Dear Parishioners of Our Beloved St. Paul:
Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary His Most Holy Mother! For our meditation of today I would like to continue to set before us the grace filled season of lent which will begin on Ash Wednesday, March 5th.
On that day we shall come forward to be signed with the sacred ashes. These are the ashes of the palm from Palm Sunday 2013. Thus we are immediately drawn to Our Lord’s passion and death.
In the early centuries of the Church, penitents would not enter into the Church building. They stood at the porch of the Church covered in ashes as a sign of their repentance. Although their sins were unknown and confessed in private, nonetheless their penance was done in public throughout the whole of lent. As the centuries progressed soon all the faithful wished to be penitents during Lent so they all began to wear the ashes.
In a certain sense we still have a vestige of the ancient custom of the public penance. I was so impressed by the First Confession Ceremony here at St. Paul’s on February 1st. Mrs. Shannon, Mrs. Owens and all the teachers and aides did a wonderful service in preparing the children. When our little ones make their First Confession at St. Paul’s, after being absolved they pray their penance at the shrine of Our Lady or of St. Joseph. Although their confession is private, they perform their penance so that all can see their good example. Whenever we stand in line to go to confession, we, too, are public penitents. How pleased Our Lord is with this humility, for we stand so that all may see that we are sinners. The late Cardinal O’Connor, the former Archbishop of New York, always made his own confession at St. Francis Church on 31st Street. There is a special confessional where priests may go to make their own confession in that Church, but the Cardinal always chose to sand in line with all the others going to confession. He used to say that he wanted all the faithful to see that their Archbishop was also a sinner and needed to penance.
And so in Lent we try to order our souls and, with God’s grace, drive from them anything that can be a stumbling block in our great desire to grow in holiness. As we come up to receive the Blessed Ashes, we hear those familiar words which we must listen to again and again…Memento homo, Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.. Despite this reminder we sometimes forget that without God we are nothing. Without God, all that remains of man’s greatness is that little pile of dust and ashes, in a dish, at one side of the altar, on Ash Wednesday. It is what the Church marks us with on our forehead, as though worth our own substance.
God wants us to detach ourselves from the things of this world and return to him. He wants us to abandon sin, which makes us grow older and die spiritually, and for us to return to the fount of life and joy. Jesus Christ himself is the most sublime grace of the whole of lent. It is He who presents Himself to us in all the wonder and simplicity of the Gospel.
Lent is the time for the three fold spiritual program of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Lent is a time of prayer. We should all make every effort to pray during Lent. It is time once again to take out the Holy Rosary, perhaps forgotten in a drawer, and pray the Rosary, even as a family, if possible.
Lent is a time of fasting penance: Our Lord is looking for a contrite heart within us, a heart that acknowledges its weaknesses and sins and is prepared to disencumber itself of them. God wants from us genuine sorrow for our sins which we will manifest, above all, by going to sacramental confession, and by doing small deeds of mortification and penance out of love. For us, conversion means seeking God’s pardon and strength in the Sacrament of penance. This is the way to start again and improve each day.
Lent is a time of almsgiving: During lent we try to give of ourselves for the poor, who are Christ Himself in the world today. Some may have great wealth, but, nevertheless, be poor in the sense that their souls are in need. We should do our best to live the sufferings of the poor, but also give our own time to the elderly and the lonely. Sometimes the greatest gift to someone could be a smile and a kind word. All Christians can practice almsgiving – not only the affluent and powerful, but those too who are not well off or who are themselves poor; in this way people who are unequal in their capacity to give alms are equal in the love and affection with which they give.
The Highlight of Lent for us will be our parish Lenten retreat preached by Fr. Thomas Cardone, SM. Many may recall that Father Cardone has been a part of our parish family in assisting us in the past. Father is a well-known retreat director, and has preached the profession retreat of the Little Sisters of the Poor on many occasions. Father is presently the chaplain and religion professor at Kellenberg Memorial High School.
Father will preach at all the Masses on the weekend of March 8th and 9th, the First Sunday in Lent. And our retreat will be 7.30 each evening Monday through Wednesday March 10, 11, and 12. Father will give us our Lenten Talk in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and the evening will end with Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament each night. During Father’s Lenten preaching I will be in the confessional for those who would like to make their confession.
During Lent we will have the Stations of the Cross on each Friday at 7.30pm. The Stations will be followed by Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament Please make every effort to walk with Our Lord as he carried the Cross.
On each Wednesday of Lent beginning with the 26th of March (on Wednesday the 12th we will have the Lenten retreat and Wednesday the 19th is St. Joseph’s Day) we will have a Holy Hour in the Chapel from 7.30pm to 8.30 pm. During that time I will try to offer a Lenten meditation.
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.
First Friday This Week: Friday of this week March 7th is the First Friday of the month. Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament will be in the Chapel from 12noon until 7.00pm. (Please note we will end at 7 and not the usual 8 because of the Stations of the Cross; this will also be the case on the First Friday of April).
CMA and Parish Giving: Soon we will begin our annual Catholic Ministries Appeal. Many of you have received a letter from me. Your generosity in this appeal is of great benefit to our beloved St. Paul’s. Many of you know that I also serve as the Judicial Vicar of the Diocese. In that capacity I assist the Bishop exercising his judicial authority. Your generosity to the appeal is not only of assistance to me as your pastor but also as the Judicial Vicar of the Diocese. May God reward you.
Benedicat Virgo Maria!
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda