SM6 – To Fast, Part One – Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Servant of God Catherine Doherty – Discerning Hearts Podcast


SM6 – To Fast, Part One – Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Servant of God Catherine Doherty

An excerpt from Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter:

To Fast, Part One

“Often during Lent, my mind turns to the reading from the prophet Isaiah that ends with the simple question: “Is this not the sort of fast that pleases me?” (Isaiah, ch 58) God evidently wants a broken, humble heart, because he says, “Rend your hearts and not your garments.” God wants not so much a giving up as a simple giving. In order to really have an open and humble heart, to give lavishly of food, love, shelter, tenderness and compassion because of this humble heart, one must give up oneself. To fast the way the Lord wants means a total surrender of self to the other and for the other.

The Lenten season is a good time to examine ourselves. Perhaps food is not our god, yet we can worship our will, which feeds our ego out of all proportion. Perhaps in the depths of our souls we might be unforgiving, hostile, angry. These are shameful things, if directed toward our neighbor. Maybe I am not too concerned with things of the world, but very much with “my thing”, my desires, and very little concerned with other people’s needs. Lent is the time to find out, because when we have broken and opened our hearts, God comes.”

Doherty, Catherine. Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter (Seasonal Customs Vol. 2) (p. 42). Madonna House Publications. Kindle Edition.


Catherine Doherty was born into an aristocratic family in Russia in 1896, and baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church. Because of her father’s work, she grew up in Ukraine, Egypt, and Paris. Many different strands of Christianity were woven into the spiritual fabric of her family background, but it was from the liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church, the living faith of her father and mother, and the earthy piety of the Russian people themselves that Catherine received the powerful spiritual traditions and symbols of the Christian East. Catherine fled to England during the Russian Revolution, and was received into the Catholic Church in 1919. The cause for her canonization has been officially opened in the Catholic Church. More information about Catherine’s life, works, and the progress of her cause can be found at: www.catherinedoherty.org and www.madonnahouse.org.


Discerning Hearts is grateful to Madonna House Publications whose permission was obtained to record these audio selections from this published work.

TOR3 – Beauty and Penance – A Time of Renewal: Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season by Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C. – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Beauty and Penance – A Time of Renewal Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season

An excerpt from A Time of Renewal: Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season :

Beauty and Penance

“When we examine the Church’s liturgy, the idea of blossoming beauty is very evident everywhere in this season of penance. It neither begins nor ends with anything severe, even though we are told to set ourselves to work, which will inevitably involve suffering and pain since we are so disjointed. We are so unbeautiful sometimes. The Lenten liturgy is one of hope and of restoration that speaks of a great blossoming that is to come, that is to be accomplished during these days. Holy Church tells us that it is not in vain that we keep vigil, and that a crown is promised to those who watch. She tells us that our penance is not without purpose.

We might stop to reflect there for just a minute. In our time the Church has lifted so much of what was mandatory in penitential practices, thereby placing great trust in us. She has not changed anything about her concept of penance or understanding of the need for penance, she has merely removed penalties. She has tried to show us a greater trust. If the Church is aware that penance had been done for the wrong reason, she is now asking us to do it for the right reason, without penalty.”

Mother Mary Francis. A Time of Renewal: Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season . Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.


From the book’s description:

Mother Mary Francis, abbess of a Poor Clare Monastery for over forty years, left an enduring legacy in her writings and in the conferences she gave to her spiritual daughters. In this work she presents beautiful meditations on the liturgical season of Lent, revealing the treasures of the liturgy to Christians in all walks of life. Her insight into Holy Scripture and her poet’s heart engendered reflections that illuminate the daily Mass readings in a fresh and attractive way.

These meditations enlighten the reader to see conversion as positive and enriching, and help us to understand that the generous embrace of Lenten penance has a purpose and brings a wondrous reward: deeper union with God. She was a true daughter of Saint Francis of Assisi, who found perfect joy by turning away from self to God.

As a spiritual guide, Mother Mary Francis excels in the art of persuasion, aware that the human heart cannot be forced but only gently led to holiness. She makes this goal attractive and desirable by tirelessly explaining why striving for holiness is the happiest and wisest way to live. This book provides a wealth of material for plundering the riches of the Lenten season and for deepening one’s spiritual life. Her meditations are profound and timeless, not changing from year to year, thus providing a lifetime of Lenten meditations in this one volume.


Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C., (1921-2006) was for more than forty years the abbess of the Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Roswell, New Mexico. She became recognized as an authoritative voice for the renewal of religious life through her many books, including A Right to Be Merry, But I Have Called You Friends, and Anima Christi.  To learn more about Mother Mary Francis and the Poor Clare Nuns of Roswell, NM visit their website at https://poorclares-roswell.org


SM5 – Repentance and Forgiveness – Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Servant of God Catherine Doherty – Discerning Hearts Podcast


SM5 – Repentance and Forgiveness – Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Servant of God Catherine Doherty

An excerpt from Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter:

Repentance and Forgiveness

Repentance is a powerful word. We should use it not only in Lent but constantly, because daily we commit acts, say words, have inward movements, that we are sorry for, wish we had not said or done, and in some way wish to atone for.

That is good. It is also good to know that sin is not the immediate cause of this or that calamity. Sometimes God sends us sorrow, trials, sadness so that we repent, do penance, and turn our face to him. At times it is very hard to understand that those calamities and tragedies can make us understand the love of God, and his tenderness and mercy shine with a new shine, better than ever. Let us be reassured and let us open ourselves to whatever God sends us. A supposed calamity changes into a benediction, into something we could offer to God. Let us look at things that way; it takes faith, but you pray for faith.

Doherty, Catherine. Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter (Seasonal Customs Vol. 2) (pp. 33-34). Madonna House Publications. Kindle Edition.


Catherine Doherty was born into an aristocratic family in Russia in 1896, and baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church. Because of her father’s work, she grew up in Ukraine, Egypt, and Paris. Many different strands of Christianity were woven into the spiritual fabric of her family background, but it was from the liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church, the living faith of her father and mother, and the earthy piety of the Russian people themselves that Catherine received the powerful spiritual traditions and symbols of the Christian East. Catherine fled to England during the Russian Revolution, and was received into the Catholic Church in 1919. The cause for her canonization has been officially opened in the Catholic Church. More information about Catherine’s life, works, and the progress of her cause can be found at: www.catherinedoherty.org and www.madonnahouse.org.


Discerning Hearts is grateful to Madonna House Publications whose permission was obtained to record these audio selections from this published work.

SM4 – The Sea of God’s Mercy – Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Servant of God Catherine Doherty – Discerning Hearts Podcast


SM4 – The Sea of God’s Mercy – Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Servant of God Catherine Doherty

An excerpt from Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter:

The Sea of God’s Mercy

It came to me that Lent is a sort of sea of God’s mercy. In my imagination, it was warm and quiet, and inviting for us to swim in. If we did, we would be not only refreshed but cleansed, for God’s mercy cleanses as nothing else does.

Then I thought of our reticence. I do not know if it is reticence, or fear to really plunge into God’s mercy. We really want to be washed clean; we want to be forgiven. But these desires meet with something else inside. I say to myself that if I enter into that sea of mercy I will be healed, and then I will be bound to practice what Christ preaches, practice his law of love. And that law of love is painful, so terribly painful. There by that sea I stand and think. If I seek mercy, I have to dish out mercy, I have to be merciful to others. What does it mean to be merciful to others? It means to open my own heart, like a little sea, for people to swim in.

If we stand before God’s mercy and drink of it, that means the Our Father is a reality and not just a prayer that I say.

Doherty, Catherine. Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter (Seasonal Customs Vol. 2) (pp. 28-29). Madonna House Publications. Kindle Edition.


Catherine Doherty was born into an aristocratic family in Russia in 1896, and baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church. Because of her father’s work, she grew up in Ukraine, Egypt, and Paris. Many different strands of Christianity were woven into the spiritual fabric of her family background, but it was from the liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church, the living faith of her father and mother, and the earthy piety of the Russian people themselves that Catherine received the powerful spiritual traditions and symbols of the Christian East. Catherine fled to England during the Russian Revolution, and was received into the Catholic Church in 1919. The cause for her canonization has been officially opened in the Catholic Church. More information about Catherine’s life, works, and the progress of her cause can be found at: www.catherinedoherty.org and www.madonnahouse.org.


Discerning Hearts is grateful to Madonna House Publications whose permission was obtained to record these audio selections from this published work.

SM3 – Learning to Love – Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Servant of God Catherine Doherty – Discerning Hearts Podcast


SM3 – Learning to Love – Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Servant of God Catherine Doherty

An excerpt from Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter:

Learning to Love

The fall of Adam was a felix culpa, as the Latin used to say, a “happy fault”, for it brought us Christ. Christ has come to take our sins away and reconcile us to his Father. We have a “door” and we have a “way”, and if we pass through that door and we walk along that way, we shall see the Father. Christ is our brother; he is the brother of everybody, and so that makes us all brothers and sisters. Jesus Christ made us brothers and sisters of one another and that is the tremendous essence of this thing called Christianity—we are followers of Christ, baptized into his death and resurrection. We preach the Gospel with our lives, or should, if we are Christian. (We can also preach it with our mouth, but the best way of preaching is with our lives.)

What is that Gospel? To love God with our whole mind, heart, soul, and strength; to love our neighbor as ourselves. Do not ever forget the “ourselves’’ business. You cannot love me unless you love yourself. If you despise yourself, if you do not care for yourself, you despise God’s creature. You cannot love God either, if you do not love yourself. To put it another way, if you cannot love God and yourself, then how can you love me, your neighbor?

Doherty, Catherine. Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter (Seasonal Customs Vol. 2) (pp. 15-16). Madonna House Publications. Kindle Edition.


Catherine Doherty was born into an aristocratic family in Russia in 1896, and baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church. Because of her father’s work, she grew up in Ukraine, Egypt, and Paris. Many different strands of Christianity were woven into the spiritual fabric of her family background, but it was from the liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church, the living faith of her father and mother, and the earthy piety of the Russian people themselves that Catherine received the powerful spiritual traditions and symbols of the Christian East. Catherine fled to England during the Russian Revolution, and was received into the Catholic Church in 1919. The cause for her canonization has been officially opened in the Catholic Church. More information about Catherine’s life, works, and the progress of her cause can be found at: www.catherinedoherty.org and www.madonnahouse.org.


Discerning Hearts is grateful to Madonna House Publications whose permission was obtained to record these audio selections from this published work.

TOR2 – Amendment and Penance – A Time of Renewal: Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season by Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C. – Discerning Hearts Podcast

First Friday of Lent: Amendment and Penance – A Time of Renewal Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season

An excerpt from A Time of Renewal: Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season:

Amendment and Penance

“It is of great spiritual benefit to avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation often during this holy season, and so let us continue our consideration of this great gift ministered to us through our Holy Church. Just as there is no sacramental absolution without contrition and without the actual confession, so the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not valid unless we are determined to do penance and to amend our lives. To whom do we confess? To Almighty God. But we never sincerely confess to God what we have not first confessed to ourselves. The first confession is confessing to myself in true confrontation that I am guilty, I have sinned, I am at fault. If we do not have that first confession in the truth, that cleansing self-confrontation, we will not rightly confess to God. We cannot tell God anything he does not know, and we cannot rightly express to God what we have not expressed in truth to ourselves. “

Mother Mary Francis. A Time of Renewal: Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season . Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.


From the book’s description:

Mother Mary Francis, abbess of a Poor Clare Monastery for over forty years, left an enduring legacy in her writings and in the conferences she gave to her spiritual daughters. In this work she presents beautiful meditations on the liturgical season of Lent, revealing the treasures of the liturgy to Christians in all walks of life. Her insight into Holy Scripture and her poet’s heart engendered reflections that illuminate the daily Mass readings in a fresh and attractive way.

These meditations enlighten the reader to see conversion as positive and enriching, and help us to understand that the generous embrace of Lenten penance has a purpose and brings a wondrous reward: deeper union with God. She was a true daughter of Saint Francis of Assisi, who found perfect joy by turning away from self to God.

As a spiritual guide, Mother Mary Francis excels in the art of persuasion, aware that the human heart cannot be forced but only gently led to holiness. She makes this goal attractive and desirable by tirelessly explaining why striving for holiness is the happiest and wisest way to live. This book provides a wealth of material for plundering the riches of the Lenten season and for deepening one’s spiritual life. Her meditations are profound and timeless, not changing from year to year, thus providing a lifetime of Lenten meditations in this one volume.


Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C., (1921-2006) was for more than forty years the abbess of the Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Roswell, New Mexico. She became recognized as an authoritative voice for the renewal of religious life through her many books, including A Right to Be Merry, But I Have Called You Friends, and Anima Christi.  To learn more about Mother Mary Francis and the Poor Clare Nuns of Roswell, NM visit their website at https://poorclares-roswell.org


SM2 – Seek God’s Will – Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Servant of God Catherine Doherty – Discerning Hearts Podcast


SM2 – Seek God’s Will – Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Servant of God Catherine Doherty

An excerpt from Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter:

Seek God’s Will

“God speaks to us through the Bible. If you are humble, simple, and direct, and love the Scriptures as something that really comes from the mind of God to bring you to his heart, then the Holy Spirit teaches you to read them. A whole new vista, a new dimension opens before you, and you enter into a world that heals you, cleanses you, washes you, makes you whole.

In repeating the Word of God and praying with it, even when it seems monotonous, there is tremendous light. We are always attracted to something that is exotic, interesting; we do not want to dwell on something that we may not understand, or which bores us. And so we pass by a whole dimension of our own life. We are willing to absorb the Scriptures if they are put before us in a pleasant way. If not, we sometimes go to sleep, don’t we? But man’s heart cannot live in a void. As you are faithful to what at first appears to be a monotony, the Holy Spirit comes and you are silently visited by the Trinity, and they become your teachers of theology—teachers about themselves, that is. For who knows more about himself than God does?”

Doherty, Catherine. Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter (Seasonal Customs Vol. 2) (pp. 12-13). Madonna House Publications. Kindle Edition.


Catherine Doherty was born into an aristocratic family in Russia in 1896, and baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church. Because of her father’s work, she grew up in Ukraine, Egypt, and Paris. Many different strands of Christianity were woven into the spiritual fabric of her family background, but it was from the liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church, the living faith of her father and mother, and the earthy piety of the Russian people themselves that Catherine received the powerful spiritual traditions and symbols of the Christian East. Catherine fled to England during the Russian Revolution, and was received into the Catholic Church in 1919. The cause for her canonization has been officially opened in the Catholic Church. More information about Catherine’s life, works, and the progress of her cause can be found at: www.catherinedoherty.org and www.madonnahouse.org.


Discerning Hearts is grateful to Madonna House Publications whose permission was obtained to record these audio selections from this published work.

Temptation and the Spiritual Journey – Building a Kingdom of Love w/ Msgr. John Esseff Podcast

Esseff Spiritual Direction podcast discerning hearts

On this First Sunday of Lent, Msgr. Esseff reflects on the effects of the fall of our first parents and our battle with temptation.  He helps us to focus on Christ, who is the Light, and who will lead us out of the darkness.

Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me
Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge,
O see, in guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervor sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit,
a humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

In your goodness, show favor to Zion:
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
holocausts offered on your altar.

Excerpts from the English translation of The Liturgy of the Hours (Four Volumes) © 1974, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved.

Msgr. John A. Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Scranton. Msgr. Esseff served as a retreat director and confessor to St. Teresa of Calcutta.    He continues to offer direction and retreats for the sisters of the missionaries of charity around the world.  Msgr. Esseff encountered St.  Padre Pio,  who would become a spiritual father to him.  He has lived in areas around the world,  serving in the Pontifical missions, a Catholic organization established by Pope St. John Paul II.  He continues to serve as a retreat leader and director to bishops, priests and sisters and seminarians, and other religious leaders around the world.  

TOR1 – Ash Wednesday: A Time of Reflowering – A Time of Renewal: Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season by Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C. – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Ash Wednesday: A Time of Reflowering – A Time of Renewal Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season

An excerpt from A Time of Renewal: Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season :

A Time of Reflowering

“We have come to the beginning of Lent, and I hope we will not allow ourselves to think of it as “just another Lent”. There is a very deep sense in which there is not another Lent and then another and another after that. This Lent is unlike any other. It is this acceptable time. We do not know if there will be another Lent for us, but we do know God has brought us to this acceptable time, to this prolonged day of salvation. This is the acceptable time, and the Apostle Paul is begging us not to receive the graces of this time in vain (see 2 Cor 6:1). He is also implying that there will be struggle, that this is a great testing ground, and that as we grow in our awareness of our need for redemption and in a very humble attitude toward others, so do we nourish the will to make a sustained effort to do better. By all of these things we enter into the mystery of our communal life in the Church. We are responsible for one another’s holiness. We influence each other all the time, and we should grow in the awareness of this. It simply cannot be denied that we are conditioned and affected by one another. Human beings invariably are. Every Christian has a vocation to holiness. Now as we enter into Lent, I hope we will all be deeply conscious of our involvement in one another’s holiness, of our sharing of penance and of sacrifice, and very especially of our responsibility for one another’s growth in holiness this Lent.”

Mother Mary Francis. A Time of Renewal: Daily Reflections for the Lenten Season . Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.


From the book’s description:

Mother Mary Francis, abbess of a Poor Clare Monastery for over forty years, left an enduring legacy in her writings and in the conferences she gave to her spiritual daughters. In this work she presents beautiful meditations on the liturgical season of Lent, revealing the treasures of the liturgy to Christians in all walks of life. Her insight into Holy Scripture and her poet’s heart engendered reflections that illuminate the daily Mass readings in a fresh and attractive way.

These meditations enlighten the reader to see conversion as positive and enriching, and help us to understand that the generous embrace of Lenten penance has a purpose and brings a wondrous reward: deeper union with God. She was a true daughter of Saint Francis of Assisi, who found perfect joy by turning away from self to God.

As a spiritual guide, Mother Mary Francis excels in the art of persuasion, aware that the human heart cannot be forced but only gently led to holiness. She makes this goal attractive and desirable by tirelessly explaining why striving for holiness is the happiest and wisest way to live. This book provides a wealth of material for plundering the riches of the Lenten season and for deepening one’s spiritual life. Her meditations are profound and timeless, not changing from year to year, thus providing a lifetime of Lenten meditations in this one volume.


Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C., (1921-2006) was for more than forty years the abbess of the Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Roswell, New Mexico. She became recognized as an authoritative voice for the renewal of religious life through her many books, including A Right to Be Merry, But I Have Called You Friends, and Anima Christi.  To learn more about Mother Mary Francis and the Poor Clare Nuns of Roswell, NM visit their website at https://poorclares-roswell.org


SM1 – Begin with Desire – Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Servant of God Catherine Doherty – Discerning Hearts Podcast


SM1 – Begin with Desire – Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter by Servant of God Catherine Doherty

An excerpt from Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter:

 Begin with Desire

“In Lent we approach a threshold where this preaching will make way for pain and surrender. We approach a reality that he has enunciated to us and that we usually take lightly: “Greater love has no man than he lays down his life for his brother.” We are going to enter the moment in which our brother Jesus Christ has laid down his life for you and me, and every human being who has ever lived in this world—for he is brother to everyone.

Each one of us can enter into his own heart and look for that desire for God. It might be a little flame barely visible, or it might already be a bonfire in us. Be that as it may, we are going to see how God loved us. This is what Lent is all about. Like Zaccheus (Luke 19: 1-10) we are going to climb a big tree of faith so as to watch that no word of those last weeks of Christ’s life passes in one ear and out the other. His every act, his every word, must be enclosed in our desire, for if we are to fulfill our desire to see him when the door of death opens (and even before, for the Kingdom of God begins now) we have to imitate him whom we are going to look at.”

Doherty, Catherine. Season of Mercy: Lent and Easter (Seasonal Customs Vol. 2) (pp. 3-4). Madonna House Publications. Kindle Edition.


Catherine Doherty was born into an aristocratic family in Russia in 1896, and baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church. Because of her father’s work, she grew up in Ukraine, Egypt, and Paris. Many different strands of Christianity were woven into the spiritual fabric of her family background, but it was from the liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church, the living faith of her father and mother, and the earthy piety of the Russian people themselves that Catherine received the powerful spiritual traditions and symbols of the Christian East. Catherine fled to England during the Russian Revolution, and was received into the Catholic Church in 1919. The cause for her canonization has been officially opened in the Catholic Church. More information about Catherine’s life, works, and the progress of her cause can be found at: www.catherinedoherty.org and www.madonnahouse.org.


Discerning Hearts is grateful to Madonna House Publications whose permission was obtained to record these audio selections from this published work.