Lent is the season to fall in love. I’m not talking about the earthly kind of love that will forever be marred by the fall of man and the presence of sin and evil in the world, but a different kind of love. What if you fell deeply in love with someone who you could fully trust to always be working for your best interests, even in the most dire of circumstances? What if you could surrender yourself to someone with complete faith that you would never be disappointed in your decision to do so? What if you fell deeply in love with someone who had the infallible ability to help you reach your fullest potential, and who would go to the greatest lengths to give you every opportunity to choose to become all you were created to be?
This is divine love, and it’s ours to receive. During Lent, we are called to grow closer to God. Sacrifice, repentance, acts of charity, prayer, and scripture study are all wonderful ways to embrace God, but as Catholics we have an obligation that runs much deeper than that.
When we love God, we are also called to love Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And when we love Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we are called to love the Church that Jesus established, as well as it’s leaders who have been blessed with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. We never reject the gifts of those we love most when they are given in the true spirit of charity. A homemade card from one of my children with words of love crudely written and misspelled all over it melts my heart faster than any gift they could buy at a store for me. Their deep love and trust is obvious as they hand me something that took time, effort, and humility as they struggled to create it within the limitations of their young years.
So it is with Christ and His Church. He handed us this great gift when He handed His body over to be broken for us. He loved us so much that He gave us the Church and her leaders to impart that love for the rest of time. He trusted that we would embrace every aspect of the precepts of the Church for which He gave time, effort, and humble suffering as He experienced the struggle between His divine love and human qualities in the Garden of Gethsemane. He trusted that because we love Him, we would also faithfully love His Church.
When I first fell in love with my husband, I found myself willing to overlook his weaknesses, quirky personality traits, and annoying habits. As that love deepened and matured within the sacrament of marriage, we have both had times when we felt compelled to start a difficult conversation out of concern for the other’s soul, but the commitment has remained strong and our self-giving love for each other has endured. How much easier it should be to love a perfect God who only wants what is right and good for us! A soul that is burning with the fire of love for God wants nothing more than to seek always His presence and guiding hand. It thirsts for the knowledge that will monitor every thought, every impulse, and every human tendency to be sure we are being led, body and soul, into the arms of our Savior. A soul filled with love for God wants to immerse itself in the fullness of His truth so as to remain always consumed by the magnitude of His omniscience without any risk of falling into the snares of this world.
What a gift Christ left us with the establishment of His Church! The rich, 2,000 year old legacy of the Catholic Church is filled with saints who inspire us, leaders who guide us, sacraments that fill us with the presence and graces of Jesus Himself, and limitless resources that quench our thirst for the truth. It’s up to us to prove our love for Christ and His Church by choosing what guides us carefully.
Choose trusted Catholic publishers and authors. Seek out the advice of your parish priest, catechetical leader, or the owner of your local Catholic bookstore for recommendations in reference to any topic. I’ve discovered that the Church has an answer for everything. While some of her answers may be difficult to understand or accept, it is our obligation as Catholics to persevere in our quest for the truth. Often one good Catholic resource leads to another, and God will reward our perseverence with wisdom and clarity. The deeper we delve into the study of our faith, the deeper we move into the corners of our souls, dusting off past sins both known and unknown. This is a great gift, as it carries the potential for conversion of heart and reconciliation with God.
The people and resources who guide us should incorporate not only scripture, but also information from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the wisdom of the Magisterium, Church Tradition, and saints. As I heard on a Catholic Answers Live radio broadcast one day, “As Jesus ascended into heaven, He didn’t say, ‘Be sure to read my Book.’” He left us His apostles with Peter appointed as the first great leader. The Holy Spirit gifted them with the ability to lead us to correct interpretation of scripture and other resources the Church offers, a grace that is passed down to today’s pope and priests.
This Lent, read a good Catholic book, listen to a broadcast on Catholic radio, watch a show on EWTN, or “Like” a Catholic themed Facebook page. Fan the flames of your love for God by falling in love with His Church and allow your children to watch your love story evolve. I’ve heard the best lessons in life are caught, not taught. Children know what authentic love looks like. The words of faith that we try to teach them will fall on deaf ears if they cannot sense our own hearts bursting with joyful love for the Church from whence they came. Open your heart and trust in God’s love as you journey into deeper union with Him through the gift of the Catholic Church.
“Keep close to the Catholic Church at all times, for the Church alone can give you true peace, since she alone possesses Jesus, the true Prince of Peace, in the Blessed Sacrament.” –St. Padre Pio
Some Catholic resources that have inspired me recently:
Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third Edition Translated from the Original Manuscripts by John Clarke, O.C.D., ICS Publications
Full of Grace: Women and the Abundant Life by Johnnette S. Benkovic, Servant Books. This can be read alone or incorporated into a women’s bible study.
A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul by Lisa M. Hendey
Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales
The Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West
Did Adam and Eve Have Belly Buttons? And 199 other questions from Catholic teenagers by Matthew J. Pinto
Parenting With Grace by Greg and Lisa Popcak
The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly
Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly
Magnificat. A fantastic monthly booklet featuring daily Mass scripture, morning prayers, evening prayers, night prayers, meditations, stories of the saints, and much more.
This is the brain child of Matthew Kelly and contains a wealth of Catholic resources. He has a wonderful collection of Catholic books that are available for only the cost of shipping and handling. If you have the means and the motivation to do so, you can also purchase these same books for an extremely reasonable bulk price to distribute to members of your parish.)
This is where you can find Johnnette Benkovic’s bible study kit to accompany her book I listed above.
The home of Catholic Answers–I use this website often to search for authentic Catholic answers to questions on almost any topic that arise. You can also listen to episodes of their radio show here.
You can find fantastic resources here from Greg and Lisa Popcak, including podcasts of their wonderful radio show, More2Life.
Of course, this list is just the tip of the iceberg. Have fun exploring and falling in love with your Catholic faith this Lent!
Image credit (Lenten cross): Charissa Ragsdale (photos.com)