Video series offers Gospel guidance for the Lenten journey

Debbie Hill | Catholic News Service
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — One of the biggest challenges of Lent, for many people who are caught up in the demands of everyday life, is to set aside meaningful time during the penitent season to forge a deeper connection with Christ.

"Despite our busy-ness, we need to find a way to pay attention to God" during Lent, said Father Ed Steiner, rector of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville.

Lent is an ideal time to build new spiritual habits, Father Steiner said, and might include reading Scripture or simply taking a few meditative moments of silence during the daily commute. "You can devote yourself to a handful of small things that take a few minutes a day."

There are a plethora of apps and websites that offer daily or weekly reflections via email. And this year, for the first time, the Diocese of Nashville is producing a weekly series of reflections by local priests that give a deeper understanding of the Sunday readings during Lent.

Beginning March 2, new Lenten reflection videos are to be available every Thursday during Lent at www.dioceseofnashville.com and on YouTube.

"We are hoping it helps the people of the Diocese of Nashville to prepare for Sunday Mass and helps them apply the readings to their daily lives," said Joan Watson, director of adult formation for the diocese. "Our hope is that these reflections help people prepare for the liturgy they are about to celebrate with their parish, and nurtures their Lenten journey."

The Lenten reflection series builds on Watson's weekly "Three Minute Theology" video mini-lessons on different aspects of the Catholic faith. For Lent, Nashville Bishop David R. Choby "suggested that we create a series of videos featuring local priests reflecting on the themes of Lent and the Sunday Mass readings," Watson said, and she and her team were busy preparing the videos over several weeks.

The short videos, which also were to be posted on the bishop's Facebook page, feature a different diocesan priest offering reflections on the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday. The priests were each recorded where they serve, Watson said, "to bring the people of the diocese into these places and connect them to their fellow Catholics through the mid-state (area of Tennessee). We hope to continue to do more series like these and feature more priests and parishes."

One of the priests featured in the videos is Father Michael Baltrus, pastor of St. Patrick Church in McEwen, who offers a reflection on the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. He said he wanted to talk about how "when we face some of the most difficult things in life, that's an opportunity for our faith to grow."

"As part of our human nature, we tend to try to avoid uncomfortable situations," Father Baltrus told the Tennessee Register, Nashville's diocesan newspaper. "The Church encourages us to look for discomfort, look for ways to be sacrificial, be more monastic."

Lent, he said, "is an opportunity for each of us to step out of the ordinary." During those times, Father Baltrus said, "is when we see the hand of God in a more powerful and beautiful way."

In addition to renewing spiritual practices during Lent through reading Scripture, attending an extra daily Mass each week, or going to confession, people could also volunteer with their parish or another worthy cause, Father Steiner said. But the focus should always be beyond ourselves, he added. "Lent is more than motivation to do the right things, it's motivation to improve our spiritual lives." 

Little Black Book provides many with Lenten inspiration

By Sam Lucero

Catholic News Service

ALLOUEZ, Wis. — Every year, Catholics look for ways to observe the 40 days of Lent.

Finding inspiration for prayer — one of the three Lenten faith traditions, along with fasting and almsgiving — is a top priority and one favorite source for many is the Little Black Book.

Now in its 17th year of publication, the Little Black Book has its origins in the Diocese of Saginaw and was the idea of Saginaw's bishop, the late Bishop Kenneth E. Untener. A gifted homilist and writer, Bishop Untener died in 2004.

Cathy Haven has been editor of the Little Black Book since 2004. In an interview with The Compass, the newspaper of the Green Bay Diocese, she explained how this Lenten resource Bishop Untener created for members of his diocese turned into an internationally popular devotional book.

It is now published in English, Spanish and Vietnamese and also comes in different colors and themes: the Little Blue Book for Advent/Christmas; the Little White Book for the Easter season; and the Little Burgundy Book, an undated four-week reflection on stewardship in light of the Gospels. For copies, visit www.littlebooks.us.

"In the mid-1990s, Bishop Untener had decided that he wanted to do something that would kind of bring the traditions of Lent to the forefront of peoples' minds," said Haven. "He started a Lenten task force and chose the theme of reconciliation."

Bishop Untener "wanted something that could be put into a coat pocket," said Haven, a booklet with no artwork identifying it as a religious publication so anyone could carry it in public. The goal was to "spend six minutes with the Lord" every day.

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