Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Quadragesimo Anno
Best Lent Ever

by Father Mark Pautler, for the Inland Register

(From the March 17, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Mark Pautler Ash Wednesday arrived early this year (Feb. 10). All the better to get it out of the way so we can enjoy Easter. Truth be told, we don’t enjoy Easter despite the liturgical insistence on 50 days of feasting. We do enjoy Lent, ironic as that may be. The Catholic instinct to observe Lent survives, and even thrives.

As my first year of retirement, 2016 was my first Lent in retirement. “What program will the parish offer?” “How will we organize the Easter Vigil?” I’m not asking these questions this year. There is just one: “What will I do for Lent?”

What fell into my hands was the book by Matthew Kelly, Rediscover Jesus. It was a freebie. The book was handed out at St. Mary Parish (Spokane Valley) as a Christmas gift. It also happened to be the pastor’s present at St. Rose in Reno, where I picked up my copy. Its bold purple cover signaled that this could be shelved until Lent, and that’s what I did.

I already was familiar with Matthew Kelly from his book Rediscover Catholicism. I knew he was an articulate layman from the South – that is, the southern hemisphere. He’s Australian. Unlike past years when my personal spiritual work had to be coordinated with pastoral responsibility, I had the time and was willing to give the time to work the program of Rediscover. Kelly’s approach is simple: 40 chapters for 40 days, with each Sunday as a day of review and anticipation. You might say that Kelly is responding to the invitation of Pope Francis: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day” (Evangelii Gaudium, 3). Chapter by chapter, Rediscover presents the person of Christ or some dimension of his message and ministry – the man, the teacher, the miracle worker, the healer, the reconciler, the Son of the Father, the radical. That latter quality is a thread running through variations of the Jesus theme. The Christology is not dense or abstract, and for that is it to be commended. Each chapter of 2-4 pages concludes with “a point to ponder,” a Scripture quote, a reflection question, and a prayer, all coalescing around the day’s topic. You can work this much of the program, especially giving time to the reflection question and a follow-up response. But Kelly probably knows this isn’t going to happen, and so, there is more.

Now, I open up my Kindle Fire for the daily e-mail from Kelly’s Best Lent Ever of his Dynamic Catholic website. The message features a one-minute video clip by Matthew (and props to the guy who is Joe the plumber,) an excerpt from the day’s installment of Rediscover, and then a second video clip by a team member of Dynamic Catholic, usually an attractive millennial who reflects upon the message, his or her comments more effective to the degree they are personal.

But wait, there’s more. There are comments from the “community,” the followers of BestLentEver. These usually take the form of a lead agent expressing how he or she is touched by, struggles with, or has grown from the day’s reflection. Follow-up comments express prayers, affirmation and (usually) agreement with the prime post. Or other stories may appear. The site is active. Even as you are reading, a “one new comment” notice may appear. Here is a window into faith-sharing in the digital age. It may even be a window into the lives of our people who may not find meaning and an emotional resonance with their lives in the liturgy and in our preaching. Whatever this forum does, something is happening. People are being touched and people are touching one another. This is not where I look for theological depth and insight. (Turn to Father Ron Rolheiser or Bishop Robert Barron after reading my column). I see how people seek and share the strength to live their faith.

One of these sharing sessions sections especially caught my attention. A primary post was an unsettling rebuke of AA and other twelve-step programs. Subsequent responses pointed out that the twelve-step program can be very much God centered. A third post added, “You must have been badly hurt.”

I am writing this article at the mid-point of Lent, and you will read it just before Holy Week. Maybe a few of you follow BestLentEver. Most don’t. Do not run out and sign up on my recommendation, because I don’t recommend it. What I recommend is that you follow through with whatever disciplines of prayer fasting and almsgiving you have undertaken, revive them, or prune them down to what you really can manage, and may this be your best Lent ever.

(Father Pautler is Judicial Vicar and Chancellor of the Spokane Diocese.)

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