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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 July 18, 2019

God always speaks to you when you approach Him plainly and s...

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July 18

 

God always speaks to you
when you approach Him
plainly and simply.

St. Catherine Labouré


PLEDGE REPARATION TO OUR LADY HERE!

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Camillus de Lellis

Despite his aggressive nature and gambling habits, the guard...

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St. Camillus de Lellis

Camillus was born on May 25, 1550 in the region of Abruzzo in the Kingdom of Naples. His father was a mercenary soldier and seldom at home. His mother, Camilla, though good was also timid and had trouble controlling her morose, hot-tempered son.

At seventeen, being tall for his age, Camillus joined his father in soldiering. Leading the rambling, ambulant life of a mercenary, he acquired the wayward habits of the profession, especially the vice of gambling.

Still, Camillus’ mother had instilled in him a respect for religion. After his father died repentant, and his regiment disbanded in 1574, he found himself, at twenty-four, destitute because of his gambling. He was offered a shot at reform when a wealthy, pious man, noticing the tall, lanky young man in town, offered him employment at a monastery that he was building for the Capuchins of Manfredonia.

Despite his aggressive nature and gambling habits, the guardian of the monastery saw another side to Camillus, and continually tried to bring out in him his better nature. Finally moved by the good friar’s exhortations, Camillus underwent a deep spiritual conversion.

Refused admission by the Capuchins because of an unhealed leg wound, he traveled to Rome where he began to serve the sick at the Hospital of St. Giacomo while attempting to lead a penitential and ascetic life.

Hearing of St. Philip Neri and his great gift with souls in need, Camillus sought his spiritual direction and was taken in by the saint.

He soon discovered that helping the sick was the cure for his wayward habits, and the only thing that gave him true joy.  He began to gather a group of men around him who had a desire to help the sick for love alone and not for pay. Feeling the need to be ordained, he studied under the Jesuit Fathers and was ordained in 1584 at the age of thirty-four.

Thus Camillus de Lellis, former wandering soldier and professional gambler, established the Clerks Regular, Ministers of the Sick. His group was approved by Pope Sixtus V in 1586, and officially raised to the status of a mendicant order by Gregory XV in 1591. On their black habit they wore a large red cross which became the first inspiration for today’s Red Cross.

By the time of Camillus’ death in 1614, his order had spread throughout Italy and into Hungary. He was canonized in 1746.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates t...

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The Rosary and the Possessed Girl

In his book, The Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that a Dominican, Father Jean Amat, was once giving a Lenten Mission in the Kingdom of Aragon, Spain, when a young girl, possessed by the devil was brought to him.

Father Amat began the exorcism. After several unsuccessful attempts, the priest had an idea; taking his Rosary, he looped it around the girl’s neck. 

No sooner had he done this, the girl began to squirm and scream and the devil, shouting through her mouth shrieked, “Take if off, take off; these beads are tormenting me!”

At last, moved to pity for the girl, the priest lifted the Rosary beads off her neck.

The next night, while the good Dominican lay in bed, the same devils who possessed the young girl entered his room. Foaming with rage, they tried to seize him, but he had his Rosary clasped in his hand and no efforts from the infernal spirits could wrench the blessed beads from him.

Then, going on the offensive and using the Rosary as a physical weapon, Fr. Amat scourged the demons crying out, “Holy Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, help me, come to my aid!” at which the demons took flight.

The next day on his way to church, the priest met the poor girl, still possessed. One of the devils within her taunted him, “Well, brother, if you had been without your Rosary, we should have made short work of you…”

With renewed trust and vigor, the priest unlaced his Rosary from his belt, and flinging it around the girl’s neck commanded, “By the sacred names of Jesus and Mary His Holy Mother, and by the power of the holy Rosary, I command you, evil spirits, leave the body of this girl at once.”

The demons were immediately forced to obey him, and the young girl was freed.

“These stories,” concludes St. Louis de Montfort, “show the power of the holy Rosary in overcoming all sorts of temptations from the evil spirits and all sorts of sins because these blessed beads of the Rosary put devils to rout.”

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In the Secret of the Rosary, St. Louis de Montfort relates that a Dominican, Father Jean Amat, was once giving a Lenten Mission in the Kingdom of Aragon, Spain, when a young girl, possessed by the devil was brought to him.

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