By Barbara Hughes
I am not sure what I expected, but as I crossed the threshold, the room with its cement floor, cinder block walls, and two small windows placed near the ceiling caused me to question my sanity. What in the world was I doing here? In lieu of a bed, a hammock hung from the ceiling in one corner of the room; and in another corner was a straight-back chair facing a shelf-like table that held a wooden cross fashioned from tree branches. There was no electricity, but there was running water, evidenced by the small sink and toilet tucked behind a half-wall that partially divided the space.
This was my first trip to the hermitage hidden deep in the woods on the grounds of a Benedictine monastery. I had decided that spending time in a hermitage would be a meaningful way to begin the Season of Lent. Now I wasn’t so sure. But as I looked around the room, I realized that the bare bones environment was intentional. There was nothing pleasant to look at, nothing to distract me. I could no longer run from God or hide behind work or family commitments. With nothing else to do, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and let the world around me disappear.
A cocoon-like silence enveloped me, and as my heart began to swell, I knew that I stood on holy ground. In the hours and days that followed, I discovered that it wasn’t the hermitage that was holy. It was the hermitage that God was building inside me that was pure, a place I could carry with me long after leaving the monastery grounds. This unexpected awakening gave me a new perspective, which in essence, is what Lent is all about.
The word Lent means a “lengthening of days.” It reminds us that we have time to turn away from sins and fall in love with God. We begin by stripping away excuses for our sins and shortcomings. We strive to shed illusions rooted in the false self and enter the desert with Jesus, where we are given the opportunity to discover what can only be learned through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Each year, the Church invites us to enter the desert because once is never enough. Despite our best intentions, we grow weary, our resolve dissipates, and our baptismal robe becomes soiled. Hence, the penitential tone of Lent invites us to fast not only from food but also from sin and all that may lead us astray. We recognize that we cannot do this by ourselves. So we profess our weakness and ask God to create a clean heart in us and renew our commitment to do good works.
Lent is serious business, but serious is not the same as gloomy. In fact, Lent can be a time for joyful consolation because the more we empty ourselves, the more God fills us with his grace and mercy. This is the good news with which we are called to begin our Lenten journey because as Saint Paul affirms: “In an acceptable time I heard you and on the day of salvation I helped you (2 Cor 6:2).”
About the Author: Barbara Hughes is a retreat leader, spiritual director, and columnist for the Catholic Virginian. She is also a contributor to Bringing Home the Word, a weekly e-newsletter that features practical suggestions for prayer and reflection at home. A new edition is posted every week at the link below.
Art Credit: Photo 16936903 © Vetre Antanaviciute – Dreamstime
Call to Prayer
The Fast Life
A Meditation for Lent
Fast from judging others, feast on Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from fear and illness, feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute, feast on speech that purifies.
Fast from discontent, feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger, feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism, feast on hope.
Fast from negatives, feast on encouragement.
Fast from bitterness, feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern, feast on compassion.
Fast from suspicion, feast on truth.
Fast from gossip, feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm, feast on prayer that sustains.
Fast from anxiety, feast on faith. Amen.
Let Us Fast
A Prayer from Byzantine Vespers
While fasting with the body,
brothers and sisters, let us also fast in spirit.
Let us lose every bond of iniquity;
let us undo the knots of every contact made by violence;
let us tear up all unjust agreements;
let us give bread to the hungry
and welcome into our house the poor
who have no roof to cover them,
so that we may receive mercy
from Christ our God. Amen.
Season of Lent
Wednesday, February 22nd
The Holy Season of Lent is a time for prayer, penance, and almsgiving during which all Christians are called to renew their faith in preparation for the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ at Easter. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 22nd, which is a Holy Day of Prayer & Abstinence for all Roman Catholics. Here in the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport, we will celebrate Mass and distribute ashes according to the following schedule:
- Mass at 8:00am in Saint Joachim Church
- Mass at 12:00pm in Saint Ann Church
- Mass at 5:30pm in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church
Following our 5:30pm Mass, all are invited to join us for the Way of the Cross! Please note that there will be no Confessions or Eucharistic Adoration on Ash Wednesday. For more information about the Holy Season of Lent in Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish, please contact Father Jim at email@example.com. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
Season of Lent
Way of the Cross
Begins Friday, February 24th
For more than five hundred years, the Way of the Cross has been one of the most moving devotions of the Roman Catholic Church. By uniting our humble prayers with the suffering Christ by both word and imagery, we make a spiritual pilgrimage with our Lord as he experiences the Passion of the Holy Cross. During Lent, all are invited to join the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport in praying the Way of the Cross on six consecutive Friday afternoons from February 24th through March 31st at 3:00pm in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church. For more information, please contact Father Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
Season of Lent
The Light Is On For You!
Begins Wednesday, March 1st
On five consecutive Wednesday evenings, from March 1st through March 29th, all are invited to join us for The Light Is On For You! from 5:30pm until 7:00pm in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church. These evenings of prayer begin at 5:30pm with Holy Mass; followed by Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; and finally the Sacrament of Penance & Reconciliation (Confession) is offered for those who feel called to participate. For some, this may be a time for sacramental confession and reconciliation. For some, it may be a period of silent prayer and adoration. And for others, it may be an opportunity to begin or renew the spiritual journey. All are reminded that confessions are also available by appointment. For more information, please contact Father Jim at email@example.com. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
Calling Young Disciples
Lent Faith & Family Mass
Sunday, February 26th
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says: “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs (Matthew 9:14).” In response to the Lord’s urgent call, all children, parents, grandparents, godparents, and guardians are invited to join Father Jim for our Annual Lent Faith & Family Mass on Sunday, February 26th at 11:45am in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church.
During Mass, Father Jim will offer a special homily about the Season of Lent, along with a blessing for all families with children. In addition, because Lent is a season for prayer, penance, and almsgiving, all families will be encouraged to help our pastor raise $1,000 for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, a service organization in our parishes that provides food, clothing, and financial assistance to local families in need.
Also, please save the date for our Mother’s Day Faith & Family Mass on Saturday, May 13th at 4:00pm in Saint Ann Church. For more information about youth faith formation in the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport, please contact Betsy Works at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mass is our class! Jesus is our Teacher! Every child is a precious gift from God! Every family is welcome to join us! Please join us!
The Assisi Project
My God & My All!
A Course on Discipleship
New! Prayer & Action
Saturday, March 4th at 8:00am
Saint Francis of Assisi teaches us that discipleship is not just about the gift of faith. It’s not just about coming to church or memorizing a catechism. It’s really all about loving God and loving neighbor. It’s about meeting Christ in prayer and in the people we meet along life’s journey. It’s about joy and suffering, communion and fraternity, prayer and action. It’s ultimately about living the Gospel, sharing God’s love, and rebuilding the Church.
About discipleship, Pope Francis says: “It is about living close to Jesus…It is about embodying the Gospel in every day life. It is a fire that starts another fire.” It is no accident that the Holy Spirit gave us a pope who chose the name “Francis” and calls us back to the basics of prayer, good works, and a more simple way of life.
In this spirit, all are invited to join Father Jim and Cliff for My God & My All!: A Course on Discipleship on Saturday, March 4th beginning with Mass at 8:00am in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church. After Mass, we will reflect on “Prayer & Action” as understood by both Saint Francis and Pope Francis. In particular, we will discuss key portions of the Holy Father’s Fratelli Tutti, a papal encyclical on social friendship in a troubled world.
For more information about the Assisi Project and its good work in our parishes, please contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. Even if you have missed previous sessions of our course on discipleship, please join us for this stand-alone reflection and discussion! Bring a friend! All are invited! All are welcome!
Holy Family Women’s Guild
Bakeless Bake Sale
The Holy Family Women’s Guild is sponsoring a Bakeless Bake Sale during the Month of February! Why? Because now more than ever, our beloved home parish needs your support — especially because of rising gas and electricity bills! Every small donation makes a big difference! All donations can be mailed to:
Holy Family Women’s Guild
10 Orchard Street
Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930
Established in 2005, the Holy Family Women’s Guild brings together women of all ages in prayer, fellowship, and service to our parish and wider community. New members are always welcome! For more information about the Holy Family Women’s Guild and its good work in our parish, please contact Arlene Lesch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for supporting Holy Family Parish! May God bless you and your family!
Saint Vincent de Paul Society
Help Us Help Others!
The Saint Vincent de Paul Society is an international organization that is dedicated to responding to any request from any person or family in need. Here on Cape Ann, we work through Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish to serve the poor and the needy. Help us help others! Due to the rising costs of food, clothing, and utilities, we need your support more than ever! Donations can be pushed through the mail slot in the parish office, dropped in the collection basket at any Weekend Mass, or mailed to:
Saint Vincent de Paul Society
74 Pleasant Street
Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930
New members and volunteers are always welcome! For more information about the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and its good work in our parishes and hometowns, please contact Harry Miller at 978-281-8672 or Robert Weeks at email@example.com. If you or someone you know needs our help, please call 978-281-8672. Thank you for your generous support for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society! May God bless you!
Red Cross Blood Drive
Tuesday, February 28th
Our Lady of Good Voyage Hall
1:00pm until 6:00pm
Register at redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS
Thank you for your support!
Safe & Easy Electronic Giving
Share what you have for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Electronic giving has become an essential component of parish support in the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport; and it is available in both Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. It is safe and easy to make online donations to your home parish using a credit card, debit card, or electronic check.
Donations can be made on a weekly, monthly, or one-time-only basis; and it takes just a few minutes to set up a secure personal account. In additional to the weekly offering, you can also give electronically to our church restoration funds which helps us plan for the repair and maintenance of our beloved and historic churches.
During these challenging times, Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish need your support more than ever before! Please prayerfully consider enrolling in our ‘We Share!’ electronic giving program! For more information about setting up a new account or for assistance with your existing account, please contact Father Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your generous support for our parishes! May God bless you and your family, now and always!
Established in 2014, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport is a collaborative of two historic parishes: Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Working together as a Roman Catholic community united in prayer, fellowship, and service, we are committed to living the Gospel of Christ, sharing God’s love and mercy with all people, and rebuilding the Church in Gloucester & Rockport. All are invited! All are welcome! Always!
Follow us on Twitter: @CCGRonline
This Week’s Homepage
In Memory of Reverend John Feeney