Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Have you checked your calendar lately?

If you haven't, the Holy Season of Lent is almost upon you. What follows is my letter to my parishes concerning the Season and what we will be doing. Take it for what it is worth.

February 21, 2006
Memorial of St. Peter Damian

Dear Parishioners of Sacred Heart, St. Cornelius, and Our Mother of Mercy Parishes:

Greetings in the Lord Jesus Christ! I pray that this letter finds you in good health and in good spirits. As you have been hearing at the Sunday Masses, Lent is soon upon us. As of this writing, it is less than 9 days away. Have you given any thought to what you are going to do to observe this Holy Season?

The fare in Lent should be austere. / No cakes and ale, no kraut and beer; / No fatted goose, with heavy wines, / That Croesus fancies when he dines – They’re all taboo this time o’ year. T.A. Daly

Here are the basic obligations that the Church imposes upon all Catholics. Because Lent is a time of repentance and conversion, there are certain regulations we must observe.
1. Abstinence from Meat: Catholics 14 years of age or older must abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays of Lent unless dispensed.
2. Fasting: Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 (inclusive) are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting means that you eat only one full meal and no more than two small meals with no food between meals on those days. For those unable to fast, some other suitable act of penitence should be substituted on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Other days of Lent are not fast days but self-imposed times of fasting or abstinence are recommended.
3. Catholics who have received their first Holy Communion are required to make a worthy reception of Holy Communion at least once during the year. Worthy reception assumes that the person a) professes the Church’s Faith concerning our Lord’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament and b) is not conscious of having committed mortal sin. If someone has committed mortal sin, they must first go to Confession BEFORE receiving Holy Communion lest they commit sacrilege against our Lord’s True Presence.

In those days, therefore, let us add something beyond the wonted measure of our service, such as private prayers and abstinence in food and drink. Let each one, over and above the measure prescribed for him, offer God something of his own freewill in the joy of the Holy Spirit. St. Benedict.

In our three parishes, we will hold the following spiritual exercises. First, on Wednesday evenings, beginning on March 8, we will celebrate a Eucharistic Holy Hour with Evening Prayer. We are holding a Holy Hour because we all need to grow in our love and appreciation of the Real Presence of Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament. By exposing the Host on the Monstrance, we are invited to engage the mystery of the Real Presence in a most profound way. However, I, as your pastor, recognize my responsibility to fill out the parish’s experience of the Church’s life of prayer. Therefore, within the Holy Hour, we will pray together Evening Prayer of the Divine Office. Through the Divine Office, the Church consecrates the whole day and extends the fruits of the Holy Mass throughout the day. If you have ever wanted to learn how to pray the Office, this is a wonderful opportunity for a “first taste.” Second, on Friday evenings, beginning March 10, we will pray the Stations of the Cross at 6:00 p.m. New this year, before the Stations, at 5:00 p.m., we will hold a parish soup supper. This simple meal will enhance the sobriety of the season and build community within the parish. Because we don’t have a good idea on the number planning on attending, the first soup supper will be a potluck. Remember, no meat on Fridays in Lent! Third, on the First Fridays during Lent we are changing our usual practice. For the First Fridays, March 3 and April 7, the Holy Mass will be celebrated at Noon with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to follow from 12:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. It is my hope that this will enable more people to make a gift of their time by spending part of the lunch hours and afternoons adoring Christ the Lord. However, for this to work we will need 17 dedicated volunteers willing to give a half an hour. Sign up lists will be available the week before each First Friday. Also, a series of special devotions will be observed on First Fridays. Lastly, in order to grow in the love of God and neighbor, there will be additional opportunities for the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance. On Tuesdays at 6:00 p.m., Wednesdays at noon, and Fridays immediately following Stations, the Sacrament of Penance will be offered. Also, if you wish, you make an appointment to see me. On March 15, the parish will host its annual Lenten Penance Rite. The rite begins at 7:00 p.m. and there will be several additional priests to hear your confession at that time.

O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! / Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Psalm 96:1-2

Lent is an especially privileged season in the life of the Church. “Lent” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning springtime. What do we associate spring with? We associate it with newness: new life, new hope, new joy. While I would applaud the notion that we all need to give up something for Lent, we can easily tire of doing such a good work if we don’t understand why we are doing this. Just as a gardener rips out what is old and dead from the garden beds so that something new may be planted, the Christian must rip out the old, corrupt ways of sin to make way for the new life of grace. If you are having trouble getting excited about Lent, think of it not so much as “giving up” something as finding a new gift to give to God, the giver of all good gifts.

May the Lord bless and strengthen you in Lent so that you may rejoice with Him this Easter.

In Christ, Our True Savior,

Fr. Shane Tharp

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