What are you doing for Lent? It’s a common question among Catholics this week. I think this year my approach will be simple, add something and take something away. And then life will provide other opportunities to do Lent well.

First, go ahead and read Pope Francis’ message for Lent. It helps to get a perspective on what the point of Lent is.

What can you add? Maybe it’s time to start reading the daily readings, delivered to right to your inbox or via podcast, you choose!

Would you like a daily reflection? Try this one from Loyola Press.

Maybe you’d like to try a daily Examen. Discerning Hearts has one here.

How about adding an extra Mass or two during the week? Or pray the rosary?

Add a practice that will deepen your spiritual life and help you become more aware of God moving in your life.

What can you take away? What we need to give up though is something that controls us or takes our time away from what we need to do or we rely on a bit too much instead of relying on God.

Many of us have that crutch, our go-to response or activity when we are angry or frustrated or overwhelmed. It’s often a bad habit, so ask God in prayer what you should stop doing.

Simple Lenten plans are often the best. Or you can make extravagant plans, but those may have mixed results or lead to feeling like you’ve failed at Lent.


A Chair and Cheese Balls

Today would have been my grandfather’s 105th birthday. He died 26 years ago from cancer. I still miss him and I know I’m not the only one. He was not a perfect man but he was a good man and his family was the most important thing to him. And he showed it in very many ways.

I am the oldest of his 7 grandchildren and always thought I was his favorite, but he really didn’t have any favorites. I did live closest to him when I moved to Florida and so I spent lots of time with him Not only did I spend lots of time with him, but my children did too. He and my grandmother took care of our son the first year he was born and even after that, Nonno Gino took care of him often. Taking him on long walks, chasing pigeons in the park and probably feeding him things I didn’t. When our daughter was born he was there, happy to welcome his great-granddaughter.

It was originally green leather, then my grandmother recovered it.

In my grandparents’ house, Nonno had his chair. It was where he read and watched tv from and probably took naps in there too. He also had a canister of cheese balls right behind the chair. Of course, my children knew where those cheese balls were and how to get them. Just ask Nonno! And they did. As long as they asked first, a few cheese balls were theirs. It was their little ritual.

In 1991, on my daughter’s 3rd birthday Nonno died. I explained it as best I could to them. The funeral was in New York and, so I went on my own. After a time, my grandmother came back to Florida. And as we did, we went to visit. The first time we went over, I recall reminding the kids that Nonno would not be there. But at 3 and 5, well, were they thinking he’d be back soon, like when he went to the store? We walk into the house and they see his chair. They go over by it. They walk around it. No Nonno Gino. I don’t recall what they said but they were sad. My grandmother has an idea and goes to the refrigerator and gets out some, yep, cheese balls! Yea for cheese balls! Not so much. They weren’t where they usually were and the kids were not having any of that. Cheese balls belong by Nonno’s chair, not in the refrigerator.

Cheese balls are no longer made by Planters and the chair is still around, at my son’s house, which seems right, doesn’t it?

A silly story, but one that I hold dear in my heart. There are more stories, but I’ve used up half a box of tissues already so I’ll stop for now. Nonno Gino loved his family and would do anything for them. But for me, the most important thing he did was love me, just the way I was, no matter what. And I hope he did that for all 7 of us. Happy Birthday, Nonno!

Take a moment

Today is the end of Write 31 Days. Objectively I have not met my goal of writing each day. And that’s okay. I learned a few things about myself and some other important things were accomplished this month so that’s a great month in my book!

It takes a moment to be grateful. A moment to stop, hit the pause button and change my thought, my reaction, my words from negative to positive, from critical to helpful, from grating to grateful. If anything, I’ve learned to take a moment and frame my response. We all know that words cannot be taken back once they are said.

The moment helps me to remember that I am not in control, God is and I need to call on the Holy Spirit, not only in difficult times but in good times as well. The Spirit will help me do the right thing. And so often what that means is to have gratitude for my life; for all the parts of my life. Not only the parts that are fun and easy and enjoyable but the parts that are sad and make me cry and question, the parts that hurt and confuse.

All of life is meant for a purpose and after working on being grateful for all of it, I believe it more strongly now, that gratitude is necessary.

Here is the picture from my journal of what I am grateful for this October!


Do you spend lots of time thinking about how you are living your life? If you are doing it right? I do, probably more than is good for me, I spend way too much time in the deep end of the pool. Then I read something that makes me think I need to stop worrying so much. Today I read this” Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7) and I think, I am worth much more than I realize. Even if I go and sit in the shallow end of the pool and rest, it’s okay. And that goes for you too. Our value is not based on what we do but on who we are. And we are God’s children, made in his image and likeness. He’s counted all the hairs on our head. He probably even knows how many came out today when we brushed our hair!
The point is not our hair, the point is that our gratitude to God for all that he has given us will help us to not be afraid. It will help us live with great joy knowing that we are worth more not only than many sparrows but more than all God has created. We are the pinnacle of his creation. How can we not give thanks to him?
Ponder & Pray: Do I realize how much God loves me and has given me? Do I value myself outside of my completed to-do list? Can I rest in the shallow end and know God still loves me? Pray for the grace to see yourself as God does and be grateful for the person you are.