……from your Pastor’s Desk
“Where have all the Flowers gone?”
At the end of my homily at the Ash Wednesday masses I wished you all a ‘Happy Lent’. If I said that to someone 40 or 50 years ago – it might seem like an incongruous salutation, an impossible task. I hope that my admonition to approach our Lenten observances or prayer, fasting and almsgiving with a spirit of joy and gratitude, makes it truly achievable and fruitful.
I did not coin the phrase. I remember, about 20 years ago, how I felt when someone first said it to me. I smiled and thought, “Hmmm…is that even possible?” I discovered it was. It all has to do with how we approach the Holy Season.
Happy Lent. I suppose this greeting finds its origin in Blessing of the Ashes in the Sacramentary; which said; “…each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the Pascal Mystery with mind and hearts renewed.” However, the new translation found in the Roman Missal which we have been using for a few years says:”… as they follow the Lenten Observances, they may be worthy to come with minds and hearts made pure to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of your Son”. Aha! This makes things much clearer. It stresses that Lent is principally a time of purification. It is not the season that is joyful but the fact that it leads us to purify our lives. The joy that is referred to is more serenity than pleasure. It is the serenity that comes from having kept a good Lent, having borne the hardships of penance and fasting and having put quite a bit of extra effort into our prayer lives.
We need to be attentive to the fact that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has various moods and specific emphases for each liturgical season. This is why music is at a minimum and there are no flowers or plants in church. This is why we refrain from singing the joyous ‘Alleluia’ or the Gloria until Easter. This is why we wear the solemn color purple. This is why we have devotions like the Holy Hour and Stations of the Cross offered for your edification. This is why we pray, fast, and give alms during this time more than other Seasons of the Church Year. The idea is to express the very different emotions of sorrow, praise and profound devotion – in harmony.
Lent is a penitential season, but that does not make it a miserable season. There is joy in it but it is a sober joy, a restrained serenity that comes from being faithful to the traditional Lenten penances which are undertaken to unite ourselves to the sufferings of Jesus.
It is a sorrowful (repentant) season but our sadness is moderated by the knowledge that Christ has won the victory and paid the price of our redemption. As we used to say; ‘Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.’ Never forget that. Truly, the best…is yet…to come. May this Holy Season serve to prepare you for that day.
Keep Lent well.
OUR ALMSGIVING FOCUS: I mentioned that our Lenten observances are threefold. Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Almsgiving comes from the sacrifices we make when we deny ourselves certain pleasures (going out to eat, going to the movies, or other forms of recreation) or even usual things (eating and living more moderately) and putting the money that would have gone to that – to a charity or special need or cause to benefit those in most need. This year it is feeding (literally) local babies in greatest need.
Please make a special place in your home for your almsgiving offering and say a prayer for the little ones each time you place in it your offering. Please take one baby-bottle per household. The idea is that you return it at the end of Lent with a check or cash amount of the money you have raised by the sacrifices you are making. Again, 100% of your donation will go directly to help the babies and children to whom Catholic Charities ministers. Please note: The bottom of the bottle screws off for your convenience.