Tag Archives: lent

Can Lent help restore joy?

Lent is perplexing to so many. Just look at the confusion on so many people’s faces as  they approach the priest giving ashes. They come to church to begin something but I sense many people have not a clue what to do, why and to what end. For example: ask the “average Catholic” what it means to pray, fast and give alms. Duck, you may get a robust answer, but you may get something that is way underwhelming, even moralist and abstract. Most answers you garner will say not be too consistent with Scripture and the Liturgy; moreover, it will have nothing to do with one’s humanity. Let’s deal with fasting. In today‘s reading from the Prophet Isaiah (58:1-9) we hear from God about what he expects of fasting: 


Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

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Lent’s a time to be converted because we need a new heart


Pope processing to S. Sabina 2011.jpg

At the ancient
Roman Basilica of Santa Sabina known today as the mother church of the Order of
Preachers, the Pope began Lent with the reception of ashes. The imposition of ashes is not ritualistic sign without meaning: we put ashes on our heads not in contradiction of the Gospel chosen for that day but as a way to remind ourselves that an outward sign conveys an inward reality. He first began the Lenten prayer at the
Benedictine Church of Sant’Anselmo (just down the street from Santa Sabina).
There he gathered with the monks, priests, bishops , cardinals and laity for a
visit to the Blessed Sacrament, brief service of prayer and a procession to
Santa Sabina where Holy Mass was celebrated. Yes, the pope walks the streets of Rome, but in a limited way. It is a gesture full of beauty. This is ancient way for the Roman
Pontiff to lead the Church into a season of penance and preparation for the
sacred Triduum. The Holy Father’s homily is below.

We begin today the
liturgical season of Lent with the thought-provoking rite of the imposition of
ashes, through which we wish to take on the commitment to convert our hearts to
the horizons of grace. In general, in common opinion, this time runs the risk
of being marked by sadness, by the darkness of life. Instead, it is a precious
gift of God; it is an intense time full of meanings in the journey of the
Church; it is the itinerary to the Lord’s Easter. The biblical readings of
today’s celebration give us indications to live this spiritual experience
fully.

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Beginning today, will Lent change my life?

prayer fasting alms.jpg

Yesterday’s Scripture reading at Mass from Tobit was a great entry into the great season of Lent: blinded for four years, Tobit’s whole life changed. His lent, as it were, provided him the graced-filled opportunity to make some necessary changes in his relationship with God and other, not mention he softened his demeanor. In time, God heals his physical and spiritual blindness. If you get a chance, read the Book of Tobit. One has to ask, to what am I blinded to and how do I want  God to heal me.


In his audience today the Pope recalled for us that “The Fathers of the Church teach that these three pious exercises are closely related: indeed, Saint Augustine calls fasting and almsgiving the “wings of prayer,” since they prepare our hearts to take flight and seek the things of heaven, where Christ has prepared a place for us.”


For those who believe in Christ and follow his path, the “Christian life is a ‘road’ to be travelled, it consists not so much of a law to be observed, but in meeting, welcoming and following Christ”. We meet the Lord Jesus “in the light and joy of the resurrection, the victory of life, love and good, then we too have to take up the cross of everyday life.”


Lent begins today, “let us accept Christ’s invitation to follow him more closely, renew our commitment to conversion and prayer, and look forward to celebrating the Resurrection in joy and newness of life.”


At the end of the lenten 40 days, how do I want to be different from who I am today? In what concrete ways will I allow prayer, fasting and almsgiving to be tools for my own education in the faith as Christ proposes to me? Will I have a renewed understanding of the Cross and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that totally changes my life?


Fast and abstinence for Ash Wednesday

The Church’s norms for the Lenten Fast and Abstinence us is as follows:

  • Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 who are in good health are bound by the obligation to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
  • Catholics between the ages of 14 and older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays of Lent.
Fasting means partaking of only one full meal. Two smaller meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to one’s needs, but together not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including juices and milk may be taken between meals.
Abstinence prohibits the use of meat, but not of eggs, milk products or condiments made from animal fat.
“While preserving their value, eternal penitential practices are never an end in themselves, but an aid to inner penitence, which consists of freeing the heart from the grip of sin with the help of grace, to direct it toward the love of God and our brothers and sisters” (John Paul II).
For an article on the point of fasting, see read it here.

“Spy” Wednesday

Spy Wednesday.jpgThe Church as often called today “spy Wednesday”  because of the betrayal of Christ one hears made by Judas. The name Judas is forever linked with the concept of betrayal. In Dante’s Inferno (Canto XXXIV) we see Judas in the lowest circle of Hell being eternally consumed by a three-faced winged devil. Imagine the affective hurt of being betrayed by a friend!

The Church prays

O God, who willed Your Son to undergo on our behalf the gibbet of the Cross so that You might drive away from us the power of the enemy, grant to us Your servants, that we may obtain the grace of the resurrection.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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