Getting Heart Healthy This Lent
When I go shopping for groceries I find myself taking more and more time to actually read the labels on the can, box or bottle. This added research probably comes with an aging body. You begin to notice such ingredients like salt, fat, gluten and sugar that can affect your overall health. People have found that eliminating certain foods can have a profound effect upon one’s weight, blood pressure, and level of energy.
Someone gave me great advice when it comes to shopping for groceries. They said to shop only on the outside perimeter of the store and not down the center aisles. That’s where all the healthy stuff is; like the salads, fruits and vegetables. All the junk food is usually stocked in the center of the store.
Lent is about the expansion of the heart so that it becomes more loving and generous. Just as the heart muscle benefits from exercise, so our spiritual heart benefits from our Lenten observances and practices.
First, prayer opens the heart and helps us to listen to God’s word. When we allow the word to echo in our hearts and to penetrate down in the depths, it will help us to grow in knowledge of God’s mercy and love. Second, the invitation to fast expands our hearts so that we may become more aware of the ways that we so often focus on satisfying our own needs and desires, rather than being willing to open our hearts to our neighbor. Fasting can make us more grateful for what we have received and more generous to others in their need. Third, we can develop our Lenten exercises by giving to others, especially through our charitable giving and works. This exercise helps us to focus on the needs of our neighbor. Hopefully, by the end of Lent, with plenty of exercise, our spiritual heart will be in better shape and ready to resist the temptations we face, and like Jesus, place our trust in God.
Spiritual Exercises For Lent!
Take advantage of the various Lenten opportunities that will be offered in our parish this Lent. Here are a few simple suggestions.
- Pray the Stations of the Cross this week, on Wednesday, March 8th at 6:30 pm at Immaculate Conception Church. It is a great way to recall how Jesus loved us to death.
- Register for Fr. Pat McGrath’s retreat entitled “Finding God In All Things Amid Challenging Times” that will take place next Sunday afternoon. Fr. Pat is a great presenter and comes highly recommended. Bring a friend.
- Donate a bag of food to our Parish Food Pantry. Our supply is running low.
- Pray the rosary. The beads can work wonders.
- Attend our St. Joseph’s Table on Sunday, March 19th. Meet someone new. Enjoy some good food and fellowship. Help build community.
- Attend daily Mass during the week. Mass is celebrated at St. Joseph on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:00 am. Weekday Mass is celebrated at Immaculate Conception on Tuesday and Thursday at 7:00 am, and on Saturday at 7:30 am. Enjoying the quiet and receiving the Eucharist is a great way to begin your day. It’s a good cure for high blood pressure.
- Pray the Penitential Psalms (Psalms 6, 31, 50, 129, and 142). They are beautiful words about God’s mercy.
- Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent. Even if it has been a long time since you went to confession, don’t worry. God’s mercy is always there for us. The good news is that God never stops loving us.
- Take time to read the Lenten Bulletin Inserts published by Our Sunday Visitor Press. They are based on the Sunday readings. Each insert features insights on the season, inspiration from Pope Francis to share the Gospel, reflection questions and practical tips to prepare for the resurrection of Christ on Easter.
- Listen to spiritual music or a spiritual speaker.
- Start a Lenten journal to capture your spiritual insights, special intentions, people you want to pray for, hurts and disappointments that you want to offer up. A journal will let you keep track of the progress you are making on your Lenten resolutions.
- Participate in the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Rice Bowl Program. The CRS Rice Bowl program provides resources that bring the Lenten pillars of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to life.
Come Pray With Us
Throughout the month of March, we will be counting the number of people who attend Mass at Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph parish. We typically conduct this survey for the Archdiocese during the month of October. However, the month of March actually provides us with a more accurate reading. The Chicago Marathon in October throws off our head-count because the various street closings in our neighborhood make it very difficult for parishioners to get to either one of our churches on Sunday morning.
Please make every effort to worship at Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Parish throughout Lent. I am aware that parishioners have lots of other options for Sunday Mass given that our neighboring parishes are less than ten minutes away from us. I hope to see you in church.
I happy for Camille Rehkemper who will receive a Leadership Award from Bishop Frank Kane this Sunday. Camille is being recognized for her outstanding ministry and service. This year she is teaching our 2nd Graders in our Religious Education program. It’s a big year preparing our children for their First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion. Camille also serves as a Extra-Ordinary Minister of Communion at our 11:00 Mass. We are blessed by her time and talents.