By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — John Cooper was amazed at the response he received after asking parishioners to write reflections on the weekday readings for Lent. The pastoral associate at St. Anthony Parish said 33 people accepted his challenge.
“Each could write from their own angle, in their own words. I wasn’t looking for a homily or anything long,” he said. The idea came from following a Creighton University online reflection. “I liked the concept of people writing. I knew people would want to read what others felt about the readings.”
Cooper contacted Creighton, inquiring about an outline or guideline. There wasn’t one. “They just wanted people to share how they interpret and feel about the readings. They suggested people write of how that reading impacts them and to not preach or teach.”
Sister Judy Herold, SSND, Cooper’s predecessor as pastoral associate, “agreed to lead it off and started on Ash Wednesday.”
As people responded to Cooper’s request, he sent them the readings for the particular day he wanted them to write about. Writers included a high school senior, a participant in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), lectors, religious education volunteers and a “diversity of people from our parish.”
Teresa Crossen, a lector and altar server coordinator at St. Anthony’s, reflect on the Feb. 16 reading. In part, she wrote: “Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and contemplation as we look inside ourselves and ask, ‘Are we living our lives to please those around us or to please God?’ When I was a young child Lent was a time to sacrifice something that I would miss. Chocolate, TV and giving my allowance to the poor are a few things I recall. I knew God would be pleased! Simple times back then. But as adults we need to delve deeper into what really pleases God.” She noted that our good deeds and kind words are not done for public acclaim but because that is what we should do as Catholics.
Pat Bear, a confirmation class catechist, wrote Feb. 19: “Lent is such a good time for each one of us to take an inventory of ourselves and our daily deeds. It also gives us the chance to renew our prayer life.”
Dennis Xuereb, a lector, eucharistic minister and co-leader of the parish’s Grief Support Group, said of the March 14 readings, “Today’s world appears to be in turmoil. Wars and injustice abound. Displaced peoples desperately seek refuge in places where welcome is often uncertain. A rapidly changing economy is leaving millions in a state of despair and helplessness. There is a palpable anger at what many perceive to be a world in a downward spiral. It is no wonder, therefore that at such times we turn to God and say, as Zion says in today’s first reading from Isaiah, ‘The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.’ To which the Lord replied: ‘Can a woman forget her infant? I will not forget you.’ A promise to remember. Words of encouragement pour out of today’s readings.”
The parish provides daily readings this Lent in three ways: through an email sent out daily around 6 a.m., posted on the parish website at https://tinyurl.com/ybfabnxh and paper printouts available at the church.
Cooper hopes to offer this Lenten opportunity again and to have more people write and keep it fresh. “A part of me would love to do this 365 days a year. That’s the crazier side of me,” he laughed.