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The Faith in Slow Motion  
The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no. 33)

Pillars of Catholic Penitential Practice: Fasting
Prayer, fasting, almsgiving – these acts of penance come to us directly from Christ himself (Matt. 6:1-8, 16-18). There is no Christian life without repentance, and there is no repentance that is not realized in penitential actions of abstinence, generous giving, and prayer. Jesus teaches us that by these secret disciplines, we enter into intimacy with his Father in Heaven who “sees in secret” (Matt. 6:4, 18). The three pillars stand together—contracting the boundaries of our consumption, expanding the boundaries of our generosity, and enlarging our capacity to pray. I start this three part reflection with fasting.

The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no. 34)
Pillars of Catholic Penitential Practice: Prayer 
Fasting, almsgiving, and prayer: I do not know who first called them the “pillars of Lent”, but it is an apt image. These disciplines stand together in supporting the spiritual life—contracting the boundaries of our consumption, expanding the boundaries of our generosity, and enlarging our capacity for intimacy with God. It is Jesus himself who binds them together: “when you fast.... when you pray.... when you give alms...” (see Matt 6:1ff). In Lent, we consider these disciplines in their penitential nature. Last week we reflected on fasting; here we consider prayer.


The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no. 35)
Pillars of Catholic Penitential Practice: Money Offerings 
Fasting and Prayer (the subject of my last two reflections) have deep spiritual implications for our lives, for our relationship to God and to God's Church. Most of us do not question that both are foundational for the life of faith (even if many of us give neither its due). But what about the third “pillar” of Lent? What about almsgiving? We know that the Church and other “charitable organizations” depend on fund raising. We are aware that our giving to worthy causes is a good thing to do. But is “charitable giving” truly a spiritual matter?

The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no 36)
“Were You There When . . . ?”
There is a simple (but theologically perfect) African-American spiritual that asks the question: Were you there when they crucified my Lord . . . were you there when they laid him in tomb . . . . Were you there when he rose to live again? Our faith answers “yes” especially during Holy Week. In this most solemn time, we are called to greet Jesus as King, to watch and wait with him in the garden, to accompany him in his time of trial, to meditate upon the dark mystery of his self-offering on the Cross—and finally to proclaim his victory over death in his resurrection. The liturgies are long; you can see why. Let's try not to complain; it was a very long week for Jesus.

The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no 37)
All four Gospels record the agony of Jesus in the Garden. It is one of the gospel scenes that almost all Christians remember. The spiritual suffering of Jesus, the dilemma and dismay of Peter, James and John—the pathos of the scene is palpable. But perhaps the scene remains with us also for another reason, because we find ourselves in the scene; we share Peter's dilemma and dismay. The words are addressed to us: “Could you not watch with me for one hour?”
The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no 38)
Sainted Popes
Next Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter (now known also as Divine Mercy Sunday), the Catholic Church around the world will celebrate the canonization of two remarkable Twentieth Century popes. Canonization is the formal and public recognition by the Church of the heroic sanctity of one of her deceased members. Those whose names are entered in the canon of the saints are venerated by the faithful as shining examples of the Christian life, as living signs of the wonderful diversity of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and as powerful intercessors for the Church on earth.

The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no 39)
Dignity and Destiny (part one)
It’s sometime said of a man (and not as a compliment), “He thinks too much of himself; he could do with a dose of humility.” But consider the words above from St. John and St. Paul. From their perspective, the man’s real problem is that he thinks too little of himself.  In fact, humility in the Christian sense does not derive from a lesser sense of self but from an almost unthinkably high self-regard. Perhaps you have sometimes chastised yourself: “I want too much in life. I need to reign in my expectations.” But from the perspective of the Christian gospel, almost all of us want far too little out of life.

The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no 40)
Dignity and Destiny (part two)
The uniqueness of the human person, our unique human dignity, is declared on the first page of Holy Scripture.  The human creature, male and female, is created in the image of God, after the likeness of God (Cf. Gen. 1:26-27).  The God-likeness can be described from several perspectives:  rationality, dominance over the non-human creation, creativity, the capacity for self-giving love, the gift of articulate speech, etc.  But all such human qualities tend toward this astounding claim—that the human being is created for communion with the eternal God.

The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no 41)
The Ascension of Our Lord
It is a great blessing that Christian art has preserved this striking memory in depicting the Ascension—that Jesus ascends with the marks of the nails and the spear and the thorns.  He is ever the Ascended Crucified one.  His resurrection and ascension are indeed his victory over the cross, but he does not leave the cross behind. 
The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no. 42)
Dignity and Destiny
(Part Three: The Moral Life)
Sometimes you hear it said that opposition to abortion is a particularly Catholic concern, or that life-long fidelity in marriage is a distinctively Christian rule. (I choose these issues as they are now so contentious.) As the study of non-Catholic religions and cultures demonstrates, it is not true. In an essay entitled “The Tao” (the Chinese word for “the Way”). C. S. Lewis reminds us of the common and foundational moral vision “in all its forms, Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Christian, and Oriental alike”.

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