Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
In a few days is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I encourage all of our parishioners to attend Holy Mass on Ash Wednesday. Please see the bulletin for the full schedule of Holy Masses. Plan now to begin Lent with Our Lord at Holy Mass!
With the beginning of Lent our attention also turns to penances or sacrifices. Let us be determined in our efforts to make time for Jesus in prayer and be bold in our acts of Charity! First, I encourage all of us to pick some practices to give up or to do. The usual practices, like giving up dessert, candy, pop or television can be good. How-ever, asking for Grace from our good Lord to change a bad habit in our relationship with Him and others may be much better. We can also think of other possibilities. A penance does not have to be something we give up. It could also be something we add to our daily life. We could add such things as: more acts of kindness in word or deed for one’s spouse, children, or siblings; choosing to forgive and let go of a grudge; ask for forgiveness from someone; visit relatives in the nursing home; call your parents more often; pray for patience and try to practice it more readily; pray for those who annoy you; thank God for His blessings each day; increase prayer time and do so with greater love for God in the morning, afternoon and night. Here are a few more ideas that would bear great spiritual fruit: monthly confession; attend daily Holy Mass; daily family Rosary; daily Chaplet of Mercy; weekly Stations of the Cross; spending time with Jesus in Adoration of the Eucharist; pray-ing the Liturgy of the Hours; praying with Sacred Scripture; 15 minutes of quiet prayer talking with Jesus and listening to Him; a prayerful walk; talking with a spiritual director; signing up to our FORMED online Catholic website and digging into some of the great resources; or reading a good spiritual book - I recommend the Diary of St. Faustina and the autobiography of St. Therese called Story of a Soul.
Here is what our Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches us on the practice of penance:
“The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. Alongside the radical purification brought about by Baptism or martyrdom they cite as means of obtaining forgiveness of sins: effort at reconciliation with one's neighbor, tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of one's neighbor, the intercession of the Saints, and the practice of Charity ‘which covers a multitude of sins.’ Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance.
Daily conversion and penance find their source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the Sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God. Through the Eucharist those who live from the Life of Christ are fed and strengthened. ‘It is a remedy to free us from our daily faults and to preserve us from mortal sins.’ Reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Our Father - every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness of our sins. The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church's penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father: The fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father's house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father's generous welcome; the father's joy - all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life - pure, worthy, and joyful - of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of His Family, which is the Church. Only the heart of Christ Who knows the depths of His Father's Love could reveal to us the abyss of His Mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.” (CCC 1434-1439)
Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and our patrons, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God bless you, your families and our parishes this Lent!
In Christ through Mary,