Crossing the Desert with Deacon James Keating, PhD

Catholic Spiritual Formation - Catholic Spiritual Direction

For more information on Deacon James Keating, PhD and the work of the Institute for Priestly Formation visit: priestlyformation.org

CTD#5 – “Leaving the Desert” – Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion with Deacon James Keating

CTD#5 – “Leaving the Desert” – Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion with Deacon James Keating

“Celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation is, for many Catholics, a most daunting prospect. This sacrament has been the source of many jokes, composed perhaps by persons seeking to reduce the level of stress they feel regarding one of its main components: naming personal sin.

The naming of one’s own sin to oneself and to a priest is self-revelatory to the point of evoking anxiety. Initially, it can be true that some level of apprehension may accompany this sacrament, but over time with regular celebration of this form of worship, anxiety diminishes. Most positively the sacrament of reconciliation promotes truthful self-knowledge regarding sin in the context of Christ’s saving presence. Once someone experiences both the naming of sin and the reception of God’s mercy in this sacrament, he or she actually begins to celebrate this sacrament and see it as a great gift from Christ and his Church.”

CTD#1 – “The Desert of Consumerism” – Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion with Deacon James Keating

Episode 1 -Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion – “The Desert of Consumerism”. 

Lent wants to remind us of our real identity. At first appearance a seeming “obligation,” Lent is actually a great gift. Are we brave enough to enter this desert, and then let it affect us so deeply as to turn us away from sin and false identities, turn us toward communion with the living God? The Church presents this season to us every year because it is hoped that this year will be our year to say “Yes” to Lent’s call to repentance. Lent should not be something we go through alone, but together. As the Hebrews wandered the desert for forty years, so we should enter Lent through the ecclesial community and share its challenges with brothers and sisters in Christ. Lent should not be what the elderly man in the barbershop characterized as “life as usual.” With our goal being moral conversion, let us now turn to see how God can facilitate that conversion when we take on a “lenten mind.”

CTD#2 – “The Desert of Ordinary Life” – Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion with Deacon James Keating

Episode 2 -Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion – “The Desert of Ordinary Life”.

–The only location for God to interact with us is deep within the ordinariness of our days. We are called to cherish the ordinary day, not because of its routine or common features, but because within this daily forum God reaches us through others, through worship, charity, and our relational commitments. Our daily lives carry an invitation from God to become morally good and holy; it is the only medium through which this invitation can come. Cherish the days.

CTD#3 – “Waiting in the Desert” – Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion with Deacon James Keating

CTD#3 – “Waiting in the Desert” –

“The ancient image of Lent as a time of withdrawal is relevant to the formation of conscience if we perceive that our consciences have been inordinately attached to anemic sources of influence. Christians are called to transform the world of culture, work, and politics according to the truths learned through Christ in the Church. It is a powerful and dignified calling. Lent affords us a good opportunity to repent of those habits, attitudes, or behaviors that reflect a preoccupation with the secular. Thus devoid of the religious, we are then called to eagerly respond to our faith and imbue the secular with religious and ethical meaning. To do less than this is to render our baptisms impotent and meaningless.”

CTD#4 – “The Desert of Sin” – Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion with Deacon James Keating

“Any moral conversion, if it is to be real, must work its way into our minds and hearts. The conversion we undergo is one that transforms our entire person, and so our thought processes, habits, perceptions, and affections all become realigned to a new way of seeing good and evil Patience with ourselves, as well as with ohters who are also in the midst of conversion, becomes the key virtue to cultivate. God knows we are on the right track once we embrace such a conversion, and so being gentle on ourselves is not a sign of laxity or weakness of will, but a sign of wisdom.

Of course, the start of a moral conversion can be dramatic and jumpstart a change, but over the long haul of life, the heart of a person must be fully cooperative; otherwise, the person will not adhere to the moral truth for long.”

CTD#6 – “The Oasis of Lent” – Crossing the Desert: Lent and Conversion w/ Deacon James Keating

Communal worship speaks to this need. We usually imagine worship as a break in our secular lives, or sometimes even an obstacle to achieving other goals. With this attitude, worship is sometimes simply seen as “time out” from what is really important. Without denying the importance of secular realities for the laity, could we look at worship in another way? Worship is not an obstacle to daily living; it is not time off from more vital realities. Worship is, in fact, the great doorway into all that is both secular and holy. It is our way into real living. In worship, we find the great integration of the simple, ordinary, and plain (people, bread, wine, words) with the holy and transcendent (paschal mystery, incarnation, grace, transformation, salvation). The call of the laity is to carry into each day of work and domestic commitment the truth that the ordinary and the holy are not opposed. Only sin and the holy are opposed. Lenten worship services help us bring this truth to the world.

The more we come to see the presence of Christ in worship as a presence that permeates our being in the world, the more we will hunger to participate in worship as the source of our moral witness in everyday life. The Eucharist primarily is our participation in Christ’s Paschal Mystery, which is his self-offering to the Father, both in his life and upon the cross, and is also the Father’s response in raising him from the dead. Christ came to us; he came to dwell upon Earth and take on created goodness so that all in creation that is not good (sin) may be transformed by his presence, by grace. We too, in communion with him through the grace of the sacramental life, fill the ordinary world with his presence and become witnesses to this salvation through virtue and grace cooperating in moral activity.

Deacon James Keating, PhD, the director of Theological Formation for the Institute for Priestly Formation, located at Creighton University, in Omaha.

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