Category Archives: Lenten Reflections

10 Ways to Celebrate Holy Week

This week, Christians celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in a special way. Above all holidays, this week is the most central to Christian life. Here are 10 ways you can observe and celebrate Holy Week!

  1. Serve someone in need.
    Pope Francis has declared this the Year of Mercy so that all may “grow stronger and more effective” in mercy. Like the Good Samaritan in the gospel, we show mercy when we decide not to walk past someone in need. This exemplifies the life of Jesus.
    Example: Help serve a community meal at First Presbyterian Church in Leavenworth or in Kansas City Kansas with USM students. Meet at 4pm on Tuesday or 9:30am on Saturday respectively in the Office of Campus Ministry. Contact S. Rejane Cytacki (
  2. Read the Gospel.
    This is a great practice for Holy Week and a great way to revisit stories and words with which you might be familiar and others with which you might not be familiar.
    Example: Take an hour and read the Gospel of Mark from beginning to end reflecting on this question: how are the followers of Jesus continually challenged in the Gospel? OR Spend twenty minutes each night reading the Gospel of Luke reflecting on this question: who are the poor in the Gospel of Luke and how does Jesus serve them?
  3. Celebrate with a worshiping community.
    Many Christian churches come together to celebrate on Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil (Saturday night), and Easter Sunday. This is a great way to experience the richness of these holy days and share them with others.
    Example: The Sisters of Charity are celebrating Holy Week in 2016 with the following services in Ross Chapel (Mother house) open to any in the USM community: Holy Thursday 7:00pm, Good Friday 3:00pm, Easter Vigil 7:30pm Saturday, Easter Sunday 10:00am.
  4. Visit someone who needs a visitor.
    Show love and appreciation to someone who needs it. This could be a family member or friend you haven’t seen in a while, someone who is sick, or perhaps someone in prison.
    Example: Visit Sisters of Charity in Ross Hall with students from Rotoract Club. Meeting in the office of campus ministry at 3:15pm on Thursday March 24th.
  5. Plant a seed.
    Planting a tree, flower, or other plant is a beautiful symbol of resurrection used by Jesus in the gospel. The seed “dies” to become something new-a beautiful work of God’s creation. This beauty reminds us of the need to care for our common home.
    Example: Plant a tree in your yard at home OR go to a local park and find a tree or flower-spend some time appreciating it and the gifts it brings to our world.
  6. Fast (and “slow”!)
    Fasting is the practice of abstaining from something (food, smoking, etc.) in order to set the mind toward something else. That is why fasting should always be accompanied by “slowing”- taking some time to refocus on what is important.
    Example: On Good Friday, give up eating between meals. When you find yourself wanting to grab a snack, think about something good in your life and express thanks for it.
  7. Enjoy sacred art, music, film or literature.
    The life, death and resurrection of Jesus has been explored in many and varied ways through the arts. Experiencing these works of art opens our minds and hearts to new meaning of age old themes.
    Example: Go with a friend to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art to contemplate and discuss sacred art and other art as well.
  8. Give to a charity.
    We often think about giving to a charity or cause we support, but we often forget to do so unless the opportunity is right in front of us. Take some time during holy week to take that initiative and give to an important cause.
    Example: Grab a CRS rice bowl from campus ministry to put in your home or office for loose change. Proceeds will be sent from campus ministry to Catholic Relief Services.
  9. Pray.
    The gospels are filled with moments where Jesus goes off alone to pray or prays with the disciples. There are many ways to pray. Reserve some time in the morning, noon, afternoon, or night just for prayer. Discover how you pray best and how to make prayer a part of your life.
    Example: Set a chair or location in your home where you will go for ten minutes when you get up and before you go to sleep. Speak a prayer aloud or quietly, read a sacred text, write in a journal, or simply rest in silence.
  10. Spend some time with family and friends.
    The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a story of life in its fullness. Do something fun with family or friends over this holy week to share good memories and reconnect.
    Example: Invite friends or family to dinner. Find a moment to express to each person something about him/her that you appreciate and for which you are grateful.

The Triduum

We have finally come to the pinnacle of liturgical celebrations in the church calendar: the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil).  May each and every person have a blessed Triduum and a Happy Easter!

Not sure what the Triduum is?  Check out this illustrated guide by blogger Jonathan Teixeira:


Peace and Justice Resources for Lent

ACCU Peace and Justice

Are you looking for resources to enrich your Lenten journey?  We are pleased to share several resources from our colleagues working for peace and justice:

-The Justice for Immigrants Campaign has produced a toolkit entitled Immigration Reform: Your Lenten Promise, inviting you to pray, fast, learn, give and advocate for just and humane immigration reform, in solidarity with immigrants and refugees.

-Focusing on climate change during Lent?  In anticipation of Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical on care for creation and the environment, Ignatian Solidarity Network has released Renewing the Face of the Earth, a Lenten reflection series on protecting God’s creation and fighting climate change.  Sign up for daily updates on the website!  In addition, the Global Catholic Climate Movement has organized a fast for climate justice during Lent 2015.  Catholics from more than 45 countries will fast from food or activities that produce carbon dioxide during each of the 40 days…

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Humble and Contrite Hearts

Lord, as we begin our Lenten journey with you,
we recall what you desire: a humble and contrite heart.

You don’t desire our bank accounts;
you don’t quantify our popularity;
you don’t hope for our job titles;
you don’t seek out our righteous ideologies;
you don’t long to see how pretty or handsome we are.

You desire only where our hearts are; and the rest will follow.

And you do not desire a perfect heart, but a heart broken and wounded.
A heart of hope and a heart of sorrow.
Give us these hearts, O God.
Give us hearts that are unafraid.
Give us hearts that lead us where others fear to go.
Give us hearts that listen humbly and burn with a passion for justice.
Give us humble and contrite hearts.


Ash Wednesday

12:00pm- Ash Wednesday Mass in Annunciation chapel
7:00pm- Ash Wednesday prayer service with distribution of ashes in Maria Hall Chapel

Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent.  The ashes we wear on our heads today remind us of our need to repent and turn to God.  They also remind us of our death.

If Easter is such a joyful time for Christians, why begin our season of preparation with such a somber symbol?  It is because we are not afraid.    It is because we recognize that we make mistakes and that we will die someday.  Far from dwelling on this negatively, when we pray for forgiveness today and receive ashes on our foreheads, we look our shortcomings in the eye and take our mortality by the hand.  We acknowledge our sinfulness and look to our death, not so that they remain in the shadows of gloom and guilt, but so that they can be brought into the light of a loving God, who gives life to the world.

Today we repent and turn to God.  Let us do so, and enter the season of Lent unafraid!

Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras?

Have you ever heard of Shrove Tuesday?  It’s more likely that you’ve heard of Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”).  Shrove means “to have obtained absolution for one’s sins by way of confession and doing penance” and comes from a tradition of penitential preparation for Lent.  Mardi Gras, on the other hand, comes from a tradition of celebratory preparation as a last chance to have high spirits before the somber season of Lent.

The two names seem to imply polar opposites: going to confession vs. having a party.  But both names describe an appropriate disposition for Lenten preparation.  After all, Lent is a time to turn toward God.  This can be a somber task, because it involves leaving some of our attachments behind, but it is also a task of great joy, because it means turning toward new life with God.

So as we enter the season of Lent, let us remember to bring together both our sorrows and our joys in fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.  Don’t let your sorrows cast shadow on your joys, and don’t let your joys erase the deep discoveries of your sorrows.  Rejoice!  Our God is a God of joys and sorrows.