Lenten Devotionals

February 21, 2018

Feb. 14 Reflection

I’ll never forget an exchange I had in my catechism class with a Bronx teenager on Ash Wednesday 1995. It went something like this:

“Yo, Brother Pat (that’s what the students called me back then), why do we put these ashes on our foreheads? They make me look dirty!”

I agreed and responded accordingly: “Well, they’re supposed to make us look dirty because that is what our bodies will all become one day: dirt!”

My student’s question about this annual ritual was both fair and correct. The ashes do make us look a bit untidy and dirty. I offer as proof of that assessment the numerous times I’ve had complete strangers approach me on Ash Wednesday, tissues in hand, and sheepishly remark out of the side of their mouths that I have some dirt on my face and that I might want to wipe it off!

By marking our foreheads with an ashen cross we remember two important aspects of our Christian faith. First, the ashes themselves remind us that we are mortal and that we will die (remember man, remember woman, that you are dust and to dust you shall return). Ashes signify death, but when they are placed on our bodies for all to see, they tell the world that we who carry that “dirty little mark” on our foreheads realize that we are mortal and in need of a savior. Second, the ashes taking the form of a cross is significant because it reminds us that Jesus’ Passion, death, and resurrection covers our mortality and brings us to eternal life. The ashes are a mark of repentance, a sign of hope for the future, and a signal of our community’s renewed awakening to a deeper spiritual reality and a closer communion with God.

Rev. Patrick D. Rogers, S.J.
Executive Director of The Jesuit Center



Feb. 15 Reflection

Fasting during Lent, along with many traditions, has changed as I have grown from a small child to the college student I am today. As a child, fasting seemed like a horrible burden and something created to take the fun out of life. No Xbox? No candy? No soda? No chicken-wing pizza on Fridays? That is a recipe for a frustrated pre-teen. As I got older, however, fasting began to take on a new meaning.

With age, I realized that fasting gives us a sense of personal responsibility. Obviously, something as simple as giving up Starbursts or Instagram for Lent doesn’t come close to comparing to the suffering Jesus underwent, but the mere action of abstaining from something we enjoy gives us a glimpse of his suffering. As simple as it may seem, actively avoiding what I gave up each year makes me reflect on the deeper meaning and purpose of Lent.

I have come to understand that Lent is not meant to bother me by preventing me from enjoying some of my favorite things; rather, it is more a time of self-reflection. Lent gives me an opportunity to assess what I need to do to better myself as a Christian and as a person.

Jake Brown '21
Biology Major



Feb. 16 Reflection

Fasting God’s Way

How many times do we give up something tangible for Lent without considering whether the exercise of fasting, in and of itself, brings us closer to God?

oday’s reading, from the Book of Isaiah, reminds us that fasting while continuing divisive and sinful behaviors is of no real value. Rather, the changes that we must strive for are as much about what we are doing as they are about what we are not doing. The 40 days of Lent give us time to dwell on the idea that the love of God permeates each interaction with those who walk the Earth with us. We are called to channel God’s love by ministering to the oppressed, sharing what we have with the homeless and hungry, and forgiving others for the faults we see in them. It is also a time to learn how to give up the things that bind us into our own faults, and to pray that others can forgive those faults in us.

We are reminded that we are called to engage in deep reflection and to cultivate a contrite and humble heart. We are to give ourselves over to the love of the Almighty, to allow the Divine to work through us so that we can be the hands of God on Earth, reaching the oppressed, the broken, and lonely. We are called to give up our fear of moving into the darkest places to bring light. We are asked to trust that even in our own brokenness, we are worthy of God’s love and capable of sharing that love with others.

Indeed, Lent can be more for us than a time of avoiding certain things. It can be forty days of learning how to live into an entirely new way of being.

Patricia Wright, Ph.D.
Faculty, Department of Nursing



Feb. 17 Reflection

In today’s Gospel reading (LK 5:27-32), Jesus responds to the question of why he would eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners, saying, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance, but the sinners.”

Do we see others with compassion, or are we quick to judge?

I vividly remember chaperoning a service trip and watching as one of our college students demonstrated the love and acceptance God asks of us. This trip, sponsored by the Center for Service and Social Justice, enabled our students to travel to the Father McKenna Center in Washington, D.C. This nonprofit social service agency serves the poor and homeless of the area in an effort to carry on the work of the late Rev. Horace McKenna, S.J., who was known as the "priest to the poor."

A special part of that day was when each of our students was paired with one of the men visiting the homeless shelter. The pairs were asked to talk to each other for about ten minutes, in order to get to know each other well enough to introduce one another to the larger group of about 100 homeless men and 12 students.

One of our students, Erica, proudly introduced us to her conversation partner, Tyrone. Even though Erica was a young student who grew up rather sheltered in the local Scranton community, she demonstrated such enthusiasm about this experience and embraced the opportunity to meet new people.

When it was her turn to introduce her new friend, she and her new buddy walked to the front of the room. Erica stood there proudly, next to a man whose imposing and hardened demeanor differed drastically from her own peaceful countenance. 

Erica calmly shared with us that her new friend was recently released from prison after serving a long sentence. She told the group he was happy to be out of jail and hopeful that he could stay out of trouble. While touching his arm, Erica said, “I believe he can do this because he knows he made many mistakes, but he has learned from them." She continued, sharing some information about his troubled upbringing, but focused more on his desire to be a better person. And when she concluded, Erica asked us all to clap for him to show that we believed in him, too. 

Erica made a new friend that day, and it was heartwarming to see one of our young students listen to and accept this man as someone who is like us all—a human forgiven by God for his wrongdoings and eager to live a meaningful life.

This Lenten season, let’s ask ourselves how we can see others with compassion, instead of being quick to judge them.

Betty Rozelle G'84 
Assistant Director, Center for Career Development


Feb. 18 Reflection

What was the 40-day desert experience for Jesus and how is Lent a desert experience for us? The desert was a place of solitude, a place to spend quality time with God. Our world is a busy one, and we have the added distraction of ever-changing technology. How many of us could imagine not checking our phones for 40 minutes, let alone 40 days?

Lent can provide the same sort of quiet time for prayer that Jesus experienced in the desert. Jesus also fasted in the desert, which is the second Lenten practice. Fasting has always reminded me of Lent's special significance, especially on days like Ash Wednesday and Lenten Fridays. It is precisely in changing my normal routine that I am reminded to spend more time with God. Fasting or giving something up for Lent also reminds me of how much I have been given and how much I take these good things for granted. Fasting reminds me to be grateful for God’s gifts.

In addition to prayer, we are also called to preach the Gospel by living it. Helping those in need or giving alms, the third Lenten practice, is a concrete way of preaching through our actions. It shifts the focus off me because it’s not about me, and it puts the focus on loving God through helping my neighbors.

You may ask yourself why we observe Lent every year since we already know that Jesus died for us and rose from the dead. The short answer is that we humans need to be reminded of important things and we need to prepare once again for the worthy celebration of Easter.

Saint Ignatius Loyola advises in the Spiritual Exercises that as we celebrate Easter, we rejoice with the joyful Risen Jesus as we ask God to make us grateful and send us out to serve Jesus and transform the world.

Rev. Daniel Sweeney, S.J. 
Faculty, Political Science


Feb. 19 Reflection

After several days of trekking Death Valley terrains and reflecting on contemplative themes, our group of 38 returned to our campsite from the Salt Flats exhausted, weary and distraught, to find an intense scene. 50 mph gusts of wind were destroying our tents, leaving us to question what would happen next. “What are we going to eat?” “Where would we sleep?” “I wonder if my things are still in that tent...” These thoughts pervaded our minds before we decided to leave our vans and enter the low visibility sand-filled atmosphere to salvage whatever was left. After a collective effort from everyone on the trip, we quickly packed our sand-filled belongings into the vans and were back on the road searching for a place of refuge from the storm that was enveloping us.

After our encounter with mother nature, our campus minister, Fred Mercadante, made a call to Holy Spirit Parish in Las Vegas, NV, asking for help. Unsure of what their response would be because it was late in the evening, we were already drafting a backup plan in case they were not able to accommodate our large group. Without hesitation, the parishioners opened their doors and lodged every single one of us. The next morning we were greeted with a bountiful breakfast and a display of kindness and service that was truly overwhelming and inspirational.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food,

I was thirsty and you gave me drink,

a stranger and you welcomed me…”

I was a witness to what it means to live the Gospel call to serve those most in need because I was one of them! The parishioners' willingness to help a group of dirty and tired Scranton retreatants still inspires me and informs my prayer life as I begin my Lenten journey. Experiences like these invite us to stop and reflect upon the moments when others have been neighbors, but it also allows us to be aware and open to the opportunities in which we can be neighbors for others.

Luis Melgar '18
Exercise Science

Feb. 20 Reflection


In the First Principle and Foundation of his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius instructs us that “we are to use the things of this world only to the extent that they help us to praise, reverence, and serve God, and we ought to rid ourselves of the things of this world to the extent that they get in the way of this end.” These things won’t be the same for all of us, and Lent offers us a time to take inventory of the roles certain objects, habits, or thoughts play in our relationship with God. In other words, Lent can be a time when we practice this Jesuit ideal of indifference most intentionally.

Read below Martha Serpas’ poem, “The Discipline of Non-Fulfillment for and after Margaret A. Farley,” which addresses the Easter season and the practice of the faith in similar ways as Ignatius did when discussing indifference.

The Discipline of Non-Fulfillment
for and after Margaret A. Farley

Eastertide, Margaret, and all
That we’ve given up comes back
To us at once, chicken and

Sausage gumbo, twelve-packs of Dixie,
Picayunes, and the man-god builder
Of trawl boards who frees bird dogs

And coons from steel jaws.
At once the humid air rolls back
And northern light pours through.

Girls in pastel dresses spin, petals
To relieve pink azaleas
Of carrying the day

On their own. A crowded
Sea of greens, innocent water
Wedged by shorn banks below.

Eastertide, Margaret, and tide
Means something different here,
But wouldn’t you say it’s the same

Sweeping abundance overtaking
Shoals and inlets, joining lake and bay,
Drowning everything in between?

Don’t answer. I’ll focus on some small
Thing, a blue heron lifting from brown stubble,
Light off bleached barnacles, helicopter blades

Beating the marsh into submission.
No action hero will rappel down
In camouflage or lab white

To sew together the last scraps
Of duckweed and spoil, like the
Discipline of non-fulfillment,

You offered from the pulpit
Years ago, as if you were explaining
The abbreviated life of dogs

To children, laying a still,
Furry body down in its damp
Space and closing up the hole.

by Martha Serpas
from The Dirty Side of the Storm (W. W. Norton)

Teresa Grettano, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Dept. of English & Theatre
Director of First-Year Writing

Feb. 21 Reflection

Have you ever experienced something so powerful, you don’t have the words to explain it to others? 

My dad once shared with me wise words he had heard from a Jesuit: “Once you get to a point where your words fail, that’s when you’ve reached the heart of the matter.”

I traveled to Managua, Nicaragua last summer as part of an International Service Program (ISP) trip through Scranton’s Office of Campus Ministries.  It was a powerful experience for me, and every time I contemplate what the Nicaraguan people gave me, my words fail me. I try to reflect on the generosity of the Nicaraguans, and if I let it, the gift of their kindness continues to impress and touch my heart. The house we built didn’t end up being the biggest gift given. The relationships we built with the family, the students, the workers, our bus driver, guard and translator were an even bigger gift. The patiently-translated conversations gave us a deeper connection. The hugs and laughs made it harder to leave. The children reminded us of simple happiness. The natural beauty inspired us to treat the environment better. The passion of the Nicaraguan people encouraged us to be proud of our heritage, as well. By our American standards Nicaraguans don’t have much to give in material goods. Our heads tell us they don’t have abundant possessions or wealth.  That changes at the level of the heart.

Let your heart be open to the possibility of gifts you have to feel to understand.  Let your heart decide riches, and make sense of how you can feel so showered in blessings from people who your head tells you have little or nothing to give.

The three themes of the Lenten season are Pray, Fast & Give.  Don’t reduce Lent to simply fasting from your favorite foods, refraining from meat on Fridays, and praying throughout these 40 days (though these are good things, too). Don't forget about the third theme: Give.  Try to model your Lenten attitude off of the Nicaraguan people.  Give, and receive, with your heart.  

Virginia Farrell '20  
Art History Major



Feb. 22 Reflection

The Lord says to Simon Peter:

I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail,

And, once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.
[Entrance Antiphon]

My brother and his family live near a sheep farm and every time I drive by there I slow down so I can observe the flock. They always seem content with life – a great place to live, nourishment all over the pasture, three ponds nearby for water, and lots of companions. “They’re ok,” I say to myself, and pick up speed continuing on my way.

The sheep motif runs throughout today’s scripture: Tend the flock of God in your midst [1 Peter], The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want [Psalm 23], leading up to the Gospel of Matthew wherein Jesus calls Peter a rock, upon whom Christ will build his Church. Peter, the first Shepherd of the Church, confesses his faith in Jesus by saying: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

Every day in my work with our students I am reminded of the faith we all share. I see how they care for one another at choir rehearsal, or how they encourage each other in preparing to serve at liturgy. When I ask why they do what they do as music and liturgical ministers, more often than not it is because they identify with each other as members of a community of faith called by God to this place, at this time, in this moment, to serve, as Christ serves – to love, as Christ loves. What better example for our Lenten journey but to see how our students tend the flock of God in their midst, shepherd each other in Christ’s name, and call forth the building of the Church in their service to this university community of faith.

I’m thinking about those sheep . . . 

M. Jayne Lucas
Director of Liturgy and Liturgical Music
Office of Campus Ministries

Feb. 23 Reflection

My Aunt Mo & Uncle Jerry are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year – God bless them! They spend most of their time in Fort Myers, Florida, with other retired people spanning states from New York to Michigan. Today it's 88 and sunny down there – life is good!

Their lives are pretty simple at this point. Mo (the fun aunt) spends her days playing tennis, chatting with “the girls” at the pool, and cracking open a few cold ones as the sun dips into the Gulf each evening. Jerry (for those older than me, picture "The Fonz" from Happy Days) has his Sudoku, Hot Wheels collection, Publix chicken wings, and a 2015 Mustang GT.

Uncle Jerry hasn’t touched a drop of booze in decades, and a few years ago he suggested that Mo give up beer for Lent. I showed up for a visit that year, and although Lent can be a great opportunity to shake up our lives a bit, change our routines, and break some habits, Mo was just not her usual, fun-loving self. We went to 5 p.m. Mass on Saturday at St. Columbkille (beats Patrick and Brigid for cool Irish saint names…) and the priest encouraged us to rethink simply giving something up for Lent. “Embrace life, enjoy those around you, & do what makes you happy.” Though I seem to recall Mo jumping out of the pew and cheering, I’m sure her response was a bit more subtle, at least until we got to the parking lot.

I have always challenged my students, here and at Chaminade and Kellenberg high schools on Long Island, to think beyond giving up something relatively unimportant for Lent. Wanna give something up? How about hatred, gossip, betrayal, pettiness, cheating, excess, lying, grudges, negativity…and don’t just pick one, go big or go home – actually attempt to make a meaningful improvement in your life.

Wanna do something? Be yourself. Really, give it a shot – take off the masks, put aside the show, and become the truest self who you were created to be.

John Kirrane
Assistant Director, Residence Life

Feb. 24 Reflection

The word "selah" appears 71 times in the book of psalms. Appearing at the end of individual psalms, it encourages the reader to "pause and reflect," to take the time to comprehend and discern how the sacred words and messages can be incorporated into our lives.

I offer this poem today as a way in which to pause and reflect - to process the magnitude of our blessed, complicated, and beautiful lives. I hope you enjoy.

"Thirst" by Mary Oliver
Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the hour
and the bell; grant me, in your mercy,
a little more time. Love for the earth
and love for you are having such a long
conversation in my heart. Who knows what
will finally happen or where I will be sent,
yet already I have given a great many things
away, expecting to be told to pack nothing,
except the prayers which, with this thirst,
I am slowly learning.


Ryan Sheehan, J.D.
Assistant Director, The Jesuit Center

Feb. 25 Reflection

All three readings today talk about the sacrifice of a son to prove one’s love.  The philosopher Kierkegaard spent his whole life reflecting on the meaning of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac to God. Now I am no theologian who can illuminate the mystery of redemption found in these readings, but all I can tell you for sure is what the readings are not saying.

If a father gives his son the keys to a red Ferrari on graduation day and then asks him to return the keys to prove that he loves his Dad more than he loves the gifts his dad gives him, that father does not deserve to be called “Dad” in any sense of the term.  No father, including God, treats their children in that manner. Whatever the stories of Abraham and the Transfiguration mean, they most certainly are not about sacrifice, but undying love.

A friend from the DA’s office called me one Saturday morning about a student of mine who had been jailed for some minor offence.  All he needed was his parents to post a small bail to get him out, but this student was too ashamed to call his folks. So I did, and I explained the situation to them. Of course they immediately came to rescue him and express their unconditional love for him, because that’s what parents do in imitation of God Himself.  Even I, a priest with no children of my own, understand this simple fact about parental love.

Today we need to ask ourselves whether we do indeed believe that God is not someone who is out to TEST us to prove ourselves, but someone who is begging us to let Him love us unconditionally.  All we have to do is say “thank you” in return for this free gift.  

Ron McKinney, S.J.
Philosophy Department

Feb. 26 Reflection

Let nothing disturb thee,

Nothing affright thee;

All things are passing;

God never changeth;

Patient endurance

Attaineth to all things;

Who God Possessth

In nothing is wanting;

Along God Sufficeth.

St. Teresa de Ávila (1515-1582)

Virgin, Mystic, Ecstatic, Reformer, Doctor of the Church

From The Jesuit Center Staff

Feb. 27 Reflection

Ever since I was a young girl, I loved listening to the story of Jesus washing the feet of his apostles.  The way he owned his truth and served others has been a guiding lesson for me throughout my life.  This story came to mind as I was reflecting on the gospel for today.  In Matthew Chapter 23:1-12, Jesus said:

"Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.  Do not be called  ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ.  The greatest among you must be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

What does this mean for us in our daily lives?  Do we live in service to others and see ourselves as equals?  Do we live in truth, knowing that we are all created equal in the image and likeness of God?

In 2010, I was going through a very tough time in my life.  I needed to practice humility and serve others in order to reconnect with the truth of who I really am.  I needed to be reminded of what is important in life.  In that same year, a devastating earthquake rocked the country of Haiti and destroyed the lives of so many people.  As God called me to serve, I immediately answered by going to Haiti to help in whatever way I could.

As I spent time with the people of Haiti, I saw suffering in ways I have never known before.  I was humbled by their faith and honesty.  As I was serving them, they were doing the same for me.  Haitian people do not pretend to have more or be more than anyone else.  They are secure in the knowledge that they are children of God, and that He will provide for them.  They experience life as a precious gift from God, and they thank Him in so many ways…in a smile, a touch, in writing, and in song.  Even in the midst of a crisis, knowing this truth allowed the people of Haiti to serve the needs of those who were there to help them.

When I looked into the eyes of the Haitian people, I was able to see the goodness within their souls.  I saw their non-pretentious, faith-filled selves.  I must admit that it is not as easy to see this truth when looking into the eyes of many Americans.  So many people seem to live beyond their truth and forget their real purpose in life.  When people reach out to others in need, they can hear the voice of God calling them to be humble and truthful.  These experiences can touch their lives and change them forever.  By living in their truth, they will be humbled.  This is how the world can change for the better.  This is what God wants for us all.

Lisa A. Kozden, MOT, OTR/L, CHT, COMT
Faculty Specialist, Occupational Therapy


Feb. 28 Reflection

When my children were small, I had a famous line: “When I’m talking, you’re not talking." In my collection of “mom-isms,” I used this one quite a bit. I recall speaking the words over their chatter…typically when trying to give directions or explain something important. “Honey, you can’t hear what I am saying if you are talking at the same time. When I’m talking, you’re NOT talking.”

During their teenage years, important conversations typically started with, “Let’s turn the TV off." Silencing that distraction helped us really listen to each other and more easily hear what the other was saying.

One of my regular Lenten practices is turning the radio off in the car. At first, I started this as a way to “give something up." Living 50 minutes from campus, I have to admit that in the beginning it was torture. The silence can be deafening. I started using the time to talk to God. Out loud. (Yes…more than once, passersby thought I was nuts). I talked. And talked. And asked God for things. And asked God what I should do about difficult situations. And told God about things I was grateful for. And told God what I worried about.

One day, it hit me. God planted this message in my heart: “Honey, you can’t hear what I am saying if you are talking at the same time. When I’m talking, you’re NOT talking.”

A few weeks ago, my oldest son came home to have dinner with me while my husband was away. We prepared a lovely meal together. I will never forget the joy I felt when he stood up from the table, picked up the remote, and turned off the TV.

Let me end my reflection with this poignant saying from Mother Teresa of Calcutta:
"I shall keep the silence of my heart with greater care, so that in the silence of my heart I hear His words of comfort, and from the fullness of my heart I comfort Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. For in the silence and purity of the heart God speaks."

- Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Lynn King Andres '89, P'17
Associate Director, Alumni & Parent Engagement

March 1 Reflection

The season of Lent is our preparation for the most important feast of the Christian calendar, the Feast of the Resurrection of Christ. It is our Garden of Gethsemane; it is our Calvary; it is where we can forgo some of the pleasures of life to prepare ourselves completely to celebrate the joy of the feast. We prepare in many varied ways, but certainly the three main ways are by fasting, by almsgiving and by prayer.

The golden-mouthed orator Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, gave a sermon for this feast nearly 1700 years ago. It is read in most Eastern Christian churches at the end of the Vigil Liturgy each year. One small part reads as follows:

If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.

We are already several weeks into our season of Lent. We may think that we have failed to fast, that we have avoided almsgiving and that we have not been living a life of prayer. There is no reason to despair, as Chrysostom tells us. Rather, we take the opportunity to begin now. We can now begin to fast, to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to educate the uneducated, and to get closer to God through prayer and in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. We can still reach our joy in the Resurrection by beginning now at the middle of the fast. We, as Christians, should not judge those who have joined late, nor should we feel superior for having begun at an earlier time; rather, we should welcome them on this path and give them all the support we can..

Lent is more than simply a season of preparation for a single feast. It is analogous to our life here on Earth. In our lives, we have sufferings and joys, times of feast and times of famine, times when we remain close to God and times when we fall away. But just as Chrysostom says for the Feast of the Resurrection, so it is true for our lives. If we have fallen, if we have failed to love our neighbor, to share our blessings, to avoid sin, to live a life of prayer, then God still shall give rest to those who have toiled only from the eleventh hour. Lent reminds us, no matter what hour of our lives that we happen to be in, that we still have time to live the life that we want to live, to live a life that brings us closer to God. We still have time to fast, to give alms, to pray, to forgive, to seek out God. As Lent prepares us for the joy of the Resurrection, so our life prepares us for the ultimate joy when we see God face to face.

Steven Dougherty, Ph.D.
Professor of Mathematics

March 2 Reflection 

During Lent, I’ll occasionally be interviewing some of the young women and men who participate in the liturgical life of our community. Today’s offering comes from Harry Helbock, a senior communication major in the College of Arts and Sciences and a long-time lector on our campus.

Fr. Patrick: So, Harry, how and when did you get involved with the ministry of lecturing? Was that something you started here at Scranton?

Harry: No, I grew up in a house where participation at Mass as liturgical ministers was normal. My dad is a lector and my mom is a Eucharistic minister so that was just a part of how my family gave back to the Church. I began my participation in liturgy as an altar server when I was a boy, and when I was a junior in high school I began to lector at my parish’s weekly youth Mass.

Fr. Patrick: What kind of lector training did you receive once you got to the U?

Harry: Well, I contacted our Director of Liturgy, Jayne Lucas, and she met with me to go over the responsibilities of a lector and also listened to me read passages of scripture, and then gave me feedback about pacing and volume and such.

Fr. Patrick: How do you prepare for the liturgy when you are assigned to read the scriptures? As you know, some of those Old Testament names are pretty difficult to pronounce!

Harry: Yeah, I know they are, so that’s why you have to get there early and carefully look over the readings to make sure that any names you don’t understand can be worked out. I also like to read the scriptures out loud to myself to practice. It is really important that the readings are proclaimed well and that’s why you’ve got to practice.

Fr. Patrick: How has being a lector changed you spiritually?

Harry: Now that I’m in college I’ve really learned how to take it all in and really internalize what is being said in that scripture passage. When I was younger, I was focused more on not making any big mistakes and proclaiming the Word well. I still want to do a good job, but now that I have more experience, I understand scripture better and can see connections that I didn’t see when I was younger.

Fr. Patrick: On the lighter side, what’s the funniest thing that has happened to you as a lector?

Harry: Well, one time, as I was getting up to read, I tripped over myself and almost took a really bad fall right there in the main aisle! I caught myself though and just kept on going!

Fr. Patrick: What do you like about being a lector?

Harry: I love being able to do something for the Church. I’ve grown a lot spiritually here at the U through personal prayer and retreats, but lecturing for me is about giving back to the community and giving witness to my peers by participating.

Rev. Patrick D. Rogers, S.J.
Executive Director, The Jesuit Center

March 3 Reflection 

Lent is often seen as a spring cleaning for the soul – an opportunity to renew our relationship with God and the Church. We recognize our sinfulness, our mortality, and seek the mercy of our Creator.

If the past 24 hours have taught me anything, it is that spring will not arrive simply because we think we are ready for it! I was already looking outwards, towards the warmer weather, and preparing for the next season: cleaning branches off the lawn, sweeping the driveway, putting the shovels in the shed – not to mention the not-so-gentle daily ooshings of the kids to stop jumping up and down on the sofas and to get out of the house!

But here we are again, confined to our homes, with swirling winds and snow stirring up outside. The winds will calm soon enough and the snow will melt, but not before a little more work is completed. The Spirit sent us a not-so-subtle reminder that we have to get our own homes in order before we venture out – before we look to the next season. We cannot rush the end simply because we think it will be easier, warmer, and less harsh. It is not how our spiritual lives work.

Reading the story of the Prodigal Son in today’s Gospel, the three main characters remind us of several (avoiding lengthy exegesis) simple truths during Lent.

We must take the time to repent as did the older son. We must look to God and ask for forgiveness. And we must avoid the bitterness and self-exclusion of the older brother and offer forgiveness where it is needed, including forgiving ourselves.

Soon enough we will rejoice with the risen Jesus. But for now there is still snow in the yard and work to be done in the house.

Easter is not here…not yet.

Ryan Sheehan, J.D.
Assistant Director, The Jesuit Center

March 4 Reflection

The Good News for Lent is what Paul preaches, the crucifixion of Jesus. It is the way that His Sacred Heart deals with man’s failure to love Him as He loves us. And His way is our way to deal with the failure to love, whether the failure is our own or that of others. For He is The Way. He allows His feet to be nailed so that He does not run away from those who hurt Him in hurting themselves by their lack of love.

He allows His hands to be nailed so that the unloving need not fear that He will hurt them in return. Rather, His arms are held open, waiting to embrace the ones He loves. Nor do His hands cover His Sacred Heart to protect His life. So His Sacred Heart is pierced and His life is poured out to overwhelm with love those who are lacking in love. To overcome the death of love, water is poured out to Baptize, to exchange birth into the love life of God for what is missing in the ones He loves. And for the nourishment of the new love life is poured out His Life, His Precious Blood, the medium of the message “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.” (John, 7:37) His Sacred Heart gives the life that is present in His Body, His flesh that we eat in the Holy Eucharist, Holy Thanksgiving returning His Love. But His feet are nailed so that He cannot come to us to give us His Body, the Daily Bread that we pray for in the Our Father.

Do we hunger enough for His love to come to Him to receive daily the complete union with Him in His Love of Our Father? Do we fully accept the gift of His Sacred Heart which is the result of His crucifixion? Can we resist not only being loved into existence at every moment but being drawn into the Sacred Heart’s sharing with those He loves, the Holy Spirit, His love of Our Father?

Rev. J. Patrick Mohr, S.J.
Professor, Department of Philosophy

March 5 Reflection

On March 3rd 1868, Blessed Pope Pius IX signed the decree that marked the beginning of the Diocese of Scranton.
Yesterday afternoon, the Diocese marked its 150th Anniversary with a special Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter. Today, let us offer up a special prayer for the Diocese of Scranton and ask for God’s continued blessings on all of its parishes, missions and works.

From the Jesuit Center Staff

March 6 Reflection

Dear Friends,
As we celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Diocese of Scranton, let us take a moment to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for all the blessings we’ve received from the Diocese, especially our profound connection with its bishops.
Our current bishop has personal ties of affection to the University and at one time took graduate theology classes here. He also served on our Board of Trustees. So today, let us offer up a prayer for our chief shepherd and spiritual leader, the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L., Tenth Bishop of Scranton.

Rev. Patrick D. Rogers, S.J.

March 7 Reflection

Today’s reflection comes as a result of an interview I did with senior lacrosse player Timmy Gray '18.
Throughout our conversation, I asked Timmy to reflect on questions pertaining to the blessings and challenges of being formed in the Ignatian charism that is a hallmark of a University of Scranton education. For student-athletes at the University, this formation program is called “The Royal Way.” It helps them strive for excellence on and off their place of competition while forming them to be women and men of good conscience and character.
Timmy Gray '18 is an Exercise Science major and a goalie on our men’s lacrosse team.

Fr. Patrick: So, Timmy, what is “The Royal Way?”

Timmy: It’s a program for all athletes here at the University, and it's a program that helps student-athletes come together as a team through the building-up of character. “The Royal Way” is not only about competing hard and giving it your best shot every day, but about how we do things on our teams. One of the touchstones of “The Royal Way” states, “We demand mutual respect, tough love and total care from one another.” Those values are hard to live up to sometimes, but they remind us that doing the right thing, while it is often very tough, is worth it in the end.

Fr. Patrick: Does every student-athlete have to participate?

Timmy: Yeah, as far as I know every athlete signs the large “Royal Way” Touchstone poster at the beginning of the year and in doing so pledges to do their best to live up to these high ideals. That signed document hangs in the Long Center gym, which is great because everyone in our community can see it. When I look at it I am reminded that we are called to seek the magis (the more) in all that we do because we represent more than ourselves or our team, we represent our community.

Fr. Patrick: Is there one aspect of “The Royal Way” that you find particularly appealing?

Timmy: Yes, and it’s the last part. At the bottom of the document, it says, “Wherever we go, whatever we do- WE ARE ROYALS.” I feel blessed to represent the University and am honored to wear a Scranton uniform because we really are one community.

Fr. Patrick: How do you and your team engage “The Royal Way?”

Timmy: Well, we often talk about Jesuit values in our team meetings and, like all the other teams here at the University, we do community service. We regularly participate in the Thanksgiving Food Drive run by the Friends of the Poor, and the guys love it. “The Royal Way” is much more than community service, though, because we want to honor God in all that we do. Think about it - we are able to put AMDG (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, For the Greater Glory of God) on our basketball court and on our jerseys! We can literally wear our values on our sleeves, and that means a lot to me.

Fr. Patrick: What value represented in “The Royal Way” most resonates with you?

Timmy: That’s easy: “We compete with an attitude of gratitude and greatness, striving to win each day our way." As a senior, I’m grateful for all that I have because I know that I didn’t get to where I am on my own. My parents, coaches, friends, and teammates have all helped shape me as a person. Competing with my teammates is great because they are awesome guys, and I feel blessed to be on the team.

Fr. Patrick: Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Timmy. Good luck with the season!

Timmy: Thanks, Fr. Patrick!

March 8 Reflection

Simple Prayer for the Midway Point of Lent
May we give up noise -pray- so as to enter into deeper prayer for ourselves and the life of the world.

May we give up food and consuming -fast- so that others may eat and have something at all.

May we give up judgment, sarcasm, the unkind word or remark
-give instead- a word to lift us up and get us through it all.

From the Jesuit Center Staff

March 9 Reflection

Today marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J. Because he died giving care to plague victims at the age of 23, Aloysius is the patron saint of students and youth, Jesuit Scholastics, plague victims and AIDS victims and caregivers.

To mark this milestone, the Society of Jesus begins today a Jubilee Year to honor this great saint and patron of youth. Fr. General Sosa, S.J., has invited the whole Society, including its communities and institutions, to find ways to celebrate St. Aloysius’ life by drawing attention to the rich contributions young people bring to society, the Church and the Society of Jesus. Read Fr. Sosa's Invitation Here

To begin our jubilee year, I asked Brian Kilner '20 (a graduate of Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C.) to offer his thoughts about St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

Fr. Patrick

March 10 Reflection

Rev. Patrick D. Rogers, S.J., sits down with Elizabeth Dugan '18, Occupational Therapy major and Psychology minor, to discuss her experience as a cantor.
Fr. Patrick: Hi, Elizabeth, it’s good to have you here at the Jesuit Center. So, let’s get down to brass tacks … when did you first begin to cantor at Masses? Were you in high school or here at the Univeristy?
Elizabeth: Actually, I first began to cantor at my home parish when I was in the sixth grade.

Fr. Patrick: Wow, that’s really awesome and a lot of responsibility for a young person, so good for you! Since you’ve been participating as a cantor for some time now, do you have a special way of preparing yourself to lead us in song on Sunday?

Elizabeth: I prepare for a Sunday liturgy by attending the music ministry’s weekly rehearsals. If there are hymns or psalms that I am not familiar with I will take pictures of the music and record the song while we are practicing so I can go back and listen to it. I also find myself randomly singing songs that are in the Masses during the week, as corny as that may be, especially if it is a hymn that really strikes a chord with me or one that I really enjoy.

Fr. Patrick: Has singing at Mass helped you grow in your spiritual life? If so, how?

Elizabeth: Singing at Mass has definitely impacted and supported my spiritual life. I have realized that singing the hymns is having a conversation with God, just like praying. For me, the combination of music and scripture helps to foster my spiritual growth. I have been able to see in different theology classes how many scripture passages have inspired artists in their music and how the scripture is incorporated and used in the music played at Masses.

Fr. Patrick: I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but the great St. Augustine is given credit for saying, "Those who sing pray twice." How do you encourage your fellow students to PRAY MORE, i.e., sing at Mass?

Elizabeth: One thing I always try to do is smile whenever possible. Also, last semester I read "Why Catholics Can’t Sing" by Thomas Day for my Intro to Christian Worship course. In that book, Mr. Day explains that cantors should back off of the microphone when they hear that the congregation has a strong communal sound. I have started trying to implement this technique and have noticed a difference in the congregation’s participation in singing during Masses.

Fr. Patrick: All of us have had funny things happen to us during Mass. Can you share with us one of your funny moments?

Elizabeth: One funny moment happened last year. I remember looking at the microphone before Mass and thinking it looked kind of loose. Later, toward the middle of the Mass, the microphone fell out of the stand and onto the floor with a big thud! I continued with the Mass parts without the microphone and just pretended like it was there until I could pick it up before the communion hymn. It was a very interesting Mass that Sunday!

Fr. Patrick: Thanks for taking the time to tell our University Community about you singing ministry, Elizabeth. Enjoy your spring break and I’ll see you in a week or two!

Elizabeth: Thanks, Father. I hope you have a great break as well!

March 11 Reflection

It strikes me that today’s Second Reading, from the Letter to the Ephesians (2.4-10), fits fruitfully together with the Contemplation on the Incarnation (#101-109) in the Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius bids us imagine Father, Son, and Holy Spirit taking a long look at the world, seeing humanity’s self-destructive course, and deciding, “Let us work the redemption of the human race.” "Work" is the word that then connects creation, redemption, resurrection and salvation as God’s Plan, his "Handiwork" proclaimed in Ephesians as follows for our meditation:

“It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did this all on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and the saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”
(Excerpt from The Message New Testament)

Fr. James Redington, S.J.
Jesuit Center Fellow

March 12 Reflection

The conversation between Jesus and the father in today’s Gospel is fascinating and rather strange. The father begs Jesus to help his dying son. Jesus’ response seems impatient, somewhat irritable. “You people...” he says, “you people won’t believe unless you see signs and miracles.” Doesn’t this seem a bit harsh? The father hasn’t seen signs and miracles, and he’s not there to ask for some proof that will make him believe. He just wants his son not to die. He has left him, knowing he might never see him alive again, and traveled for at least a day because he thinks that Jesus can save him. Surely he wouldn’t have done that unless he did believe? But he hasn’t got time to argue with Jesus – “what do you mean? I’m here, aren’t I?” He just wants help for his kid. So he ignores Jesus’ rebuff and repeats: “If we don’t hurry, he’ll die – please, let’s go!”

Jesus says, “Go home; your boy is going to be fine,” and the father doesn’t argue, he doesn’t insist that Jesus needs to be there; he believes him, John says, and he does as he’s told and heads home. Again, doesn’t this look like belief? Wasn’t Jesus being too hard on him with his “you people . . .?” But then the father meets his servants, hurrying to him with the good news. He learns that the fever turned just when he was with Jesus . . . It seems that the timing qualifies his son’s healing as a “sign and a wonder” because then, John tells us, then he believes.

Belief, it would seem, isn’t a simple proposition: either you believe or you don’t, case closed. Like the father’s, our faith is a complicated thing, a layering of need, of hope, of trust, of experience, of conviction. Jesus knows what a mess our faith is, how unsimple, how tangled. Sometimes we believe because we want to, or need to, or because it gives us something to hang-on to. Sometimes we believe because we are compelled to, or because something meets our standards for an adequate reason to believe. Like the father’s, if we are willing to risk the journey towards Jesus, our faith can begin as grasping at straws and grow into something that can draw in those around us.

Lent, when we try to get clear of some of the jumble of our lives, can be a time to look at our faith in the company of Jesus, who knows all about its tangled messiness, and who always wants to show us the truth about ourselves, and to heal us.

Dr. Maria Poggi Johnson
Faculty, Theology and Religious Studies

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