February 11, 2024 Column Father De Celles


Lent begins this Wednesday, February 14, Ash Wednesday. This is true gift given to us from Holy Mother Church, a 40 day period to renew our souls and our lives in the mystery of the Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection. A time to ask, do I truly believe in Christ’s amazing salvific sacrifice of love on the Cross? Do I love Him in return and pick up my crosses to follow Him, making my whole life a true sacrifice of love to Him? Do I believe Him when He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”?

Doing Penance. Lent is a time to do personal acts of penance, 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.

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).

Remember, Ash Wednesday is never a holy day of obligation, but we are highly recommended to attend Mass to begin Lent. Also, even though ashes are not a sacrament, or a blessing in itself, 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: If you see me wearing a face mask for the distribution/imposition of ashes, it will not be because of germs, but because 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). Please see the explanation of these rules elsewhere in this bulletin. 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.

Ash Wednesday and “Valentine’s Day.” Lent is a season of love. Not “love” as the world talks about it, but true and profound love that Jesus shows us on the Cross, and invites us to share.

This year Ash Wednesday falls on the Feast of St. Valentine, which the secular world has corrupted into a day celebrating exaggerated sentimentality, selfishness and lust. But when we remember that the actual St. Valentine was a Christian martyr who died because of his love for Christ, we see through this secular charade. The gospel tells us that Jesus is a “sign of Contradiction”—His love contradicts the false notion of love embraced by the world.

This year, I beg you, do not let that secular celebration take precedence, even in the tiniest way, over faithfully keeping Ash Wednesday. Rather, let the day be a sign of contradiction to the secular world, showing your true love for God, a day of sacrifice in love, and a day of penance for the times you have failed to love.

If you want to keep St. Valentines Day in this context, perhaps instead of roses, candies and cards, you can offer your beloved a gift of penance for the times you have failed to truly love him or her as Jesus teaches us. Maybe you could offer your beloved a bouquet of prayers, like the Rosary; you can give a gift of alms, by doing some great kindness for them; you can make the sacrifice of giving up something he/she has asked you to change in your life. Maybe you can make this even more special by promising you will do this for them and Jesus all during Lent.

Lenten Schedule. 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 to remind you of the many opportunities for spiritual growth the parish offers this Lent.

Sacrament of Penance. Confession is absolutely the key to a fruitful Lent. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of our extended Lent confession schedule. The times vary throughout the week, and from week to week, so double check the “Lenten Schedule” insert.

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, in the last week the lines are much longer.

Evening Mass. In addition to our regular Wednesday evening, we will add a 7pm Mass on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays during Lent.

Lenten Series/Holy Hour. Our traditional “Lent Series” continues, though this year it will be a little different: it will be in the form of an “extended homily” which I will give at the Tuesday evening (7pm) Mass (about a 15-20-minute homily). This year my topic will be, “The Seven Last Words of Christ.”

All Night Adoration Of The Blessed Sacrament. This year we will repeat last year’s practice of All-Night Adoration, but we will move it to every Friday/Saturday in Lent, so that we begin Exposition/Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after the Friday 8:30am Mass, and continue throughout the day and through the night until Saturday Morning before the 9am Mass. (Basically, this is what we now do every first Friday of the month). During this time I encourage you to reflect on the Mystery of the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus on Good Friday.

I think this is potentially a great form of penance you can adopt for yourself during Lent—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 7pm. Note, the Exposed Blessed Sacrament will be temporarily reposed during the Stations (as the law requires), and exposed again immediately afterward.

Have a blessed and holy Lent!

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles