Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Forty days in the wilderness; forty days of Lent. We are now embarking on the adventure we’ve called Lent since the early centuries of the Church. It may not be fun, but if our spirit is right it can be exciting and rewarding. We may even loose a few pounds.

 Jesus left the opulence and religiosity of Jerusalem and the Jewish community in Galilee to embark on a Lent of his own. He suffered the rugged harshness of the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. He gave up the comforts of societal life and walked among the rocks. I’ve been in this Judean Wilderness more times than I can count and I know the environment he subjected himself to.

 Moses had been tending sheep for forty years in the wilderness of Sinai before he encountered the burning bush and heard the word of God come out of the bush. By the way, that is why Our Blessed Mother is referred to as the fulfillment of the Burning Bush since the word of God came out from her. Those years in the wilderness prepared Moses for the tough task awaiting him. He was pushed to his limit, he talked with God and his character was formed by the desert.

The Judean Wilderness where Jesus was tempted by the Devil

 Even today the Bedouins and the religious monks that take up habitation in the solitude and austere deserts have an inner serenity lacking in those busting through the streets of the city. The desert is the place to meet God, to discover our smallness and dependance. The wilderness is where God can reach us in the silence where we are not assaulted by the cacophony of sounds and demands of modern life.

 The Devil knew about the loneliness of the desert too. That is why he purposely tempted Jesus when he was hungry, thirsty, tired and alone. When I take my pilgrims to the Holy Land I show them the places the Devil appeared. He came at the point Jesus was the weakest. He even came quoting Scripture. He does that you know — he is known to appear as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He will not fail to whisper in our ears at the moment of weakness. 

 How did Jesus respond? All three times Jesus refuted Satan with the words, “It is written!” He quoted from Scripture. It was his weapon, his two edged sword. Jesus knew Scripture. 

 We are embarking on our own forty days of denying ourselves, but not denying only. We should also be adding things to our life to deepen our knowledge of God and his Word. Adding a few extra Masses during the week, being more generous with our time and treasures. We should spend a bit more time in prayer and spiritual reading. We should be prepared for temptation and be well armed with the Word of God.

St. Thomas Aquinas carrying huge Tomes around

 This is also the Year of Faith. I’ve made it my goal to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church through from cover to cover this year. I am also reading the Bible through in two years. I’ve tried it before but fell flat on my proverbial face. This time I have a plan. I am using Logos Bible Software, specifically the Catholic version called Verbum. There is a marvelous program embedded in Verbum to assist in the daily reading of not only the Bible but also the Catechism and any other book in the Verbum software library.

 Just choose the book you want to read, set the parameters (for me it was the Catechism in one year) and it will automatically organize it for you with daily reminders, jumping right to place for today’s reading. Ah, but what if I don’t have time at my computer every day? No problem, Verbum synchronizes across platforms so I can whip out my iPhone (or any such device) and instantly read today’s paragraphs while waiting at the dentist, during lunch, while taking a walk, in a taxi or after I turn out the lights at night.

 Scripture in my hand! What would Sts. Jerome, Augustine and Aquinas thought of that? They tugged around great tomes and scrolls. I have 6,000 books and resources in the palm of my hand. Verbum is on my computer, laptop, iPad and iPhone. I want the Word of God to be like a sword I can draw at a moment’s notice. 

 People have joked, “Steve probably never opens his Bible anymore, now that he is a Catholic!” I chuckle and say, “You are correct. I haven’t opened a Bible in a long time.”

 But I have opened Verbum across my platforms and I study the Bible more — and more efficiently than ever before. Actually, I thought I loved the Bible as a Baptist but I love it a hundred times more now that I’ve discovered it is a Catholic book.

 Enjoy Lent! Dive into the adventure and keep Verbum at the heart of it all — not just for forty days, but for the rest of your life.

Click on the above image to learn more, watch the amazing video and to purchase with a 15% discount



Another Interesting Picture of Mary – Get it?

by Steve Ray on February 13, 2013

Question 1
Understand why this is a picture of Mary? (Hint: Catechism paragraph no. 724.)

Question 2
Is Moses kneeling to worship the bush?


{ 1 comment }

The Skull is Talking to Me; Lent is Upon Us!

by Steve Ray on February 13, 2013


SKULLIt says, “As you are now, I once was; as I am now, you soon shall be — remember your mortality!”

No better way to approach Ash Wednesday and 40 days of Lent.

Artists have painted St. Jerome with a skull on his desk. Popes were known to keep skulls in their libraries.  I now have a real human skull sitting next to me in my home office.

Durer-jeromeThe famous Capuchin Church in Rome has a labyrinth of rooms filled with bone which are not just stacked in piles, but are used to decorate. The lamps are made of human bones, designs on the walls, altars, everything is made of bones of the monks who have died there over the centuries. The sign above the entrance says the same thing the skull pictured above is saying to me.

Are Catholics morbid, obsessed with bones and relics, consumed with the thought of death. Yes and  no. We are concerned about these matters, but we are not morbid. We are realistic. We know that life is short and we need to keep things in perspective and our priorities straight.

5126259069_786db5ddb6We also know that life is full of vanities. Much of what vies for our time, energy and money is like a puff of smoke that detracts us from what is really important. Notice the skull to the right, look closely. It is entitled “All is Vanity.” If you look closely you can see a picture inside the skull. (You can click on the image for a larger picture.)

I wanted to buy my coffin in advance–one to my liking and made of carved oak–to use as a coffee table in our living room. I wanted it there to remind me that someday my body would spend a lot of time in there–under the ground. But my good wife nixed my plans. She said I could get one to stand upright as a bookshelf, but not to set on the floor looking like a funeral parlor.

My goal is to pour out my life for the Savior in this life and to remind myself every day that from dust I came and to dust I will go. The skull reminds me every moment that ”it is appointed for men once to die, and after that the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). I want to be ready.

What is the Chocolate Connection with Lent? Nice article here.