Feb. 29, 2012
Upcoming Programs
Ash Wednesday Reflection

As Lent begins, we hear the words in the first reading for Ash Wednesday: "Rend your hearts, not your garments." Folks used to tear their clothes when they were upset or sad. (A sign to others of how bad it was? A cry for help?) But the Prophet Joel wants them to "rend their hearts." Something inside, presumably where God alone sees it.

This description strikes me as rather violent. The prophet refers to people tearing an otherwise good garment. And he says we should do that to our hearts! Why? Why such a forcefully violent action?

I think it all has to do with resistance. In Stephen King's bestseller, 11/22/63, after a man discovers a pathway into the past, he attempts to change history. But he soon discovers that the past is very resistant to change. Obstacles appear; people and places have an ominous character about them, threatening his plans. I think King is giving us a powerful metaphor about change.

And the Prophet Joel tells us that God wants us to open up our hearts, to allow the ego to give way to the inner life that God is offering. Lenten practices are things we decide to do or give up, in the hopes that such action may lay bear the vulnerable part of us, the "heart," the part of us where God is waiting.

My spiritual director usually suggests my Lenten theme; Jesuit Father James Martin has a Jewish friend do the same. My buddy, the Catholic Radio host Lino Rulli, has listeners make suggestions. Behind such an idea is a notion that our Lent should be less and less an "ego trip" and more of an openness to God.

In fact, there's a built-in contradiction to the Ash Wednesday Scriptures. While Joel orders us to blow a trumpet, Jesus says not to! The liturgy has us mark our foreheads with ashes; Jesus tells us not to change our appearance!

Maybe there's a healthy tension in this contradiction. We do need signs—for ourselves and others, for reminders and mutual support. But in the end, Lent is between you and God.

Definitely, it's not for show, not even for telling...the "heart" is secret, where God is at work. The more I publicize the "me" who is keeping Lent, the more my ego wants to be in control. Lent starts inside, even though we keep it communally as well. For communities, maybe there's a "communal heart" that needs to be laid bare so that God's work can be evident. We do this symbolically on Ash Wednesday and through Lent with the color of the vestments, simple church decorations, communal activities such as the Way of the Cross.

I always like to dig out T.S. Eliot's "Ash-Wednesday" on this day...it's so evocative of starting up this adventure. The poem has a spring-like quality and a vision of change. May we allow God's grace to grow in us this Lent!

Father Greg Friedman, O.F.M.
American Catholic Radio: Upcoming Episodes (#12-11 , #12-12)
Use the links below to preview the shows or download them in MP3 format for broadcast.
Highlights from this episode include:

Living Faith
Judy Zarick interviews Anita Neidert, who shares how serving others during tough times can ease the stress in our lives. Anita remembers many struggles in the past couple of years but remains joyful at the presence of God in her life.

Ask a Franciscan
Franciscan Father Hilarion Kistner answers these scriptural questions: Why does Jesus often tell the person that he's healed not to reveal the healing? Why do Jesus and John the Baptist seem to be meeting for the first time in John the Evangelist's Gospel? Was Abraham's nephew Lot involved in the immoral behavior in Sodom and Gomorrah? Was the Book of Revelation written as a prediction of future times?

On Faith & Media
Direct from Hollywood, ACR presents Sister Rose Pacatte from the Daughters of St. Paul. Her mission is to help people of faith understand what we're seeing and hearing all around us. She's an educator, author, movie reviewer for the Catholic press, and she's won numerous awards for her passion to illuminate what's good in today's popular culture. Sister Rose will address the question: Can we grow closer to Christ through the movies, watching TV, reading books or playing video games?

Exploring Our Faith
John Feister's guest is Franciscan Father Albert Haase, a preacher, teacher and spiritual director. He and his sister, Ursuline Sister Bridget Haase, co-host the weekly Spirit and Life radio program on the Relevant Radio Network and Baraga Broadcasting. Father Albert is director of the International Institute for Clergy Formation based at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. He earned his doctorate in historical theology from Fordham University and lived in China for 10 years, where he taught English in several universities. Father Albert is the author of numerous works on popular spirituality, most recently This Sacred Moment: Becoming Holy Right Where You Are, and a 12-part audiobook series called The Lord's Prayer: A Summary of the Entire Gospel. He spoke with John about how spiritual direction can help us draw closer to God.

Minute Meditations
Barbara Beckwith reads from Lent With the Saints: Daily Reflections, written by Franciscan Father Greg Friedman and published by Franciscan Media.
Highlights from this episode include:

Living Faith
Judy Zarick talks with Carolyn Woo, the new President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). This season of Lent is a good time to remind ourselves of all the people around the world who need our help and how we can do a great deal of good through helping organizations such as CRS.

Ask a Franciscan
Franciscan Father Greg Friedman answers these pastoral questions: What is the sacrament of confirmation all about? Is it still acceptable to have a Mass offered for a deceased loved one?

On Faith & Media
Direct from Hollywood, ACR presents Sister Rose Pacatte from the Daughters of St. Paul. Her mission is to help people of faith understand what we're seeing and hearing all around us. She's an educator, author, movie reviewer for the Catholic press, and she's won numerous awards for her passion to illuminate what's good in today's popular culture. Sister Rose will explore the theme of forgiveness in several contemporary films.

Exploring Our Faith
John Feister's guest is Susan Vogt, who has worked in diocesan family life education for the Catholic Church for over 30 years. This work parallels her marriage for over 30 years to her husband, Jim. In addition to designing and leading marriage preparation and enrichment programs, she has worked as a family counselor and teacher of marriage courses on the high school and college level. Currently Susan is a freelance speaker, author and relationship coach in the areas of marriage, parenting, and spirituality. She's been an advisor to the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family, and she's the author of the Every Day Catholic article "Lent: Have You Given Up on Giving Up?" Susan spoke with John about a positive way to look at "giving things up for Lent."

Minute Meditations
Matthew Kelly reads from his book Rediscover Lent, published in print and audiobook form by Franciscan Media.
 
 
Franciscan Radio
Link to audio features Saint of the Day, Sunday Soundbites, Sharing the Word and American Catholic Radio.
American Catholic Radio
A weekly half-hour catechetical program, in the popular style of the Franciscans.
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