The Lenten Season, which began on Ash Wednesday (February 26) and ends with the beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday (April 9), has a two-fold character: to prepare both Catechumens (those to be baptized at the Easter Vigil) and the Faithful to celebrate the Paschal Mystery (the work of salvation wrought by the death and resurrection of Jesus). Catechumens, with the Rite of Election, the Sacred Scrutinies, and Catechesis, prepare for the Sacraments of Christian Initiation at the Solemn Easter Vigil. The Faithful, by being more attentive to prayer and to the Word of God, prepare themselves by penance for the renewal of their own baptismal promises. The three-fold works of Lent are PRAYER, FASTING, and ALMSGIVING (Read Matthew 6.1-6; 16-18).

PRAYER: The center of the Church’s entire liturgical year is the Scared Triduum, one feast comprised of three days. The entire Lenten season is devoted to preparation for this great celebration of the Paschal Mystery. You will note that Lent is marked by a starkness and simplicity: few if any decorations or flowers adorn the church, there is no Gloria at Mass, the Alleluia is omitted, and we will gather for Mass in silence, as a way of emphasizing the somber nature of the sacred season.

One commitment each of us should make is to take some time each day for prayer and meditation. Maybe make a commitment to get to daily Mass once or twice during the week (our daily Masses at 7:00 am and 5:30 pm can accommodate most work schedules and last about 25 minutes). In terms of daily prayer, start small. Five or ten minutes. And be faithful to it. And watch it grow. The key is regularity and the development of habit.

You may also want to explore the Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the Church, which unites us to the prayer of Catholics throughout the world; copies are available in church near the Lady altar for any parishioner to use or you may try the free
iBreviary App on your smartphone. Or perhaps try lectio divina, the slow, meditative reading of Scripture (try the Sunday or weekday readings from Mass): read the passage slowly, then spend time mulling it over.

RCIA—On the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent, the Scrutinies will be celebrated at the 9:00 or 11:00 am Masses. These are ancient rites in which solemn prayers are said over the Catechumens, asking for their liberation from the power of sin and darkness and so readying them for Easter Sacraments. For those already baptized but not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church, a special Penitential Rite will be celebrated on the Second Sunday of Lent. On the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the statues in the church are covered and other sacred images removed until the Easter Vigil, as a sign of the intensity of preparation for the coming celebration of the Passion, hence the term Passiontide (Read Hebrews 12).

FASTING: Central to the Church’s Lenten tradition is the ancient practice of fasting. There are only two obligatory fast days in the Church’s calendar: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Catholics age 18 to 59 are required fast— to eat only one full meal on these days, and may supplement this with one or two smaller meals (together not equaling the size of the first). Abstinence, required of all Catholics 14 and older, is obligatory on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays of Lent; no meat is to be consumed on these days. Some individuals, following more ancient custom, abstain from meat throughout the season of Lent. Within the tradition, when fasts were more severe, Sunday was a day on which the sacrifices made during Lent could be relaxed (Read Isaiah 58).

ALMSGIVING: The third ancient pillar of Lenten renewal is almsgiving: the gift of support, monetary and otherwise, to the poor. As a parish, we will take a second collection each Sunday of Lent to assist local charitable organizations, groups who are committed to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be our communal act of almsgiving. You are encouraged also individually to make a gift to those in need, to who we are obligated by our share in the Eucharist (Read Luke 16).

March 29 — Gabriel Project
April 5 — Catholic Peace Fellowship