Instead of a Lenten Series…. I’m sorry that we won’t be able to have a Lenten Series this year. As I explained last week, with only one priest in the parish I just don’t have the time to do it myself or coordinate other priests to do it. Also, I’m already asking and receiving help from over 6 priests to help with Masses and Confessions during Lent—you can only go to the well so many times before it runs dry.
But someone did suggest that I point out that you can go back and listen to past Lenten Series and talks on our website. I’m not sure everyone knows this but if you to the website, straymonds.org, and click the “welcome” at the top of the page, and then click “priests” you will see a list of many of the speakers we’ve had in prior years, including: Raymond Cardinal Burke, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Fr. Chris Pollard, Fr. Paul Scalia, Fr. Paul deLadurantaye, Fr. Mark Pilon and myself. If you click on those names, you can find recordings of some of their talks, including Lenten Series.
Also, I’ve decided to release a daily (Monday thru Saturday) short podcast throughout Lent. I am hoping to start this tomorrow—and that by the time you read this you will have received an email with more information and details. It will usually be on the readings from the Mass of the day, and last only 3 to 5 minutes. I hope this will be helpful to you. Call or email the office if you have any problem finding them.
Acts of Penance. During Lent Holy Mother Church calls on all who are able to perform acts of penance. I hope you’ve already picked out your penances for Lent, and that you don’t wait until Holy Week to put them into action.
The three classic categories of penance are 1) prayer, 2) almsgiving (acts or gifts of charity), and 3) fasting (sacrifice: “giving up” something). I recommend you choose to do penances from all three of these categories—maybe a very small penance from two of them, and a larger “main” penance from the third. Maybe you could resolve to add one extra short prayer to your daily routine, maybe a Hail Mary, and to set aside one dollar every day to give to the poor box, and then do a larger penance of some sacrifice, like giving up your favorite beverage or food all during Lent.
Also, remember to pick penances that you are able to accomplish—don’t be overly ambitious and try to carry a burden that is way too heavy for you. Penances should challenge us, but not overwhelm us. What often happens is we choose a penance that is too difficult for us in our present state in life, and then when we fail to keep it, we get discouraged and give up, and Lent is lost. So pick penances that are realistic.
Also, penances should be things that you can easily see that you are keeping. For example, if you resolve to just be “nice” to everyone, how do you evaluate your success in this? Rather, perhaps chose to try to be kinder to everyone, but to do so in a particular way to a particular person—e.g., to bring your office mate a cup of coffee every morning. Or if you resolve to “pray more,” resolve specifically to pray an extra Hail Mary before bed, or an extra 5 minutes in the morning.
Also, try to choose penances that may address particular moral weaknesses you may have. For example, if you struggle with the sin of gluttony, a sacrifice related to food is a good idea. Or if you struggle from pride, maybe you could say the “Litany of Humility” every day, or to humble yourself by trying to hold the door open for others whenever you have the chance.
The Sacrament of Confession. Lent also involves a second type of “penance”—that is, the Sacrament of Penance (also called “Confession” or “Reconciliation”). A few years ago I published a small pamphlet called “Making a Good Confession: A Brief Examination of Conscience and Guide to Going to Confession.” Copies of this purple pamphlet can be found around the church. You can also find a copy on the website. I hope you will find it helpful in preparing for and making a good confession.
But what is the Sacrament of Penanceitself all about? What follows are some short excerpts from the “CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH” to provide a brief refresher:
THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE AND RECONCILIATION
1440 Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance…
Reconciliation with the Church. 1444 In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ’s solemn words to Simon Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head.”
1445 The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God….
The sacrament of forgiveness. 1446 Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification….
1447 Over the centuries the concrete form in which the Church has exercised this power received from the Lord has varied considerably. During the first centuries the reconciliation of Christians who had committed particularly grave sins after their Baptism…was tied to a very rigorous discipline, according to which penitents had to do public penance for their sins, often for years, before receiving reconciliation…During the seventh century Irish missionaries…took to continental Europe the “private” practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church. From that time on, the sacrament has been performed in secret between penitent and priest…
1448 Beneath the changes in discipline…that this sacrament has undergone over the centuries, the same fundamental structure is to be discerned. It comprises two equally essential elements: on the one hand, the acts of the man who undergoes conversion through the action of the Holy Spirit: namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction; on the other, God’s action through the intervention of the Church. The Church, who through the bishop and his priests forgives sins in the name of Jesus Christ and determines the manner of satisfaction, also prays for the sinner and does penance with him. …
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles