Reading I: Genesis 2: 7-9
Reading II: Romans 5:12-19
Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11
There are many meanings of the word "Lent" in the English language, but the one we are focusing on is "springtime." When I think of spring, I think of growth, renewal, and resurrection.
First, I think of an awakening of the vegetation as it makes a path through the soil, pushes obstacles out of its way, and seeks nourishment for growth. All this enables it to provide food and beauty for our world.
That is what "lent" is about. We take time to examine our relationships with God, our brothers, and sisters. We ask the Lord to help us to discern what needs to happen to allow our spirits to grow. We seek to know the obstacles in our path and how to remove them. We also look to ways of nourishing our souls for greater growth.
What are obstacles in my path? 1) Am I unwilling to forgive? Ask the Lord and/or a spiritual friend for help. 2) Am I spending too much time watching TV or with social media, or something else so that I do not pray enough? What can I give up in order to spend more time with the Lord? 3) Do I enrich the soil by studying the Bible, doing spiritual reading, listening to spiritual songs or sermons, or engaging in faith-sharing circles, etc.? Ask the Lord what he wants of you.
In the spring, we also see renewal. Trees,which seemed to be dead in the winter, begin to bud forth and gift us with their beauty and welcomed shade. It may be that the Lord simply wants me to renew a holy practice which I have let go because of busyness or other reasons.
All this is in preparation for the new life which we will celebrate at the Easter Vigil and Masses with Alleluias and renewal of our Baptismal Vows. Then, we will be able to bring the light of Christ to our world in such need of hope and love.
The Feast of St. Katharine Drexel - March 3
St. Katharine Drexel, was the first canonized Saint to be born a United States citizen. She was a daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia banker, Francis Anthony Drexel. She and her whole family became philanthropists because they believed that their wealth was a gift to be shared with the needy.
As a child, Katharine helped her stepmother, Emma Bouvier, to distribute food, clothing, and rent assistance to needy. especially to the recently emancipated African Americans. Her sisters Elizabeth and Louise also helped. They were aware that these former slaves, although very capable, lacked the education to find good jobs.
From this experience, Katharine recognized the need for a good education to enable people to improve their lives. Later, when she became a Religious Sister and founded her a new Community, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, she stressed education as a way of improving the lives of the oppressed, especially, but not exclusively, among the Native Americans and African Americans.
Today, St. Katharine Drexel is the patroness of Philanthropists and Racial Justice. The following information is taken from an article by Brook Gregory found in EpicPew.com.
Five Times St. Katharine Drexel Won Against Racism
1) When construction began for the convent St. Katharine was building for her new Community in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, people began to make threats. A stick of dynamite was found at the construction site of the Motherhouse. One of her first schools was destroyed by arson. These incidents did not deter St. Katharine from her work.
2) Needless to say, St. Katharine was not popular in the South during the early 1900's. Officials in Macon, Georgia, tried to prevent the Sisters from teaching at one of her schools. They simply did not want white women teaching and interacting with black students and their families. St. Katharine fought the law, won, and the school is still open.
3) Then, St. Katharine purchased a building with the intention of opening a Catholic Institution of Higher Education in New Orleans, Louisiana. When her plans became public knowledge, vandals broke in and smashed all the windows. St. Katharine made little of it and pursued her dream. Today, Xavier, a historically Black Catholic University, is still thriving and providing many professionals for the area and beyond.
4) A prayer response to a threat from the KKK of the Beaumont, Texas Chapter, is striking. On the door of a parish church, connected with one of her schools, a note was nailed which read, "We want an end to services here. Suppress it in one week or flogging with tar and feathers will follow." A few days late, nature responded in the form of a tornado that completely destroyed the Klan headquarters and killed two of its members. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Beaumont were never bothered again.
5) St. Katharine outsmarted racist laws by designing the churches she built in the South in a special way. The people had to be segregated if a service was to be held legally. St. Katharine didn't like the idea that the Black people were roped off and relegated to the back of the church. Since St. Katherine couldn't change the laws, she changed the arrangement of the pews. St. Katharine had two front to back rows of pews in her churches. The law couldn't attack her or the people. The pews were still technically segregated, but the people of color were not forced to sit behind the white people. They were seated side by side.
St. Katharine advanced the legal protection of Native Americans and people of color through persistent letter-writing campaigns. Also, she was a vocal advocate of early civil rights legislation.
St. Katharine died at age 96 in 1955 on the eve of the Civil Rights Movement that she helped to advance long before its existence was even considered. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, their Associates, Partners, Alumni, and friends carry on her Mission today. She left us much needed words of wisdom for today.
"Have a cordial respect for others in heart and mind;
if there is any prejudice in the mind, we must uproot it,
or it will tear us down."
Pat Chiaffa, ASBS
I was truly enlightened by your blog this week. Your description of the spiritual processes of growth, renewal and resurrection, using the example of how nature removes obstacles in its path as it seeks nourishment for sustenance is so relate-able. We can use this illustration, along with your questions that help us identify some of the obstacles that stand between us and our relationship to God, to offer others an understandable explanation of the importance of Lent in our spiritual development.
Additionally, the information you shared on Saint Katharine Drexel was really interesting. St. Katharine Drexel’s courage and steadfast faith in the face of so many obstacles encountered in her mission is inspiring. She is a wonderful model of loving God and serving our brothers and sisters in Christ. I particularly enjoyed reading of Mother Katharine’s brilliant creativity in rearranging the pews in her churches to get around the racist law. Those of us fortunate enough to know any of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament get to witness her spirit in the activities, prayers and stories of these dedicated women.
Sadly, racism continues to plague our society and demoralize our youth. An article in The New York Times, by Amy Horman, on January 20, 2020, told of the experiences of 101 black teenagers in Washington, DC over a two-week period. Their stories were tracked by researchers who reported that the teens encountered more than 5600 instances of racial discrimination, averaging more than 5 instances per day for each teen.
The researchers reported that the magnitude of the discrimination faced by black adolescents affects how they feel, noting symptoms of depression, difficulty sleeping, loneliness and anxiety. Violence continues to escalate in our cities claiming precious lives and breaking the hearts of families. Recently in Philadelphia, police officers were fired for posting derogatory racist remarks on social media. St. Katharine’s words, “if there is any prejudice in the mind, we must uproot it, or it will tear us down,” are as true today as when she penned them.
In his book, Life of the Beloved Henri Nouwen writes that we are the ”Beloved” (of God). Not only are we the Beloved, we also “have to become the Beloved.” “Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our “Belovedness” become enfleshed in everything we think, say, or do…As long as ‘being the Beloved’ is little more than a beautiful thought…nothing really changes. What is required is to become the Beloved in the commonplaces of daily existence and, bit by bit, to close the gap that exists between what I know myself to be and the countless specific realities of everyday life.”
It is my intention to create time during the Lenten Season for meeting daily with God to let this “Belovedness” take root; to try to “become more fully who I already am.” If I were to fully accept this truth I would live differently – much more in alignment with the teachings of Jesus. I would forgive more and judge less, love more and fear less, give more and take less. It is only in claiming the gift of our own Belovedness that we can give to others the gift of their own Belovedness. That is a gift I would absolutely love to offer to another.
Stephanie Morris, ASBS, Ph.D Historian, Certified Archivist, Emerita
We often have great plans for big improvements. But to get to big changes, it is sometimes best to start with little ones. Mother Katharine noted that there is nothing small in God’s service. We can start to renew ourselves this Lent with small steps; maybe these will grow into big improvements. Can you find 5 minutes a day to sit quietly with God? Maybe read a Psalm, maybe sing/read/listen to a favorite hymn. Is there a line or refrain that jumps out, that asks you to re-read it, to think about it? God may be speaking to you in those words today. As you practice this, you may find yourself comfortably sitting with God for 10 minutes, or longer. Lots of medical experts have recently discovered the healing power of meditation. We have been blessed with this healing power for a long time.