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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Embraced by Lent: Our Online Lenten Retreat

Getting Back to Basics: What Lent IS and IS NOT
Who of us of a certain age cannot remember that wonderful scene from the Sound of Music as Maria (Julie Andrews) attempts to teach the Von Trapp children to sing? For some reason they are clueless. So Maria, in her own way teaches them:
“Let’s start at the very beginning
a very good place to start
when you read you begin with A-B-C
when you sing you begin with DO-RE-MI…”
The words of this song are ingrained in most of our collective memories. If we are too old to sing them, then we are just too old!
As we begin this Lenten Retreat together, perhaps it’s a good idea for us to “begin at the very beginning” and understand what the season of Lent is truly all about. Perhaps the Prophet Joel, whom we hear in the first reading from the Ash Wednesday liturgy, should be our jumping off point. (Click here for the complete readings.)
“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts and not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.”(Joel 2:12-13)
I remember attending church on Ash Wednesday as a child, being signed with the ashes and then trying to make it through the school day with those ashes still in place. We stood out, people looked at us, many understanding, others perhaps smirking behind our backs.
We wore those ashes like badges. But as a child, did I truly understand the meaning of it all? Not really. Actually, even as I move into “the not-so-golden–era” of my life, I am still trying to understand what this Lenten journey is all about.
Lent is NOT about spiritual gymnastics. Will I make it through the next 40 days, sticking doggedly to my resolutions? Will this be the year that I finally root out all that is in me that is still not of God? Does that even happen here or somewhere after the grave? Truthfully, I can’t answer these questions.
I believe that Lent is simply about being honest and admitting, as much as it may hurt, that I am not God. I don’t have all the answers even when I pretend I do. I am not the best apple in the barrel, nor am I the worst. Truth be told, I am somewhere in-between. That is what Lent is for me this year. In the midst of life changes, between the ups and the downs, the highs and lows, I drift somewhere in-between.
This Lent let’s begin at the very beginning. STOP! BREATHE! LISTEN! FORGIVE! LOVE YOURSELF! LOVE GOD! LOVE OTHERS!
Will it be as easy as singing DO-RE-MI? Perhaps, for some of us. Maybe we just have to be patient and practice

Father James McDonald professed vows as a Redemptorist in 1984 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1990. He is currently stationed at San Alfonso Retreat House in Long Branch, NJ.