Lenten Schedule

¨ Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner:  On March 1st, the Knights of Columbus are hosting a Pancake Dinner from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm.  Please RSVP by Feb 27th to make sure we have an accurate count to prepare for.

¨ Ash Wednesday is March 2nd, 2022.  Mass with distribution of the ashes will be held at 8:30 am without music and at 6 pm with music.

¨ Stations of the Cross will be held every Friday throughout Lent, starting with March 4th, at 7 pm.

¨ First Friday Adoration will be held on March 4th and April 1st from 3 pm to 7 pm, followed by Stations of the Cross.

¨ “Soup & Stations” will be held at 5:30 pm on Friday, March 11th.  All are invited to bring any meatless dish to share at this pot-luck event.  We will enjoy a meal together and follow it with Stations of the Cross.   Additional “Soup & Stations” events may be scheduled throughout Lent.  Stay tuned for updates.

¨ Confessions are heard every Wednesday from 6:30 pm to 7 pm and every Saturday from 4 pm to 4:45 pm.  Confessions will NOT be heard on Ash Wednesday due to the Mass schedule.

 

Prayer in the Season of Lent

In last week’s bulletin, the Lenten practices of almsgiving, fasting, and abstinence from meat were covered, and the third traditional Lenten practice of prayer is the subject of
this weekend’s article.

Many treatises and books have been written on the subject of prayer, and so, one short article will not be able to scratch the surface of this loving conversation that we call prayer.

Prayer is communication with the Lord, and it is vital to the spiritual health of the follower of Christ. It takes on many forms, but ultimately, prayer is a conversation with God. The great season of Lent helps us to refocus on the discipline of prayer. Life has many challenges, and finding time to pray throughout the day can be very difficult. It’s not a matter of finding time but making time to engage with the Lord in prayer. Lent aids us in acquiring the discipline to make prayer a permanent part of our lives.

As there are many forms of prayer, such as recited prayer, mental prayer/meditation,contemplation, and any combination of the above, it is most important to follow the urge or inspiration as the Holy Spirit leads us. Yes, it is easy to delay the prayer and save it for a later time because of our busyness, but it is laudable to immediately follow the movement of our heart, soul, and mind to pray. It does not have to be a long prayer. It could be just a few words with our heart and mind filled with fervor directed to the God of love. After all, the Lord could be sending us help at that given time, especially if it is a difficult time.

In all, I can give many instructions on how to pray during this great season of grace and beyond Lent, but I will give just one simple instruction for you to stay in constant communication with the Lord. Whenever you are inspired or moved to talk to the merciful and loving God,

ASAP… Always Say a Prayer.

He is waiting to hear from you!
Have a most blessed and Grace-filled Lent.

Penitential Practices in the Season of Lent

With Ash Wednesday coming up this week on February 26, the Universal Church will commence the great Season of Lent, a season of grace. Although Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, it is highly encouraged that one attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, receive ashes, and if one is able to receive Our Eucharistic Lord in Holy Communion.

What is required on Ash Wednesday is abstinence from meat and fasting, and both are required on Good Friday(April 10) as well.

The following is the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops guidelines on fasting and abstinence from meat as found on the USCCB website <http://www.usccb.org/prayerand-worship/liturgical-year/lent/catholic-information-on-lenten-fast-and-abstinence.cfm

  • Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for
    Catholics.
  • In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence.
  • For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from
    age 18 until age 59.
  • When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.
  • Another sacrificial and penitential practice of Lent is almsgiving. With much that has been spoken about the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal in recent weeks, we have an opportunity to exercise the practice of almsgiving through this appeal. Many thanks to you who have responded to the mailing that you received a few weeks ago, and your participation in this weekend’s commitment weekend. Even in our local community, we can practice almsgiving through the Loaves and Fishes program, the food collection program, etc. Your sacrifices and generosity are
    very much appreciated.

Next Sunday’s article will be on another traditional Lenten practice: Prayer.
May the good Lord bless all of you!

Ways of Seeing the Passion of the Christ

On this Sunday, the main Gospel reading focuses on the Passion in preparation for the Good Friday remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice for our salvation. Continuing last week’s reflection on the four
Gospels, this article will comment on how each of them presents His sacrifice for our salvation.The Gospels of Matthew and Mark are similar in how they describe the true suffering of Jesus.
We proceed from the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus says “Not my will, but Thine be done” to the hill of Golgotha, where Jesus quotes the beginning of Psalm 22, “My God, my God why have Your forsaken me.” In contrast to the sacrificial love of Jesus is the dishonest envy of the leaders of Jerusalem, the puzzled cowardice of Pontius Pilate, and the faltering of even His disciples. Only Simon of Cyrene helps Him (involuntarily), with the devout women mourning in the distance.

The two Gospels vary slightly in their signs of triumph over death. In Matthew, when Jesus dies, an earth communion of saints. Mark presents, in the garden of Gethsemane, a mysterious young man clothed in a shroud. He casts away the shroud; but then the young man (presumably an angel) is there at the empty tomb on Easter morning, now in a white robe announcing the Resurrection. It is an image of humanity casting away the domination of death and receiving a new status as a people of everlasting life.

The Gospels of Luke and John emphasize the compassion and command of Jesus. Luke describes many of the same events as Mark and Matthew, but adds such events as the devout women
weeping with Jesus on the way to the Cross and Jesus comforting them as well. On Calvary, Jesus prays, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do,” hears the repentant thief’s confession, and gives him the wondrous promise, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” John describes Jesus’ power and majesty as He is virtually marching off to triumph through the Cross. Thus, for example, at His very arrest, Jesus’ thundering proclamations, “I Am” (reflecting the name of God, “I Am who Am”) show forth a power that causes the soldiers to retreat; and in the conversation with Pilate, Jesus is very much in control. Likewise, He shows divine authority even on Calvary, entrusting Mary and John to each other and pronouncing His last words, “It is consummated.” The Gospels thus, in their different ways, show the true suffering, compassion and power of Jesus as He offered His life for us, in anticipation of the Resurrection.

The Gospels and the Four ways of Seeing Jesus

As Holy Week and Easter approach, it is helpful to read about the crucifixion, death and Resurrection of Jesus, as described in the four Gospels. As outlined in a bulletin article from January, the four Gospels present the life of Jesus from different perspectives in order to bring out the full richness of this mystery.

Next Sunday, this article will discuss their different ways of presenting the death of Christ. And on Easter Sunday, the focus will be on their presentations of the Risen Christ, then and now. As a preparation, it is helpful to consider the general style and themes of the four Gospels. Matthew presents Jesus as the teacher of Divine Wisdom, who fulfills the promises made to Israel and brings salvation to the whole world. Thus, Matthew contains the full three-chapter Sermon on the Mount, which outlines the general principles of the Christian life, and contains more parables than the other Gospels.

It begins with a genealogy that traces the history leading up to Jesus and describes over and again how the prophets spoke of Him; and also, through the Magi and the final great commissioning, the Gospel presents the faith as encompassing all nations. Mark is the most dramatic of the Gospels, focusing on how Jesus battles the forces of evil and presents vivid accounts of the miracles and conflicts between Jesus and the demons. This Gospel barrels right out of the gate at the beginning with John the Baptist as the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” It then presents in quick order Jesus’ time in the desert, the calling of the Apostles and a series of miracles and exorcisms in the first chapter alone, with a fast pace that continues to the end. Luke presents more of the beauty and compassion of God.

For example, in the infancy narratives, he describes the great canticles of Zechariah, Mary and Simeon. And this Gospel is the one that contains such material as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the conversion of the thief on the cross, and the final scene of joy and blessings in the Temple. John is more the mystic, who presents fewer events, but calls for deep reflection on them.

Thus, he begins with a poetic description of the Incarnation and then proceeds onto a seven day structure that provides the theme of Jesus bringing out a new creation. John focuses on seven miracles and the lessons to be drawn from them, and describes at length the Last Supper discourse, which contains many paradoxes, leading to the triumph of the Cross and Resurrection. The four Gospels thus helps us understand in different ways the mystery of our faith and the pathway to everlasting life.

The Sacrament of Honesty, Restoration, and Friendship

As we continue through the Lenten season, it is helpful to renew our focus on the call to conversion and upon the sacrament of continual conversion, namely, Confession. As the Catechism notes, the Church describes this sacrament in five ways; the sacrament of conversion, the sacrament of forgiveness, Confession, Penance, and Reconciliation; and each of those descriptions emphasizes an important aspect of this great gift. See Catechism 1423-34.

It is thus helpful to consider each of these as ways of understanding this celebration of God’s mercy. The first two descriptions focus upon our turning to God and the freedom He offers us. Conversion refers to turning away from the darkness and burden of sin into the light and freedom of the children of God. Conversion is certainly our action, but it begins with the grace and truth that God offers us and that we then respond to. See Catechism 1989.

And, when we convert from sins, we become open to the forgiveness, the freedom from sin that Jesus won for us. The question is not whether God will forgive sins; the question is our openness to that forgiveness, to that freedom. In the sacrament of Penance, we show the courage to be free children of the light. The three main names for this sacrament then reflect how we show the courage to be free. The term Confession indicates understanding and honesty, with ourselves, with the Church and with God, the courageous acknowledgement of the sins that hold us back. The alternative is an evasiveness, a vague uneasy feeling that enables sin to continue dominating our lives and our world.

Bringing the light to these sins is the first step in dissolving them and being clean and pure. And then there must be the struggle to overcome sins. And Penance is the term for that struggle, that sacrifice that unravels the bonds of sin and restores our lives and the world. In prayer, sacrifice and charitable works as well we unite our efforts with Christ to build that restoration. See Matthew 6:1-18; Tobit 12:8; Catechism 1434.

nd then, with that light and struggle, we come more and more into friendship with Jesus. Venial sins damage and lessen that friendship; mortal sins break it altogether. The name Reconciliation reflects how the grace of God and our cooperation restores friendship with Him and, by extension, with all of His people throughout space and time. It is certainly an obligation for Catholics to receive this sacrament at least once a year and if one has committed a mortal sin. And it is advised to confess about once a month. But, as with the Mass, it should not simply be an obligation but a celebration of the light, the freedom, the friendship that Christ offers us even on earth and one day beyond sin and death, in the realms of eternal love.

The Concentration of the Mind

During the retreat that I was on two weeks ago, the retreat master Fr. Peter Ryan, S.J, discussed the wisdom of discernment, especially drawing from the works of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order. Among other things, he pointed out that especially in the modern world, the struggle is not with the lack of things we can learn, but in choosing what to learn, what to put into our minds. For, we have a seeming endless array of entertainment, information, news (true of false as the case may be) and ideas that people set forth. We can be more able than ever to gain deep knowledge and benefit from such insights. However, it is a great challenge to sift the wheat from the chaff, to sort out what is truly helpful, inspiring, ennobling and true, from the irrelevant, the scandalous, half-truths, half-baked ideas, and flat out falsehoods.

It is a point that the great Dominican St. Thomas Aquinas made three hundred years before St. Ignatius. The main vice opposed to true studiousness, the pursuit of real knowledge and wisdom, is not so much laziness, although that can be an issue; the difficulty is more often an undisciplined desire to know all sorts of things that are easier, cheaper, or more appealing to superficial desires; lesser things, or even false knowledge, often gets in the way of the deeper truths that set us free. One thinks about the time people spend keeping up on the latest news, latest fads, predictions about the future, or even dwelling on scandals or outrages, compared to time with prayers, sacred learning, fine literature and even deeper and historic culture.

In this context, and as Lent approaches, it is helpful to ask about the information and images that we focus on, and the amount of time each day absorbing popular culture, or superficial ideas, as opposed to the time in prayer and good learning.

It would be helpful to reduce the time with news, social media, and cheaper entertainment to make room for deeper wisdom. (Sinful entertainment and gossip should of course have no place ever in our lives.) And then it is helpful to set aside that time in learning, reflection and prayer.

For example, one of our parishioners has generously purchased copies of the Lenten Companion from Magnificat as an aid to this reflection and prayer.

The parish website also has a list of some helpful places to learn more about the faith, and of course the FORMED website has a great deal of programs that can deepen our understanding.

With the vast array of possibilities, let us open our minds to the things of heaven, and thus make that divine light more on us and through us to all the world.

Lent and the flourishing of faith

On March 6, we will celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. The term “Lent” comes from the old English word lenchen, which means springtime. The most obvious basis for this term is that Spring always begins during the Lenten season. But there is also a deeper connection. As the fields and lawns begin flourishing during springtime, so Lent is meant to bring about a flourishing of our faith. Following both Jewish and Christian traditions, the Catechism especially recommends acts of prayer, sacrifice and generosity towards others in order to bring about this springtime of faith. See Catechism 1434; Tobit 12:8; Matthew 6:1- 18.

To draw an analogy from agriculture, we need for a harvest the rain and sun from the sky, the plowing and preparing of the fields on the earth, and the planting of seeds in these fields. Likewise, in prayer we open our hearts and minds to the grace and light of heaven. In acts of sacrifice and penance, we prepare our souls, minds and bodies as fields of the Lord. And, in works of goodness, generosity and charity, we plant the seeds of faith in our homes and communities to bring forth a rich harvest of grace for the world.

And so, as Lent approaches, it is important to make definite resolutions about how we will be prayerful, self-sacrificing, and generous. Regarding prayer, one could make such resolutions as: (1) setting aside a certain amount of time each day with the Bible, devotions or simply informal prayer; (2) praying with the family or friends on a regular basis; (3) reading the Biblical passages for Mass ahead of time; (4) learning more about the saints and praying with them; or (5) praying for the dead, for family and friends and for people who are struggling.

Regarding sacrifice, disciplining of our desires prepares the way for the Lord. In our lives examples could include: (1) cutting back on television or the internet; (2) getting to bed and up in the morning a bit earlier; (3) giving up a favorite food for a time; (4) not insisting on temperature setting being exactly what one likes; or (5) taking regular time in silence to reflect upon one’s life, goals and relationship with God and others. Such sacrifices in turn enable us to make resolutions regarding generosity with others such as: (1) listening to others more; (2) thanking others for their efforts; (3) writing encouraging letters or emails, or calling those who would appreciate the attention; (4) giving extra time or resources to a worthy cause; or (5) simply performing one’s duties with more cheerfulness.

These ideas are but a few ways in which we can make this Lenten season a springtime of faith for us, the Church and all the world.

Wisdom from the Desert

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week and the Church’s focus on the final days of Jesus public ministry before His death and Resurrection. This article will, however, conclude the reflections on the Biblical precedents for the 40 days of Lent by focusing on the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, His time in the desert as He prepared to launch the kingdom of God on earth. As Matthew, Mark and Luke recount, after His baptism Jesus made a 40 day retreat in the desert to prepare for His ministry by self-sacrifice, prayer, and fighting the seducer of humanity.

The devil used this time to tempt Jesus in at least three ways. First, he told Him to avoid His sacrificial fasting by turning rock into bread. Second, he told Jesus to gain cheap publicity by showing off in the form casting Himself off the top of the Temple and, by miracle, floating in mid-air. Finally, he tempted Jesus to accomplish His goals through earthly power and a pact with the devil, rather than faithfulness to God.

As the great preacher and writer Archbishop Fulton Sheen points out in his 1958 classic Life of Christ, the devil was showing Jesus “three shortcuts from the Cross.” By resisting those temptations, Jesus began to reverse the Fall of Man and reestablish the order destroyed through original sin. St. Mark hints at this restoration when he describes the peace that exited in that desert between the angels, Jesus, and the animals, a peace that recalls the primordial harmony of Eden from long ago. See Mark 1:13. Jesus’ time in the desert gives us encouragement in at least three ways.

First, it helps us understand the need for time alone with God so that His wisdom, rather than our own desires or self-image, guides our lives. Second, the Gospels make clear that Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted. As the letter the Hebrews says, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one was has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” Heb. 4:15. Third, the fact that Jesus began the restoration of humanity after this intense struggle exemplifies the fact that, when deep struggles are borne with faith, God is preparing for His greatest triumphs, as the death of Christ would lead to His resurrection.

If we are faithful to God, the winter of sacrifice ends with the springtime of grace.

Elijah and the Quiet Voice of God

The last five articles have described some Old Testament precedents for the 40 days of Lent.

Here we will consider a less famous 40-day time, the journey of Elijah to Mount Horeb, where he heard the voice of God instructing him on how to prepare for a brighter future. Elijah was the greatest prophet of his time, the early to middle 9th century B.C., when the weak Ahab was king of Israel and the wicked Jezebel was queen. At one point, Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal by calling down fire from heaven upon his sacrifice at Mount Carmel.

Then, at his prayer, the long drought that had been afflicting Israel ended. The people temporarily turned back to the true God. But then Jezebel, furious at the destruction of the priests of Baal, sent assassins to kill Elijah; and no one sought to stop her. And so Elijah went into hiding and told God that his ministry seemed to be a failure. But God instructed him to make a 40 day pilgrimage to Mount Horeb, which is also Mount Sinai.

There upon the mount, as Elijah waited for the voice of God, he saw a colossal storm, a tremendous earthquake, and an immense fire around the mountain. But God was not in the storm, earthquake or fire. Elijah then heard a quiet whispering voice, and knew it was God speaking to him. God told him to appoint new kings for Israel and the neighboring Aram, and to anoint Elisha as the new prophet. Elijah then continued his ministry with greater power until the time when he was brought up to heaven in a fiery chariot. Elijah’s pilgrimage to Mount Horeb exemplifies the importance of listening to the quiet voice of God in the midst of the world, and so receiving wisdom and strength for the future.

As Blessed Pope Paul VI said in a homily on the Feast of the Holy Family, “we need this wonderful state of mind [silent prayer] beset as we are by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times.”

The world may often be hostile to the faith, but God calls us like Elijah to respond with faith, hope and charity. To do so, it is crucial that we take time in silence away from the world to hear the voice of God giving us the wisdom and strength needed for us to discern and to carry out His plans for a better world.