Are You Ready For Lent 2019?

Ash Wednesday 2018 blogThis Wednesday is Ash Wednesday – and with the marking of our foreheads with ashes we will begin the Season of Lent. I urge you to make plans to attend Mass on Wednesday – and invite a friend or neighbor to join you.

At Saint John Bosco Mass will be celebrated on Ash Wednesday in the morning at 7:30 am, at 12:00 noon, and in the evening at 7:00 pm – ashes will be distributed only during these three Masses. I urge you, if you are in the area please join us.

The 40 days of Lent are traditionally grounded in the Ash Wednesday imperatives that we are to pray, fast and give alms. In order to focus on those spiritual practices, we need to unplug our “modern distractions” – computers, iPhones, iPads, and the TV remote for a while. It is a time to reflect on our relationship with God and to do our best to deepen it. To do this will be a challenge because it means setting aside designated time for prayer, emptying ourselves of those things that push the Lord aside so that we can welcome Him back to the center of our lives, and parting with some of our money to share with those in need.

Baron Friedrich von Hugel, an influential spiritual writer and director, had a practice of spending fifteen minutes a day doing what he called “devotional reading.” We would do well during the days of Lent to nourish our souls by this type of “devotional reading.” This type of reading, traditionally referred to as “spiritual reading,” leads to intimacy with the Lord and growth in taking on the concerns of God. If you aren’t already engaged in this practice – Lent would be a great time to begin!

Those who attend Mass on Ash Wednesday at Saint John Bosco will receive a copy of Matthew Kelly’s The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity (1 copy per household). You are invited to use it as a 40-day Lenten spiritual journey, to help you dismantle this lie – “Holiness is not possible for me.” While the title of Kelly’s book focuses on the lie to capture your attention – the book is really about the single truth that holiness is possible for all men, women and children. In fact, it’s the call of every baptized man, woman and child!

The tradition of fasting, from some type of food, beverage, or activity, is meant to promote personal discipline and self-control. It also can help us come to an appreciation of the hunger that other people experience – and fill our “hunger” with the power and presence of God’s transforming grace. Use your fasting, not to impress God with your discomfort, but to feed on the gifts for which you hunger most. Fast from anger, blame, entitlement – feast on forgiveness, affirmation and the common good.

The giving of alms is more than monetary contributions. It involves reaching out to the needy in a variety of ways. Just as we commit ourselves to spending time each day in “devotional reading,” we might also commit ourselves to a specific concern this Lent – such as feeding the poor through participation in a collection at your parish (at Saint John Bosco we will have our annual Saint Vincent de Paul Lenten Food Collection with a different item being collected each weekend) or the Catholic Relief Services ‘ Operation Rice Bowl, visiting the sick and homebound, or engaging in some corporal or spiritual work of mercy. If you skip a latte, give the money you would have spent to a charity. If you have limited financial means, supplement your alms by giving of your time and talent.

Begin with the end in mind – Easter! All of Lent is a preparation to celebrate the Easter mysteries. Review the opportunities that are available to you at your parish throughout Lent.

A few “on-line” resources you might consider. Bishop Robert Baron from “Word on Fire” and Matthew Kelly from “Dynamic Catholic” will send you a daily reflection throughout Lent. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will provide suggestions and resources to support your Lenten practices on a daily basis.

So, between now and Wednesday, reflect on what you are going to do this year as you take that joyful journey toward Easter. Then, put your answer down in writing – and be ready to begin the journey this Wednesday.

Just a few reminders . . . Ash Wednesday is a day of abstinence from meat (and any meat based food) and a day of fasting. The law of fast allows a person to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may be eaten, but they should not equal one full meal. The law of abstinence binds all Catholics 14 years and older. The law of fasting binds all Catholics from their 18th birthday until their 59th birthday.

At Saint John Bosco daily Mass will be celebrated during Lent on Mondays and Wednesdays in the morning at 7:30 am; on Tuesdays and Fridays at 12:00 noon; and on Thursdays in the evening at 7:00 pm. We’d love to have you join us for daily Mass throughout Lent.

We will walk the Stations of the Cross at Saint John Bosco on Friday evenings at 7:00 pm. Plan to be with us on Friday evenings!

Fish dinners in the Bell Tower will be served every Friday of Lent, including Good Friday, from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm in the Bell Tower. Early Bird dining (4:00 to 5:00 pm) gives Seniors, 65 and up, a discount of $1.00.

Finally, I hope that you will join us for Mass on Ash Wednesday – the door will be open. Hopefully, you will be among those who walk through it.

Question – How do you plan to engage in the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving this year?

My next blog will be on March 20.

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