Making This Lent Different

07-ASH WEDNESDAYThe highest point in the Church's year of prayer is the Sacred Paschal Triduum celebrating the dying and rising of the Lord Jesus. We prepare for this three-day period by the season of Lent and prolong it for the great 50 days of the Easter Season.

Lent has a double purpose. It helps the catechumens to prepare of celebrating their Baptism, Confirmtion, and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil and invites those who are baptized to prepare through penance and prayer to renew their baptismal vows at the vigil. During Lent, Gods people do not sing “alleluia” until the believing community has undergone conversion and is ready to sing this chant with renewed meaning during the Easter Vigil. Flowers are not used to decorate the altar or the area around it throughout the season. Musical instruments are used only to give necessary support to singing, not for solo playing.

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This Wednesday, we begin the liturgical season of Lent. The word “lent” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “lencten” meaning “spring”. Lent is a spring time in our spiritual lives, a time for renewal and new growth in faith. It is a time for us to recall our baptism through closer attention to God’s Word, more fervent prayer, and a greater attempt to grow in virtue. Lent is also a time to emphasize a spirit of penance through fasting and alms giving. There are various ways in which we can experience new spiritual growth:

…through prayer: If we do not pray regularly, now is a good time to begin. For beginners, a short period of time is recommended (10 or 15 minutes daily). Two good devotional prayers traditionally used during Lent are the Rosary and the Way (Stations) of the Cross. Both of these devotions can be prayed individually or with others (such as the family).

...through more frequent celebration of the Eucharist: Daily masses are celebrated in our parish. Celebrating the Eucharist (daily, if possible) is one of the best ways to develop our relationship with Christ. By entering prayerfully into this mystery of our faith, we are touched and changed by Christ in many different ways. I encourage parishioners to seriously consider celebrating the Eucharist more frequently.

…through acts of charity: Love is the greatest of all Christian virtues. There are many ways in which we can grow in this virtue: through visiting the sick and lonely, comforting those who have experienced some loss in their lives, doing chores for the elderly and shut-ins, and offering support for those who are victims of violence and oppression (in our country or overseas), etc.

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…through fasting and abstinence: Jesus encouraged His disciples to combine fasting and prayer. By denying ourselves food, drink, entertainment, etc. we can strengthen our will and grow in self control by our refusal to satisfy every craving and longing. This further strengthens us when faced with temptation and sin.

…through alms giving: Whenever a need arises which we are able to meet, we should respond without hesitating. During Lent, we are encouraged to go beyond our usual practice of giving to the less fortunate by sacrificing what we might spend on ourselves in order to alleviate the suffering of those who are truly poor.

…through reading and reflection: Sacred Scripture, the inspired Word of God, has been given to us for our instruction and enlightenment. Daily reading and reflection upon certain verses will expand our knowledge and understanding of God and the Christian life. At a specific time each day, choose one of the gospels or letters of the New Testament, read aloud a selection and picture yourself in the scene listening to Jesus or simply think about the specific teaching which is given. Another possibility is to choose some spiritual book (i.e. Life of the
Saints, on virtue or spirituality) and prayerfully read a selection each day.

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THE REGULATIONS CATHOLICS ARE ASKED TO RESPECT REGARDING FASTING AND ABSTINENCE

1. Fasting concerns the amount of food we eat. This depends on the needs, work, health, etc. of each individual. We can fast a lot or very moderately. People are asked to fast after their 18th birthday and up to their 59th birthday.

2. Abstinence concerns not eating meat (or some favorite food). People are asked to begin to practice abstinence after their 14th birthday. The days of abstinence alone are All Fridays of the year. On these Fridays, Catholics may replace their abstinence with works of charity, pious exercises, prayers, etc.

3. Days of both fast and abstinence are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I hope these notes will help you to devise a fruitful personal program for this holy season which we will begin
shortly. May the Lord bless your sincere efforts in turning from sin and in being faithful to the gospel!

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