As we embark on another Lenten Journey, let us resolve to live Psalm 51 anew: “Have mercy on me, O God; according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy… Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me… The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Is this not a cry for each of us and an intercessory prayer for all human hearts?
In our recent comments, holding on to TNRS as sustenance and support while we make our way through life’s personal storms amidst the Storm in our world has been a constant theme. Thanking God for Charlie who founded this community and fostered the message we have taken to heart, let us continue to pray for him. Let us, too, acknowledge that God often waits upon our intercessory prayer to act and that every good work which the Lord blesses flourishes on a bed rock of prayer. To this end, let us keep our community in prayer that God will bless us and that we become who and what He wishes us to be.
Now, with gratitude, I welcome and share with you the following Lenten reflection from our own JT Brannigan.
Lent begins again. Even though it is not particularly early this year it seems to have crept up and taken me by surprise. I don’t know if it’s the present craziness in the world, or the busyness of our family, or the unnamed respiratory issues that plagued me for almost a month. Whatever the reasons, I was totally surprised and taken aback when my assistant innocently informed me that Ash Wednesday would be upon us in less than a week. How can that be? New Year’s seems like yesterday.
I like Lent. It ties the Church of my childhood to the present. It brings to mind the purple shrouds, darkened churches, lit by candle light, Latin chants, pews of people with heads bowed in fervent prayer. In my mind Lent occupies a place that is ancient as the faith itself. Here is a practice first done by Jesus himself, passed down to us through a hundred generations and cultures. Something medieval and modern, past and future, all at the same time. A time, set aside from time, to seek to be closer to God, to better understand the love of Jesus and the intercession of Mary. A time to allow the realities of our faith to become more integrated, ingratiated, into our hearts, minds and lives. It is a time to prepare our souls to accept the incredible, wonderful mystery of the resurrection.
This year Lent has a special meaning for me. About ten months ago I first encountered TNRS. In that time the participants at TNRS, have without fail championed the Blessed Virgin, urged people to say the rosary, supported the magisterium of the Church, supported the Pope, prayed for and consoled each other.
In my life, contact with TNRS has brought a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This freed me from bondage to my secular view of a coming upheaval and collapse and from the false belief that if I gathered enough food, water, medicines and guns I could save myself and my family. Since last April, reading the postings of the many good people here has inspired me to repent of my lukewarm Catholicism, to renew my prayer life, to bring devotion to the Blessed Virgin back into my life (actually, to bring it into my life in a meaningful way for the first time), to work on those stubborn areas of sin which still clung to me, or I to them. I find myself being more prayerful, more peaceful, more respectful of family and friends, more concerned with the status of Jesus’ church in the world and less worried about my fate and that of my family.
My sense is that coming troubles are very real. I could see this on a purely secular and physical level long before I had heard of TNRS and long before I had a name for what was happening. The present order, which opposes God on so many levels, will not bring peace and security.
The powers that engaged in struggles of the election are not gone. They are regrouping. I have shared with a few others that I believe the election results were a temporary blessing, possibly a change of course due to the prayers of millions of people, but it is not the final battle. We have been given some added time, free from persecution (which has been slowly increasing and which I believe would have begun to increase even faster if the results had been different) but this is only a temporary calm.
The irrational, emotional, bitter and violent reactions of the losing side are, I believe, a tiny fraction (and foreshadowing) of the emotions and evil that will be released should there be an economic or social upheaval or collapse. There will be tremendous need for people who have been physically, mentally and spiritually preparing for that day and who will be able to calmly approach others with the faith and certainty that this too will pass. People who will witness that God and Jesus, and Mary the intercessor, stand with us.
Who will be signs of hope to the frightened society? Who will proclaim that Mary intercedes and Jesus is with us? Who will proclaim that God wants our salvation?
Back to Lent. The Christian writer C.S. Lewis called the autobiography of his early years “Surprised By Joy”. Taking cue from his great intellect, I find in my life I have been surprised by Grace. That is what happened to me this past year. A chance comment from a brother brings me to TNRS. My encounters here open doors that had been closed for a long time. I look back and realize God was pouring out his Grace long before I was aware of it. I was at a place where I didn’t even realize the need to ask, but God in His Love provided for my unrecognized needs.
My prayers for Lent will be to ask God to make me more open to his attempts to “surprise me” by giving me Grace; even Grace I may not be consciously seeking. I will also be praying for everyone at TNRS and for guidance as to where we go from here.
I, for one, would like to see the site continue and grow. I have learned much here. I believe I have received many graces from my contact with the other contributors. What we will become is in the Lord’s hands. If we put ourselves at His disposal I believe He will show us what we need to do.
Many here are facing these questions and have begun to open themselves to be God’s instruments in difficult times ahead. I hope that TNRS website and local groups will continue. For anyone who believes God does and will continue to work through TNRS I am willing to begin that journey with you and see where God calls us to go.
My hope is that my thoughts and musings will be an encouragement to you. If these words speak to you, I thank God. If these words do not speak to you, or do not seem correct, that is fine. Pray for me. I do not intend to put any burdens or concerns on anyone. I speak only for myself and my own sense of what God is saying in my life and I humbly submit these thoughts to you for your own discernment and hopefully your edification.
I have learned much from my time with you all. My prayers are for everyone here. My prayers are for Charlie. My prayers are for Beckita and Steve and the team.
My prayers are for God’s peace and Grace to all who come here.
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.