February 13, 2021 Column Father De Celles

LENT. The Season of Lent begins this Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 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  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” flyers. Please keep this flyer 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, 12 noon, 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).

Due to COVID, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments has allowed a modification in the distribution of ashes. Before the Priest gives the ashes individually, he will say the formulary to all present: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Then, those who wish to may come forward to have the ashes imposed on their foreheads.

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 s 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 will most likely wear a face mask, since it is radically different than distributing the Body of Christ in Holy Communion (Also, the ashes tend to mess with my sinuses—I’d almost wish I could wear a mask every year).

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—it is my plan to hear confessions every day in Lent starting Feb. 22nd, except Sundays, Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday (see today’s “Lenten Schedule” flyer for exact times). This requires that I bring in some outside priest-help, so it’s possible that some weeks I may have to modify the schedule, so it would be a good idea to check the parish website before you go to confession, especially on Tuesdays and Fridays.

          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 evening week during Lent, but then in the last week the lines are much longer.

Lenten Series. I am very sorry, but we will NOT have a Lenten Series this year. Even if we have visiting priests give the series, it always involves extra work on my part. This year, I just can’t do that. I am more disappointed than you are.

HOME REPAIR NEEDED? With all the uncertainties of Covid, I’ve decided not to send our high school kids to the Diocesan Work Camp this year—their plans are just too “up in the air” for us to commit to them. As an alternative, we’ll be doing our own parish work camp.

So, our High School Youth Apostolate is looking for opportunities to help St. Raymond’s parishioners with intermediate skill projects and manual labor this summer, June 21st-25th. Could you use help? We are looking for projects involving basic carpentry, landscaping, hardscaping, and home maintenance.  Examples include: deck repairs, fence repairs, walkway/patio repairs, staining, painting, power-washing, gutter work, etc. But there are some restrictions: All work must be outdoors; no project can require a county building permit; no projects higher than one story will be considered; projects that expose volunteers to mold, lead based paint, or asbestos will not be considered.

If you or someone in the local area that you know could use help, please email Jeanne at youth@straymonds.org by March 1st with your/their name and contact information.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles