Making an Intention – Pastor’s Reflection (February 7, 2016)
I find that when I face a challenge I do better if I sit myself down with the situation and resolve to receive it in faith, to accept that God is allowing this event. Lent offers such a time of intentional living.
For me, this Lent will be a quest to establish, under grace, that health in myself by which I actually live life, rather than just respond to it. Christian virtue seeks this well-being as wherewithal for a lively, and steady walk to God. Often, the pursuit of temperance launches people on the quest for soundness of life. Temperance consists in the happy, measured enjoyment of life’s good things, and tradition reckons these as food, drink and sex. Thus the temperate person moves comfortably from feast to fast to pot roast on Thursday. Somehow it seems appropriate to apply the logic of temperance to the use of technology. How do I make use of its excellent services, and also calmly decide to put away my devices and do human things like being aware of my companions on the street? How do I embrace the gifts of connectivity, and also, reasonably, make myself unavailable?
We understand Lent as a season of penance, and we grasp that penance is something we do, as when the Confessor assigns us a penance in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But works of penance are themselves intentional and intensified practices of the virtues. In this light, Lenten works are less about appeasing God, or punishing ourselves, than they are about growth. Fasting, and almsgiving represent means by which we gain control of life by detaching ourselves from its particulars, such as food, drink, and money. Prayer depends on that degree of control, and in turn teaches us about God’s yet greater mastery over reality. Taken together, the Lenten practices teach the self-control necessary not to be in control, and this is one of the lovely paradoxes of the spiritual life.
Hopefully the foregoing will be of some help preparing a plan of penance that is neither rote nor grandiose, but focused on the solidity and joy of spiritual maturity. Please consider the following as parts of a Lenten discipline.
Receive Ashes. On Wednesday, February 10, ashes will be offered after the homily at the three daily masses at each church, St. Vincent’s at 8 am, 12:10 pm, and 5:30 pm, and St. Catherine’s at 7 am, noon, and 5:15 pm. They will also be given at the 7:30 pm Holy Hour at St. Vincent Ferrer. Taking ashes is a public commitment to perform penance. We place before the world the gap between our profession of Christianity and our actual practice of it.
Practice Fast and Abstinence. The days of common fasting, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and the days of common abstinence, the Fridays of Lent, offer us the chance to create an empty space in life for God to fill. By giving up good things we train ourselves to long for better ones.
Make the Stations of the Cross. Each Friday in Lent, after the evening Mass in each church, beginning, February 12, we make this procession of the Passion. It is an opportunity get out of ourselves to focus on the self-gift of Jesus, by which our ordinary life has become a way to an eternal one.
Practice Silence. We are able to offer lovely and effective periods of silence on our Saturday morning retreats. On Saturday, February 13, we will have the parish Lenten retreat at St. Catherine’s. We will begin at 9 am in St. Dominic Hall, and conclude with the noon Mass. This year, we will focus on the place in our spiritual lives of the habits we cannot break.
You will also find times of nourishing silence in our weekly Holy Hour at 7:30 pm on Wednesdays at St. Vincent’s, as well as during the times of adoration in St. Catherine’s Church, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, and Sunday morning before the Solemn Mass at noon.
Observe Sundays and Feasts. The significance of self-denial becomes clear in its mitigation. The Sundays of Lent, and its two great Solemnities, St. Patrick, and St. Joseph, (this year we will not celebrate the Annunciation until after Easter), are to be taken as days of joy on which we “break Lent.” These relaxations remind us that our self-denial is not simply an endurance, but a way to live more securely rhythms of a balanced life.
Pray for Those in Formation for the Sacraments. The growth of nature will be matched in our midst by the spiritual growth of those who will be baptized, make First Communion, be received into the church, and be confirmed as adults. Please pray for all of them, and for all those who are accompanying them as catechists and sponsors. The contribution of the work of initiation to the vitality of the whole parish cannot be overstated.
Mardi Gras Peace!