Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Catherine Doherty

Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Catherine Doherty, 
Madonna House Publications, 1996.

 Chapter 1: Prepare for Lent!

“I have often wondered why Christ became a carpenter. Maybe it was so he could intimately feel the wood on which he was going to die. But that’s just imagination” (11).

“Preparation for Lent begins with a desire… Desire is like a flame, it starts small and it grows. We exist to desire the Desired One: God… Lent should fan the desire of men for God into a bonfire… How does one get this great desire? The answer is always the same: prayer, fasting and mortification… What can bring me to desire God? Two things: finding someone who desires him, and praying to get that desire. The business of desire is very important. Man usually follows his desire. Do you really desire to pray? Do you desire to live the Gospel? That is the big question. If I desire I will usually fulfill my desire… Prayer is desire in action” (13-17).

“In the East, we feel deeply that the way to the cross – to Golgotha – is always filled with a “bright sadness”, for Christ is etched on the cross against a fantastic light, an explosion, a transfiguration: the resurrection. So, though I feel the pain, the somber tragedy of all that is happening in Lent, my heart sings an alleluia, because of that explosive light that is within me as I interiorly walk once again those roads that Christ walked” (25).

“Gospel poverty does not consist in being without this, that and the other thing; it consists in the willingness to surrender all that I have within myself. To give myself, even when I have a million dollars, is poverty” (26).

“Every time you drop anything pertaining to the wrong type of self-fulfillment, or to the adoration of yourself, or to all the things that clutter up your life, a sense of immense joy will come to you and through you” (27).

“Lent is training for love” (29).

Chapter 2: Lent Begins

 “Poverty demands all of me. I don’t have to go about in rags; that’s only kindergarten poverty” (40).

Chapter 3: Why Fasting?

“To feel hunger for the hungry God is to experience an incredible state of spiritual joy. God always hungers for you and me… When we fast on bread and water for a day or two, we enter into the hunger of God… for the experience of the hunger of God for men is a gift beyond compare. You know why you live, why you are alive. You know, indeed, who it is that you love, and why. Long after you have begun to eat, the hunger for God remains and becomes a flame that nothing can quench” (43).

“The moment we get into fasting, we also get into temptation… The evil one will present you with every reason for not continuing. That’s why I turn to Our Lady, the woman who can crush his face with her heel. And I implore her to help me because I know only too well that I can’t do it by myself” (44).

“It is a strange thing that when you enter into the world of fasting, a great peace comes upon you and at the same time, a great restlessness. It is one of the moments when God and Satan fight within your soul” (45-6).

“The Roman Church has invited its people to enter deeply into Lent, and the depth of the entry is measured by the amount of love you have for him whose passion Lent celebrates, or at least reminds of us. It’s a question of love” (47).

Chapter 4: The Motive is Love

“What is penance? Penance is an act of love. If there is no love, there is no need for penance. In fact, there could be no penance if there were no love” (49).

“It is one thing to control one’s appetites; it is another to be exceedingly lavish in loving” (49).

“The only reason I can engage in penance, or desire to, is because I love. No other reason should ever be in my mind” (51).

Ask yourself: How much do you want to love this Lent? Then you will know all about fasting, prayer, and penance, because love will dictate them to you, and love is God (52).

“Mortification and penance are acts of love, passionate love in response to a Passionate Lover, that’s all. So what we call mortification and penance aren’t really that. It’s no use talking about penance and mortification other than as our passionate response to our Passionate Lover – God” (56).

Chapter 5: Sin, Repentance, and Conversion

It’s a great act of love to not sin because every sin is an act against love.

Ch.6: Palm Sunday

“Dearly beloved, our life should be such a procession. Our ordinary, everyday life, I mean. What does it matter that instead of palms, we hold brooms and tools of all kinds, dishes and scrubbing brushes and books. Every day of our life should be a living Hosanna to Christ the King, a march, a triumphal march toward Jerusalem, the City of God – and the day of his Second Coming, the Parousia… But we also remember, as we walk daily in this glorious procession of love and allegiance, that it will lead us inevitably to Golgotha. About that, we should be joyful, as we grow in love and faith. For as we grow, an incredible miracle will take place within us by the grace of God: Golgotha, the cross, the tomb will become so very small and easy of acceptance, even willed, desired and waited for. Our growing faith and love will center on the Resurrection and on the Ascension that guarantees us our heart’s desire: oneness with the Beloved” (70-1).

Ch.7: Holy Week Talks

 “How do you and I, in this week that we call holy, meditate on a total surrender to God, unto dying for our neighbour? There is a bloody dying: a martyr’s death. But there is also a protracted dying: the “white martyrdom”, and that dying begins now. To surrender I have to forget myself. You die by listening… You die by entering into the loneliness of another person. It takes faith to enter that loneliness, but I will meet God there… You die by entering into the anxieties of others. In this week we call holy, have we time to watch an hour with our neighbour who is in anxiety?” (76-79)

“This is the week for meditating on how much we are loved. If there is anyone who thinks that he or she is not loved, let them follow the Holy Week liturgies and they will know with what love we are all loved! For those of us who do know a little of that love, let this week be one of loving others, for no one can receive the infinite love of God without passing it on. God meant it to be that way. If we kept it for ourselves, it would break us” (80).

“Now the passion of Christ is moving toward us like a flood. God help us, that it doesn’t engulf us, because it could if we remain indifferent to it, if we do not see his passion in our neighbour, in our brothers and sisters, if we do not take time to listen, if we do not share our wealth” (87).

Ch.8: Holy Thursday: Priesthood and Eucharist

 “Today is Holy Thursday. Today is priesthood day, for Jesus Christ brought forth the priesthood at the Last Supper… It is such an awesome day!” (93-4)

“We who are eternally tearing priests apart because of their human sinfulness, we who are leaving the Church because a priest has erred or has upset us, we who criticize, who walk around with our heads high but with stones in our hands, we are so full of sin. As Christ said when the woman was taken in adultery, “Whoever of you has not sinned, let him cast the first stone.” We can apply this to ourselves in relation to priests” (94).

Ch.9: Good Friday

“The great question that stands before us on Good Friday is: are we going to empty ourselves in response to his emptiness? The moment we do, we shall know the joy of Christ! Notwithstanding the pain, the cross, the tomb, if I empty myself because I am in love with God, I shall know joy” (100).

“This is why the Eastern Church celebrates Good Friday with flowers and a certain joy. It is as if a person steps outdoors on a sunny day with snow still on the ground, and suddenly through a quiet breeze feels spring! Standing under the cross, tears falling down my cheeks, my pain racking me – in union with his – I feel arising from my heart a joy. Out of the depths of my heart arises the sound, the smell, the joy of spring. Resurrection!” (100-1).

“Take the lance of love and open your own heart and soul and let anyone in, for that is why he died: that we should love his Father with our whole heart, our whole mind, our whole soul. That we should love one another, including ourselves. But we must love as deeply as he did and allow the nails to pierce our feet and hands, and the lance of love to enter into our heart. Can we really say that our love is like that? Could we make this Good Friday a good beginning to deepen our love?” (102).

to be continued…

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