Fasting / repentance
“Filled with the Holy Spirit”
Go all in on Lent / “no one who believes in him will be put to shame”
The holy and penitential season of Lent starts this Wednesday. Here are the main events in the church during Lent:
● Ash Wednesday Mass, 12:10 pm
● Daily Mass, 12:10 pm
● Eucharistic Adoration, Wednesdays, 10 am – 6 pm
● Confessions, Wednesdays, 11 am – 12 noon
● Stations of the Cross, Fridays, after 12:10 Mass
We probably don’t associate Lent with fun, but nonetheless, here are some “fun facts” about Lent from Dan Gonzalez at www.miamiarch.org. I hope and pray that Lent will be a fruitful and holy season for you and your family.
May you know the peace of Christ,
Who or what is a Lent?
Derived from the word Lenten, which is Anglo-Saxon for springtime, Lent is the 40-day season of preparation prior to Easter which begins on Ash Wednesday.
Why is it 40 days?
Next to the number seven, the number 40 occurs most frequently in the Bible. It represents a period of testing or judgment. Lent’s duration of 40 days reflects other times of trial, testing and hardship found in the Scriptures:
• The story of Noah tells of rain falling on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights.
• Both Moses and Elijah fasted for 40 days before beginning their missions.
• The Hebrews wandered for 40 years in the desert after leaving Egypt.
• It took the spies 40 days to search out the Promised Land and bring back fruit.
• Goliath taunted the Israelite army in the morning and evening for 40 days.
• Jonah warned the Ninevites they had 40 days until God would overthrow the city.
• Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days before beginning his ministry…
Fasting vs abstinence
“They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.” (Acts 14:23)
Although often used interchangeably, fasting refers to the amount of food consumed, while abstinence describes the type of food denied such as meat on Fridays. These forms of physical self-denial are practiced during Lent, as are other pious customs.
Why are the statues covered during Lent in my parish?
Another Lenten custom is the draping of statues and crucifixes in purple cloth as a sign of mourning. This symbolically hides the heavenly glory realized by the saints. Occurring on the fifth Sunday of Lent, the covering of the sacred images adds to the sense of introspection and contrition.
The roots of the veiling of statues during Lent can most likely be found in Germany where, beginning before 900, it was customary to cover not only statues and images, but the entire sanctuary including the altar with a cloth.
The cloth itself was called the Hungertuch (literally hunger cloth but often translated as Lenten veil). The draping concealed the altar entirely from the faithful during Lent and was not removed until the reading of the Passion at the words “the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.”
My parish prays the Stations of the Cross during Lent. How did this custom originate?
The Stations of the Cross originated during the crusades when it was popular to visit Jerusalem to follow the steps to Calvary. After the Holy Land was captured, pilgrimages became a very dangerous affair. A desire arose to reproduce these holy places in other lands as a substitute pilgrimage.
It soon became popular to have outdoor markers indicate not only the scenes in Christ’s path to Golgotha, but also the actual distances from location to location. Crude markers eventually gave way to elaborate artwork depicting the events of Jesus’ trial, torture and
execution. By the mid-18th century, the Stations were allowed inside the church and served as a focus for Lenten devotions.
The Stations help the participant make a spiritual pilgrimage to the major scenes of Christ’s sufferings and death. Prayers are said until the entire route is complete, enabling the faithful to more literally take up their cross and follow Jesus.
Why is there no Gloria or Alleluia sung at Mass?
The Church teaches by absence as well as by presence, and Lent is a time of great loss. Eating is diminished and some foods forbidden a fast of the body. Music is scaled back, bells are silenced, and the Gloria and Alleluia are dropped from the liturgy a fast of hearing. Statues are veiled and flowers and decorations disappear a fast of sight. Depriving the senses helps the faithful maintain focus on the internal condition of the soul rather than on externals.
Good Friday homily
4th Sunday of Lent
Prayer | Fasting | Almsgiving | Everyday Stewardship
Can you recite the Ten Commandments by heart? Several years ago, a national US survey found more people could identify the ingredients in a Big Mac and name the children in the Brady Bunch television show than recite the Ten Commandments. Of course, being able to recite them is not nearly as important as living a life in harmony with them. However, if we simply live to not break them then we are only living out half of our discipleship.
Every commandment calls us to action beyond the simplicity of its words. We are not to kill, but we are also called to support life. We are not to steal, but we are also to share what we have freely. We are to have no other Gods before our God, but we also need to actively praise and glorify Him.
To live a moral life is to do more than follow rules and laws. It is to actively live in a way that gives witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. This way of living is stewardship. As we focus more on the penitential message of Lent, we need to not just reflect on what we have done wrong, but equally what we have failed to do. To be given so much by a loving God and not share those things with God and His people is wrong as well. Perhaps as we reflect on these things we might find ourselves adding something to our lives that will last for many Lenten seasons to come.
Last year, I gave you several examples in this column of answers to the question of “Why do Catholics do that?” It was wildly popular, so I’ve decided to give you more! Actually, I don’t think any of you ever commented about it haha. Anyway, I’ve been doing the same Q & A with the fabulous group from RCIA at the start of each of our weekly meetings. We’ve gone over why we make the Sign of the Cross, use a crucifix, pray the rosary, use statues of saints, and receive ashes at the start of Lent. Feel free to ask me about these anytime!
Why do Catholics call priests “Father”?
We heard in the Gospel (Mt 23) at last Tuesday’s Mass Jesus say to the crowds, “Call no one on earth your father”. Protestants like to bring this up to Catholics when asking why we call priests “Father”. They take this saying of the Lord literally and isolate it which is their common practice with certain Scripture verses. That can be dangerous because lines like this taken literally and by themselves contradict Scripture itself. The Bible calls men on earth “father” all over the place. For example, the fourth commandment is “honor your father and mother”.
We have to take Mt 23:9 in the context of the entire passage. The Church asks us to do this with each Scripture passage and with the whole of Scripture. In other words, we are to have a “global view” when reading the Bible. This global view helps us to see what Jesus is saying in Matthew 23. He is railing against the scribes and the Pharisees for loving the salutations of “Rabbi”, “Father”, and “master”. They are into the prestige of being a religious leader, and have gotten carried away with spiritual pride. So, he is basically saying that we should call no one on earth “Father” who only loves the title of father.
Jesus shifts quickly to the real fathers on earth: those who reflect the “one Father in heaven”. And, the greatest example of this is Jesus Christ himself. His whole mission is to reflect the Father in heaven. He is referred to as the Word (Logos in Greek). He is the Word of the Father. He speaks of the Father and communicates the Father to us. He is the knowledge of the Father. His whole mission is to reflect the Father so that we come to know the Father through him. So, any father on earth that lives Christ is reflecting God the Father.
Every Catholic priest is known as alter Christus (another Christ). Everything I just wrote about Christ becomes true about Catholic priests, especially in the sacraments (when priests act in persona Christi – in the person of Christ). So, we call priests “Father” because they reflect the love and mercy and goodness of God the Father in Christ. We know that the early Church referred to the Apostles (the first priests) and their successors as “fathers” by the following passages:
“Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel”.
- 1 Cor 15:4–“Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel”.
- Acts 7:2–“And he replied, ‘My brothers and fathers, listen…”
- Acts 22:1–“My brothers and fathers, listen to what I am about to say to you in my defense”
There’s no doubt that we should not use the term father lightly. The term carries great significance to us when it applies to our biological and spiritual fathers. But, the ultimate point that the Lord is making and that the Church has honored for 2,000 years is that we call fathers all those who show us God the Father.
May you know the freedom of Christ this Lent,
When I was first in parish work, I remember the parish priest talking with the schoolchildren about the topic of Lent and prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. He asked them if any of them knew what fasting was. After a very long wait, one student raised his hand and said, “It is what I do when my Mom is mad at me. I run really fast!” The adults in the assembly burst into laughter.
Laughter is good. However, the Lenten devotions of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are very serious practices for us as we prepare to celebrate the Easter mysteries.
As our catechumens prepare for the Easter sacraments, we are called by the Church to model what it means to be a Catholic Christians. We are called, especially during this Lenten season, to pray, fast, and give from the wealth we have to those who need our assistance.
This season is not merely a season of obligation to act more intently as God calls us to act; it is a season of opportunity to practice the foundation of our faith more attentively: prayer, fasting, almsgiving.
Prayer | Fasting | Almsgiving
Prayer: Throughout Scripture, Jesus goes to pray in deserted place. Lent is our “deserted place.” We draw near to God through Mass, confession, and spiritual practices like the Stations of the Cross, but we are also invited to spend time in prayer alone with the Father like Jesus did.
Fasting: Fasting is not a diet! With a diet, we try to achieve a physical goal in this world. In fasting, we try to achieve a spiritual goal in the next. Fasting helps us to sacrifice our preferences and less-than-healthy impulses to build discipline to choose the good in all areas of life.
Almsgiving: Time and time again, the Bible tells us that to love God we must love others. Our “neighbor” is someone we might not expect. Giving alms is an opportunity to support and care for our neighbor in need.
Interesting linksHere are some interesting links for you! Enjoy your stay :)
Fr. Greg Shaffer
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