Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As we pray for all families this weekend, we celebrate the World Marriage Day, we also get ourselves ready to enter into Lent. It’s always a privilege that God gives us to have a special time to look over our actions and repent from them. “Now is a favorable time” St. Paul exhorts the Christian community in Corinth. Wednesday, February 17th is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, 40 days that God gives us in prepara- tion for Easter. In this yearly preparation that God allows us to live it once more, we are called to grow closer to the Lord, to avoid whatever distracts from his path, and to do everything to love him above everything else. Therefore, the most common practices during this time is to pray, fast, and give alms.
The time of prayer is always something that helps US! We can think that we are doing God a favor, or trying to please him...however, we are always the first beneficiaries of prayer. The other day someone told me that I was lucky that that person was at mass. Without much thinking, the Lord inspired me to reply that she was the lucky one to be at mass. When we pray, receive the sacraments, God bestows upon us so many graces that we are not even aware of it. That’s why in this time, we will have more opportunities to pray! The church will continue to be opened from 6:30am-6:30pm for private prayers. We will continue with Daily Adoration from 6:30-7:30am, Daily Rosary starting at 7:00am, and Daily Mass at 7:30am every day of the week. We also have the Cenacle every Monday 6:00-7:00pm in the Chapel downstairs. Starting on Friday, February 19 , we will have Stations of the Cross every Friday at 6:00pm in the main church. We will also have our monthly 24h Adoration on February 21-22 and March 14-15. They will start around 6:00pm on Sunday (after the 5:00pm Mass) and conclude on Monday at 6:00pm. We will continue offering Confessions every Tuesday in the park- ing lot 5:00-6:00pm and Saturday 1:00-3:00pm in the chapel. Since Pope Francis has declared the year of St. Joseph, we will also have something special that week. We will celebrate the Triduum of St. Joseph with two days of talks (March 17 and 18) and concluding with a mass on his feast day on March 19 . The following day we are contemplating the possibility of a mini-retreat for men, but that is not 100% sure yet. (PS. There is a wonderful 33 day consecration to St. Joseph by Fr Donald Calloway that starts on February 15 . There are also other consecrations and novenas that can be done as well). We are also called to Fast during this time. The prescription of fasting is mandatory for Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, when a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. Then on Fridays of Lent we are called to abstain/avoid eating meat. This is something to help us to be aware of this time of preparation. Another Len- ten fast is from something that we enjoy, such as coffee, chocolate, alcohol, watching TV etc...I always suggest that, instead of avoiding doing something and simply deny ourselves from those “pleasures,” we can use those opportunities to grow closer to the Lord. For instance, instead of watching wheel of fortune, pray the rosary. Instead of listening to music while driving or at home, say the chaplet of divine mercy. Instead of pur- chasing our daily Dunkin or Starbucks drink, give that money to the poor. These practices are only to help our sanctification, to strengthen our desire to avoid sin and choose holiness. It is also important to help the chil- dren and the youth to live this time with joy. It’s a special time, and only for 40 days. We need to think crea- tively to help them fast and abstain from our day-to-day activities and to think of others. For example, at CCD, the children will be called to bring canned food to help our Community Cupboard.
Lastly, we are also called to practice Almsgiving during this time. Giving alms, and any act of charity, like praying, always benefit us first. By helping one another, God always give us one hundred-fold of our generosity. Surely there is the principle that we are all called to share with one another the gifts that God has given, but again, it’s about us sharing more than the other people receiving. Christ exhorts the apostles, “we cannot love God and money.” By giving alms, we make a stand to love God above everything else. The scriptures always see money as a sign of power. So in Deuteronomy, when Moses told the people of Israel to love God with all their heart, soul, and strength, the appeal is to love God also with our possessions. For that, we will try to collect money through different drives to help the poor and the different needs from our communities. Stay tuned for information.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, as Pope Francis said in his Lenten letter last year, “the fact that the Lord once again offers us a favorable time for our conversion should never be taken for granted.” Let’s take advantage of what God wants to give us, let’s open our hearts to receive the grace he has prepared for us, let us prepare ourselves to enter into his rest/eternal life. Let’s live this time as a spiritual diet, by losing some sins and look fabulous for the feast of the Resurrection on Easter Day!
God bless, Fr Steven
Father Steven Clemence