UP Catholic 02 24 2017 E Edition Page 11

www.upcatholic.org THE U.P. CATHOLIC COMMENTARY February 24, 2017 11 T heres a new initiative for Lent called I Phone Fast. Will u? In a nutshell, the idea is for people to fast from smartphone usage not actual necessary phone calls, but all the apps and other distractions on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I know Im going to give it a shot. The Archdiocese of Hartford Conn. is promoting this and developed a bulletin announcement that reads: For the first time ever, the Archdiocese of Hartford is inviting people to fast from using cell phones on Ash Wednesday, March 1st, and Good Friday, April 14th, in an initiative called: I Phone Fast! Silencing our busy phones, gives God a chance to call our hearts. Please consid- er including this practice in addition to fasting from food, almsgiving and prayer, which are traditional disciplines by which the Church observes Lent. When I was in my teens and early 20s, some friends and I went deer hunting every year. Everyone wanted to get a trophy buck, and I wanted most of all a chance to sit in the woods in the morning and enjoy the silence. We were a very successful hunting camp at enjoying silence very rarely broken by the sound of a gunshot. It seems a bit ironic that getting away and enjoying silence seemed so needed and refreshing a decade or more before I had email, the internet, and even longer before having a mobile phone. A couple weeks before Christmas I was blessed to enjoy a three-day silent retreat at Marygrove Retreat Center in Garden. The first day my head was still mostly filled with the daily thoughts and noise of life. I wondered what email I was missing, what was happening on social media and all the other junk that fills our thoughts. But, by the next evening, there was quiet. Walking through the snow covered grounds was peaceful and allowed for reflection more than constant thinking. Vis- iting the Adoration Chapel became a visit with Jesus rather than a jumble of my own thoughts and distractions. Now I have to admit that Father Timothy Ferguson who runs Marygrove did mention just prior to the silent part of the retreat that the woods beyond the grounds are just that, woods without groomed trails. And he did say something about a bear having been seen on the Garden Peninsula, but that a bear had also been shot afterwards maybe the same bear, maybe not. So, if we walked in the woods and got lost and met a bear, wed have a good story to tell, or not. Okay, he didnt say wed have a good story to tell, but I know he wanted to say that. Anyway, on the third day the woods beckoned. While walk- ing beyond the tidy grounds my thoughts were how wonderful it is to enjoy Gods creation in the woods, and that I was glad that I wore a sweater under my coat and brought my boots. Heres the thing. I wasnt thinking about an email that needs a response. I wasnt wondering how a friend or family member could possibly want to put down in writing on social media a certain opinion. What I was thinking about is where I was putting my foot, how the animals had left trails through the woods, how beautiful the current moment was, and how far I wanted to go before heading back and having a snack. When the retreat wrapped up, Father Ferguson asked for thoughts on how the retreat could be improved. I can honest- ly say the accommodations were comfortable, the food fan- tastic and the retreat leaders excellent. However, one thing immediately came to mind. A longer retreat. For more information about Marygrove, visit www. marygrove.org or call (906) 644-2771. Phone fast for Lent Smiles are priceless I n the Book of Numbers God said to Moses that when he blesses the people to say, The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you A face that is shining is a face that is smiling. Pope Francis often calls us to smile. In his Angelus message on Dec. 7, 2016 called the desert a place where we can learn to hope and to smile again. He said, When we are in darkness, in difficulty, we do not smile, and it is precisely hope which teaches us to smile in order to find the path that leads to God. One of the first things that happens to people who dis- tance themselves from God is that they are people who do not smile. Perhaps they can break into a loud laugh, one after another, a joke, a chuckle ... but their smile is missing! Only hope brings a smile: it is the hopeful smile in the expectation of finding God. Lent begins in a few days. Typically Lent is a time of glum and gloom, of penance and doing without. However, Lent is meant to be so much more a time of newness, of fresh color, of the returning sun. I would not discourage acts of denial but would like to suggest that Lent can also be a time of new life. And for new life SMILE! A priest acquaintance of mine resolved that this year he would spend an extra 15 minutes a day before the Blessed Sacra- ment. When asked what he would do during those minutes he replied, I look at Jesus and Jesus looks at me, and Jesus likes what he sees. Do we let ourselves receive the smile of Jesus? No words are needed. Just two friends in each others company. If we cant do 10 minutes a day perhaps we can do five. The secret: Set a time and place when you will simply be with Jesus, and let Jesus smile at you. Think of the many people who have lost hope. There is a saying, If you see someone without a smile, give him one of yours. This Lent, make it a point to smile at someone, perhaps a total stranger. Our smile is not a silly grin. We can be aware that we are letting Jesus smile at that person. We can pray that this person will come to know how much he/she is loved by God and how valu- able he/she is. St. Teresa has said, Let us always meet each other with a smile, for a smile is the be- ginning of love. She also said, Let anyone who comes to you go away feeling better and happier. Everyone should see goodness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile. Joy is very infectious. In scripture, especially in the Psalms, we pray that God will shine his face upon us. Any of those lines is a good starting place for prayer. Be aware of the power of a smile little children teach us that! The first person I see every day is an old lady in the bathroom mirror. So often I think, She needs a smile. So, I give her re- ally big one! And she gives me one back (and she looks 10 years younger!) The stranger I pass in the grocery store aisle might have a heavy, hurting and wor- ried heart. A warm smile can lift that heart. Even a small lift is better than none. In the doctors waiting area last week I saw many tired, worried faces. I also noticed that when one person gave another a gratuitous smile that whole room seemed to brighten a little. Remember the riddle books we had so much fun with as children? My favorite is What is the longest word in the English language? The answer: Smiles because there is a mile between the first and last letters. Yes, a warm caring smile can and does go a long away. This Lent, brighten the hearts of those around you. Smile! p REFLECTIONS FROM NORTHSTAR Regis Walling i p f HERE AM I John Fee

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