If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you know that I took social media off for Lent. This is the first time I’ve ever done this and it was an interesting experiment that netted some important lessons:
I didn’t miss it. Sure, there were one or two times when I thought “Hey, I should share this on Twitter!” But the feeling quickly passed and I doubt anyone really missed a random link about evangelization or catechesis from me..
I missed hearing from some online friends. There are a number of people I only know online who I enjoy interacting with and I did miss them. Which makes me think I should find some ways to meet these folks face-to-face.
I wasn’t more productive. I had hoped that I might get some writing done, or a bunch of reading. That didn’t happen; in fact, my pace seemed to slow down a bit more this Lent than in years passed. And I was OK with that.
I missed a bunch of hot takes on current events… and that was great. One of the interesting side effects of being off social media was not hearing about breaking news until after the initial reactions had passed and there had been time to get context. This was a much more enjoyable way to consume news and makes me want to return to more long-form reading in magazines and journals that have taking time to reflect before publication.
I’m not sure I’ll give up social media next year, but I’m glad I did it this year. I hope I’ll be able to take these lessons to heart in my use of Twitter in the coming months.
As we prepare to celebrate the mystery of the Resurrection this Sunday, it is an opportune time to reflect on what we have done and experienced during our Lenten journey. Have we made this time of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving a renewal for the joyous dawn of Easter? Or have we gone through the motions and failed to
Sr. Joan Delaplane, OP, once wrote of Lent that
Yes, we are called to fast, to pray, and to give alms; but not as ends in themselves. Fast not only from food, but from the fear that God will not be our enough; fast from talking all the time and give, not only alms, but a listening ear to our children, our spouse, our colleagues; fast from nurturing anger and hurts and give forgiveness; fast from needing other’s approval and give God the glory ¦ Fast from cynicism regarding our government or our times and write or call a legislator ¦ The focus for those on the Way must be God, God’s people, God’s poor, and God’s Kingdom.
Of course, the truth is that we are called to do these things year round, to let our Lenten practice become our Christian witness. May God grant us the grace to carry on our fasting, prayer, and almsgiving as an Easter people born again through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.
This is probably my most favorite soup recipe, ever. It’s simple, easy, and really tasty on a cold, Lenten Friday night. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, add a cup of crab meat and/or shrimp with the potatoes.
Part of my interest in Fr. Tolton’s story is personal: he spent his formative years in Quincy, Illinois, and attended St. Francis Solanus College, which later became Quincy University, my alma mater (a number of the photos in the book come from the school’s archives). I remember hearing allusions to the first black priest during my time at Quincy, but it wasn’t until my graduate studies that I became acquainted with the larger story of Fr. Tolton’s life.
Born a slave to a Catholic family near Hannibal, Missouri, his father escaped to join the Union Army at the start of the Civil War; he was killed in battle. When he was 8 Augustine’s mother escaped with the boy and his two siblings across the Mississippi River and wound up in nearby Quincy. There he worked in a tobacco factory by day and, in his spare time and during the winter months, he received instruction from the local priests and religious sisters. It was during this time that he first felt God’s call to the priesthood.
Unfortunately Augustine was turned down by every seminary and religious order he applied to. Undeterred, he traveled to Rome where he studied at the Urban College de Propaganda Fide, after which he expected to be sent as a missionary priest to Africa. Instead he returned to Quincy where he pastored St. Joseph’s, the city’s black parish.
In Quincy Fr. Tolton met with resistance and outright hostility from white Catholics (who resented the donations he received from sympathetic whites) and black Protestants (who resented his evangelization of their congregants). Discouraged and not receiving any support from his bishop, he accepted a transfer to Chicago where he was put in charge of the city’s black Catholics. Starting with a small congregation meeting in a church basement, within a few years he led a growing parish and had begun construction on a new church building. His work in Chicago was cut short in 1897 when, upon returning home from a retreat, he collapsed (most likely as a result of heat stroke) and died. He is buried in Quincy at St. Peter’s Seminary.
Although she did a fair amount of research and interviews for the book (as evidenced by the bibliography), Sr. Hemesath presents Fr. Tolton’s life in a series of fictionalized vignettes, a sort of œspeculative biography. The result is, if not 100% accurate, extremely readable and provides a good picture of what Fr. Tolton’s life was probably like. She is particularly adept at presenting the trials Fr. Tolton endured: the constant rejection by seminaries in his own country, the years spent building up money to pay for studies in Rome, the harassment at the hands of a fellow priest in Quincy. His was not a happy life, insofar as he never seems to have found a place to truly call home where he could be a simple pastor (which seems to have been his only real wish).
On the other hand, his trials never diminished his love of the Church, even in its human brokenness. Fr. Tolton’s example of bearing his cross ” a cross of racism, hate and bigotry ” in a humble manner, calling on God for strength and help, is a timely reminder of how we are called to live out this Lenten season through almsgiving, fasting and prayer in recognition of our sinful nature. Rather than bemoan his fortune Fr. Tolton sought one thing only: to serve God and his people. May we, too, live out such a simple yet beautiful goal.
Suppose I commit a grave sin. It does not matter what sort it is. The materialist says to me, “Yes, you did wrong, according to the customs of our age, and perhaps even according to the dictates of reason, if you follow them to their conclusion,” though of course no one is going to consult a book of modern rationalist philosophy before robbing a bank or deflowering the neighbor’s daughter, and it is much to be doubted that the book would decide the matter anyway. “But,” he continues, “you were programmed that way.” And here it does not matter what form the programming takes. “In fact, there really isn’t a ‘you’ who committed the action; we only use that pronoun because we can’t practically live otherwise. Now then, don’t you feel better?” Well, no, I don’t feel better. I feel immeasurably worse. For now I am even farther from forgiveness and healing than ever I was. When I committed the sin, at least I bore the dignity of sin; it was a weight on my shoulders, but it was a weight I took upon myself, and a weight that might someday be lifted. Now I am told that the weight is simply a part of my makeup; it will never be lifted; I should not even care whether it is lifted.