During our Lenten Journey, we will be sharing weekly Lenten reflections written by various members of the Dwenger Family. May we all grow closer to Christ during the next 40 days and beyond.
Happy Holy Week! All of Lent has been leading us on a journey to this week. We have walked with Our Lord in the desert of sacrifice and faced the temptations placed before us these past 40 days. Let us enter into this holiest of weeks with an open heart. Let us enter into each of the readings this week and place ourselves in the presence of Christ.
On Palm Sunday, we enter Jerusalem with Christ triumphant. Who are you in this story? Are you standing on the side of the road as Jesus rides by? Do you wave your palm branches and shout, "Hosanna in the highest!"? Or, do you follow quietly behind this scene, watching it unfold, and wonder who is this man is that commands such an entrance? Imagine the Wonder and Awe the Apostles must have felt as they witnessed this celebration of their friend. They were the ones who were blessed to have Jesus reveal the meanings of His teaching to them. They were the ones who beheld the miracles performed by the Son of God. They knew for whom this crowd was cheering and praising. Do we recognize Jesus with the same zeal and passion as those who stood on the side of that road that day? Do we fill with joy, like the Apostles, when we witness others encounter Christ?
On Holy Thursday, we enter the Upper Room with Jesus and His disciples for the Last Supper and the Washing of Feet. Who are you in this story? Are you a servant at this meal, overhearing Christ's words to His followers? Do you wonder what this man means by, "This is my body."? Are you an Apostle, watching as your Lord and Teacher kneels in front of you to wash your feet? Imagine how it must have felt to know that the man who raises people from the dead stoops down in the position of the servant to wash your feet. The one, to whom you have pledged your life in service, gently caresses your feet as the dirt and grime of the day is washed away. Do we allow Christ to do this for us now? Do we allow Him to enter our life and wash away the dirt and grime of sin?
On Good Friday, we walk the Way of the Cross with Christ. Who are you in this story? Are you one of those condemning Jesus on his journey? Are you one of those standing at the side and weeping at what you see? Are you one of those hiding your association with this convicted man? Are you standing at the foot of the Cross with Mary as she watches her son take His final breath? Imagine the feeling of desperation and despair Christ's followers must have felt as they watched the Son of God freely lay down His life. Jesus is mocked for not even fighting back. Pontius Pilate, the guards, and the thief on the cross next to Him all taunt Christ as He shows us what True Love looks like. Do we join in those taunts as we encounter Christ in others? Do we draw close to Christ like the beloved disciple, John, or like the good thief who recognized the power of God in Jesus?
On Holy Saturday, we wait in anticipation at the tomb. Who are you in this story? Are you with the Apostles hiding in fear for being a follower of Christ? Are you encountering Jesus as He speaks to your heart? Are you running with joy to greet the Risen Lord? Imagine the range of emotions the disciples must have felt. One moment you are lost and hopeless, thinking that Jesus is gone. The next moment, insurmountable joy fills you! Jesus is alive!
We enter Easter Sunday with a hope that surpasses understanding. The Risen Christ has defeated death. If we have learned anything during our journey through Holy Week it should be this... the Gospel should be shared. The Good News of the Resurrection is a call to action. If the disciples had kept all that they saw, all that they learned to themselves, where would you be right now? We are called to bring the Light of Christ to all. Our lives should be a living Gospel; an invitation to Love.
Cyndi Wolf, Bishop Dwenger High School Theology Teacher
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Each Lent begins the same: We take on ashes and pledge to follow Christ into the desert – that place where we go to be stripped of our distractions (abstinence and charity) and focus on the fundamental (prayer). Throughout salvation history, the great biblical figures - from Abraham to Moses to John the Baptist - all spent time in the wilderness, preparing themselves for a specific mission which God had called them. They all emerged with clarity and purpose.
So it is with us. The desert is symbolic for those times in our lives when we endure hardship and suffering. We plan our careers, our retirements, what's best for our families. We’re sometimes so focused on our own plan, we lose sight of God’s plan. After all, how could our pain and suffering be a loving God’s plan? We just want out of the desert.
Enter yesterday’s Gospel. Jesus tells two of His disciples that “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” The thought of death is never appealing but losing those tendencies that separate us from God’s grace is exactly what Jesus prescribes here. A tenet of Christianity is understanding that this life is not about me. We are of no use when we’re proud and indifferent to our need for God. Thus, we get thrust into the wilderness--our time of formation where we face our helplessness and cry out to God. At that point, we sprout anew.
James J. Houlihan, Jr. '78
Meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary and their spiritual fruits is a powerful way to experience our Lenten journey with Christ to Calvary and, ultimately, to the Resurrection. As Catholics, we believe in the redemptive power of suffering. Just as we know that Easter comes on the other side of Lent and the Cross, we have faith that God's glory awaits us at the end of the struggles of our earthly life. In Praying the Rosary with Saint Paul, the spiritual fruit associated with each mystery seems illogical until considered from this Catholic perspective.
1. The Agony in the Garden (Peace)
Christ sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed to the Father to remove the cup of suffering assigned to Him. But once Jesus accepted the Father's will for the salvation of the world, He was at peace. The same can be true for us if we persevere in faith.
2. The Scourging at the Pillar (Self-Control)
Jesus had the power to end the torture that was inflicted on Him with whips and chains. He could have lashed out at his torturers, or simply refused to accept such treatment. Instead, He meekly endured the suffering, trusting in God's plan. We are called to emulate Him.
3. The Crowning with Thorns (Mercy)
Even as a crown of thorns was brutally pounded into His head, ripping at His scalp, Christ had mercy on His tormentors. Instead of seeking retribution against those who do wrong to us, how often do we show mercy and forgiveness as we are called to do?
4. The Carrying of the Cross (Joy)
As Jesus staggered under the load of His own instrument of death, He knew the joy of Heaven awaited Him at the end of His suffering. Focusing on this joy and allowing God to help us with the burdens of daily life can ease our struggles.
5. The Crucifixion (Love)
Jesus' death on the Cross exemplifies the self-sacrificing love we are all called to offer our fellow human beings. Our Lenten practices of fasting and almsgiving are meant to remind us that death to self will lead us to Heaven.
Christ endured all of this for our sins. And so, during Lent, we repent, sacrifice, seek and offer forgiveness so we may fully rejoice at Easter.
Angela Flood '85
We are family. God adopts us as family through a covenantal promise, and covenant is a common theme in the daily readings throughout Lent.
God sets the stage, speaking to Noah after the flood in the Old Testament book of Genesis chapter 9,
"Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."
David, the writer of the psalms, picks up on our response in the prayer of Psalm 25, saying, 'Your ways oh Lord are love and truth to whose who keep your covenant." He prays to God for guidance in holding up our end of the bargain, "Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths
God, in His grace, always initiates the relationship with us, as He did with the covenant with Noah. God is the hound of heaven, ever at our heels, but He doesn't force Himself upon us. Love must be freely given and freely received, or else it is coercion. We are free to accept or reject His invitation.
Father of grace and mercy - you shine your light into our hearts with the covenantal promise of adoption into your family. Help us to know and accept your ways; teach us your paths. May we cherish that we are family. Amen.
~ Mike Kelly, BDHS Current Parent
“Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.”
When I was younger, I was jealous of the Twelve Apostles. Of course, it was not a particularly invasive emotion, but rather based on my primitive fifth-grade reasoning. Think about it: twelve completely ordinary men, none of whom had done anything particularly exceptional, were chosen seemingly at random to spend every single day with Jesus. Jesus, who is God on Earth! And on top of that, some of them denied Jesus, or fell asleep when asked to pray, or even betrayed him. They were the luckiest people I could think of, yet sometimes they didn’t seem very grateful. I remember thinking that if I were an Apostle of Jesus, I would know and appreciate the role I had been given. While at Mass on Sunday, during the reading of the Gospel, I was reminded of this naïve sentiment.
This Gospel reading, from which the above passage was taken, recounts the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. It is actually a brilliant metaphor for Lent. I know, just as I assume all of you reading this do, that Lent is a time of increased fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. In essence, it is a time of spiritual transfiguration. It is a time each year that we do our best to go beyond the form that we began with, albeit not literally like Jesus did on the mountain. Jesus climbs up a tall mountain as a man, and at the top, he becomes a visible form of his divine self. Two thousand years later, we struggle to climb our own mountains of sacrifice, each one of us ordinary – yet how many of us make it to the top? Sitting in the pew, then, during the second week of Lent, having already messed up once or twice on my Lenten promises, I realized that I had been wrong all along. I was lucky enough to be chosen to follow Jesus, just like the Apostles. And like the Apostles, I had neglected my role.
Every Lent, I have come to realize, is an opportunity to experience a transfiguration in myself. We can all go beyond our worldly fixtures and focus on God. As Catholics, we give up chocolate or swearing, we put extra money in the collection basket, or we volunteer time at a soup kitchen. These actions are not just actions, but steps up the mountain to transfigure our souls. A cloud overshadows us, each year, for forty days, and it is called Lent. Yet, from this cloud of sacrificial actions, God’s voice can be clearer to us than ever: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”. And when Lent is over, I hope that when I look around – and I wish the same for all of you – I see only Jesus.
Claire Schroeder '18
The Gospel reading for today, Monday of the First Week of Lent, is from Matthew 25, a well-known passage about our being judged by what we have done for others. One thing we can do for others is to give of our time and write a handwritten letter. It can be a powerful offering during Lent. A personal letter can inspire others and can reveal what is in our hearts and souls like no other form of communication. The written word still has its place in this fast-paced age of communication.
Recently, at the recommendation of Mr. Jason Schiffli, my wife, Jane, and I viewed a motion picture entitled, "The Letters", the story of Mother Theresa's life's work with the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. In this true story, Mother Theresa wrote letters in the evening to her spiritual advisor. These letters expressed a darkness and loneliness in her soul, even though her saintly work saved lives and changed the world. After her passing, The Letters were submitted as evidence in the process of her beatification. Her letters moved even the holiest people in the Vatican, because in them was revealed the great personal and daily spiritual struggles she endured. The Letters then inspired them to pursue her sainthood. This motion picture made me think of some important and inspiring letters in my life:
- I wrote a letter to Mr. Joe Brand, who was my Scoutmaster when I was a boy. This letter told of his great influence on my life. His son read it to him as lay dying in the hospital. I am told it brought him joy and peace in his last days.
- My father wrote his last letter of encouragement to me shortly before he died of a heart attack.
- I received countless letters from family and friends offering prayers in times of my illness.
- Last year during Lent my nephew wrote one letter each day to someone important in his life. He took the time and effort to thank forty people and say he was praying for them.
- From Sacred Scripture: two personal favorites: The Letter of Paul to the Romans: Chapter 5 on Perseverance; The Letter of James: Chapter 2 on Faith and Works.
Personal letters take time and effort. Writing a meaningful letter will take time away from our watching SportsCenter, on FaceBook, YouTube, the Internet, or Text Messaging, but it will be worth it. I invite you take time to write a letter to someone this Lent, telling them how you feel about them and how you will pray for them. I am sure they will read it over and over again, and that it will bring them joy and peace. And like Mother Theresa, writing could help you as well.
Chris Svarczkopf, Assistant Principal - Dean of Students
Ash Wednesday - February 14
Lent is upon us..Are you ready? Since the early centuries the Church has suggested three things that we as faithful followers of Christ undertake during Lent - prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is for this reason that the Gospel text for Ash Wednesday every year is Jesus' advice on prayer, fasting and almsgiving (Matt 6:1-6, 16-18).
During Lent we should want to pray more, fast and help the poor. We live busy lives and there is much emphasis on enjoying life but a life without prayer is a life without the joy of the presence of God. Fasting is a penance the Church encourages us to undertake during Lent. From the spiritual point of view, fasting symbolizes our dependence on God. It expresses the fact that we really are trying to put God first in our life. For almsgiving or helping the poor, the Church makes it easy for us by giving us the opportunity to contribute to Catholic aid agencies such as Catholic Relief Services Operation Rice Bowls. Through CRS Rice Bowl, we hear stories from our brothers and sisters in need worldwide, and devote our Lenten prayers, fasting and gifts to change the lives of the poor. Each day of Lent, individuals are invited to use the Lenten Calendar-included with every CRS Rice Bowl-to guide their Lenten almsgiving. I encourage you all to take a box home and return at the End of Lent.
Finally, the word "Lent" is an old English word which means "springtime." May this Lent really be a new springtime in the lives of each of us. Through prayer, through fasting from food accompanied by forgiving others and not bearing grudges, and through donating from our surplus to help the poor, may we, like Jesus in the desert for forty days, overcome temptation and thus be well prepared to celebrate Easter.
Fr. Bob Garrow
Chaplain Bishop Dwenger/Parochial Vicar at St. Jude