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Header-Lent-Historically and Practically

 

Lent is a 40-day preparation for Easter, a period reminiscent of the 40 years the Israelites wondered in the desert, and of the 40 days Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed and fasted in the wilderness.

On both accounts, and in view of the Lord’s redemptive passion and death, Lent is a period marked by a spirit of penance, something for which Our Lady of Fatima insistently asked in her apparitions to three shepherd children in Portugal, 1917.

 

History and Facts

Though there are indications that the custom of a 40-days’ fast before Easter goes back to the apostles, there is no conclusive evidence. Nevertheless, by the year 339 history records St. Athanasius encouraging his hearers to keep a 40-days’ fast, a custom he claimed was being practiced all over Europe.

In the Middle-Ages, the Church-ascribed Lenten fast was severe, including all forty days, and the consumption of meat and dairy forbidden. Throughout the centuries there have been consecutive relaxations, following a better understanding of different human needs.

Today, though still binding for Catholics under pain of serious sin, the Lenten precept is mild requiring abstinence from meat only on Ash Wednesdays and all Lenten Fridays, including Good Friday. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, there is also a fast added to the abstinence from meat. This fast consists of two small meals (not to equal a full one), and a full meal.

Beginning with Ash-Wednesday, Lent involves forty weekdays excluding Sundays (the practical application being that everything we “give up,” we can have on Sundays).


Spirit of penance, the practical “ropes” for the spiritual life

The Catholic Church, in her genius for using matter to convey a spiritual message, begins Lent by using ashes, a custom retroactive to the Middle Ages when penitents poured blessed ashes on their heads to show sorrow for sin–in turn, a practice as ancient as the Old Testament. 

Ash Wednesday and the ceremony of receiving blessed cinder is generally respected, and esteemed, remaining popular today. Even lax Catholics attend, and wear the cross-like smudge with pride. 

On Ash Wednesday “all we sinners” stand in line in a packed church, patiently waiting our turn to be blessed with the ashes and hear the words, “You are dust and to dust you shall return”; or the more modern version of, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. ” The traditional version, being in line with the theme of ashes, is more to the point. 

Another great, popular practice is “giving up” something. In honor of the penitential nature of the 40 days ahead, we relinquish a fond item or habit: candy, coffee, smoking, etc…indeed, a wholesome, holy habit. 

But just as any habit can become so habitual we no longer remember the reason for first adopting it, or the deeper meaning of the exercise, so with holy habits. 

Mother Church never recommends anything on a whim, but intends all for our present good and ultimate salvation. Thus, the reason for giving up something we like is to help discipline our weak natures. Discipline strengthens the will and helps turn it to the practice of virtue. Indeed, mother Church teaches that mortification and sacrifice are indispensable for salvation. 

Just as a soldier is not made by thinking of becoming one, but by lifting the weights, strapping on the boots, and marching the march, so with the spiritual-combat.

Two aspects to penance

There are two aspects to salutary penance, a “negative” aspect and a “positive” aspect.

The “negative” or “taking away” aspect involves letting go of something, such as the above mentioned. But just as important as sacrificing a material good is sacrificing a spiritual ill, such as a sin, a fault or working on a particular defect like cursing, bickering, a short temper, etc.

Just as crucial is to practice some “positive” or “putting in” penance: attending Mass more than once a week, visiting the sick or lonely, volunteering time at the parish, reading a good spiritual book or praying a Rosary with the family.

A good priest once recommended we look at Lent as the Spring Cleaning of our year. Thus keeping Lent makes for a good program for a good life. Lent is a time to re-read the “owner’s manual”, to tune our “engines”, and to refurbish our “vehicles” not only for the journey of 40 days, but for the journey of life, the right life–and the right eternity.

 


 

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Books recommended for Lent:

  • The Spiritual Combat by Don Lorenzo Scupoli
  • Characters of the Passion by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
  • The Mystical City of God by Sister Maria of Agreda

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for February 19, 2020

This world and the world to come are two enemies. We cannot...

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February 19

 

This world and the world to come
are two enemies.
We cannot therefore be friends to both; but
we must decide which we will forsake
and which we will enjoy.

Pope St. Clement I

  
My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Boniface of Lausanne

Boniface’s eight years as bishop of Lausanne were riddled...

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St. Boniface of Lausanne

Boniface was born in Belgium in 1205, and when he was just 17, was sent to study at a university in Paris. Once he completed his education, he remained at the university as a teacher, and over the course of seven years, became a very popular lecturer.

When the students at the university became locked in a dispute with their teachers and started boycotting classes, Boniface left Paris to fill a post at the cathedral school in Cologne.

Just two years later, in 1230, Boniface was elected Bishop of Lausanne. He accepted his new position enthusiastically and devoted all his energies to the spiritual leadership of his diocese.

But his eight years as Bishop of Lausanne were riddled with disputes, and the people of his diocese were discontented with his frank and open ways in the pulpit: he publicly scolded Emperor Frederick II and the local clergy for their corruption.

As a result of this rebuke, in 1239 he was attacked and gravely wounded by Frederick's men. This caused Boniface to ask Pope Gregory IX for permission to resign as bishop. The pope agreed, and Boniface returned to his native Belgium and began living at the Cistercian monastery at La Cambre. Although he stayed there for the rest of his life and wore the habit of the order, he apparently never became a Cistercian.

Boniface was canonized in 1702.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

Handing him a Rosary she asked him to go to Mass for a week....

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Payback

At Anna’s mother’s funeral a man came up to her and after offering his deepest sympathy, took the grieving daughter aside, “I must tell you a story about your good mother and something she did for me…”

He proceeded to recount how, many years before he was involved in an extra-marital affair. One day, when dining with the woman in a restaurant, Anna’s parents had come in and pretended they had not seen them.

But next day he picked up the phone to hear Anna’s mother inviting him over for a piece of pie.

“You know how good your mother’s pie was…But there was also a tone of urgent authority in her voice, so I went.”

After enjoying his piece of pie, Anna’s mother revealed that she had, indeed, seen him and his girl-friend the night before.

“Though I vehemently denied it, your mother would not relent...She proceeded to remind me of the time when I was out of work and she had cooked for my family day in and day out.”

“Now, I want payback,” she demanded.

“I reached for my wallet, but she said,”

“Not that way.”

Handing him a Rosary she asked him to go to Mass for a week. She instructed him to say the Hail Mary and Our Father assigned to each bead while thinking of something good about his wife, his children and their family life.

“If at the end of this week you still think this woman is better for you, just mail me back the Rosary, and I will never say a word about this again.”

At this point, the man telling the story reached into his pocket. Pulling out a worn Rosary, he said,

“This is the Rosary your mother gave me all those years ago. My wife and I have said it together every day since.”

 Based on a story from 101 Inspirational Stories of the Rosary by Sister Patricia Proctor, OSC

Handing him a Rosary she asked him to go to Mass for a week. She instructed him to say the Hail Mary

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