing briefly some highlights of the quiet time on retreat that I hoped would benefit my experience this Lent, it was indeed fruitful for me to discuss areas of detachment and sacrifice with my friends.

Encouraging and assuring to me was the goodness in these men. I listened to the sincerity and commitment in their voices as they offered concrete examples on how they were going to give more of themselves. They honed in on spiritual and corporal works of mercy through evangelization, holy hours, rosaries, novenas, catechesis and sponsorships for specific people in mind and in great need. Thereby, they were planting seeds of faith, hope and charity, and assisting the Holy Spirit to do the divine nurturing.

There was as much, if not more, about sacrificial giving this Lent from the spirited mouths of these men as there was about giving up something.

Sharing a common faith with these men awarded me the opportunity for pause as I trek through Lent, to recollect and refocus the inward movements of my heart through prayer and fellowship. It also helped me to better manifest these movements outwardly. Reflecting and acting upon penitent activities should not only be for personal spiritual gain, but also to inspire more activity to reach out to the margins — as Pope Francis has asked us to do. That might mean possibly reaching out further to the people of God than the norm by discovering those in need of basic living essentials: health care, education and natural resources, to name a few.

Yet, the margins may not be too far from home. For some of these five it was the home, a relative, a neighbor. There was a powerful resonance of offering spiritual works of mercy to bring family and friends to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Our Lord needs more laborers to help with the harvest — it is “abundant but the laborers are few” (Mt 9:37).

A prayerful dialogue this Lent — a “checkpoint,” so to speak — to help gauge how we are prioritizing our time, talent and treasure may be helpful. We all have faith-sharing trustees out there with whom we can commune. My fellowship with a local brotherhood of Catholic Watchmen — leaders, providers, protectors of the faith in their own homes, parishes and communities — kept me in check.

Deacon Bird ministers at St. Joseph in Rosemount and assists the Catholic Watchmen movement of the archdiocese’s Office of Evangelization. Reach him at gordonbird@rocketmail.com. Learn about the archdiocese’s Catholic Watchmen initiative at rediscover.archspm.org/the-catholic-watchmen.

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Category: Catholic Watchmen