By Julie Musselman
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. It is not a Holy Day of Obligation, but do make every effort to be at Mass and hear the call to repentance. The three pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. A combination of these three helps us lose ourselves and find our Lord. Let’s take time before Lent begins to really think and pray about how we want to grow spiritually and what our Lord is calling us to do this Lent.
Many people will give up their beloved coffee or soda or chocolate. But I really want to recommend that you “take on” something and not just “give up” something. “Taking on” any or all of these things will change your life and make this the best Lent of your life. I like to think of these as "holy habits." Just imagine if you started a new holy habit every Lent, and kept it going throughout the year!
Confession — Begin the Lenten season with the best confession of your life. If you have not been to confession in a while, go! Give yourself the gift! If you go now and then, but not regularly, consider getting into a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. Precede any confession with a thorough examination of conscience and a firm purpose of amendment. Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate your mind as to the sins that are weighting you down. St. Raphael confession times are Saturday 3:45-4:15 or call the office for an appointment.
Encourage your children and spouse get to confession but also step out in faith and invite a friend or neighbor to join you. Many parishes have a Lenten penance service and this is a great chance to bring someone home to the sacrament. Whatever your past experience with confession has been, consider starting anew.
Daily Mass — Add one or more weekday Masses into your life for Lent. The grace of the Eucharist is transforming. Most daily Masses are only 30 minutes. If the Mass time at our own parish is not convenient, go to www.masstimes.org and find a close parish with a Mass time that will work. Take your family with you, if possible, or meet a friend there to build accountability and help keep up the habit. St. Raphael has daily Mass at 8 a.m. and Wednesday evening at 7 p.m.
Adoration — Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is the practice of placing ourselves before the Lord either in the tabernacle or in the monstrance. It is a time of quiet, prayer. Often, instead of doing all the talking or repeating memorized prayers, I try to just sit and listen. A holy hour is the usual amount of time to spend in adoration, but even if you can only go for 10 minutes, Our Lord will fill you peace and joy. Wednesday 8:30 a.m. -6:30 p.m. St. Raphael has adoration and any day, the tabernacle room is open to come and sit quietly and pray.
Daily Prayer — Commit to a regular prayer time. Morning, afternoon or evening, allocate 5 to 10 minutes to pray or read spiritual material each day. The family rosary would be a marvelous practice for lent. Start out with just a decade if the children are very young. As far as spiritual reading material, I highly recommend the In Conversation with God series by Francis Fernandez, published by Sceptre. You can read each day’s meditation in about 15 minutes. St. Raphael prays the rosary daily at 8:30 a.m. in the church and on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. in the tabernacle room
Catholicism Series — St Raphael will host 5 nights of Father Robert Barron's Catholicism series, Monday evenings 7 p.m. beginning February 27. Plan on coming and bring friends. Middle school parents, drop of the kids at Youth Group and come to the parish hall. This series is fantastic. Father Barron created it to reveal the truth, goodness and beauty of our faith. For many years now Our Story has been told by the secular press with disdain. It's our time to tell the 2000-year-old story!
Stations of the Cross — Tuesdays at 2 p.m. with the school children. Friday evenings at 7 p.m. This is a traditional Catholic practice that is a short but powerful way to walk with our Lord from the moment He is condemned to death until He is crucified, died and is buried. When we enter into the passion of our Lord and see all that He suffered for us, we cannot but grow in our love for Him.
Almsgiving — Giving alms is giving of money in addition to the amount you tithe. During Lent a powerful way to give alms would be to support our Annual Pastoral Appeal. The larger church, the Diocese, needs our support. Deacon Peter Burns did a great job last week outlining just a few of the ministries that depend on our support. Father Tim told us Sunday that he needs each family to participate in some way. It is easy to say “I have too many bills” or “I sure hope other people give.” But have we asked ourselves a different question: “What if I give a big gift?” “How much could I give?” “What if I gave sacrificially, meaning out of my want, not out of my excess?” I really want to challenge all of us to think up a number we could give, and then ask, could I double that? Could I add another zero on the end of that? Let's think Big! This is our church, our diocese, our friends and families and neighbors that the local church serves. God can never be outdone in generosity. When we give cheerfully, we know that all our needs will be met and the great good will be served. The APA can be paid in installments and that can really give us a chance to make some impact. Maybe we can’t write a big check today, but could we write 12 monthly checks or four quarterly checks?
Fish Fry Fridays — No meat on Friday during Lent can be fun at the Fish Fry Fridays. Beginning the second Friday of Lent, March 2, let the Youth Group and KOC cook for you. Beginning at 5:30 p.m., come and eat, kids can play and adults have fellowship, Then at 7 p.m. we can head over for stations of the cross.
Parish Mission — Evenings, March 19-21 by Father John Lipscomb, former Anglican Bishop and convert to the Roman Catholic faith.
Even with taking on a new holy habit for Lent, we are still called to Fast & Abstinence — On Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays through Good Friday during Lent, we are asked to abstain or not eat meat. There are two days of fasting: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting means one main meal, with two smaller meals, no meals in between and all the water you can drink. Some people fast on just bread and water for the day. No meat is eaten as these are also days of abstinence.
Fasting and Abstinence is for adults 18-59. But children under 18 can certainly participate too. Just to give up the snacks might be a way for children to fast, or have smaller portions. If ever a person has health reasons and cannot fast, other mortifications can be substituted.
Then throughout Lent, Holy Mother Church invites us to grow in personal holiness by fasting from things we like. Some ideas can be fasting for eating out or fast food. How about giving up sugar or salt in your food. Sometimes smaller portions or giving up second helpings can be a fast, or eating more foods like fruits and vegetables and giving up the fats and sweets.
In addition to fasting from foods, there are other forms of fasting. For instance, have you ever fasted from having the last word? How about fasting from shopping? My children like to fast from vegetables, but I generally encourage them to fast from electronics (TV, video games, texting, computer games.)
Another idea is to fast from clutter. Detach yourself from all those clothes that you ‘might wear someday’ and give them to the poor. Clean out a closet or the garage and share the things you really don’t use. If it is hard for you to de-clutter, start very small with just one drawer or one shelf in a closet. Five minutes each day is doable and will create a habit. Consider cleaning out one kitchen drawer every time the phone rings. Have pleasant phone conversation while you organize one little area.
Whatever you decide to do, offer all your sacrifices and any failings to our Lord. May we all grow in holiness this Lent.
It’s our Catholic Faith ~ Let’s live it in Lent!