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Cleaning Our Spiritual Closets View Comments
By Jeanne Hunt

DECLARE A FAST with abstinence, add a little almsgiving and don’t forget prayer. But wait! “Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?” God asks in Isaiah 58:5b.

You mean all those years of salmon patties, fish sticks and scrambled eggs for supper don’t count? What’s wrong with Lent as 40 days of endurance without any real change in our hearts? How can we change course and find a deeper faith this Lent?

We Catholics and other Christians have long put on spiritual ashes to renew our faith and turn back to God wholeheartedly. Yet, our traditional pillars of Lenten practice need to be regularly revisited and tweaked. We may need to leave our comfort zone and make them a genuine spiritual workout. For Lent to really matter, we must take a hard look at the state of our spirits. Then we can respond in a way that establishes deeper connections with God, our families—and even our selves. Lent is not enduring a virtual board game, that is, arriving at Easter with our “giveup” list intact. Lent means moving closer to the holy way.

Statements such as “I always give up candy for Lent” or “I never miss daily Mass during Lent” are a great beginning. The same practices that we have used for 20 years, however, may no longer serve their original purpose. Comfortable with the routine, we may fashion a fairly cozy desert trip. Don’t we need a Lent with more personal bite?

God invites us to look at all our relationships with a willingness to make changes. Giving up things that mean little to us, such as candy, soda, etc., are respectable, safe gestures that cannot impact the state of our souls. However, when we look critically at how little time we spend in prayer, what we worship in the secular world or how we spend our money, now we are talking!

Control is the basic issue. If we allow God into our lives more, that might challenge a spiritual closet arranged too neatly. We may even discover a painful skeleton that we have successfully ignored.

Deep within that closet, God is ready to help us sort out years of fears, assumptions, refusals to forgive and everything that keeps us from his real kingdom. This is not necessarily our version of what life with God is all about. So, how do we begin to clean our spiritual closets so that they reflect God’s version of “neat and tidy”?

A word of warning: Before we enter our spiritual closets, we must allow the Holy Spirit to do the sorting. As painful as it may be, the Holy Spirit’s housecleaning means that everything must come out. Then the Spiritus Santus scrubs it down with a strong solution of honesty. God’s hands are very thorough. Be ready and willing to be stripped.

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Jeanne Hunt, mother, grandmother and writer, is adviser for catechesis and evangelization at Franciscan Media. She also preaches parish missions and gives workshops on adult and family faith formation.

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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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