Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 20, 1971 when parishioners settled on a site for the new St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Oxford.
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cram halfIt was Ash Wednesday and I was sitting near the front of the packed church. Midway through Mass, as people walked forward to receive ashes, my eyes were drawn to a baby in his daddy’s arms. The baby had a bald Charlie Brown head and protruding ears. There, in the middle of his glow-in-the-dark white forehead, was the smudge of ashes. It was a striking sight. This baby was not yet capable of sin, and yet he was born with original sin. He still needs a savior.

The following morning, I was sitting in the sacristy as the priest vested for daily Mass. “So, what are you giving up for Lent?” he inquired in that uniquely Catholic way. (Protestants rarely ask such a question due to Jesus’ admonition to not draw attention to one’s fasting, prayer and acts of charity.)

“Actually, I don’t know yet,” I replied honestly.

“You don’t know?” he said, surprised. “But Lent started yesterday!”

“I know,” I groaned. “I want to do something to mark Lent, but I like to ask God what he has in mind for me. I haven’t heard the answer yet.”

I received my answer the next day. In a discussion with one of my daughters, she told of a unique Lenten observance suggested by her university chaplain. He’d explained that most people give up a single thing such as sweets or Facebook, or they commit to a specific act of prayer or charity, such as praying a daily psalm or volunteering at a soup kitchen.

The priest admitted that he sometimes grows bored with such an approach. Instead, he prayerfully identifies six sacrifices or actions that he wishes to take during Lent. He lists them on a piece of paper and numbers them one through six. Then, each morning in Lent, he rolls a die. Whichever number comes up, that is the sacrifice or action for that day. For those who are uncomfortable using dice or don’t have any, one can rotate through the six items for the 40 days of Lent.

The priest explained that he likes this method because it keeps things fresh. It also enables him to work on multiple areas of his life at once. Regardless of the method we choose, the idea is to loosen our attachment to worldly attractions, strengthen our relationship with God and reach out to those in need.

Here, in no particular order, are some ideas for Lenten observances.

Give up:

• chocolate

• all negative talk

• desserts

• alcohol

• social media

• fast food

• swearing

• soda

• TV

• Starbucks

• eating out

• gossip

Daily acts of charity or prayer:

• Give away one item from your closet;

• Write a letter to someone;

• Visit a shut-in;

• Read one chapter of the Bible;

• Contact a single parent and ask what you can do to help;

• Visit someone in a hospital or nursing home;

• Go to weekday Mass;

• Volunteer at a soup kitchen;

• Spend half an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament;

• Call someone you haven’t spoken with in a long time;

• Clean out a closet;

• Raise money for a charity;

• Pray a rosary;

• Ask someone for forgiveness;

• Call your mother.

II Chron. 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.”

If my people will humble themselves and pray.

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer. She is the author of Do Bad Guys Wear Socks? Living the Gospel in Everyday Life.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.