Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lent is like "Spring Cleaning" for the soul

By Father Pat O'Hagan, SSCC, pastor
Holy Spirit, Hemet

The following is taken from a homily Father Pat O'Hagan presented during an Ash Wednesday Mass at Holy Spirit, Hemet.

We have entered in this beautiful season of Lent, with this message: Repent. The whole season of lent is turning ourselves to God. There needs to be a conversion. We are given three pillars for lent; prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

The church also gives us some advice. These are not to be done to seek praise and respect from our friends, neighbors, and those who see us. These are between ourselves and God.

I like to look at Lent as a kind of Spring-cleaning. We have things in our closet that we have had for years and years. We have them because we have grown an attachment to them. It pains us to let them go. There are things in our spiritual lives that we should have thrown out years ago, but it pains us to let it go.

I know when it comes to throwing away books. I have the greatest intention of cleaning out my library. But after I open third book I say, I can use this. I have been carrying that book for 50 years and have not read it once. So, too, in our spiritual lives, there are things that we are carrying with us that we really don’t need.

The great spiritual writer Edward Hays has put out a book on the whole process of prayer during the season of Lent. It is very much like the picture we have [at Holy Spirit, Hemet] with the mountain in back and Jesus praying before he goes up the mountain. When we read of the mountain in the scriptures, we refer to the presence of God.

Edwards Hays centers his book as if we were hikers on a climb. We are hikers going up the mountain. Each Sunday of Lent we realize it is getting more and more difficult to climb the mountain, so we have to let things go. We only take the basics with us.

That should be the way we approach lent.

There needs to be a cleansing of the heart by the time we reach Good Friday. We need to die to ourselves, die to those things that we have carried for years. So we can rise with the true Christ and his teachings.

We can sum up the entire teaching of lent with the words we use when we place the cross of ashes on your forehead, “Repent and Live the Gospel.” When we live the Gospel as pilgrims, we travel lightly through the world.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Church’s Rx for Cold and Flu Season

By Deacon John De Gano
St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

It’s cold and flu season once again. I know this because of all the news stories and commercials selling cough medicine pain relievers, etc. The daytime hours seem warm enough (here in southern California) that a short sleeve shirt may be in order, but the nights may dip into the 20s or 30s which cause us to become chilled and play havoc with our immune systems.

As a result, most of us will probably experience a sniffle or two at this time of the year and feel blessed if we don’t get real sick and have to miss a day or two of work or school.

When we get sick, the TV commercials tell us, “We call for Dr. Mom.”

As Roman Catholics, however, we have a team of “doctors” and “miracle workers” at our disposal. Not just the doctors (who are important!) and/or our parents or guardians who have our best interest at heart. We call them the Saints for they heal through intercessory prayer.

One of my go-to February saints is St. Blaise.
St. Blaise, Feb. 3
Each year since being ordained, I call on St. Blaise to assist the faithful as together we celebrate the Blessing of the Throats with all present at our parish grade school.

For those who aren’t familiar with the ritual, blessed candles are loosely tied together, held in the shape of a cross and held under the throat of the person receiving the blessing, while the words “Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you…” are prayed aloud.

It is a special prayer for our participants and a blessing for me to be invited back each year to share in this ancient celebration of our Roman Catholic faith with our children, many of whom approach their faith with wide-eyed innocence and a sincere trust in God’s love for them. These younger aged children aren’t embarrassed or self-conscious (as many teens become) about what other people might think of them standing at the head of the line with candles stuck under their chin.

As I moved through the upper grades I can see where they start to feel awkward or concerned by the opinion of those around them, from embarrassed laughter, feigned boredom and finally (perhaps) resigned acceptance that ‘it’s a Catholic thing’.

Some of the upper classes joined me in praying the prayer, as we all should, as a community that prays for and cares for one another. They may one day take my place in the service to this joyous blessing.

Depending on their ability, I usually invite one or more of the students to join me in blessing their teacher or, occasionally, myself if I do not have assistance with the blessings (some years I am accompanied by one of our priests and other years by the principal of our school).

I emphasize that St. Blaise is praying for healing on our behalf, but it is God who does the actual blessing, healing and deliverance ‘…from every disease of the throat and every other illness.’

Like the Blessing of the Animals in October, our faith celebrates the joy and awesome love that God has for his creation and how we should always approach our Heavenly Father with a child’s sense of wonder and trust that God has made us to be his hands and feet to care for the needs of others and this planet on which we live.

It is truly our prayers, united together, that make the perfect prescription for what ails the body… Especially, the Body of Christ.

We need to safeguard this belief and never allow ourselves or our children to become so embarrassed or ashamed that we forget the medicinal value of prayer or the mercy and grace God bestows upon those who are willing to pray without ceasing