This Wednesday we begin the Season of Lent. We will have four Masses on Ash Wednesday, our usual Masses at 6:15 am and 8:15 am (live- streamed), 12 pm and 7 pm. We have been informed by the Archbishop that we can do the traditional signing with ashes, but we will do a single prayer over everyone to keep people safe. Lent is an awesome time of growth, renewal and hope. Traditionally, the focus has been on three things: self-denial, prayer and almsgiving. Let’s talk about each.
Self-denial. I am not one of those priests that says: “Instead of giving something up this Lent, you should so such and such!” Nope. Not gonna happen. Give something up. This is such an important part of one’s spiritual life. First of all, it builds discipline. You set a goal for yourself and you struggle to maintain that goal. Second, it teaches us that there are many things in our lives that appear essential that really aren’t. This should be a freeing thing. Lastly, it is just good for your soul. I will agree that this should not be the extent of our Lenten journey.
That is why the next aspect of Lent is:
Almsgiving. Giving something up should free you to give and to give freely. There are so many different possibilities here. Our St. Vincent de Paul Society. Our PIP (Parents in Partnership) drive. And new this Lent is our Goat and Chicken Project. For $200, you can supply a family with sustenance. This is something that the three Catholic Churches in Webster Groves are doing together. Check the bulletin for more details. There is also Operation Rice Bowl and any num- ber of charities you can support. But Lent does not stop there. The final aspect is:
Prayer. It has been a crazy couple of months, but the great thing is that the Prayer of the Church has continued and now reaches out beyond our parish’s boundaries. A year ago, we would not have even thought about livestreaming Masses. Today it is commonplace. I would still like people to come in person. As more and more people are vaccinated, that be- comes more of a reality. But whether it is pub- lic or personal prayer, find some time to chill with God. The key to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We are called not just to abstain from sin during Lent but to true conversion of our hearts and minds as followers of Christ. We recall those waters in which we were baptized in- to Christ’s death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.
Oh and in case you were wondering: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of universal fast and abstinence. Fasting is obligatory for all who have completed their 18th year and have not yet reached their 60th year. (I’m exempt, but you are as young as you feel and as young as you fast.) Fasting allows a person to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may be taken, not to equal one full meal. Absti- nence (from meat) is obligatory for all who have reached their 14th year.
So, what are you going to give up, what are you going to give, and what are you going to pray this Lent??