LENT. The Season of Lent begins this Wednesday, February 26, 2020, with Ash Wednesday. As I’ve said many times, this is my favorite time of year, 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 “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, 8am, 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).
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”), 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 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, except Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday (see today’s “Lenten Schedule” insert for exact times—they’re a little different this year).
Please 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 weekday evening during Lent, but then in the last week the lines are much longer. 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, for several reasons, but mainly because Sunday confession times are provided mainly to meet the real needs of those who truly cannot confess on other daysorare otherwise in need of the sacrament. So, for example, this is not the time for “devotional” confessions.
Lenten Series. Every year I either bring in a particularly learned priest to give the Lenten Series, or I give it myself. This year I thought I’d do something different: I’ve invited 5 different priests of the diocese of Arlington to speak on, “The Passion of the Lord: From the High Priest to the Crucifixion.”
— March 5: Fr. Joseph Bergida. Topic: “Jesus before the High Priest and Sanhedrin.” Fr. Bergida was ordained in 2012, and is the Parochial Vicar at St. Ambrose.
— March 12: Fr. Richard Miserendino. Topic: “Peter’s Denial and Judas’ Suicide.” Father was ordained in 2015, and is the Parochial Vicar at St. Bernadette’s.
— March 19: Fr. Christopher Christensen. Topic: “Jesus before Pilate.” Father was ordained in 2014, and is the Parochial Vicar at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More.
— March 26: Fr. Nicholas Barnes. Topic: “Jesus with the Soldiers.” Father was ordained in 2013, and is the Parochial Vicar at St. Theresa’s. Fr. Barnes is the son of parishioner Don Barnes, and offered his first Mass after ordination here at St. Raymond’s.
— April 2: Fr. Steven Oetjen. Topic: “The Crucifixion and Death.” Father was ordained in 2017, and is the Parochial Vicar at St. James.
I am very much looking forward to hearing these young priests give their meditations on the Passion, and I highly encourage all of you to attend. As we did last year, each talk will last about a half-hour and will be given during a Holy Hour in the Church, which will also include Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary, and Benediction.Please see the insert in next week’s bulletin for more details.
MURAL OF OUR LADY OF RANSOM. In my column of December 17, I explained that our new mural of the Blessed Mother depicts her appearing to St. Raymond in 1218, to tell him to help St. Peter Nolasco found the Mercedarian Order. But I neglected to point out the meaning of some of the symbols depicted in the mural.
In particular: Mary is holding chains in her left hand, symbolizing that the Mercedarians were established to free the Christian captives of the Moorish pirates; She holds the scapular of the Mercedarians in her right hand.
St. Raymond is depicted wearing a simple cassock of the age, since at the time he was a priest, but had not yet entered the Dominicans (who wear white robes); on the floor next to him is a book which is a typical symbol of his learnedness and writings; his beard is symbol of his wisdom and eventual longevity, but it is short since the apparition occurred when he was middle-aged.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles