Lent & Holy Week: March 2011 Archives

We can't live in abstractions.  Reality as it is, God in Himself, is revealed in the concrete. The temptation is to let ourselves be consumed by what is non-essential, with things that burdensome or just plainly a pain. God is not known in the abstract; God is only revealed in the concreteness of life: in love, goodness, beautiful things, friendship, prayer, the sacred Liturgy, the proclamation of the Word, the sacred Tradition of the Church, and the like. Lent for some people is an abstract time of the Church's calendar because they don't necessarily know the aim, the goal, the necessity and the personal. What we all should bear in mind is that Lent is a simple time for getting back to basics so that these basics become virtue and virtue becomes a permanent way of looking at things in front of us. A little girl who does religious education following the method of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) focusses our attention in how she experiences this period of conversion. "What is Lent? Lent is a time of reflection, of preparing ourselves for the resurrection of Our Lord... by doing something that takes a great effort... a time of sharing and giving ourselves, body and soul to God and the Holy Spirit"  (Jessica, 9 years old, Chihuahua Mexico, Journals of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, 1984 - 1997, p.149).

Jessica's rather simple declaration hopefully gives you pause during the day to give heart and the mind the space to do something other than work. Lent, like Advent, is a fitting to time of the liturgical year to reflect on the meaning of the Cross and the our Lord's resurrection (this is what we call the Paschal Mystery). In what concrete ways does God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit capture our imagination --our heart? The founder of the CGS movement Sofia Cavalletti writes: "Simplicity also imposes a kind of asceticism, but it is an asceticism that is joyful, happy, dynamic, and opens out to spaces that are always becoming wider. It is an asceticism that is invigorating, filling the lungs with fresh air that empowers us to keep climbing toward the summit, where the space we will stand on might have become smaller, but the space before us, the panorama we view, will have opened out on the infinite" ("Holy Simplicity," Journals of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, 2003 - 2008, p. 4).

Jesus & Samaritan Woman Guercino .jpg
O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness, who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving have shown us a remedy for sin, look graciously on this confession of our lowliness, that we who are bowed down by our conscience may always be lifted by your mercy.

Transfiguration Sunday

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Transfiguration Cretan 1550.jpgThou wast transfigured on the mountain, O Christ, our God, showing to Thy disciples Thy glory as each one could endure. Shine forth Thou on us, who are sinners all, Thy light ever-unending. Through the prayers of the Theotokos, Light-Bestower, glory to Thee.

The focus of today is not our self-initiated transfiguration but on our attentive listening to Christ and our worthy approach of the altar to be transfigured by the Risen Christ present in the Eucharist.

Can we approach the Transfigured Christ and allow him to change us?

Can Lent help restore joy?

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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.
Franciscan Life Center, Meriden.jpgEarlier today I had the space of time to begin my lenten observance by thinking about healing and forgiveness. Without these two legs of the spiritual life personal renewal won't happen. A talk was hosted by the Franciscan Life Center in Meriden, Connecticut, a ministry of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist. The executive director of the FLC Sister Barbara Johnson, FSE, made the presentation to about 75 people.

Sister Barbara, a licensed Marriage and Family therapist, began our discussion by eliciting areas that typically need healing and forgiveness: relationships (in families, among friends, infidelities, harmful family secrets, being alienated from others due to mis-awareness of reality), past events, yourself, deaths, trauma, illness, abortion, divorce, impatience, anger, acts of violence, abuse, addiction, etc. The list can be expanded. But you get the point: the human person is full of complexities.
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.

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?

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.

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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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Lent & Holy Week category from March 2011.

Lent & Holy Week: April 2010 is the previous archive.

Lent & Holy Week: April 2011 is the next archive.

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