Dear Parishioners:This week the Church across the globe once again enters into the solemn forty day fast of Lent. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday. At OLM we have four Masses for Ash Wednesday: 7:30AM, 9:00AM, 12:05PM and 7:00PM. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of our forty days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is a time for us to truly: “Repent and believe in the Gospel!”
How do we repent for the forty days of Lent? There are many ways to take up the cross of Lent and truly repent. “The Three Ps” of Lent: prayer, penance and the poor are the truest path to a good Lent. Prayer is essential for the life of any Christian. The best prayer for the Catholic Christian is the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. At Our Lady of Mercy we have an extra Daily Mass during Lent at 12:05PM. So I invite you to consider coming to Mass daily during Lent, at 7:30AM before work or school or at 12:05PM as you sacrifice some of your lunch hour for God.
There are also other opportunities for prayer and devotion during Lent. We can take up the cross and walk with Christ to Calvary as we pray the Stations of the Cross every Friday at 7:00PM. Could you possibly give up a half-hour once a week to join us for the Stations? Are you willing to sacrifice even one Friday night during Lent for our Lord who sacrificed His life for you? On March 22nd we begin our Annual Parish Mission as we enter into a “retreat” as a community of faith. This year our Mission Preacher is Father Mark Spalding from Louisville, Kentucky. So mark your calendar now and plan on attending this important spiritual event in the life of our parish.
What about penance? Well, first and foremost Lent is a time for us to return to the Sacrament of Confession most especially if we haven’t been in awhile. Confessions at OLM are Monday nights at 6:00PM and Saturday afternoons at 3:00PM. Additionally during the Parish Mission guest priests will be available to hear confessions each night of the Mission. So get to Confession this Lent, it’s good for the soul!
What other sacrifice can we make during Lent? Can we give up some personal pleasure or luxury in our lives for forty days? What could it be? Cigars, alcohol, candy, dessert, the internet, television, video games or texting? This kind of traditional penance, fasting from something, is not meant to make us merely physically healthier (although it might help) but more importantly spiritually healthier. Giving up something in Lent should help us to deepen our relationship with the Lord who fasted forty days in the desert.
Perhaps we might also take on something extra during Lent, more time spent in prayer at home or at Church, reciting the Rosary daily, or even reading and reflecting upon the Scriptures daily. Perhaps we might try to break some bad “spiritual” habits and try arrive to Sunday Mass early to pray or even on time if we are often late. All of these are wonderful ways to strengthen our commitment to Christ during Lent.
Almsgiving is also central to Lent. Helping the poor with our charity is an important part of our lives as Catholic Christians. We help the poor by giving not just from our surplus but by truly offering financial and spiritual support that entails some sacrifice. We can practically help the poor during Lent with financial donations to Operation Rice Bowl, the Catholic Charity Appeal, or the OLM Outreach. Volunteering at the OLM Outreach Office, McAuley House or Emmanuel House are other ways to help the poor. In his first Lenten Message to the Church, Pope Francis reminds us: “Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.” Prayer, Penance and the Poor. God Bless.