LENT. The Season of Lent begins this Wednesday with Ash Wednesday. Although some people find this season a burden I think it’s wonderful, in that it gives us a great opportunity to meditate on the immense love of God that it would lead Him to suffer and die for our sins. At the same time, then, it’s also a time to consider our sins—how we have failed to love Him—and to work to overcome them, through our diligent efforts and cooperating with His grace. In short, it can be a time of intense growth in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Lent, of course, brings a much busier parish schedule, which we’ve laid out in detail in this week’s insert. Please keep this insert in a central place in your home—maybe on your fridge door—to remind you of the many opportunities for spiritual growth the parish offers this Lent.
Ashes will be distributed at all 4 Masses on Ash Wednesday: 6:30am, 8am, 12noon and 7pm. Since ashes are merely symbolic (a “sacramental” not a “Sacrament”) they may be received by anyone who wishes to repent their sins, Catholic or not, in “good standing” or not. (Note: There are no confessions scheduled on Ash Wednesday).
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of both fasting and abstinence, and every Friday in Lent is a day of abstinence. Failure to “substantially” keep these penances is grave matter (e.g., potentially a mortal sin). The law of abstinence requires that no meat may be eaten on these days, and binds all Catholics who are 14 years old or older. No other penance may be substituted. The law of fasting binds those who are between the ages of 18 and 59. The Church defines “fasting,” for these purposes, as having only one full meal a day, with two additional smaller meals permitted, but only as necessary to keep up strength and so small that if added together they would not equal a full meal. Snacking is forbidden, but that does not include drinks that are not of the nature of a meal. Even though these rules do not bind all age groups, all are encouraged to follow them to the extent possible. Children in particular learn the importance of penance from following the practice of their older family members. The sick, pregnant or nursing mothers, and other folks with special physical circumstances may be partially or totally exempt from these rules—use good judgment and take care of yourself.
Penance. Of course all Catholics are encouraged to do personal acts of penance throughout the season of Lent, traditionally of three types: almsgiving (including acts of charity), sacrifice (what you “give up”), and prayer. Please choose your penances carefully, considering your health and state in life. Challenge yourself, but pick things you can actually do, rather than things that are so difficult that you may will easily give up on them. Offer all this in atonement for your sins and as acts of love for the God who, out of love, died on the Cross for your sins.
As you consider what might be appropriate penances this Lent, maybe you might want to refer back to the handout I distributed at Mass several weeks ago entitled, “Some Possible Resolutions to Help Make 2014 Truly a Year of the Lord Jesus.” (This is still available on the parish website). If you haven’t already put your resolutions into action, Lent is the perfect time to do so. I especially call on you to consider getting more involved in volunteering in the parish during Lent—a great way to be a servant, as Christ “came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
Sacrament of Penance. Confession is key to a fruitful Lent. I strongly encourage that you take advantage of our extended Lent confession schedule—confessions are scheduled every single day in Lent (accept Ash Wednesday). However, I ask that you do not postpone your confession to the end of Lent. First of all, spiritually it’s important to start the season on the right foot, repent early so that Christ’s grace may flow freely and unimpeded throughout the season. But also, more practically, what so often happens is we have just a few people coming to confession every evening of the week during Lent, but then in the last week we have long lines, sometimes even going out the door. Not only does this mean waiting forever in long lines, it also means you have to hurry somewhat when you finally get into the confessional; not to mention that it also is physically and emotionally draining to the priests. So beat the crowds and come early. (But also consider coming more than once during Lent).
Also, I remind you that while we schedule confessions every Sunday morning, that is not the optimal time to go to confession, since only one priest is hearing confession and normally stops hearing once Mass begins. Moreover, Sunday confession times are provided not as a mere convenience but mainly to meet the real needs of those who truly cannot attend on other days or are otherwise in need of the sacrament.
Lenten Series. Fr. Paul Scalia will giving a Lenten series every Thursday from March 6 through April 3, at 7:30pm in the Parish Hall. His topic will be “PRAYING THE PSALMS.” Last year’s series by Fr. Scalia was very well received and bore much fruit for the many people who attended. I highly encourage all of you to attend these talks. Please see the insert and the article in this bulletin for more details.
The Movie “Mary of Nazareth.” Last Sunday I was amazed and delighted that we sold out all our tickets to our special private showing of the movie Mary Of Nazareth at Kingstowne Regal Cinemas on March 9th, 2014 at 1:30pm. Because of that overwhelming response we are working with the Kingstowne Cinema management to arrange for a larger theater and/or a second showing. Hopefully by the time you read this on Saturday/Sunday we’ll be able to make an announcement at Masses. If you have questions call the parish office.
Caveat: Seasonal Missalettes. The paperback Missalettes in your pews are provided mainly so that you can follow the Sunday readings and proper prayers. However, our missalette, like most, includes commentaries before the Sunday readings. While sometimes they may be more or less helpful, unfortunately sometimes they can be offensive, misleading or even wrong. I’m very sorry about that, and I continue to look for a better missalette. In the meantime, I recommend that you NOT read the commentaries, but if you do read them, know that I do not necessarily endorse the content.
Lent Soup Supper and Stations. Don’t forget, these begin this Friday at 5:00pm and 6:30pm respectively.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles