Preparing for Lent and Announcing a Lenten Preparation Novena – 21 February

“Come Back to Me with All Your Heart”

Lent with All My Heartcome back to me with all your heart - lent 2019

Each year, when Lent comes near, I easily return to my old instincts that Lent is supposed to be a time when I do some sacrifice to please God for six weeks.   I know, in my head and heart that this isn’t the meaning of Lent but it is deeply ingrained in me, and I suspect it is for many of us.

The first Preface (the prayer that introduces the Eucharistic Prayer) of Lent is titled: “The spiritual meaning of Lent.” It sets the tone for Lent with this prayer, worthy of our reflection:

For by your gracious gift each year
your faithful await the sacred paschal feasts
with the joy of minds made pure,
so that, more eagerly intent on prayer
and on the works of charity,
and participating in the mysteries
by which they have been reborn,
they may be led to the fullness of grace
that you bestow on your sons and daughters.
(The Roman Missal, Third Typical Edition, 2011)

We are invited to await the Three Holy Days – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday – “with the joy of minds made pure.”   Rarely does it seem that we are going through Lent with joy, or that this joy comes from “minds made pure.”   And, rarely is it so clear that the “fullness of grace” to which we are led comes from being “more eagerly intent on prayer” and “on the works of charity.”   Finally, this journey is framed at “participating in the mysteries by which they have been reborn.”

I want to begin Lent this year, using Ignatius’ naming of a grace I desire:  “Lord, lead me to the fullness of your grace.”   I want to ask that I might be more intent on prayer and works of charity.    And, I want to experience, through the readings and the liturgies each week during Lent, that I’m really reliving the mysteries of my rebirth and salvation.

I desire that this be what I “do” during Lent.   This gets me closer to a Lent experience that is about what God wants to give me, rather than what I try to give God.

When we are more “intent on prayer,” what will that look like?   If we let our prayer become more personal – more about our relationship with Jesus – we will discover all we need for our Lenten journey.   We will discover who we are.   We will discover pockets of independence, areas of resistance, patterns that are unhealthy and sinful.   And, if we stay open to graces being offered us from Jesus who always desires a deeply relationship with Him, we will be drawn – reading by reading – story after story – into admiration and affections for Jesus, His way and His invitation to us.   Lent can become a day-by-day process of being more and more aware of the gift being offered us.   The gift becomes a person and a more intimate relationship with Him.   We will be drawn to greater freedom and deeper self-sacrificing, dying-to-self love.

It is in this context that sacrifices will come.   The Preface above suggests that what flows from this kind of prayer is “works of charity.”   It seems to imply that when we desire to be closer to Jesus in prayer, we live that out, not by giving up candy or alcohol, or even by chipping away at our bad habits.   It appears that the next step in living out a closer relationship with Jesus is to offer ourselves in service of others – that is, to love as Jesus loves us.   Lent will lead us to ask who we are called to love and serve.   Often, it will be those who are closest to us.   Sometimes, it will be purifying and transformative to let our hearts be open to and compassionate for those who are deeply in need in our city, or in our world.   Almsgiving has long been a central part of Lent.   It allows us to exercise compassion.   But, there may also be times when we can find ways to do more – to let ourselves experience greater proximity with those on the margins of our world. Sometimes we may only be able to exercise that desire by intentionally reading more about their plight, and growing in compassion that way.   At other times, we may take acts of solidarity that lead to political advocacy on their behalf.   We may even decide to take the step of going to and serving in a place when we can meet and let my heart be touched by, personal encounters with people in need.

When we let ourselves fall in love with Jesus and then let our hearts desire to be more like His, Lent comes alive.  Then, Lent moves quite directly to celebrating His love for us on those major feasts and a profound desire to love as He has loved us.   What a fruitful Lent that could be!

May our Lent with all my heart, be a journey of desire, that my heart be more like His.
Fr Andy Alexander, SJ

The Lenten Preparation Novena

begins Monday 25 February

I will be away during the Novena (though I will pre-schedule it) and back on Ash Wednesday.preparing for lent 2019.jpg



Thought for the Day – 21 February – Peter, Servant of the Servants of the Cross of Christ

Thought for the Day – 21 February – the Memorial of St Peter Damian OSB (1007-1072) Doctor of the Church

Excerpt from Pope Benedict’s Catechesis on St Peter Damian
General Audience
Wednesday, 9 September 2009

One detail should be immediately emphasised – the Hermitage at Fonte Avellana was dedicated to the Holy Cross and the Cross was the Christian mystery that was to fascinate Peter Damian more than all the others.   “Those who do not love the Cross of Christ do not love Christ”, he said (Sermo XVIII, 11, p. 117) and he described himself as “Petrus crucis Christi servorum famulus Peter, servant of the servants of the Cross of Christ” (Ep, 9, 1).
Peter Damian addressed the most beautiful prayers to the Cross in which he reveals a vision of this mystery which has cosmic dimensions for it embraces the entire history of salvation: “O Blessed Cross”, he exclaimed, You are venerated, preached and honoured by the faith of the Patriarchs, the predictions of the Prophets, the senate that judges the Apostles, the victorious army of Martyrs and the throngs of all the Saints” (Sermo XLVII, 14, p. 304).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, may the example of St Peter Damian spur us too always to look to the Cross as to the supreme act God’s love for humankind of God, who has given us salvation.

St Peter Damian, who was essentially a man of prayer, meditation and contemplation, was also a fine theologian – his reflection on various doctrinal themes led him to important conclusions for life.   Thus, for example, he expresses with clarity and liveliness the Trinitarian doctrine, already using, under the guidance of biblical and patristic texts, the three fundamental terms which were subsequently to become crucial also for the philosophy of the West – processio, relatio and persona (cf. Opusc. XXXVIII: PL CXLV, 633-642; and Opusc. II and III: ibid., 41 ff. and 58 ff).
However, because theological analysis of the mystery led him to contemplate the intimate life of God and the dialogue of ineffable love, between the three divine Persons, he drew ascetic conclusions from them for community life and even for relations between Latin and Greek Christians, divided on this topic.   His meditation on the figure of Christ, is significantly reflected, in practical life, since the whole of Scripture is centred on Him.
The “Jews”, St Peter Damian notes, “through the pages of Sacred Scripture, bore Christ on their shoulders as it were” (Sermo XLVI, 15).   Therefore Christ, he adds, must be the centre of the monk’s life:  “May Christ be heard in our language, may Christ be seen in our life, may he be perceived in our hearts” (Sermo VIII, 5).   Intimate union with Christ engages not only monks but all the baptised.   Here we find a strong appeal for us too not to let ourselves be totally absorbed by the activities, problems and preoccupations of every day, forgetting that Jesus must truly be the centre of our life.

Communion with Christ creates among Christians a unity of love.   In Letter 28, which is a brilliant ecclesiological treatise, Peter Damian develops a profound theology of the Church as communion.   “Christ’s Church”, he writes, is united by the bond of charity to the point that just as she has many members so is she, mystically, entirely contained in a single member – in such a way that the whole universal Church is rightly called the one Bride of Christ in the singular, and each chosen soul, through the sacramental mystery, is considered fully Church”.   This is important – not only that the whole universal Church should be united but that the Church should be present in her totality in each one of us.   Thus the service of the individual becomes “an expression of universality” (Ep 28, 9-23).
However, the ideal image of “Holy Church” illustrated by Peter Damian does not correspond as he knew well to the reality of his time.   For this reason he did not fear to denounce the state of corruption that existed in the monasteries and among the clergy, because, above all, of the practice of the conferral by the lay authorities of ecclesiastical offices; -various Bishops and Abbots were behaving as the rulers of their subjects rather than as pastors of souls.   Their moral life frequently left much to be desired.   For this reason, in 1057 Peter Damian left his monastery with great reluctance and sorrow and accepted, if unwillingly, his appointment as Cardinal Bishop of Ostia.   So it was that he entered fully into collaboration with the Popes in the difficult task of Church reform.   He saw that to make his own contribution of helping in the work of the Church’s renewal contemplation did not suffice.   He thus relinquished the beauty of the hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is a great grace that the Lord should have raised up in the life of the Church a figure as exuberant, rich and complex as St Peter Damian.   Moreover, it is rare to find theological works and spirituality as keen and vibrant as those of the Hermitage at Fonte Avellana.

St Peter Damian was a monk through and through, with forms of austerity which to us today might even seem excessive.   Yet, in that way he made monastic life an eloquent testimony of God’s primacy and an appeal to all to walk towards holiness, free from any compromise with evil.   He spent himself, with lucid consistency and great severity, for the reform of the Church of his time.  He gave all his spiritual and physical energies to Christ and to the Church but always remained, as he liked to describe himself, Petrus ultimus monachorum servus, Peter, the lowliest servant of the monks.

St Peter Damian,

‘Peter, Servant of the Servants of the Cross of Christ’

Pray for the Church, Pray for Us All!st peter damian pray for us 21 feb 2019.jpg


Quote/s of the Day – 21 February – St Peter Damian

Quote/s of the Day – 21 February – the Memorial of  St Peter Damian OSB (1007-1072) Doctor of the Church

“Let us faithfully transmit to posterity,
the example of virtue,
which we have received,
from our forefathers.”let us faithfully transmit - st peter damian 21 feb 2019.jpg

“He pours light into our minds,
arouses our desire and gives us strength…
As the soul is the life of the body,
so the Holy Spirit, is the life of our souls.”he-pours-light-into-our-minds-st-peter-damian-21-feb-2018.jpg

“When you are scorned by others
and lashed by God, do not despair.
God lashes us in this life,
to shield us from the eternal lash, in the next.”when-you-are-scorned-by-others-st-peter-damian-21-feb-2018.jpg

“May Christ be heard in our language,
may Christ be seen in our life,
may He be perceived in our hearts”
(Sermo VIII, 5)may christ be heard - st peter damian 21 feb 2019.jpg

“O Blessed Cross,
You are venerated, preached
and honoured by the faith of the Patriarchs,
the predictions of the Prophets,
the senate that judges the Apostles,
the victorious army of Martyrs
and the throngs of all the Saints”
(Sermo XLVII, 14, p. 304)o blessed cross - st peter damian - 21 feb 2019.jpg

“Those, who do not love
the Cross of Christ,
do not love Christ”
(Sermo XVIII, 11, p. 117)

St Peter Damian (1007-1072) Doctor of the Churchthose who do not love the cross of christ do not love christ - st peter damian 21 feb 2019.jpg

those who do not love no 2 st peter damian 21 feb 2019.jpg

Posted in DOCTORS of the Church, MORNING Prayers, SAINT of the DAY, The WORD

One Minute Reflection – 21 February – “You are the Christ.”

One Minute Reflection – 21 February – Thursday of the Sixth week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Mark 8:27-33 and the Memorial of St Peter Damian OSB (1007-1072) Doctor of the Church

“Who do men say that I am?”… “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” ...Mark 8:27,29

REFLECTION – “With these two questions, Jesus seems to say that it is one thing to follow the prevailing opinion and another, to encounter Him and open oneself to His mystery, there one discovers the truth.   Prevailing opinion contains a true but partial response, Peter and with him, the Church of the past, present and always, by the grace of God, responds with the truth:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.
Jesus is the Son of God – hence He is perennially alive as His Father is eternally alive.  This is the novelty, that grace ignites, in the heart of those who are open to the mystery of Jesus, the non-mathematical — but even stronger, inner — certainty, of having encountered the Wellspring of Life, Life itself made flesh, visible and tangible in our midst.   This, is the experience of Christians and it is not their merit, not that of we Christians, it is not our merit but comes from God, it is a grace of God, the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.   All this is contained in the seed of Peter’s response: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.Pope Francis – Angelus, 29 June 2018mark 8 29 but who do you say - this is the novelty -pope francis 21 feb 2019.jpg

PRAYER – Lord of heaven and earth, by Your grace You have brought our hearts and mind to seek and hope in Your saving love, in Your only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.   May we, who like Peter, our father in faith, declare, ‘You are the Christ!’, remain ever in His steps, carrying the cross behind Him.   We thank You for the blessing of St Peter Damian, grant that, through his intercession, we may, like him, constantly follow the Light of Christ and so rise to eternal life.   We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus, in unity with the Holy Spirit, one God forever, amenST PETER DAMIAN PRAY FOR US.jpg

Posted in JESUIT SJ, Our MORNING Offering, PRAYERS of the SAINTS

Our Morning Offering – 21 February – Lord, Whatever You Will

Our Morning Offering-21 February-Thursday of the Sixth week in Ordinary Time, Year C

Lord, Whatever You Will
By Blessed Rupert Mayer SJ (1876-1945)
The Apostle of Munich

Lord, let happen whatever You will;
and as You will, so will I walk,
help me only to know Your will!
Lord, whenever You will,
then is the time,
today and always

Lord, whatever You will,
I wish to accept,
and whatever You will for me is gain,
enough that I belong to You.
Lord, because You will it, it is right,
and because You will it, I have courage.
My heart rests safely in Your hands!
Amenlord, whatever you will by bl rupert mayer sj- 5 nov 2018 his mem 3 nov.jpg

Posted in DANTE ALIGHIERI!, DOCTORS of the Church, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 21 February – St Peter Damian OSB (1007-1072) Doctor of the Church

Saint of the Day – 21 February – St Peter Damian OSB (1007-1072) Doctor of the Church, Bishop Cardinal, Benedictine Monk, Confessor, Theologian, Writer, Teacher, Preacher, Poet, Reformer.   Patronages – Spiritual warfare, Church Reformers and Faenza, Italy. Partly because he was orphaned and had been treated shabbily by one of his brothers, Peter Damian was very good to the poor.   It was the ordinary thing for him to have a poor person or two with him at table and he liked to minister personally to their needs.


Peter escaped poverty and the neglect of his own brother when a second brother, who was Archpriest of Ravenna, took him under his wing.   His brother sent him to good schools and Peter became a professor.

Already in those days, Peter was very strict with himself.   He wore a hair shirt under his clothes, fasted rigorously and spent many hours in prayer.   Soon, he decided to leave his teaching and give himself completely to prayer with the Benedictines of the reform of Saint Romuald at Fonte Avellana.   They lived two monks to a hermitage.   Peter was so eager to pray and slept so little that he soon suffered from severe insomnia.   He found he had to use some prudence in taking care of himself.   When he was not praying, he studied the Bible.

st per damian ravenna  2.jpg
St Peter Damian

The abbot commanded that when he died Peter should succeed him.   Abbot Peter founded five other hermitages.   He encouraged his brothers in a life of prayer and solitude and wanted nothing more for himself.   The Holy See periodically called on him, however, to be a peacemaker or troubleshooter, between two abbeys in dispute or a cleric or government official in some disagreement with Rome.

Finally, Pope Stephen IX made Peter the Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia.   He worked hard to wipe out simony—the buying of church offices–and encouraged his priests to observe celibacy and urged even the diocesan clergy to live together and maintain scheduled prayer and religious observance.   He wished to restore primitive discipline among religious and priests, warning against needless travel, violations of poverty and too-comfortable living.   He even wrote to the Bishop of Besancon complaining that the canons there sat down when they were singing the psalms in the Divine Office.

He wrote many letters.   Some 170 are extant.   We also have 53 of his sermons and seven lives, or biographies, that he wrote.   He preferred examples and stories rather than theory in his writings.   The liturgical offices he wrote are evidence of his talent as a stylist in Latin.

I cannot find out much about this image, it seems to be Saint Romuald on the left (of whom St Peter wrote a biography), St Peter Damian in the centre and an unknown saint, I presume on the right.

He asked often to be allowed to retire as Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia and finally Pope Alexander II consented.   Peter was happy to become once again just a monk but he was still called to serve as a papal legate.   When returning from such an assignment in Ravenna, he was overcome by a fever.   With the monks gathered around him saying the Divine Office, he died on 22 February 1072.

In 1828, he was declared a Doctor of the peter damian statue snip.JPG

In Canto XXI, Dante has the Saint pronounce an invective against the luxury enjoyed by prelates in the Church of his day and in that of Dante`s – the translation below is by Allen Mandelbaum:

113 … There, within that monastery,
114 in serving God, I gained tenacity:
115 with food that only olive juice had seasoned,
116 I could sustain with ease both heat and frost,
117 content within my contemplative thoughts.

118 That cloister used to offer souls to Heaven,
119 a fertile harvest but it now is barren
120 as Heaven’s punishment will soon make plain.

121 There I was known as Peter Damian
122 and, on the Adriatic shore, was Peter
123 the Sinner when I served Our Lady’s House.

124 Not much of mortal life was left to me
125 when I was sought for, dragged to take that hat
126 which always passes down from bad to worse.

127 Once there were Cephas and the Holy Ghost’s
128 great vessel – they were barefoot, they were lean,
129 they took their food at any inn they found.

130 But now the modern pastors are so plump
131 that they have need of one to prop them up
132 on this side, one on that and one in front,

133 and one to hoist them saddleward.  Their cloaks
134 cover their steeds, two beasts beneath one skin:
135 o patience, you who must endure so much!”

amos nattini st peter damian
Amos Nattini (1892-1985)
Divina Commedia, Paradiso canto XXI, San Pier Damiani nel cielo di Saturno
Posted in DOCTORS of the Church, MARTYRS, SAINT of the DAY

Memorials of the Saints – 21 February

St Peter Damian OSB (1007-1072) Doctor of the Church (Optional Memorial)
A lot about St Peter here:

St Avitus II of Clermont
Bl Caterina Dominici
Bl Claudio di Portaceli
St Daniel of Persia
Bl Eleanora
St Ercongotha
St Eustathius of Antioch
St Felix of Metz
St George of Amastris
St Germanus of Granfield
St Gundebert of Sens
Bl Noel Pinot
St Paterius of Brescia
St Pepin of Landen
St Peter Mavimenus
St Randoald of Granfield
St Robert Southwell SJ (1561-1595) Martyr
St Robert’s Biography:

St Severian of Scythopolis
St Severus of Syrmium
Bl Thomas Pormort
St Valerius of San Pedro de Montes
St Verda of Persia

Martyrs of Sicily – 79 saints – Seventy-nine Christians martyred together in the persecutions of Diocletian. They were martyred in c 303 on Sicily.

Martyrs of Hadrumetum – A group of 26 Christians martyred together by Vandals. We know little more than eight of their names – Alexander, Felix, Fortunatus, Saturninus, Secundinus, Servulus, Siricius and Verulus. c 434 at Hadrumetum (modern Sousse, Tunisia)

Martyrs Uchibori – Three Japanese laymen, all brothers, all sons of Paulus Uchibori Sakuemon, one a teenager, one only five years old and all martyred for their faith in the persecutions in Japan. 21 February 1627 in Shimabara, Nagasaki, Japan. Beatified 24 November 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI.