Father Donald Haggerty is a priest-in-residence at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but he travels the world giving retreats to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity (MOC), who are close to his heart. That’s because he spent his first year studying to be a priest for the MOCs, before deciding to become a diocesan priest.
Despite assignments in Ethiopia, and St. Agnes Parish in New York, as well as teaching moral theology at a seminary in New York, Father Haggerty has always found time to write. Recently, he visited EWTN to talk about his newest book, “Conversion: Spiritual Insights Into An Essential Encounter with God.”
Hear him talk about his book in a wonderful interview with Fr. Mitch Pacwa at http://bit.ly/EWTNLiveFrHaggerty, and enjoy two tremendous homilies lauded by viewers at http://bit.ly/HaggertyEWTNMassFeb27, and http://bit.ly/HaggertyEWTNMassFeb28. You will also want to stay tuned for an interview he recorded for an Aug. 18, 2019 airing on “EWTN Bookmark” with Host Doug Keck, https://ewtn.com/bookmark.
But because he is a retreat master for the MOC, “Inside EWTN” was interested in Father Haggerty’s recommendations for a good Lent. As you will see below, this priest does not disappoint!
One of Father’s best stories is about a French doctor who lost his faith as a youth, recovered it in his 40s, and became a Trappist monk! Later in life, the former doctor found himself a bit disappointed by the Trappist life. He said he had expected a seriously contemplative monastery, but found that, while his fellow monks lived an ascetical (penitential) life, they were not deeply prayerful.
“Twenty years later, he was elected Abbot,” Father Haggerty said. “He said to the monks, ‘I’m telling you, under obedience, that when you are in the monastery fields working, each of you is to stop one minute seven times a day and offer your life completely to God – with a serious act of love for God. You will do it on your own; no bell will ring. After one year, he had a monastery full of very contemplative, very prayerful monks!”
Which brings Father to one of “Inside EWTN’s” favorite recommendations:
Value the small minutes.
Think of all the time we “waste” every day – time when we are waiting — in line at the grocery store, at an ATM, at the gas pump; time when we are waiting for others to join us for a meeting or a meal. How often do we take out our phones during those wasted moments and scroll through them looking for diversion?
But Father says: “Value the 5 minutes, the three minutes, you have. Give your FULL mind to God in an act of love. One minute — that’s a long time if you’re truly turning to God. God blesses you for that.”
Father said the MOC’s Rule requires the sisters to go into the chapel for at least a minute many times a day, including every time they return to their house to greet their Lord, and when they wake up after rest time.
Make a Point to Enter a Church Every Day.
It’s wonderful to spend an hour with Our Lord in Church, but if you don’t have an hour, don’t let that stop you from making a short visit with Jesus to show Him you love Him.
“Place yourself before the Sacred Mystery of the Blessed Sacrament. Even a few minutes will have an effect on you. During Lent, we often think about penitential acts, but turning to Our Lord and Mary in a positive way is the best beginning. Go to Mass, not as a penitential act, but as a beginning of a spiritual life. That’s Number One!P
Practice Mental Austerity!
“We have to be careful that our thoughts are not dominating us,” Father Haggerty explains. “Are they judgmental, negative, or critical or full of memories that are useless at this point? Make an act of self-denial – not that you deny the thought, but you make a positive act to turn to another thought. It could be a prayer – a Hail Mary. Try to turn to a healthy thought.”
Father says we must become conscious of all the “indulgent” activities we do with our minds using various forms of entertainment, including computers, television, and reading. Says Father: “Make an effort to take your mind back to more focused living.”
Pray a Rosary or Chaplet of Divine Mercy Every Day with a Specific Intention.
“A nice intention in Lent is to pray that Catholics come back to the Sacraments, especially confession; and to pray for those who have not been practicing their Faith or who have lost their faith.”
Substitute Scriptural Reading for Secular Media.
Father notes that when we go on retreat, we usually don’t keep up with the news, where we are often assaulted by negativity. He suggests reading a chapter of the Gospel, other than the Mass readings, or the Psalms every day. “Certainly, during Lent, read through the Passion Gospels, which are beautiful and full of more detail than the rest of the Gospels.”
While in the Seminary, Father said he said seminarians were told they should try to read Chapters 14-17 of John – the Last Supper discourse — every day.
Have Some Hands-On Contact with the Poor.
Who are the poor? Where do we find them?
Father Haggerty says: “It could be a relative, or an elderly person in a nursing home. There are so many lonely people in nursing homes. It could be a soup kitchen. It could be somebody you pass frequently on your way to work or on the way home. Make contact with that person. Have some words on a daily basis; make a donation. Let’s do something to engage our HEARTS with the poor. I think that affects our life with God. Once you take a liking to the poor, you cross a threshold, and you want more of that.”
Spend Time Before a Crucifix or a Photo of the Shroud of Turin and Surrender to God.
Father Haggerty says holiness is all about surrendering ourselves to Jesus. He suggests that we frequently say the Surrender Prayer given to us by Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo, an Italian priest, now a Servant of God, who had great interior sufferings and about whom St. Pio spoke glowingly. The prayer is simple yet profound: “Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.”
What a relief!
Want more? Click on the links above to hear Father Haggerty’s interview and homilies or to purchase his books, which are available from EWTN Religious Catalogue.