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Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Lent is just one week away! Our Ordinary Time has not been ordinary. It never is.

I wonder if you could point me towards some saint's writing on the purpose of Lent. We (all two of us) have recently revived the public recitation of the rosary and so far during a three month period only one other person has shown up. This is fine, really, as the main point is to give people the opportunity to come and stay constant without pouting that we're the only ones there. However, we are hoping to recruit some others during Lent. There is something of a liturgical guilt trip and we'd like to use it to good end.
I'm trying to put together a short article for the parish newsletter for February but I'd like to find something substantive to back me up about the purposes of Lent: prayer, good works and such. Please help!

I got this question some time back. Sorry for the long delay in answering. I hope the person who asked is still hanging around.

I don't profess to be remotely saintly, but I have lots to say about Lent, my favorite time of year after Christmas. I've always felt guilty that I don't get more excited by Easter, since it is the moment we've all been waiting for, so to speak. What can I say? I identify with the excitement of new babies and the suffering of Jesus.

Which is what Lent is all about. Not the babies part.

Here are some of my thoughts:


My Lenten Rule of Thumb.

It's not too late for your article! In fact, the timing is even better, because if you are trying to bring in people to your rosary group for Lent, it's better to invite them now rather than a long time ago and then they have to remember about that Lenten rosary group for weeks and then have time to come up with all kinds of excuses. This way, you have the 'see you Wednesday!' moment, and now we all know that they will remember and so if they don't show up they've been the doofusses. And voila! There's your guilt.

If it's a guilt trip you're looking for, I'd go with Mary herself. She never stops begging and pleading for people to say the rosary. She goes on and on about how sad Jesus is, how mad Jesus is, how the world is going to Hell in a handcart, all the terrible things that will happen that only the rosary can hold back.

Let me gently suggest that maybe guilt isn't the way to go.

Here's how publicity works: you have to have something that people want in the first place, and if they don't actually want it, you have to make them think they want it. That's why Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves are in so many movies. We've already seen "War of the Worlds" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still". Why should we come and see them again? Because Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves are in them this time.

Normally, I'd say offer something besides the rosary group, like coffee and cookies. But not just coffee and cookies, because you can have that at home. Something like everyone's best cookie recipe, like one of those cookie swaps. Then next time have everyone bring whatever fun soap they can lay their hands on, have everyone bring a candle to exchange, or children's art work.

But it's Lent. We can't be having that much fun.

So you're going to have to go the Tom Cruise route. Have somebody there that everyone wants to see, hear or associate with. A guest rosary leader. Tom Cruise is in that crazy Scientology church, so don't even think about asking him.

Here's the problem with your guilt trip and Lent: if you write an article about the purpose of Lent being to align ourselves with the suffering of Jesus then you're pretty much saying that to come to your rosary group is going to be a miserable experience. "Come suffer with us!"

I think you might want to go with a 'the power of group prayer' angle. Group prayer is a powerful thing, that's why we don't attend Mass for shut-ins on TV when we are not shut in. That's why we ask as many people as possible to pray for us. Even the pagans get this idea. The rain dance is not done in private.

Part two of publicity is getting the word out. Make some cards to hand out, get on Facebook, send out some emails, put up some flyers, tell the school children. Maybe you could Tweet. Even that poor goofey guy on CNN has figured that one out. If he can do it, you should have no problem.

You could even borrow that movie tagline from The Day the Earth Stood Still: "From out of heaven and warning and an ulitmatum!"

But to answer your original question. Here are some saints, just the same.


Janelle said...

I do like soap, especially the aromatherapy dish soap in lavender... sigh. It reminds me of the sweet scent of martyrs in Late Antiquity (not on a daily basis-- usually I'm just blissed out at the soapy goodness). Perhaps there could be one nice candle at the rosary group?

Thursday said...

Perhaps you could get tom cruise to come if you could convince him to leave scientology and return to catholocism. did you know he was once a francician seminarian? He's gone a long way aways from his roots. keep praying for him.

Unknown said...

Sister, on my blog Gethsemani Reflections, I have posted a request that we all pray to God to reverse global warming. Call me a nutcase, but if we really do believe in the power of God, then we can do this. Lent? Make all of Lent a sorrowful mystery of what we've done to creation and beg the Trinity to reverse it.


Anonymous said...

SMM, the world is not going to hell in a handcart, nor is it going to hell in a handbasket. Those are passe'. Today the world is going to hell in a Hummer. It's faster that way.

Anonymous said...

Dear Thursday, T.C. and Katie are closer to Catholicism than you know. They truly deserve and need our prayers. I knoweth whereof I speaketh.

Unknown said...

hmmmmm...Lent is coming up soon and I haven't thought much about it. In the past I've been one to add something as opposed to giving up something---the rosary every day, a lenten reading, an extra volunteering project, an extra random act of kindness. I'm thinking that doesn't cut it for you??
I see a lot of suffering in my work. A whole lot, and I have a pretty good idea of the physical suffering that Jesus endured. Thus I have tried to add in more of the good stuff during Lent. I'm not even one to fast, especially on days I work. I barely get a lunch break and 12 hours is too long to go without food and preserve any semblance of patience or pleasantries.
I'll keep pondering on this and reading, see if you have any ideas I can incorporate. Thanks for the post.

Katherine said...

I am still here: thank you for the suggestions. We have had one issue, though. Our priest decided that he would rather have Adoration Wednesday evenings for Lent, so we're on hold/trying to figure out a different day of the week.
I think you're right about giving the impression of "come suffer with us". I suppose I may have had that in mind (subconsciously) as I do not particularly like or get on with the other person who says rosary on Wednesday.
We are on the facebook, which has been very nice for all of us young people. We even managed to get our aging deacon and one of the priests to join, too. Now I make invitations every time we have a weekday service or a social event or anything out of the ordinary. They seem to help people remember to come to church, which is good. And our deacon is having a fantastic time with it, putting up photos and sending messages. It's lovely.

Anonymous said...

Sister Mary Martha,
On the topic of intercession, I was wondering if there was a Saint I could pray to for a few wayward people I know. They're really into the "New Age" stuff and don't want to hear about the way, the truth, and the life. Thanks!

Thursday said...

How about St Augustine? he was into some pretty new agey stuff before he became a Christian. then again I don't wanna steal Sr. Mary Martha's thunder on this, she's the pro after all.