by Marc and Julie Anderson
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Lent starts next week.
Which means some of us folks in the pews need to start scrambling if we’re to be ready to launch on Ash Wednesday.
But laypeople aren’t the only ones who commit to improving their relationship with God during this penitential season.
FATHER TIM HABERKORN
St. Joseph Parish, Topeka
Spiritual growth, said Father Tim Haberkorn, pastor of Sacred Heart-St. Joseph Parish in Topeka, is the ultimate goal for him personally during Lent, as well as something he wants to encourage in the parishioners he serves daily.
“I think Lent gives us an opportunity for what I call latitude in attitude. And what I mean by that is to really pause and try to get the proper spirit and attitude of Lent.”
Father Haberkorn said it might sound easy, but in practice it can be tough.
“It sounds simple in words, but it is a daily commitment. When I say Lent is an opportunity for latitude in attitude it goes back to Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s approach. He said when it comes to our days, there’s two ways we can approach each day either, ‘Good morning, God’ or ‘Good God, morning.’
“I think for me, [the goal is] to make every one of those days of Lent ones of ‘Good morning, God.’
“Like I said, it’s an easy thing to say, but to actually have an attitude of spirit adjustment during Lent would be a good thing.”
Another area, Father Haberkorn said, with which he struggles and knows others do, too, is practicing patience.
“I think if there would be a fourth virtue, it would be patience, because everyone needs a bit more patience with one another and ourselves.
“So, that would be something to work on during Lent.”
No matter how one chooses to prepare for Easter, Father Haberkorn said it’s important to remember the point of Lent.
“The goal of Lent is that when we get to Easter, we can say that we’ve risen to be a new person in Christ. If we can rise to a life that is less selfish and more selfless, then I think we’ve had a good Lent and Easter.”
Reflecting on his 25 years as a priest, Father Haberkorn said celebrating the season has changed for him.
He remembers how the Lent before his 25th anniversary as a priest was particularly meaningful for him.
“That Lent was a time for recommitment, recharging, reviewing, but also kind of like a battery charge for future ministry and what lies ahead.
“Starting out in priesthood, I was concerned about getting it right in terms of the rubrics and getting it right in terms of practice.
“Now, it’s on a deeper level. It’s about how you’re going to be, and that’s why I think there’s a difference now in terms of doing versus being.
“It’s about attitude in spirit, too, not just about practice.”
Father Haberkorn also said that Lenten sacrifices, while beneficial, need to lead Catholics to a deeper faith.
“All those things (giving up chocolate or dessert, praying the Stations of the Cross, etc.) are good things, but unless it changes your being, I think it’s only temporary and fleeting. It’s just a seasonal thing.
“If it changes your being, then it’s more permanent.”
FATHER MICHAEL PETERSON
Pastor of St. Bernard, Wamego; St. Joseph, Flush; Holy Family, Alma; and Sacred Heart, Paxico
Father Michael Peterson says that when he thinks of Lent, he thinks first about the needs of his parishes — all four of them! Father Peterson is pastor of St. Bernard in Wamego, St. Joseph in Flush, Holy Family in Alma and Sacred Heart in Paxico.
“I try to turn to what is productive for people — my congregation — and [what will] help them best. That’s probably where I focus my attention.”
During Lent, Father Peterson leads the Stations of the Cross for his parishioners, something in which he finds solace.
Also, on most Fridays, parishioners are likely to find him at one of the fish fry dinners that provide him more opportunities to simply connect with them.
Spending time at each parish, Father Peterson said, is something he strives to do throughout the year, but Lent provides more opportunities.
“I find some satisfaction in participating with the people in these special events we do during Lent.”
Being the pastor of four parishes is a challenge — especially logistically. So, it is no surprise that his personal Lenten goals are at least partially practical.
“Personally, I guess I need to [find a way] to incorporate some discipline into my life about getting things done in a timelier manner.”
During seminary, he said, the environment was highly structured and afforded him many opportunities to reflect on his spiritual growth during the Lenten season.
“Hopefully, it carries forward in my pastoral ministry here.”
FATHER NICK BLAHA
Pastor of St. Catherine Parish, Emporia and chaplain/director of the Didde Catholic Campus Center
Making a permanent change in one’s life, said Father Nick Blaha, pastor of St. Catherine Parish in Emporia and chaplain/director of the Didde Catholic Campus Center at Emporia State University, is the ultimate goal of Lent.
Every year, the eight-year veteran of the priesthood reviews the physical, spiritual, intellectual and technological aspects of his life.
“I spend some time reading and doing some research to nail down what areas I’m going to focus on. I just take stock of where I’m at in those four areas.”
After prayer and discernment, he commits to specific resolutions in each area. Father Blaha said those Lents for which he has seen much growth have been the ones in which he consistently practiced and constantly kept in mind his Lenten goals.
Still, he said, it’s easy to overlook the point of making a Lenten sacrifice or committing to some pious act during Lent.
The point of anything done in Lent, he emphasized, is to change and grow closer in friendship with Jesus.
Father Blaha said his best Lents have been ones in which “I went all in” and “was excessive in some ways.”
“The Lord fills the space we give him,” he said. “The more I give him, the move he gives back.”
FATHER NATHAN HAVERLAND
Pastor of St. Gregory Parish, Marysville, and St. Malachy, Beattie
Like Father Blaha, Father Nathan Haverland, pastor of St. Gregory Parish in Marysville and St. Malachy in Beattie, said he has found the best Lents to be ones of sacrifice.
“I think the best Lents have been those where the Lenten resolutions were the hardest.
“A lot of us can do easy resolutions — chocolate or social media — but the harder the sacrifice tends to be, the more fruitful the Lent.”
One year, he gave up music for Lent. He was driving a lot that year, so it was a real sacrifice. Perhaps though, an even more memorable Lent was the year he tried something even more extreme.
“One year, I gave up my bed for Lent. It was during the seminary. It was quite a sacrifice. Usually, I try to pick things that people don’t see or notice because I don’t do it to get noticed.
“So, I had heard of that one, and you just give up a little bit of comfort. I guess I was inspired by the CFRs (Franciscan Friars of the Renewal) because they sleep on the floor. . . . So, I gave that a try for Lent.”
It was a fulfilling Lenten mortification — and he was very happy to get back his bed at Easter.
“I think you realize, in doing things like that, how fruitful sacrifice is. We usually think of sacrifice as suffering, but there can be a lot of fruit that comes from sacrifice.
“Just giving up a little bit of comfort reminds you of those that have no comfort at all.
“So, I think a lot of fruit comes from sacrifice, and you see it in those moments.”