by Theresa Laurence
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) — One of the biggest challenges of Lent, for many people who are caught up in the demands of everyday life, is to set aside meaningful time during the penitent season to forge a deeper connection with Christ.
“Despite our busy-ness, we need to find a way to pay attention to God” during Lent, said Father Ed Steiner, rector of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville.
Lent is an ideal time to build new spiritual habits, Father Steiner said, and could include reading Scripture or simply taking a few meditative moments of silence during the daily commute. “You can devote yourself to a handful of small things that take a few minutes a day.”
There are a plethora of apps and websites that offer daily or weekly reflections via email. And this year, for the first time, the Diocese of Nashville is producing a weekly series of reflections by local priests that aim to give a deeper understanding of the Sunday readings during Lent.
Beginning March 2, new Lenten reflection videos are to be available every Thursday during Lent at www.dioceseofnashville.com and on YouTube.
“We are hoping it helps the people of the Diocese of Nashville to prepare for Sunday Mass and helps them apply the readings to their daily lives,” said Joan Watson, director of adult formation for the diocese. “Our hope is that these reflections help people prepare for the liturgy they are about to celebrate with their parish, and nurtures their Lenten journey.”
The Lenten reflection series builds on Watson’s weekly “Three Minute Theology” video mini-lessons on different aspects of the Catholic faith. For Lent, Nashville Bishop David R. Choby “suggested that we create a series of videos featuring local priests reflecting on the themes of Lent and the Sunday Mass readings,” Watson said, and she and her team were busy preparing the videos over several weeks.
The short videos, which also were to be posted on the bishop’s Facebook page, feature a different diocesan priest offering reflections on the Gospel for the upcoming Sunday. The priests were each recorded where they serve, Watson said, “to bring the people of the diocese into these places and connect them to their fellow Catholics through the mid-state (area of Tennessee). We hope to continue to do more series like these and feature more priests and parishes.”
One of the priests featured in the videos is Father Michael Baltrus, pastor of St. Patrick Church in McEwen, who offers a reflection on the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. He said he wanted to talk about how “when we face some of the most difficult things in life, that’s an opportunity for our faith to grow.”
“As part of our human nature, we tend to try to avoid uncomfortable situations,” Father Baltrus told the Tennessee Register, Nashville’s diocesan newspaper. “The church encourages us to look for discomfort, look for ways to be sacrificial, be more monastic.”
Lent, he said, “is an opportunity for each of us to step out of the ordinary.” During those times, Father Baltrus said, “is when we see the hand of God in a more powerful and beautiful way.”
The true focus of Lent is Good Friday, said Father Steiner, who also is featured in a video. “All the fasting, abstinence and sacrificial acts, we do that so we can identify with Jesus on the cross.” The challenge, he said, “is to put ourselves in a position of real sacrifice.”
In addition to renewing spiritual practices during Lent through reading Scripture, attending an extra daily Mass each week, or going to confession, people could also volunteer with their parish or another worthy cause, Father Steiner said. But the focus should always be beyond ourselves, he added. “Lent is more than motivation to do the right things, it’s motivation to improve our spiritual lives.”
Father Steiner, Father Baltrus and the other priests offering reflections in the Lenten video series “help us find consolation, encouragement, and guidance in the Gospels,” said Watson. “The Scriptures are not dead, but living, and continue to speak to us anew today,” she added. “Each reflection features very practical ways to make the teachings of Jesus part of your daily life.”