February 26, 2022 Column Father De Celles

THE HOLY SEASON OF LENT. This Wednesday, March 2, 2022, is Ash Wednesday, marking the start of Lent. This is the season for Catholics to really remember what it means to be a Catholic and grow in their faith, as we focus on the immense love of God that led 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 “Lenten Schedule” 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.

Ash Wednesday. Ashes will be distributed at all Masses on Ash Wednesday: 6:30am, 8:30am, 12noon, 5pm 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).

Remember, Ash Wednesday is never a holy day of obligation, but we are highly recommended to attend Mass to begin Lent. Also, again, ashes are not a sacrament, and their imposition is not itself a blessing (although the ashes have been blessed). Even so, the ashes are an important sign of and PUBLIC WITNESS to our faith in Christ Crucified, his Gospel of repentance, and His grace of forgiveness.

Nota bene: For the distribution/imposition, I may wear a face mask (if I can convince myself it is liturgically appropriate), not because of Covid, but because I’ve discovered it helps shield my sinuses from the ashes, which tend to drive them crazy.

Fasting and Abstinence. 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.

Doing 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” or “endure”), 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 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.

Sacrament of Penance. Confession is absolutely the key to a fruitful Lent. I strongly encourage that you take advantage of our extended Lent confession schedule—it is my plan to hear confessions every day in Lent, except Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday. The times vary throughout the week, and from week to week, so double check the “Lenten Schedule” insert. Note: as in Advent, we will have confessions every Sunday Morning from 8 to 9am.

            Please do not postpone your confession to the end of Lent. Spiritually, it’s important to start the season on the right foot, so repent early that Christ’s grace may flow freely and unimpeded throughout the season. And practically, what so often happens is we have just a few people coming to confession every evening week during Lent, but then in the last week the lines are much longer.

Special Lenten “Activities.” In addition to daily confessions and our regular schedule, we will also offer many other opportunities for deepening your Lenten experience.

Lenten Series/Holy Hour. I’m happy to say that we will return to having a Lenten Series this year. As in recent years, the talks will be given during a Thursday evening Holy Hour beginning on March 10 at 7pm in the Church, which will also include Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary, and Benediction.

I will give the talks myself this year, and they will be short—15 minutes, I hope—focusing on the topic: “The Lifelong Suffering of Our Savior.” Consider how God the Son was born of the Virgin Mary, sharing in our human nature, becoming “like us in all things but sin.” This means that Jesus suffered as we do, not just on Good Friday but all His life, from Bethlehem to Calvary. And that all of that suffering is part of his Redemptive Suffering for our sins. So each night we will consider a different phase of His life and suffering: Jesus as a child, as a young adult, during His public preaching and on Good Friday. Then we will close with a meditation on the suffering of His Sorrowful Mother, Mary, all during her Son’s life.

All Night Adoration Of The Blessed Sacrament. At the end of the Thursday evening Holy Hours, we will continue Exposition/Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, continuously through Thursday night until 3pm Friday afternoon (with reposition during the morning Masses). My thought on this is to help us commemorate, weekly, the Passion of our Lord from the Agony in the Garden on Holy Thursday evening through His death on the Cross at 3pm on Good Friday.

I suggest you consider this as potentially a great form of Lenten penance for you—both sacrifice and prayer. And I encourage all of you to take at least one hour during Lent, if not every week, to spend with our Lord during this exposition, especially during the early morning hours, between midnight and 6am.

            Friday Evenings. Every Friday evening we will have our Soup Suppers at 5pm and Stations of the Cross at 6:30pm. On the 1st and 3rd Fridays we will have our regular Extraordinary Form Mass immediately after Stations are completed.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles