Lent 2007 Retreat


Last year, just before Ash Wednesday, several of the people in the Watercooler (now the Clubhouse subforum of that forum) Junkies Treehouse thread asked me to put on a Lenten retreat The first CAF Lenten retreat was the fruit of that effort. Last year’s retreat was billed as a private retreat in the spirituality forum. For each session I posted a prayer, a scripture passage, a talk and a closing prayer. The five talks were spread over the course of almost five weeks.

This year we are going to offer the 2nd Annual CAF Lenten retreat. We will follow the same basic format as last year. I will be the only one posting to this thread. If you would like to discuss any of the topics of the retreat with other CAF members, you can do that in the at this link. Beware that the Junkies tend to talk a lot so we may move through a couple of Retreat houses as we make our Lenten Journey. If you desire to contact me privately about anything I’ve brought up in the retreat, please feel free to PM me. You my also e-mail me at CAF2007LentenRetreat@stjohnjordan.org which is set up just for this retreat.

That being said, I’d like to tell you a little about myself. I am a priest of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings serving the Church of Eastern Montana. I was ordained June 8th, 1994. I serve three small parishes spread across 7000 square miles of eastern Montana. I serve about 185 families in this area.

To make this retreat experience a truly prayerful experience, I’d suggest that you participate in as much of the following as possible.

Attend daily Mass.

Go to confession at least once during this holy season

Participate in Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer each day. If you need a resource for the Liturgy of the Hours look here

Spend 15 minutes at least one day each week in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in quiet prayer. If you can not spend 15 minutes at your local church try this as a substitute.

I’d like to add a few more resources to help you on your journey during this Lenten Season

Stations of the Cross and other Devotions on the Passion

Virtual Rosary

Benedict XVI 2007 Lenten Message

I suggest that you subscribe to this thread so you’ll know when I’ve added my next talk/reflection and prayer. You can do that by clicking on the thread tools drop down menu above and clicking on subscribe to thread. The talks will be posted approximately 5-7 days apart… I want to allow everyone a chance to reflect a little upon what was said before I introduce a new topic.

My intention of this retreat is not to lead to theological debate, but to encourage spiritual reflection. I hope that all of you have a blessed and holy Lenten experience.


Holy and Gracious God, we are gathering here as we start our Lenten journey to look for ways to come closer to you. Help us to use this holy season to grow in our relationship to you and to your church. Help us to find ways to make our faith a central part of our lives. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. AMEN


Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”


Each year as we begin Lent we hear this gospel passage. The Lord is reminding his disciples of the need to focus on things beyond themselves. It is a challenge for us to look at greater things. In life today it is too easy to get focused on self. Where is my career going to lead? How much money am I going to make? How early will I be able to retire? What are the toys that I am going to have to play with? How much pleasure can I have, here and now?

In reality, there is much beyond ourselves. Jesus is talking to his disciples about the three disciplines that we try to foster each year during this holy season. These are the disciplines of almsgiving, prayer and fasting. I’m sure most of you know what these disciplines are about, but just to make sure I’m going to say a few things about each and offer some reflections about how you might use these disciplines during this Lenten season.

Almsgiving is better known as giving to the poor. In the gospel today we heard that one should not let their left hand know what their right hand was doing. It is so easy to sit down at the beginning of the year and plot out our giving. I’m going to give x dollars a week to the parish. I’m going to give z dollars to support the work of the diocese. I’m going to spend w hours teaching English as a second language. One of the problems we run into when we do such planning, is that we sometimes fail to see the other needs that are out there. This planning is an important step, but we must not limit our almsgiving strictly to the plans we’ve laid out. We need to keep our hearts open to recognize the other needs that exist around us and to make a response to those needs. Last year when the hurricanes hit the south, it was easy to see the need and make a response. In many small towns, when someone’s house burns to the ground, in no time at all plans are made to step in and help out with food, clothing and a temporary place to live. Those are the easy needs to recognize. But, as you look around your community I’m sure you can find other worthy causes which could benefit from some of your time, talent or treasure. I’m not talking about just looking around today and making a decision to help out, but to be looking around everyday. It needs to truly become a natural thing in our lives so that it just happens. Then our left hand will not know what our right hand is doing.


Ok, I guess I don’t really have to give you a definition of prayer. I’m sure those participating in this retreat have had some experience in praying. The wonderful thing about the Catholic church is that we have so many forms of prayer that we can experience. Of course, the ultimate prayer that we have is to fully participate at the Mass as is proper to our station in life. For a priest, that is celebrating the Mass. For the lay faithful, that is serving in the various ministries that are needed to enable the Mass to take place. For some, this means being a Lector, or an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. For others it may mean being a responding part of the congregation, joining in the songs and prayers proper to the people. We do not take part in the Mass to draw attention to ourselves, but to worship God. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of this fact. We also have many other forms of prayer in which we may participate. These may be in public, or in private, but we need to ask ourselves if we are doing the prayer to be seen, or to really help us focus on God. These prayers include Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the praying of the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, Lectio Divina, spontaneous prayer and a host of other devotions that the Church offers us for our spiritual growth. We just need to remember to keep the focus on God and not draw attention to ourselves as we strive to grow in our faith.

The final discipline in which we participate during the Lenten season is fasting. Despite what some young people might think, that is not a race to get to the end of Lent. Fasting is a denial of things we normally make use of in our lives. Fasting from food is common during Lent. As a matter of fact there are two days which require us to fast, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On these two days we are expected to eat much less than normal. I say that because there are many days when my eating habits would meet the requirements of a fast with no effort on my part, so on fasting days I take it an extra step. Often times, people fast from some specific favorite food or drink. Some will fast from television. As I have for the past several years, I’m giving up watching football on television for Lent. (You were suppose to laugh at that part since football season is over and it is not really a sacrifice, and if you really knew me, you’d know that I’m lucky to watch a total of three full games each season on TV.) Some people give up some driving, walking when they can. Again, we should not make a big deal about the fact that we are fasting. It should just be as subtle thing that people may notice, but it is no big deal if they don’t. An example, let’s say that you’ve given up drinking soda pop for Lent. You are at a friend’s house and they ask if you’d like something to drink. You could respond, “I’ve given up pop for Lent so I guess I’ll have to settle for water.” Or you could say, “Water, please.” While we may not always remember to keep our fasting to ourselves, it speaks volumes when we do it with humility instead of pride.

I hope that as we continue our Lenten pilgrimage and as you participate in this retreat you’ll have the opportunity to put these disciplines into action and really grow during this holy season.


Let us pray,

Father, we thank you for this time of retreat. As we make our Lenten journey, we ask that you will help us to see others before self. May we be led closer in our relationship with you. We ask this in the name of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen


Holy Father, we know that we are far from perfect and that we need you and your grace to help us overcome sin in our lives. Help us to follow you in our lives. We make our prayer through Your Son. Amen


A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.


Have you seen the long lines of people who are waiting to get to confession each week when it’s available? Is that because you haven’t been there during the regular confession time or, have the lines not been there? In the gospel passage I chose for this talk, we hear Jesus telling those around him why he came. It was not to heal those who had not need of healing, but to heal those suffering from the effects of sin in their lives.

There are two parts of this reality that are hard for many people to deal with. The first is an inability by many of us to recognize the sins that do exist in our lives. Those of us in most of the Western World live in a society that tries to downplay the whole idea of sin. I think many people have tried to remove the sense of evil from many of the evil acts that we can commit in our lives. If we don’t recognize the evil, how can we recognize the sin? In many ways we can be like the Pharisees and scribes in the gospel passage. We are quick to see the sin in others, but often fail to see the sin in ourselves. Many of us don’t recognize the need for the divine physician.

On the other side of the coin, we have those who are all too conscience of their sinfulness. They fail to see God’s hand reaching out to them to offer his healing grace. In some ways, they become like Peter who told the Lord to depart from him, since he was a sinful man. They tend to come down hard on themselves for various reasons. Perhaps, through some experience, they’ve failed to see forgiveness in their lives and have difficulty seeing how God could forgive themselves. Perhaps, there is such a sense of guilt over what they’ve done that they don’t think they deserve God’s forgiveness. Perhaps they are afraid, not recognizing that God is calling them to turn back to him.

As we continue our Lenten journey, we need to really take time to figure out where we are in our relationship to God. Do we take the time to do an adequate examination of conscience each day? I have found that the Fathers of Mercy have a wonderful examination available for the asking from their web site: www.fathersofmercy.com. It really causes one to think about what it means to be a true Catholic and challenges many people in the practice of their faith. We also need to ask ourselves if we are open to God’s healing presence. If there are things that are keeping us from experiencing his healing and forgiveness, we need to work on those issues. Perhaps they can be dealt with through spiritual direction. Perhaps we need to seek some professional help to overcome our anxieties related to accepting God’s forgiveness.


Lord, God, help us to hear your call in our lives. We know that we need to recognize our sinfulness and to put our trust in your infinite mercy. Give us the strength we need to follow through. Help us in our Lenten journey to return to you, our divine healer. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord. AMEN


Loving Father, we thank you for your blessings in our lives. Be with us as we meditate upon your goodness this Lenten season. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen


Mt 20:17-28

As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem,
he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves,
and said to them on the way,
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem,
and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests
and the scribes,
and they will condemn him to death,
and hand him over to the Gentiles
to be mocked and scourged and crucified,
and he will be raised on the third day.”

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her, “What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
He replied,
“My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left,
this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


This gospel passage always causes me to pause and look at my life. There are two things that come to mind. First, am I overly prideful in my position. Second, am I truly doing all that I can to be of service to others.

It is so easy to think that we deserve much more than we are sometimes getting. It happens in many ways. Stay at home moms sometimes feel that they are not getting full credit for the work that they do while the husband is “bringing home the bacon.” Employees think that they should be given greater pay and/or responsibility, even though they are not working up to the required level. Some who receive government assistance complain that they deserve more. Sometimes we even want to blame God for the boat that we are in instead of recognizing his blessings.

Oftentimes, we think that we are best there is. Because of this, we are sure that we deserve the very best. We even tend to look past the needs of others at times like this in our lives. This is what leads a lot of people into the rat race in the corporate world. We only think about our own well being and will climb on anybody who is in the way. This is a great concern while when we are trying to live out a life for Christ.

In union with that, we hear Christ telling his followers that they must become a servant to all. When we struggle to get to the top, we often serve no one but ourselves. Yet, true happiness comes in reaching out to others. When we look at the example of Mother Theresa, we see where service can truly lead to happiness. Mother Theresa was a happy servant. In the Boy Scouts, the Order of the Arrow has a motto of Cheerful Service. That should be our motto as Christians. The other day in a conversation the whole idea of volunteerism came up. It seems that fewer and fewer people are volunteering to serve, yet that should be an important part of our lives.

I’d like to conclude this short talk with a few questions. How content are you with what you have in life? How hard are you fighting to get to the top? What volunteer service are you doing for your community, your parish, and your favorite charities? (Notice there is an “and” in there, not an “or”.) Are you more concern with being served, or serving?

I hope this reflection helps you focus on changes that may need to be made in your lives during this holy season.

2007 Lenten Retreat Discussion Thread

Lord, help us learn to serve others without counting the cost. Help us to realize that humility leads us to happiness, not success. We ask this in your most holy name. Amen.


No! One more talk will be posted for Holy week.


Holy God, as we enter this Holy Week, we ask you to be with us as we reflect upon your passion and as we make our final preparations to celebrate the joys of Easter. Help us in our spiritual growth during this holy time. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord. AMEN


Matt 26:36-46

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.”

He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again.

Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.”


The fruit of Silence it Prayer
The fruit of Prayer is Faith
The fruit of Faith is Love
The fruit of Love is Service

This thought of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta leads us into our last talk and Holy Week 2007. It is an inspiration for us to reflect upon this Holy Week. In our reading from Matthew, we see this taking place. We know the rest of the story. We see the ultimate act of love and service as Jesus goes to the cross and gives his life for all of us.

I have worked with a lot of people who want to have faith, but seem to be struggling. The first steps that they need to take is to find the time for silence so that their prayer can start to develop. In today’s society it is hard to find quiet. It seems that we always have a radio on, or the TV. I find that, in my own life, a lot of the time I am not actually listening to the programs that are on, but it provides background noise. I wonder how many of the rest of us would have this opportunity for some silence that could lead us to prayer. Fortunately, around here, the Catholic churches are open. I don’t know if we could find the keys if we wanted to lock the doors. There are many people who find the time to come by the church to enjoy the silence and the opportunity for prayer. As you watch these people in their spiritual journey, you see their faith deepening.

As Mother Teresa stated, the fruit of faith is love. As we come to trust in the promises of God, we experience the great love he has shown us. In many ways, that love is like a smile. Have you ever noticed that as you go around town, that if you have a smile on your face others seem to pick it up. In much the same way, as we experience God’s love in our lives, we pick it up and naturally pass it on to others. In many ways, this becomes our acts of service.

Some things to reflect upon this week. Am I finding time for silence in my life? Am I shutting out all of the noise that society is throwing at me? That noise can be the radio, TV, billboards, magazines, newspapers, etc. Am I letting the silence bear fruit?

As I pray, am I seeking prayer forms that help me appreciate what my faith is about? Does my prayer mirror my faith? If we believe in the grace obtained by Christ’s passion and death, do we take the time to meditate upon the crucifix or pray the stations of the cross? Do we use the scriptures as a starting point for much of our prayer?

As I grow in faith, do I truly trust in the good things God has sent me? Do I see God’s gifts as outpourings of His love towards me? Do I find ways to make the love relevant in my life? Do I find ways to share that love through service with those around me? Do I serve others joyfully?

As you enter this Holy Week I hope you find some silence and let it bear fruit. The fruitfulness of one act will lead to the next. May your time of silence lead to time of service for the glory of God and His people.

May God Bless you during this holy time.


O Lord, my God, teach my heart this day where and how to see you, where and how to find you. You have made me and remade me, and you have bestowed on me all the good things I possess, and still I do not know you. I have not yet done that for which I was made. Teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, or find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me seek you in my desire; let me desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you; let me love you when I find you. Amen
St Anselm of Canterbury

2007 Lenten Retreat Discussion Thread

I hope that this short, Lenten retreat has helped you in some way. Remember that this thread will be in the archives of CAF so you can always come back to it in the future if something struck you or you feel you may need some additional encouragement.

May God Bless you all as you prepare for the joys of Easter

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