Feb. 19, 2023
From the Pastor:
Lent begins this Wednesday. It is one of the most important times of the year for Christians, especially for Catholics. It is meant to be a special time of spiritual renewal and growth. Special opportunities and graces are available to us throughout the 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The more deeply we take part in these, the more grace we will receive from God, and the more spiritual progress we will make. Said differently, the ultimate goal of all this is to become more like God, in whose image and likeness we have been made. That is an amazing fact about every human person!
Before sharing a few suggestions for this Lent, I call to your attention the Mass schedule for this Wednesday, which is listed to the left. As you can see, there are many opportunities to attend Mass among our parishes. In three weeks, Bishop Thomas will be at St. Peter to lead in prayer not just our three parishes but all those in the area. This will also coincide with the beginning of our upcoming 3-day Tri-Parish Mission on the topic of the Eucharist. Fr. Timothy Hayes, a Dominican priest, will be leading the retreat. Mark your calendars each evening of March 13-15 for this spiritual opportunity.
The blest ashes we receive on Ash Wednesday is a sacramental, which is different than a sacrament. We are physical people and experience much of reality through our bodily senses - sight, touch, sound, smell, taste. As a result, the Church, following Jesus’s example, uses physical objects to remind us about spiritual realities. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us how sacramentals are different than the seven sacraments: “Sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church. They prepare people to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life.”
The blest ashes that we receive at the beginning of Lent remind us that one day our physical bodies will die, at which point we leave this earth and stand before God in judgement. We don’t like the idea of being judged by anyone, but all of Scripture and Christian teaching makes this clear. As this thought settles into our minds and hearts, we realize that we need to repent and conform our lives to God’s teaching and commandments. We hear this when we receive the blest ashes on our head and the minster says, “…to dust you shall return” or “repent…” These point us toward and lead us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. So, which is more important, receiving the sacramental (blest ashes) or the sacrament (Confession/Reconciliation)? The sacrament, of course!
Lastly, a few spiritual suggestions for this Lent. Make challenging but realistic goals with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Don’t just do what is easy, but what is hard and needed for your spiritual growth. Reacquaint yourself with the 7 deadly sins and how they might be active in your life. In both what you are giving up and doing extra for Lent, offer it for people throughout the world whose suffering is great for many different reasons. Pray at least 30 minutes every day!