The season of Lent will begin on Ash Wednesday, March 1st. Lent is a time for us to reflect upon what we can do or perhaps do differently this year to make this a fruitful and joyful season. The primary concept to grasp is that Lent is not about “self improvement” so to speak, but rather about “soul improvement”. Change or sacrifice can be joyful when the primary concept of these actions shifts from the thought of self denial to the idea of self renewal. However, this can only happen when self is no longer the main focus but rather Christ and Others in our lives and in our souls.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent: the liturgical season marked by increased prayer, fasting (self-denial), almsgiving, and acts of mercy. It is immediate preparation for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery: the suffering, death, and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ; and remote preparation for citizenship in Heaven – to be with God forever.
Though it is not a day upon which we are obliged to attend Holy Mass, many people do come to church for the celebration of the Eucharist and ashes. Many people also come for the Liturgy of the Word prayer services and ashes, as well. These liturgies at which we gather remind us that though we have been redeemed by the saving action of Christ, we are always a people who are in need of God’s mercy. We are not yet “saved,” as some Christians believe, claiming that they no longer need to have concern about their salvation. Our belief as Catholics is that our salvation is worked out, day-by-day, with our ultimate reliance upon the mercy of God who wills to save us. The state of our soul when we leave this life is very important.
Here at St. Paul’s, Holy Mass will be celebrated in the Church at 8.00AM and ashes will be distributed at that Mass. That will be the only Mass for the day, but ashes will also be distributed at services at 12.15PM, 4.30PM and 7.00PM. Please note that these will be the only times at which the Blessed Ashes will be distributed. Confessions will be heard after the Mass on Ash Wednesday, and after all the Services. Some traditional Lenten prayer practices in which we may wish to participate could be attending Mass daily, or perhaps an extra day during the week, if we are able; praying Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours before Mass might be included, as well. Another is the Way of the Cross devotion, made either communally or privately. We will have the Way of the Cross each Friday of Lent in the Church. On Friday March 24th the Soup Supper, hosted by the Knights of Columbus, Squires and Parish Outreach, will be served at 6.00pm before the Stations of the Cross. Perhaps we can make an effort to pray the Rosary or the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy regularly. By no means is this list exhaustive.
Being a materially blessed society, most of us have food of some variety readily available to us. Therefore, fasting is one of those actions not many of us like to do. On occasion we have to fast if we are having medical procedures done or blood tests taken, and the complaining that accompanies this can be tremendous. However, denying ourselves something we need to live, but restricting the quantity is do-able, especially when it comes to food. When our stomach growls, it is a reminder of how much we are blessed, and how so many others do without on a regular basis. It also reminds us of our total dependence upon God, who provides us with the sustenance of life. If we are always concerned with keeping our bellies full, not only do we need larger clothes, but we become deaf to the cry of the poor and hungry in body and in spirit, and inadvertently make our personal comfort a number one priority.
Likewise, our charity can always grow. The sharing of our time and material resources with and for the benefit of others will open us to be more grateful for whatever we have, and help us to be more humble in the sight of God. Hence, the added benefit will be a better “self”. May our Lenten sacrifices bear the fruit of a soul united to Christ crucified.
The Highlight of Lent for us will be our parish Lenten Evening of Recollection preached by our beloved Bishop Andrzej. Bishop Andrzej is the Bishop’s Vicar for the Western Vicariate (our parish is in the western vicariate) of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. The whole evening will be one hour. Confessions will be heard that evening. I would encourage everyone to come to the Lenten Evening of Recollection and through the teaching of St. Paul to come to know and love Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Two other Lenten Highlights will be the Glenn Mohr Chorale production of It Is Finished. This is a beautiful and very uplifting musical play that portrays the last days in the earthly life of Our Lord. It is filled with beautiful music, choral pieces, costumes and sound. Come and see Pilate and his wife, the High Priests, the Apostles, Our Blessed Mother, the Roman soldiers and Our Lord Himself. This will be Sunday March 26th at 4.00PM in the Church.
The other Lenten Highlight will be our Bread and Soup Supper on Friday March 24th. We ask all families to come to this penitential, but nonetheless joyful evening with other parishioners. Our Squires and parish Outreach will prepare and serve the meal. We ask that what a family would save on their supper that evening be given to outreach to feed the hungry in our own community.
During Lent we will have the Stations of the Cross on each Friday at 7.30pm. Please make every effort to walk with Our Lord as he carried the Cross.
Please make a Holy Lent and try to instill into your children the importance of doing penance. How pleased is Our Lord when the little ones give up candy or cookies for love of Him.
Today it is our joy to welcome our new Bishop. His Excellency the Most Reverend John O. Barres to St. Paul’s. We are very blessed that Bishop Barres has selected St. Paul’s to be among the first group of parishes that he has visited in the diocese. Our prayer is that God will grant him many years in health and happiness as he leads us close to the Good God and His Most Holy Mother.
TWO LENTEN MEDITATIONS
As we begin Lent I would like to present for your meditation two charming stories. May we use our speech in Lent not in complaining and tearing down our neighbor but rather in what is uplifting May we hear no gossip nor repeat any gossip. Here are the two stories which I will publish for the whole of Lent. Enjoy them!
THE MAN THE BOY AND THE DONKEY
A man and his son headed to market with their donkey. A man on a horse passed them and asked, “Why aren’t you riding your donkey?”
The man placed his son on the donkey, and they continued on their way. They passed by a family working in their fields. A young girl said, “Look at that lazy boy riding while his father is walking.”
The man told his son to get off the donkey, and he climbed on. They passed a group of women and one said, “What a selfish man, making his son walk while he rides.”
The man asked his son to climb on the donkey with him. They passed a traveler on the road, who said, “That poor donkey is carrying too much weight.”
Not knowing what to do, the man and his son began to carry the donkey. But the donkey kicked so violently they released their hold and the donkey ran away.
ST. PHILIP NERI AND THE GOSSIP OF ROME
St. Philip Neri lived in Italy in the early sixteenth century. After many years as a lay apostle, caring for the sick and teaching young people, especially boys in street gangs, about the love of Jesus, Philip became a priest. One day, a woman who was notorious in all of Rome for being a gossip went to confession to Father Philip. For her penance, Philip told her to carry her feather pillow to the windiest hill in Rome, cut it open and shake out all the feathers, and then return to him. The penitent did as she was told. When she returned, Philip told the woman to go back to the hill and collect all the feathers that she had shaken out. “But Father!” she exclaimed, “The wind has carried away all the feathers by now! It would be impossible for me to collect them again.” Saint Philip replies, “That is what has happened to all the rumors and gossip you have spread around Rome. You can never take back all those idle words you have spoken.”
These are two important lessons for us all in this holy time.
A Blessed Lent
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda