The Beginning of Lent

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 10 parish bulletin

I want to thank you for your patience during the most visible part of the Catholic Services Appeal. I am confident that you’ll be generous, even in a year in which so many of you have already made a sacrificial commitment in our Forward in Faith debt reduction campaign. Our Annual Stewardship Renewal process is also continuing. I encourage you to complete a commitment card if you have not already done so, and I hope you will be open to becoming involved in one of our many parish ministries that is new to you. As part of my own personal response to the Stewardship Renewal, I made some decisions about how God is calling me to be a steward of the treasure that he has entrusted to me. I worked out the percentages that I will give to my parish, to the Archdiocese, and to other charities. It’s very freeing to know that I’ve made my decisions and now just need to carry them out.

Huddled as we are in the cold of early February, we have to peer as if into the distant future to discern March 20, when the direct rays of the sun will cross the equator on their journey northward: the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. A week later, on March 27, the moon will become full, and on the next Sunday, March 31, Christians everywhere will celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord. The tilt of the earth and the portion of the moon that is illuminated determine the most important date on the Christian calendar, and that is why this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday.

The first day of Lent arrives in time for us to have six Sundays and 40 days of fasting before we celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead. Almost all practicing Catholics come to Mass on Ash Wednesday even though we are not required to do so. There will even be an early Mass (at 7:00 in the morning) in the Historic Church to accommodate the schedules of working people. At that early Mass I intend to have you on your way at 7:40. The other two Masses are at 9:00 AM in the Main Church and 7:00 PM in the Main Church. Ashes will also be distributed at 2:00 at Lilydale Senior Living, and at 4:30 and 6:30 in the Historic Church for our religious education students and their parents.

I want to remind you about something that begins this coming Friday. We offer the devotion of the Stations of the Cross twice every Friday of Lent except Good Friday. The daily Mass congregation has its own simplified version of Stations right after morning Mass. The whole parish can come to Stations at 7:00 Friday evenings in the Main Church. It lasts until about 7:35, and is an excellent way to keep Friday a day dedicated to remembering what the Lord has done for us.

On Ash Wednesday each year, we hear from the prophet Joel: “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.”  Please consider making use of the sacrament of penance by going to confession during this penitential season. It’s a most fitting time to be reconciled to God, especially if it has been a long time for you. I hear confessions each Saturday from 4:00 to 4:45. This year, our Lenten parish penance service will be on the evening of Thursday, March 14, and there will be five priests present to hear confessions. Our religious education penance services will be during classes on Wednesday, March 6, which also happens to be the day when we will be hearing the confessions of children at Faithful Shepherd. There will be one more opportunity for individual confessions during Holy Week.

Lent is especially distinctive for Catholics because of the dietary change we experience. There are eight meatless days during Lent (Ash Wednesday and all of the Fridays), and here at St. Peter’s we will have three special meals to make it that much easier to be together on days on which we don’t eat meat. The Lenten soup supper will be on Ash Wednesday from 5:00 to 7:00; you can come for a light meal on that day of fasting and stay for the 7:00 Mass. A great fish dinner will be served here on Friday, February 22. Later in Lent, on Friday, March 15, the Workcamp Lenten pasta dinner will take place. Be sure to mark your calendars.

The Lenten scriptural readings can guide us through the season. The first Sunday always features the story of Christ’s temptation in the desert, whether it’s Year A, B, or C. Because we are in Year C this year and we are generally using Luke’s Gospel, we will hear Luke’s brief account of the temptation (Luke 4:1-13).

The second Sunday of Lent always allows us to hear an account of the Transfiguration of the Lord. It is from Luke’s Gospel this year (Luke 9:28b-36).

Each year, the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays share a particular theme. This year, they have the theme of penance: we hear in the Gospel passages about the need for conversion (Luke 13:1-9), the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32), and the story of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11).

The sixth Sunday of Lent is Palm Sunday, and on that day we read Luke’s account of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-40) at the beginning of Mass during the blessing of palms, and during the Liturgy of the Word we hear Luke’s account of the Passion (Luke 22:14 – 23:56). It might seem distant, but Holy Week will soon be here. Looking ahead to the path we will follow this Lent can make the season more spiritually fruitful.



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