NEWSLETTER February 2017
MARCH services at St Michael and All Angels
Sunday 5 March First Sunday of Lent
Colour: Violet, Intent: Self-examination
Sunday 19 March Third Sunday of Lent
Colour: Violet, Intent: Understanding
Sundays with no service at St Michael’s:
Sunday 12 March Second Sunday of Lent
Colour: Violet, Intent: Control of Speech
Sunday 26 March Fourth Sunday of Lent
Colour: Red, Intent: The Holy Spirit as the fire of love
Self-examination in the period of Lent (Becoming our own therapists!)
The period of Lent starts this year on the 1st March with Ash Wednesday. This name refers to the practice of burning the last year palm crosses and putting the resultant ash on the forehead as a sign that the period of preparation has commenced.
Not all members of the Liberal Catholic Church follow this practice, but it is worth noting the day (Ash Wednesday) as the start of a special time when, using the intent of the first Sunday in lent, we can begin a period of self-examination.
Over the last few years there has begun to be an interest in a program of inner review and conscious thought redirection under the general heading of “Mindfulness”. Mindfulness programs are presented in different formats and with different emphases and teachings, but the common theme is to break entrenched negative ways of thinking and develop a level of mental resilience. This resilience firstly enables us to deal with the usual range of “slings and arrows” that we all experience at times in our lives, and ultimately aims at increasing our inner contentment and enjoyment of life.
Some of us use the techniques of focussing on our breath as a means of starting and sustaining a meditation session. This generally leads to a quietening of our “rattling” mental chatter and a deepening experience of calm. This meditation technique is quite similar to the process of Mindfulness in our everyday activities, as they share a common mind-body-breath link and utilise the interacting nature of mind, body and breath.
This brings me to “self-examination” and getting the best from a Lenten preparation practice. The mediaeval use of physical extremes and pain as a practice related to Lent is definitely not prescribed in the Liberal Catholic Church and achieves no beneficial change in the practitioner. The focus of change should be the heart and the mind. What is of benefit is to look for real, sustainable change in our negative thoughts and feelings and establishing a new, “hard-wired” positive thinking process. This is the bedrock that underpins a more contented and healthier life.
It is interesting to note that present day research in the areas of cognition and physical brain function has found that obsessional and negative thoughts actually create physical neural pathways that reinforce this negative thinking process in an unhealthy, circular fashion. In other words, what we practise is what we become good at! The antidote is to avoid dwelling on whatever part of such a negative process we observe in ourselves, and instead to place our full focus on a positive part of our life, something we can be grateful for, and to do this as a regular, daily practice. The advice from our grandparents to “count our blessings” is, in fact, the most effective and far-ranging mental process to build a happier and more contented “mental environment” for our waking consciousness. And neural scientists tell us that it keeps us physically healthier as well.
So this is what I would recommend for us during this Lenten preparation period. By all means begin to discard unhealthy eating practices and have a second look at that “daily walk” routine but, most importantly, as we prepare for the festival of Easter, let’s get our hearts and minds into great shape, ready to fully embrace the rich message of Easter.
The Battle Between Carnival and Lent (Painted by Jan Miense Molenaer in 1633)
Visit to the church of St John the Beloved in Melbourne
It was a great pleasure for Else and me to attend a service at the church of St John the Beloved in Melbourne on Sunday 12 February. Thank you to Fr Fred and his cheerful congregation for making us so welcome. For me personally it was a special occasion because, as my first pontifical ceremony, I was very pleased to admit Nicole and Christine to the Order of Our Lady at the Stage of Purity.
With God’s blessing