A soldier’s death and Lent

I guess the Rev. Jim O’Hanlon, pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Rye Brook, heard last week about a 23-year-old soldier from Yorktown who was killed in Afghanistan.

The story of Army Pfc. David R. Fahey Jr. touched him, and O’Hanlon sent out his thoughts, related to the coming of Lent, via email. The subject line read “A life ended too soon.”

O’Hanlon said I could share what he wrote:

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Have you had your annual check up at the Doctor and your cleaning at the Dentist?  Do you have all your forms in to your accountant to get your taxes filed?  Have you called your mother/ uncle/ sister?  How old are the batteries in your smoke detectors?  Is it time for a new oil filter on your car?

If you were to make a list of things you have to take care of how long would it be?  Are there things you should be doing for yourself that get pushed off your “to do list”?  Are you so busy you don’t have enough time to exercise or prepare healthy meals?  Do you keep quality time for the important people in your family and your good friends each week?

How about church?  Some people are so conditioned to church as something you do as an obligation or to please an old relative that there seems to be nothing in it worth while.  Obligation, fear and guilt once filled churches, but that day is fairly gone.  A great many Americans switch their religion or their denomination because they want something that’s not their parents’ church.  They don’t want to go somewhere and have people say, “Hey, it’s Frank and Sally’s kid!  Which one are you?”

Along with a good diet, exercise and recreation you need to check-off care of your soul.  A nice vacation and quality time for an important relationship can warm your soul but there needs to be more.  How is your Karma?  How do you make sense of your life’s journey?  Lent is a time to listen to your soul and see what care and attention it needs. Lent begins on March 9th and for many Christians this is a day to get Ashes marked on your far head.  A mark to remember our mortality and to think about our moral standing and need for repentance.  We will be having services at 11:30am and 7pm.  You may come and just observe or you may want to receive Ashes as well.  If these times don’t work there is also a service at All Souls Presbyterian (just down King Street facing Lyon Park) at 7am (55 Parkway Drive).  Many other churches will also have opportunities.

A teaching assistant in our child care center is just 23 years old and probably doesn’t think much about her health and probably less about death.  On Monday, however, she got news of another 23 year old she knew who had died.  Private David Fahey was killed in Afghanistan.  It is a life ended too soon but what do we believe about death?  Many of us don’t need ashes to remember our mortality.  For others who are young the symbol doesn’t have anything to attach to.  For all of us it is a day and an opportunity to stop and consider who has made us from dust and will welcome us home when we leave that dust behind.

It’s that time of the year again.  Sisters and brothers are coming together to get their soul check up.  How about you?

Mystagogy

I got a press release this week from the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference noting that newcomers to the Catholic Church finish their preparation during Lent.

It lists 10 things Catholics can do to welcome new members: “pray; listen; participate; attend the Easter Vigil; have a welcoming spirit; witness; invite; get involved; ongoing conversion; and…

Know mystagogy is for all.”

Mystagogy? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the term.

An explanation on the release looked like this: “After celebrating the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist, the newly initiated continue their formation in the faith in the period called Mystagogy (which means “interpretation of mystery”), when they reflect on their encounter with Christ in the sacraments and learn more about their faith. This period is ongoing and essentially what all members of the Church do throughout our lives: grow deeper in faith and relationship with Christ, constantly discerning his will.”

So mystagogy has to do with the period after initiation. It’s a time to begin to come to terms with the…mystery.

The website of Father Paul Turner of Cameron, Mo., explains: “Mystagogy affects new members and old members alike. Newcomers deepen their understanding of what happened to them at Easter. Their presence in the community brings new life to those who have been members for a while. In your kitchen you may have followed the same recipe a hundred times. But when your friends taste the results for the first time, their enthusiasm brings new pride to your work, new joy in the meal, new life to an old dish. Mystagogy enriches the whole community.”

I found a website called mystagogy.info, run by a husband-wife team of Methodist ministers, which states: “Literally, mystagogy means leading those who have been initiated into a mystery into its deeper meaning and significance for their lives.”

View religious art for Lent

Looking for something different for Lent?

The Maryknoll Sisters are offering an exhibit of woodland sculptures created by the late Sister Marie Pierre Semler (1901-1993).

The sculpture to the left is called “Mediator.”

The exhibit — free and open to all — will run through Sunday (March 8), 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, 10 Pinesbridge Road in Ossining.

According to the Sisters:

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Through 68 years of creativity, working in many mediums, her work has nourished the hearts and minds of many. Her contemplative spirit beckons us to see God in all things. Through her meditations, written in her later years, we can only imagine her relationship with God.

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Relatives of Sister Semler have exhibited her work at the University of Dayton, Marian Library Gallery in Ohio, the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec, the Mariandale Chapel Gallery in Ossining and elsewhere.

Sister Semler created over 2,000 pieces of religious art.

You can see some of them HERE.

So much for Fat Tuesday

It’s Ash Wednesday, and many Roman Catholics will be walking around with an ashen cross on their foreheads.

But are they Catholics?

Protestants have increasingly observed Ash Wednesday, in one way or another, in recent years.

I noticed that the Hudson River Presbytery of Presbyterian Church USA has an Ash Wednesday retreat today.

Memorial United Methodist Church in White Plains is hosting a joint Ash Wednesday service this evening with at least four other Methodist congregations.

Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon is starting today a weekly midday prayer service, featuring visiting preachers, that will run through Pentecost.

There’s plenty more.

And it’s only the beginning of the holy season. As Bishop Jeremiah J. Park, leader of the New York Conference of the United Methodist Church, wrote in his Lenten letter:

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Lent is a sacred time when we are ever more intentional in focusing our journey on Jesus. We do well to heed this advice from the Book of Hebrews: Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance that race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1).