Lent is here. What shall we do to transform our lives so as to rise with him who saved us from sin and death?

Here we are once again. That time of the year where we are forthright in our efforts to shed off our former selves to become better Christians. We begin our journey with a Holy Mass on a day which is called Ash Wednesday. That ash which was signed on our foreheads was done with one of two reminders, “Repent, and believe the Gospel. Or: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This is the beginning of the 40 days. These 40 days have their ties with Holy Scripture with instances throughout the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) and the New Testament from Noah and the great flood to Jesus in the desert. In essence these next 40 days are days for fasting and praying and alms giving. But we do this knowing we will come to celebrate the most glorious of all events, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead in a time called Easter. This day is a reminder. It is our hope of salvation. Our reason to believe. But there is much to remember and do. We must each of ourselves step out of our comfort zone and take upon our 40 day journey a diligence to reflect on our own sins and challenges, to become witnesses to the Gospel, as Pope Francis declares. Here we begin so that we may rise and to love one another just as Christ has loved us.

 

Check out Catholic Apologist, Jimmy Akin’s article on Ash Wednesday.

 

Below from: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2015-02-18

Old Calendar: Ash Wednesday

The time has now come in the Church year for the solemn observance of the great central act of history, the redemption of the human race by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In the Roman Rite, the beginning of the forty days of penance is marked with the austere symbol of ashes which is used in today’s liturgy. The use of ashes is a survival from an ancient rite according to which converted sinners submitted themselves to canonical penance. The Alleluia and the Gloria are suppressed until Easter.

Abstinence from eating meat is to be observed on all Fridays during Lent. This applies to all persons 14 and older. The law of fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday applies to all Catholics from age 18 through age 59.

Ash Wednesday
At the beginning of Lent, on Ash Wednesday, ashes are blessed during Mass, after the homily. The blessed ashes are then “imposed” on the faithful as a sign of conversion, penance, fasting and human mortality. The ashes are blessed at least during the first Mass of the day, but they may also be imposed during all the Masses of the day, after the homily, and even outside the time of Mass to meet the needs of the faithful. Priests or deacons normally impart this sacramental, but instituted acolytes, other extraordinary ministers or designated lay people may be delegated to impart ashes, if the bishop judges that this is necessary. The ashes are made from the palms used at the previous Passion Sunday ceremonies.

Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year, Msgr. Peter J. Elliott

The act of putting on ashes symbolizes fragility and mortality, and the need to be redeemed by the mercy of God. Far from being a merely external act, the Church has retained the use of ashes to symbolize that attitude of internal penance to which all the baptized are called during Lent. — Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy

From the very early times the commemoration of the approach of Christ’s passion and death was observed by a period of self-denial. St. Athanasius in the year 339 enjoined upon the people of Alexandria the 40 days’ fast he saw practiced in Rome and elsewhere, “to the end that while all the world is fasting, we who are in Egypt should not become a laughing stock as the only people who do not fast but take our pleasure in those days.” On Ash Wednesday in the early days, the Pope went barefoot to St. Sabina’s in Rome “to begin with holy fasts the exercises of Christian warfare, that as we do battle with the spirits of evil, we may be protected by the help of self-denial.”

Daily Missal of the Mystical Body

 

Below is what Pope Francis shares with us for Lent.

He Became Poor, So That by His Poverty You Might Become Rich

By Pope Francis

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As Lent draws near, I would like to offer some helpful thoughts on our path of conversion as individuals and as a community. These insights are inspired by the words of Saint Paul: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). The Apostle was writing to the Christians of Corinth to encourage them to be generous in helping the faithful in Jerusalem who were in need. What do these words of Saint Paul mean for us Christians today? What does this invitation to poverty, a life of evangelical poverty, mean to us today?

Christ’s grace

First of all, it shows us how God works. He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty: “though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor …”. Christ, the eternal Son of God, one with the Father in power and glory, chose to be poor; he came amongst us and drew near to each of us; he set aside his glory and emptied himself so that he could be like us in all things (cf. Phil 2:7; Heb 4:15). God’s becoming man is a great mystery! But the reason for all this is his love, a love which is grace, generosity, a desire to draw near, a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved. Charity, love, is sharing with the one we love in all things. Love makes us similar, it creates equality, it breaks down walls and eliminates distances. God did this with us. Indeed, Jesus “worked with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he truly became one of us, like us in all things except sin.” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

By making himself poor, Jesus did not seek poverty for its own sake but, as Saint Paul says “that by his poverty you might become rich”. This is no mere play on words or a catch phrase. Rather, it sums up God’s logic, the logic of love, the logic of the incarnation and the cross. God did not let our salvation drop down from heaven, like someone who gives alms from their abundance out of a sense of altruism and piety. Christ’s love is different! When Jesus stepped into the waters of the Jordan and was baptized by John the Baptist, he did so not because he was in need of repentance, or conversion; he did it to be among people who need forgiveness, among us sinners, and to take upon himself the burden of our sins. In this way he chose to comfort us, to save us, to free us from our misery. It is striking that the Apostle states that we were set free, not by Christ’s riches but by his poverty. Yet Saint Paul is well aware of the “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8), that he is “heir of all things” (Heb 1:2).

So what is this poverty by which Christ frees us and enriches us? It is his way of loving us, his way of being our neighbour, just as the Good Samaritan was neighbour to the man left half dead by the side of the road (cf. Lk 10:25ff). What gives us true freedom, true salvation and true happiness is the compassion, tenderness and solidarity of his love. Christ’s poverty which enriches us is his taking flesh and bearing our weaknesses and sins as an expression of God’s infinite mercy to us. Christ’s poverty is the greatest treasure of all: Jesus wealth is that of his boundless confidence in God the Father, his constant trust, his desire always and only to do the Father’s will and give glory to him. Jesus is rich in the same way as a child who feels loved and who loves its parents, without doubting their love and tenderness for an instant. Jesus’ wealth lies in his being the Son; his unique relationship with the Father is the sovereign prerogative of this Messiah who is poor. When Jesus asks us to take up his “yoke which is easy”, he asks us to be enriched by his “poverty which is rich” and his “richness which is poor”, to share his filial and fraternal Spirit, to become sons and daughters in the Son, brothers and sisters in the firstborn brother (cf. Rom 8:29).

It has been said that the only real regret lies in not being a saint (L. Bloy); we could also say that there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.

Our witness

We might think that this “way” of poverty was Jesus’ way, whereas we who come after him can save the world with the right kind of human resources. This is not the case. In every time and place God continues to save mankind and the world through the poverty of Christ, who makes himself poor in the sacraments, in his word and in his Church, which is a people of the poor. God’s wealth passes not through our wealth, but invariably and exclusively through our personal and communal poverty, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ.

In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual. Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.

No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person – is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us though Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.

The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness. It means following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep. In union with Jesus, we can courageously open up new paths of evangelization and human promotion.

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can so this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.

May the Holy Spirit, through whom we are “as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything” (2 Cor 6:10), sustain us in our resolutions and increase our concern and responsibility for human destitution, so that we can become merciful and act with mercy. In expressing this hope, I likewise pray that each individual member of the faithful and every Church community will undertake a fruitful Lenten journey. I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you safe.

From the Vatican, 26 December 2013

Feast of Saint Stephen, Deacon and First Martyr

FRANCIS

© Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2014

This item 10442 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org

Archbishop Fulton Sheen on the Church

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in his talk on Drama of the Mass says

“…make yourselves little, humble, self giving, hopeful in relationship to others, keeping nothing back. And the more you empty yourself, the more God can work with you.

Secondly love the Church which is the historical fulfillment of the Incarnation. Love the pontiffs because we break away from the Holy Father we lose something. Our Blessed Lord said to the Apostles ‘the devil, the devil will sift you as wheat.’ The ‘you’ is in the plural. That is to say, ‘you twelve.’ But I have prayed for thee Simon, that thy faith fail not. And thou being converted after thy fall will restore thy brethren.’ Our Blessed Lord was saying that of the twelve the one He was praying for was Peter, even though Peter was weak. And who the influence of Peter and the prayer of our Lord, Peter will strengthen the others. We bishops, we priests, we laity in varying degrees share in the prayer of Christ because we are one with Peter, and because we are one with Paul. So love the Church! And do not tolerate those who would say that you for example are only bones or an institution when you know you have flesh and blood. The Church is the safeguard of our liberty.”

Holy Father Pope Francis on Ecclesial elites

Having read an article on our Holy Father’s position on Ecclesial elites and those who take an exclusive approach to faith, prompted me to reflect on this with the following.

As posted on Facebook January 30, 2015

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/01/29/pope__no_to_ecclesial_elites_who_privatize_the_faith/1120518

And to further the distinction by those practicing a faith in a myopic sense of self while maintaining the exclusivity and practice of ecclesial elitism, is shunned in Pope Francis’ plain and simple reminder to us of humanities own salvation history. Jesus’ words on loving and the unconditional inclusion of the other in all aspects and dimensions of love strengthens in our frailty God’s gifts of the theological virtues. Our Christian faith is a living faith and the very heart and foundation and definition of a unified people who approach communion which the God of Salvation History has given us in his new covenant, and renewed in his passion, death and resurrection. Therefore to be a Church in union with each other and with God comes together on the same altar of sacrifice which we all share!

On the Eighteenth Day of Christmas…


January 11, Feast of the Baptism of ChristToday we celebrate the baptism of Christ in the Jordan. This is the second epiphany, or manifestation, of the Lord. The past, the present, and the future are made manifest in this epiphany.

The most holy one placed Himself among us, the unclean and sinners. The Son of God freely humbled Himself at the hand of the Baptist. By His baptism in the Jordan, Christ manifests His humility and dedicates Himself to the redemption of man. He takes upon Himself the sins of the whole world and buries them in the waters of the Jordan. — The Light of the World by Benedict Baur, O.S.B.

From: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/overviews/seasons/christmas/Christmas_days_baptist.cfm

On the Seventeenth Day of Christmas…


January 10, Christmas WeekdayEvery country in the world has its own Christmas customs. Christmas in Australia is often very hot. Whereas the northern hemisphere is in the middle of winter, Australians are baking in summer heat. It is not unusual to have Christmas Day well into the mid 30 degrees Celsius, or near 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

A traditional meal includes a turkey dinner, with ham, and pork. A flaming Christmas plum pudding is added for dessert. In the Australian gold rushes, Christmas puddings often contained a gold nugget. Today a small favor is baked inside. Whoever finds this knows that they will enjoy good luck. Another treat is Mince Pies.

It is Father Christmas who brings the presents to the Australian children on Christmas Eve. Homes and gardens are decorated with greenery, Christmas tree and fairy lights. Seasonal plants are the Christmas bush and the Christmas bell.

From: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/overviews/seasons/christmas/christmas_days17.cfm

On the Sixteenth Day of Christmas…


January 9, Christmas WeekdaySt. Francis initiated the beautiful practice of displaying a Christmas crib or creche. He built it in a cave on a bleak mountain near the village of Greccio. News of what he was doing spread all over the countryside and a steady stream of men, women and children came by night carrying torches and candles to light their way. 

“It seemed like midday,” wrote someone who was there, “during that midnight filled with gladness for man and beast, and the crowds drawing near, so happy to be present for the renewal of the eternal mystery.” Francis himself sang the Gospel story in a voice which was “strong and sweet and clear,” says the observer. “Then he preached to the people, most movingly, about the birth of the poor King in little Bethlehem.” — Excerpted from Christmas

From: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/overviews/seasons/christmas/christmas_days16.cfm

On the Fifteenth Day of Christmas…


January 8, Christmas WeekdayDawn is the time of day in which the first rays of light begin to glimmer, to illumine and dispel the darkness. . . Christ’s actual birth in Bethlehem shows forth the beautiful reality that God works with things according to their nature. Simply put, it makes perfect sense that a darkened world is tangibly illumined by divine, supernatural intervention upon the natural. — Father Wade L. J. Menezes, CPM 

Candles are a symbol of Christ, the Light of the World. The wax is regarded as typifying in a most appropriate way the flesh of Jesus Christ born of a virgin mother. From this has sprung the further conception that the wick symbolizes more particularly the soul of Jesus Christ and the flame the Divinity which absorbs and dominates both. — Catholic Encyclopedia

From: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/overviews/seasons/christmas/christmas_days15.cfm

On the Fourteenth Day of Christmas…


January 7, St. Raymond of Penafort

St. Raymond devoted much of his life to helping the poor. The famous incident which is recounted in the story of Raymond’s life took place when he went with King James to Majorca. The King dismissed Raymond’s request to return home. Relying on his faith and love of God, Raymond walked on the waves to his ship, spread his cloak to make a sail, made the sign of the cross then sailed to the distant harbor of Barcelona.

For St. Raymond’s feast we should remember that, “caroling and story telling belong to the whole Christmas season. Hospitality and giving to others also must continue if true Christmas joy is to remain. An outing to which friends are invited or a party that includes a round of caroling become perhaps even more appropriate with the approach of Epiphany.” — Excerpted from The Twelve Days of Christmas

From: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/overviews/seasons/christmas/christmas_days14.cfm

On the Thirteenth Day of Christmas…


January 6, Bl. Andre BessetteBrother André spent most of his days in a narrow lodge, with only a table, some chairs and a bench as furnishings. He was attentive to the needs of all, smiling, obliging. In the evening he would engage in the difficult work of maintaining the parlor and hallway floors. He was on his knees until late at night, washing, polishing, and waxing by the dim light of a candle. — Abbey of Saint-Joseph de Clairval

The use of candles is one of the loveliest Christmas customs that we can keep on using throughout the year. Now, more than ever, Christmas is a festival of light in a dark world, a time to hold our candles high, and to teach our children all the little ceremonies which make life gracious and full of meaning. No matter how long we live, nor how learned we become, we may travel the world over, and find nothing more beautiful than candlelight on the face of a child. “Now the Lord be thanked because we have light.” — Dorothy Albaugh Stickell

From: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/overviews/seasons/christmas/christmas_days13.cfm

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas…


January 5, St. John NeumannJohn Neumann was born in Bohemia on March 20, 1811. Since he had a great desire to dedicate himself to the American missions, he came to the United States as a cleric and was ordained in New York in 1836 by Bishop Dubois.

In 1840, John Neumann entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists). He labored in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. In 1852, he was consecrated bishop of Philadelphia. There he worked hard for the establishment of parish schools and for the erection of many parishes for the numerous immigrants. Bishop Neumann died on January 5, 1860; he was beatified in 1963.

From: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/overviews/seasons/christmas/christmas_days12.cfm

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