The Servant Leader

Feb. 24, 2014

Weekly Winner

Congratulations, Robert Scott, our winner for February 24

Robert will receive a copy of The Catholic Youth Bible®, a $27.95 value.

The Catholic Youth Bible® will be a true companion, helping you find the answers you seek and helping you make connections to Catholic beliefs and traditions.

Over 700 lively articles help you . . .

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  • New! Over 275 articles updated to reflect contemporary issues and biblical scholarship


  • Introductions to the major sections of the Bible and all the books of the Bible
  • Biblical connections to many different cultures, illustrating the universality of the Catholic Church
  • Insights into how the Church has interpreted key Scripture passages throughout history
  • A glossary of Scripture-related terms
  • Five special indexes; Sunday readings for cycles A, B, and C; 10 color maps; a four-page color timeline; and three pages of full-color biblical art

The Catholic Youth Bible®
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Focus on Faith

Praying Always in Lent

A change of season in the outer world (from winter to spring, although many of us can hardly believe it will ever come, and from Ordinary Time to Lent) seems to inspire some kind of change in the inner world of our spirits. Lent offers a new beginning, a new way of immersing ourselves in the reality of the Paschal Mystery, a new way of lifting up our hearts to the Lord.

Saint Paul advises us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NABRE). This advice seems particularly appropriate during Lent. How can these words influence our Lenten prayer? I have a few ideas, but only a few. I offer them in the hope that they will spark your own, and you will find ways to incorporate prayer, in a simple but accessible way, into your schedule. So here are my offerings:

1) Choose a prayer or motto for Lent, or (if you like variety), for each week of Lent. Write it on an index card and clip it to your plan book, tape it to your computer, prop it up on your desk. Pray it at odd moments. Some favorites of mine:

·From our Lasallian heritage: "Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God." And "Live, Jesus, in our hearts! Forever!" (St. John Baptist de La Salle).

·From Saint Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits, and my third grade teacher, who had us write it at the top of all of our papers: A.M.D.G. (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam—To the greater glory of God). This is a good prayer to write "at the top of your day."

·From my high school teachers (Congregation of Holy Cross) who had us chant it before every class: "We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world."

·From Fr. Lucien Deiss, who put Scripture to music: "Keep in mind that Jesus Christ has died for us and is risen from the dead. He is our saving Lord, he is joy for all ages."

·From Jesus: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46, NABRE).

2) Incorporate a short period of lectio divina into your daily routine, as follows:

·Read a passage of Scripture. (It can be the psalms, the daily readings, or a passage of your own choosing.)

·Read it again, slowly, and let a few words come to your attention.

·Repeat these words to yourself a few times, and resolve to keep them as your word for the day.

·When you have an odd moment (a "between-time"), such as waiting for a meeting to begin, waiting for a light to change, waiting in line at the grocery story, recall your word for the day and repeat it prayerfully. You may want to keep your word for more than one day, or seek out a new word for the new day tomorrow.

This kind of scriptural prayer reminds us, especially during Lent, that we do not live on bread alone, but, as Jesus said, "by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). In this way, the word of God carries the presence of God into our everyday lives.

3) Change your schedule to allow more time for prayer. You might try getting up one hour earlier than usual and using the time for Scripture reading and prayer. (You also may need to go to bed one hour earlier so that you get your required amount of sleep.)

4) Make a prayer list. As one Body of Christ, we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. On a half-sheet of paper, make a list of all those people and issues about which you are concerned—from the global environment, to those suffering in war and under oppression, to your family and friends, to your own hopes and needs. Fold it and put it in your wallet or purse. Every once in a while (or during your prayer time), take it out and pray for all those on your list. Intercessory prayer is a mystery, but we do know this: love is of God, and love is powerful. Intercessory prayer is a kind of almsgiving of the spirit.

5) Involve your students in the adventure of prayer through the activity found in the Make It Happen section of this newsletter: "Prayer Box: Creating a Portable Prayer Space." This activity reminds all of us that we are physical beings, and that beautiful things in our world are gifts that can be used to help us to pray. This activity can be extended throughout Lent.

Above all, during Lent we must remember that prayer is not a "doing," primarily, but an "allowing" of a relationship to grow, of "making space" for the One who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, who calls us to follow him through the darkness of suffering and death so that we might be prepared to enter in even now, as far as our weakness allows, to his glorious Resurrection.

These days of Lent, which slowly invite us to thaw our spirits and enter into the springtime of God’s overwhelming love, remind us that Jesus cautioned Martha, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. But there is need of only one thing" (Luke 10:41–42). Jesus pointed out that Mary had chosen that one thing necessary, listening to his word of life.

We, too, are very busy about many things, often in the very name of Jesus! But Jesus invited his disciples to "come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile" (Mark 6:31, NABRE). Not many of us can set aside our everyday lives for 40 days, but Lent can be a 40-day interior retreat during which we can find "a deserted place" and get to know Jesus all over again, as companion and Savior. Then, when Easter Day dawns, we can proclaim, "We have died with the Lord, and now we live with the Lord." (See 2 Timothy 2:11.) And we will be all the more ready to share that New Life with the world.

Blessings on your ministry!

Peace and joy,


Make It Happen

Prayer Box: Creating a Portable Sacred Space

This activity helps the young people understand that they can create their own sacred space for prayer wherever they are. It also helps them understand how symbols can help us focus our prayer.

Suggested Time
This activity can take 60 minutes over two sessions or be done over several weeks. It depends on how many of the items the teens actually make and how much decorating they do.

Group Size
The strategy can be done with any size group as long as enough adult supervision is available.

Special Considerations
This activity can be simple or highly elaborate. As the process is outlined in this plan, it will take a medium amount of time to complete. In most cases both simpler and more elaborate options are provided.

Materials Needed

  • boxes, one for each person
  • old magazines, used greeting cards, and other sources of photos and words
  • fabric, sequins, beads, Styrofoam, and other sources of textured items
  • glue, scissors, markers, and other craft supplies
  • Mod Podge, slightly diluted white glue, or spray varnish (optional)
  • paintbrushes (optional)
  • a Bible
  • a rosary
  • votive candles, one for each person
  • baby food jars, one for each person
  • a journal
  • inexpensive notebooks, one for each person
  • craft sticks and toothpicks for making crosses
  • small plastic bottles, one for each person


Preparation. Purchase or find a box with a lid for each person. The box should be larger than a shoebox, but small enough to be easily carried around. Ideally the box should be approximately 9 by 12 inches with a depth of 5 to 7 inches, similar to boxes that business envelopes come in. If cardboard boxes are not available, purchase a plastic storage box for each person.

Decide how simple or how elaborate you want this project to be. Consider your available time, supplies, and the usual level of enthusiasm of the young people for such projects. Make a plan for how you will facilitate the project over one or several sessions.

Using procedure steps 2 and 3 below, create and fill your own box to show the young people what the final product will be like. Make your box as elaborate as your choice of options dictates.

  1. Introduce the activity by making the following comments in your own words:

    Prayer can happen anytime, anyplace, and in any manner. All one really needs is a spirit that is attentive to the presence of God.

    Many things can help our spirit be more attentive. Candles, a Bible, a cross, a rosary, and many other religious items remind us that God is present.

    Announce that each person will create his or her own portable prayer space, containing a number of prayerful items gathered in one box. This box will be transformed into something worthy of the treasure that it holds.

    Display the box that you created before the session. Give the young people a chance to look it over carefully. You may need to explain some of the things you put on the box.

  2. Give each person a box. Make available a variety of old magazines, used greeting cards, fabric, sequins, beads, Styrofoam, glue, scissors, markers, and other craft supplies. Allow enough time for the young people to get as creative as they want to be in decorating their box. You might want to set some guidelines, depending on the time you have allotted for the completion of this activity. For example, if you are doing it over several weeks, you might direct the teens to decorate every inch of the cover and sides. If you have little time, suggest that they cut the letters of their name out of paper and put them on top of the box, then add five pictures that remind them of God's presence.

    When the teens are finished with their boxes, you may want to have them paint a thin coat of Mod Podge, slightly diluted white glue, or spray a light coat of varnish on the box. This will be especially helpful if the boxes are elaborately decorated.

  3. While the boxes are drying, explain what will go on the inside of the box. Use your own box as a sample. The following items can make up the contents of the box:

    A Bible. Invite the young people to bring their Bible to the next session to place in the box. Note that the Scriptures are an important part of how Catholics pray—both as a community and as individuals. Extended option. During a future session, have the young people create Bible bookmarks for themselves or one another.

    A rosary. Show the rosary that you included in your own box. Explain that reciting the rosary is a traditional Catholic prayer. If they are unfamiliar with the rosary, take the time to teach the basics to them. Ask them to bring a rosary from home to the next class. They should also find out the family history of their rosary so that they can tell the rest of the group. Was it their grandmother's rosary? Did their dad use the rosary for his first Communion? Simple option. Purchase inexpensive rosaries for each young person at a religious supply store. Extended option. Make beads, crosses, and cord available to the young people and allow them to create their own rosaries. Or provide each person with a length of cord and knot the cord to form beads at appropriate places.

    A candle. Show your candle to the young people and explain the significance of the candle to you. Invite the young people to share their thoughts on why we light candles when we pray. For example, candles burn during Mass and possibly during prayer time in your sessions. It is one way we remind ourselves of the light of Christ always present with us and within us. Give each person a small baby food jar and a votive candle to place inside the jar. Simple option. Give each person a vigil candle in a holder or a small pillar candle. Extended option. Purchase candle-making kits at a local craft supply store. Have the young people make their own candles for the jar, or use empty cans or orange juice containers as molds for pillar candles.

    A journal. Show the young people your journal. If you feel comfortable doing so, read an excerpt from it. Talk about how keeping a journal is one way people communicate with God. Give each young person an inexpensive notebook. The bound black-and-white composition books are best because they tend to have sturdy covers. Allow time for the young people to personalize their books with the available supplies. Simple option. Do not personalize the books other than with the young person's name. Or tell them to decorate their cover at home. Extended option. Allow the young people to create their own journals with a three-ring binder, colored and decorated papers as well as plain paper, their favorite photographs, and so forth.

    A cross or crucifix. Point out that the cross or crucifix is a symbol of the great sacrifice Jesus made for us. The basis of our faith is the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Crosses decorate our homes, classrooms, churches, clothing, ears, and so forth. Provide craft sticks and toothpicks, and allow each young person to create his or her own cross. Simple option. Purchase an inexpensive cross for each person. Extended option. In addition to craft sticks, provide clothespins, beads, leather cord, twigs, yarn, and so forth, and invite the young people to create a cross in their own style and expression.

    Holy water. Remind the teens that water is used at Baptism and is one of the first symbols of the Catholic faith. Every time we bless ourselves with holy water, we are reminded of our baptismal call to serve God and others. Purchase a small plastic bottle for each person. Such bottles can be found among the travel items at any discount store. As a group, walk to the holy water dispenser in the church and fill the bottles. Simple option. Purchase small bottles of holy water at a religious goods store. Extended option. Have each person bring in at least one small empty bottle like those that contain vanilla extract, perfume, or travel-size toiletries. Clean the bottles, fill them, and have a priest bless the water.

  4. At this or a future session, add the prayer items to the box. Invite the young people to take their box home and use it during their prayer time every day. In good weather they might take it outside on the porch or to a park. Also, different places in the house will give them a different perspective of God.

    Invite them to add their own symbols to their box over the next few weeks, such as photos of people they love, elements of nature, colored cloth, and any other symbols that speak to them.

Alternative Approaches

  • Incorporate the prayer box into periodic classes, sessions, and retreats. Inform the young people when they will need to bring their prayer boxes. Give them time to share about the things they have added to the boxes or some significant prayer times.
  • When the boxes are finally completed and before the young people take them home, conduct a blessing service, blessing both the contents and the owner of each box.

Break Open the Word

The Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time and The First Sunday of Lent

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
March 2, 2014

Matthew 6:24-34

Opening Prayer

    Jesus, in your Gospel today, you challenge us to examine our priorities and recognize that true freedom and happiness can be found only in you. We pray that your Holy Spirit will strengthen us so that we may place our trust fully in you and live the lives to which you call us. Amen.

Context Connection
This Sunday’s Gospel proposes a no-win situation: "No one can serve two masters" (6:24). At the time of Jesus, there may have been a situation when a father willed a slave to two of his sons. It would have created an impossible situation for the slave. How was he to equitably serve two different families? Jesus acknowledges this dilemma: "For a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other" (6:24). According to Jesus’ wisdom, it is impossible to serve two masters. Then Jesus compares serving God and wealth as the same kind of dilemma: "You cannot serve God and wealth" (6:24). In the following verses, Jesus offers the believer freedom from the slavery of wealth that has its accompanying worries. When freed from the worry that comes with wealth, an individual is free to love completely, to have a grateful heart exclusively directed to God, and to devote time to values that are long lasting, the values of the Kingdom of heaven.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink" (6:25), for life is more than these things. Jesus asks his audience to consider the birds of the air and the flowers of the field and how God cares for them completely. Are not human beings in God’s eye far more important than these, and will God not care for you? Does worry accomplish anything? "Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?" (6:27). Gentiles (unbelievers) preoccupy themselves by worrying about such things as what they will wear or what they will eat. Believers trust in God. "Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (6:33). God will never abandon you. With faith firmly rooted in God and the providence of God, the believer can be about being present in the now. Matthew ends chapter six with this wisdom for us: "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today" (6:34).

Tradition Connection
Only God the Father knows how to sustain creation, for it was fashioned out of the love of God. Isaiah tells us that God can never forget, for God has carved our names in the palm of his hand (see Isaiah 49:16). God will never abandon the creation he created in love but will give existence and meaning to all things.

Jesus assures us that, if we believe in the providence of God the Father, we have no reason to be anxious in this world. God the Father knows what is good for us and wants us to be well cared for. For Jesus, the best way is to first seek the Kingdom of heaven; then all other matters will follow.

Anxiety is neither helpful nor necessary. It robs us of faith and confidence in God’s help, and it saps our energy for doing good. Jesus admonishes his followers to put away anxiety and preoccupation with material things and instead seek first the things of God—God’s Kingdom and righteousness. Anxiety robs the heart of trust in the mercy and goodness of God and in God’s loving care for us. God knows our needs even before we ask, and God gives generously to those who trust in him.

God’s love embraces everyone, even those who have rejected God and decided to serve wealth. Jesus continually extends the invitation to everyone to be poor in spirit so they can inherit the Kingdom of heaven. Trust in God is the consolation for those who have chosen to serve God (Catechism, paragraph 2547).

Wisdom Connection
For Matthew, the disciple of Jesus could achieve authentic righteousness only through a heart that has the correct priorities and that is exclusively directed toward God. There is no room to serve two masters, God and wealth. At some time, the individual will have to choose. Matthew sees the option of choosing God to be the only way to have true freedom. By choosing wealth, an individual may have many things and many worries that accompany it. Trusting in God completely is the way of freedom. God the Father in heaven knows all that we need, and God will provide. In the Lord’s Prayer, we say: "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread." In this prayer, we acknowledge our dependence on God.

The scriptural quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition. Copyright © 1993 and 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved.

The quotations labeled Catechism are from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America. Copyright © 1994 by the United States Catholic Conference, Inc.--Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.

Endnotes cited in quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

  1. Cf. Matthew 6:25-34.

The First Sunday of Lent
March 9, 2014

Matthew 7:21-27

Opening Prayer

    Jesus, in this Sunday's Gospel you show us how to resist temptation in our lives by focusing on the loving relationship God has with us. Continue to send us your grace so that we can deepen our faithfulness in our relationship with God. Amen.

Context Connection
Sunday's passage directly follows the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, Matthew 3:13-17. In the story of Jesus' baptism, which was the Gospel reading for January 12, we discovered that Jesus was the Father's beloved Son, with whom God was well pleased. Following his baptism, Jesus retreats into the desert for "forty days and forty nights" (4:2), where he prays and fasts. This solitary excursion into the desert allows Jesus to engage in an honest struggle to understand himself before entering into his public ministry. While in the desert, at the end of forty days and nights, Jesus is confronted with the three fundamental temptations of human beings--materialism (turning stone into bread), influence and power (throwing himself from the Temple height and testing God's power to save), and false glory and idolatry (worshiping the tempter to achieve greatness). The first two times, the tempter prefaces his remarks with, "If you are the Son of God" (4:3). Jesus has just become aware of this reality in a profound way at his baptism in the Jordan. Now the tempter is trying to use this self-knowledge to trick Jesus. However, Jesus chooses to obey an inner truth that he knows to be God's truth through his relationship with God the Father. Jesus does not allow the attraction of the temptations to control him. You may recall that Adam and Eve and the Israelites who wandered in the desert after they escaped from Egypt made a different choice.

If we look closely at the passage from Matthew, we can see that it is based on and carefully crafted after the story of the Israelites' temptations in the desert. In chapter 16 of the Exodus story, the Israelites test God and complain about not having any food in the desert. God responds by sending them manna in the morning and quail in the evening. In chapter 17 of Exodus, the Israelites test God again at Massah and Meribah--complaining they have no water: "Moses said to them [the Israelites], 'Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?'" (Exodus 17:2). God responds by giving them water. Then, in chapter 22, the Israelites sculpt a golden calf from their jewelry and worship the idol. The contrast between the Israelites in the desert and Jesus in the desert is striking. Jesus remains the faithful and obedient Son of God, whereas the Israelites are the disobedient son. Whereas ancient Israel failed, Jesus remains faithful and thus triumphs because he places his trust in God.

Jesus resists each temptation by countering the tempter with a passage from the Scriptures. In the first temptation, Jesus counters by saying, "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (4:4). This is taken from Deuteronomy 8:3. In the second temptation, the devil says that if Jesus throws himself off the Temple's highest point to test God, God will come to his aid. The tempter cunningly quotes Psalm 91:11-12: "'He will command his angels concerning you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone'" (4:6). Jesus counters by saying, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" (4:7). This is taken from Deuteronomy 6:16. And finally, in the third temptation, the tempter promises all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus if he will fall down and worship the him. Again Jesus counters with a response based on Deuteronomy 6:13, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him"(4:10). When faced with temptation, Jesus remembers who God is and what God has spoken. The tempter has no other choice but to leave when faced with such confidence in the word of God.

Tradition Connection
On Wednesday, March 5, the Catholic Church begins the season of Lent. Lent is a time of preparation for the celebration of the Easter mysteries, the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of this preparation that lasts forty days (six weeks), ending with Easter. Sundays are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection. The forty days of Lent recall the forty days and forty nights that Jesus spent in the desert praying and fasting in preparation for his public ministry. As Catholics, we are invited to use the Lenten season as a time to pray, fast, and give alms. These should always be an integral part of a Christian's lifestyle, but during Lent special emphasis and renewed focus are given to these three elements of Christian life.

The final week of Lent is called Holy Week--a week, during which, as a community, we remember Jesus's final days on earth. Palm Sunday recalls Jesus' triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, where the crowd hailed him as the Messiah, the king of the Jews. Holy Thursday begins the Triduum, a three-day liturgical celebration. The liturgy begins on Holy Thursday by remembering the Last Supper Jesus had with his Apostles in which Jesus gave us the gift of himself in the sacrament of the Eucharist. The liturgy continues on Good Friday as we recall the Passion and death of Jesus. For Christians this is a very solemn day. As part of the liturgy on this day, all participants are invited to venerate the cross, to show a sign of love and respect for the cross on which Jesus died to bring about the salvation of the world. On Holy Saturday, we conclude the Triduum by celebrating the Easter Vigil, which is the greatest celebration of the liturgical year, where we recall and relive the Resurrection of Jesus. It is a celebration of hope that Jesus brought to the world through his victory over death. This liturgy ushers in the new age of the Resurrection. It is a foretaste of the anticipated culmination of history--living in the Kingdom of God.

Wisdom Connection
Jesus serves the early Christian community and the present Christian community by modeling obedience to God in the face of temptation--no matter how great. Because Jesus remained faithful to God when he was tempted, God graced him with honor throughout his life. This is the consequence of faithful, unflinching obedience to God. Jesus is an example for all Christians of how to persevere in the face of temptation.

God's grace is free and, in the economy of salvation, does not come with strings attached. Sometimes we feel that we owe God something for this generous gift of love, but there is nothing we can do to earn it. We cannot acquire bonus points or frequent-user points. God's grace, and the freedom that it bestows on us, has been paid for in full by the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus shows us the way to place our trust in the word of God. On United States currency it is written, "In God We Trust." Do we really believe that?

The scriptural quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition. Copyright © 1993 and 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved.

The quotations labeled Catechism are from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America. Copyright © 1994 by the United States Catholic Conference, Inc.--Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.

Saint Spotlight

Blessed Villana de’Botti

It seems that Blessed Villana was one of those willful types. If they can’t have what they want, they say, "So what! Who cares?" and go completely off the deep end in revolt. Born in 1332, she ran away to a convent at the age of 13. Forced to return home, she was shortly given in marriage by her father so that this kind of thing would never happen again. Having been thwarted, the teenage bride took the opposite direction in life, indulging in idleness and dissipation. One day she looked at herself in the mirror, and she saw a hideous demon—a reflection of her own soul. That was the turning point. After a good confession, she turned to prayer, reading, and serving the poor in the midst of her everyday life. A good companion for Lent! Blessed Villana’s feast day is February 28. Read more about Blessed Villana at

Just a reminder: If you need information on a particular saint, try searching at Our Saint Mary’s Press Web site has many resources on various saints, including videos and other resources not found elsewhere.