This coming week Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I encourage all of our parishioners to attend Holy Mass Ash Wednesday. Our liturgies will be held at 8:30 am and 8:00pm at the Church of St. Michael and 6:30 pm at the Church of St. Paul. Plan now to begin Lent with Our Lord at Holy Mass!
With the beginning of Lent our attention also turns to penances or sacrifices. I think during the Jubilee Year of Mercy our Lord has many special graces to offer. Let us be bold in our actions! First, I encourage all of us to pick some practices to give up or do. The usual practices, like giving up dessert, candy, pop or television are good. However, what about ‘thinking outside of the box’ a bit? A penance does not always have to be something we forgo or give up. It could also be something we add to our daily life. We could add such things as: doing more acts of kindness in word or deed for one’s spouse, children, or siblings; choosing to forgive and let go of a grudge; ask for forgiveness; visit relatives in the nursing home; call your parents more often; pray for patience and try to practice it more and more; pray for those who annoy you; thank God for His blessings each day; pray more – morning, afternoon and night; and I think you get idea as the list could go on. Here are a few ideas that would bear great fruit as well: attend daily Holy Mass; monthly confession; daily family rosary; spending time with Jesus in adoration of the Eucharist; praying the Liturgy of the Hours; praying with Sacred Scripture; 15-30 minutes of quiet prayer talking with Jesus and listening to Him in your home; a prayerful walk; talking with a spiritual director; and reading a good spiritual book - I recommend the Diary of St. Faustina, and the autobiography of St. Therese called Story of a Soul.
Second, for information on the practice of penance, here is what our Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches us:
“The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. Alongside the radical purification brought about by Baptism or martyrdom they cite as means of obtaining forgiveness of sins: effort at reconciliation with one's neighbor, tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of one's neighbor, the intercession of the saints, and the practice of charity "which covers a multitude of sins." Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance.
Daily conversion and penance find their source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God. Through the Eucharist those who live from the life of Christ are fed and strengthened. "It is a remedy to free us from our daily faults and to preserve us from mortal sins." Reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Our Father - every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness of our sins. The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church's penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father: The fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father's house; the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before his father; the journey back; the father's generous welcome; the father's joy - all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. the beautiful robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life - pure worthy, and joyful - of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his family, which is the Church. Only the heart of Christ Who knows the depths of his Father's love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.” (CCC 1434-1439)
Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and our patrons, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God bless you, your families and our parishes!
In Christ through Mary,
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