September 15, 2019


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The Opportunity of Lent

Lent is a 40-day period of preparation for Easter Sunday and one of the major liturgical seasons of the Catholic Church. Signifying the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert after His baptism, it is a penitential season marked by prayer, fasting and abstinence, and almsgiving.

Lent is not necessarily about “giving something up” for 40 days only to return to it on day 41 or afterward, but is a period of ongoing conversion so that we may draw closer to Jesus. When we repent for our sins and then make a permanent- rather than temporary- change in our lifestyle, a spiritual transformation can take place. At the heart of repentance lies the call to conversion. Repent and believe in the Gospel!

Lent presents us with an opportunity to lay aside the distractions of this world in order to concentrate on our relationship with God.


To fast is to do without food.  Its purpose is to experience the effects of not eating.  It also serves to be a penance or a sacrifice – for the purpose of strengthening us.  When we don’t eat, for even a little while, we get hungry.  When we get hungry, we have a heightened sense of awareness.  If, when we eat too much, we have a sluggish feeling, when we fast, we have a feeling of alertness.  Fasting is a wonderful exercise whenever we want to sincerely ask for an important grace from God.  It is not that our fasting “earns” God’s attention, but by fasting, we clarify our thinking and our feeling.  It is purifying and prepares us to pray more deeply.

Catholics, as a group, are required to fast on only two days of the year – Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  On these days, fasting means something very specific and limited.  It means that one eats only one full meal in a day, with no food in-between meals.  It is understood that two other meals, if one eats three meals a day, should not total one full meal.  One might fast in a more complete way, i.e., eating only a portion of a single meal.  The obligation to fast is binding upon Catholics from ages 18 through 59, health permitting. 

To abstain is to not eat meat.  Its purpose is to be an act of penance – an act of sacrifice, that helps us grow in freedom to make much bigger sacrifices.   Of course, it would not make sense to make the sacrifice of not eating meat, and then eat a wonderful meal I might enjoy even more.  It should be noted that many people in this world cannot afford to eat meat or do not have access to it.   Part of our abstaining from meat can place us in solidarity with so many of our sisters and brothers around the world.  Catholics, age 14 and over, are obliged to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays of Lent.

What needs changing in my life?

 We start to come to know that by asking for help. “Lord, help me to know what needs changing.” It is often said, “Be careful about what you ask for.” This is one of those requests that God must surely want to answer.

Then, we have to listen. With a little bit of reflection, most of us will just begin to “name” things that make up our ordinary habits and ways of being who we are, that we aren’t very proud of. Things we do and things we never get around to doing. We can “feel” the call to change our attitudes, our self-absorption, or our way of interacting with others. Perhaps a spouse, a loved one, a friend, a family member, a co-worker has told me something about myself that gets in the way of communication, that makes relating to them difficult. Maybe I don’t take God very seriously. I go to Church on Sunday, and contribute my share, but I don’t really take time to deal with my relationship with God. Perhaps I’ve let my mind and fantasy get cluttered with escapist litter. I might begin to name a number of self-indulgent habits. I may realize I rarely, if ever, hear the cry of the poor, and can’t remember when I’ve answered that cry. It could be that dishonesty on all kinds of levels has become a way of life. One of the roadblocks in my relationship with God and others may be deep wounds or resentments from the past, things I continue to hold against others or myself.


Lent is the time to start new patterns of prayer. Perhaps I haven’t been praying at all. This is a great time to choose to begin. It is important to begin realistically. I can start by simply pausing when I get up and taking a slow, deep breath, and recalling what I have to do this day, and asking for grace to do it as a child of God. I may want to go to bed a half an hour earlier, and get up a half an hour earlier and give myself some time alone to read the readings for the day, and just talk with the Lord about those readings or about the stuff of the day. I may choose to go to Mass each day during Lent. I may choose to get to church on Sunday, just 15 minutes earlier, so I can reflect a bit. Lent may be a time I would want to choose to start to journal the day to day reflections that are coming, the desires I’m naming and asking for, the graces I am being given.

Practicing Generosity

Almsgiving has always been an important part of Lent. Lent begins with the powerful Isaiah 58, on the Friday and Saturday after Ash Wednesday. It is important to give ourselves the experience of fasting from being un-generous. Generosity is not simply giving my excess clothes to a place where poor people might purchase them. It’s not even writing a “generous” check at the time a collection is taken up for a cause that benefits the poor. These are wonderful practices. Generosity is an attitude. It is a sense that no matter how much I have, all that I have is gift, and given to me to be shared. It means that sharing with others in need is one of my personal priorities. That is quite different from assessing all of my needs first, and then giving away what is left over. A spirit of self-less giving means that one of my needs is to share what I have with others. Lent is a wonderful time to practice self-less giving, because it takes practice. This kind of self-sacrificing generosity is a religious experience. It places us in solidarity with the poor who share with each other, without having any excess. It also joins us with Jesus, who gave himself completely, for us. Establishing new patterns of giving will give real life and joy to Lent.


Lent is a great time to change our eating patterns. This is not about “losing weight” or “getting in shape,” though for most of us, paying attention to what we eat, will make a difference in our overall health. This is about being more alert. Anyone who has tried to diet knows that something changes in us when we try to avoid eating. The monks in the desert, centuries ago, discovered that fasting – simply not eating – caused a tremendous boost to their consciousness. Not only did their bodies go on “alert,” but their whole person seemed to be in a more heightened state of attention. The whole purpose of fasting was to aid prayer – to make it easier to listen to God more openly, especially in times of need.

Among Catholics, only Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are named as days of fast we all do together. (And that fast is simply to eat only one full meal in the day, with the other two meals combined, not equal to the one.) On the Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent, we may want to try to fast more intentionally. Of course, always conscious of our health and individual nutrition needs, we may want to try to eat very little, except some juices, or perhaps a small amount of beans and rice. We will experience how powerfully open and alert we feel and how much easier it is to pray and to name deeper desires. Not only will I feel less sluggish and tired, I will feel simply freer and more energized.

The other powerful advantage of fasting is that it can be a very simple gesture that places me in greater solidarity with the poor of the earth, who often have very little more than a little rice and beans each day. Powerful things happen in me, when I think about those people in the world who have so much less than I do. And, it’s a great cure for self-pity.

Practicing Penance

When I sprain my ankle, part of the healing process will involve physical therapy. It’s tender, and perhaps it is swollen. It may be important to put ice on it first, to reduce the inflammation. I may want to wrap it and elevate it and stay off of it. Then I will need to start moving it and then walking on it, and eventually, as the injury is healed, I’ll want to start exercising it, so that it will be stronger than it was before, so that I won’t as easily injure it again.

Penance is a remedy, a medicine, a spiritual therapy for the healing I desire. The Lord always forgives us. We are forgiven without condition. But complete healing takes time. With serious sin or with bad habits we’ve invested years in forming, we need to develop a therapeutic care plan to let the healing happen. To say “I’m sorry” or to simply make a “resolution” to change a long established pattern, will have the same bad result as wishing a sprained ankle would heal, while still walking on it.

Lent is a wonderful time to name what sinful, unhealthy, self-centered patterns need changing and to act against them by coming up with a strategy. For example, if the Lord is shining a light into the darkness of a bad pattern in my life, I can choose to “stop doing it.” But, I have to work on a “change of heart” and to look concretely at what circumstances, attitudes, and other behaviors contribute to the pattern. If I’m self-indulgent with food, sex, attention-seeking behaviors and don’t ask “what’s missing for me, that I need to fill it with this?” then simply choosing to stop the pattern won’t last long. Lasting healing needs the practice of penance.

We begin Lent on Ash Wednesday.  What is the meaning of Ash Wednesday?  Why do we wear ashes on our foreheads?

The season of Lent – the forty-day period which leads to the celebration of the Paschal Triduum – is among the most ancient liturgical observances in Christianity.  It is the period of immediate preparation for those catechumens who will be baptized at the great Easter Vigil.  As such, Lent has always had a baptismal character – as the readings in Cycle A of our current lectionary attest.  From at least the fifth century, it has also been associated with reconciling those penitents who sinned after their baptism and who wanted to be reunited with the Christian community.  Lent became their period of penance.  Other Christians, in solidarity with those who belonged to the order of penitents and in mourning for their own sins, joined with the penitents in their acts of mortification – prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  These acts of penance began on the Monday following Quadragesima Sunday (the First Sunday of Lent).  By the sixth century, the Wednesday and Friday fast days before Quadragesima Sunday were particularly emphasized as an introduction to Lent – the beginning of the fast, as an ancient source termed the days.  By the seventh century, these introductory days had been added to the season and, thus, Lent now began on the Wednesday before the First Sunday of Lent.

Admission to the order of penitents often involved a public ritual of penance – including the very ancient and visible symbols of sackcloth and ashes.  Throughout the Old Testament, those who wanted to publicly proclaim their sorrow or their repentant spirit frequently “put on sackcloth” – a rough garment of camel’s hair – and either sat in ashes or placed ashes on their heads.  When King David repented, he lay on the ground in sackcloth (2 Sam. 12:16).  Job sat among the ashes and his friends put dust upon their own heads as a witness to his calamities (Job 2:8, 12).  The combination of sackcloth and ashes is associated with the practice of fasting by the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 58:5), and with repentance in the Books of Daniel (Dan. 9:3) and of Jonah (Jon. 3:6).

This Old Testament imagery is carried forward into the New Testament as well.  Jesus had performed many mighty deeds among the people of Judea, but the people did not respond.  He noted that if the people of Tyre and Sidon had witnessed such miracles, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes  (Matt. 11: 21; cf. Luke 10:13).  With such a rich Scriptural history and tradition, it is natural that the Church would turn to ashes (and, to a lesser extent, to sackcloth) as symbols of repentance.  Inasmuch as those who were seeking forgiveness were enrolled in the order of penitents at the beginning of Lent – now on a Wednesday – the day became known as “Ash Wednesday” because of the very visible symbol of ashes that characterized the acceptance of penitents.  Eventually, as the order of penitents declined, the majority of the faithful received ashes on Ash Wednesday as their own symbolic commitment to conversion.

The words associated with the imposition of ashes give us a clue as to their symbolism.  The priest or other minister imposing the ashes may use either of the following formulas:  “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel” (Mk. 1:15) or “Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return” (See Gen. 3:19).  The former emphasizes ashes as a symbol of conversion – Lent’s principal theme.  The latter emphasizes human mortality and the fragility of the honors and pleasures of this world.  For many centuries, ashes have been made by burning the palm branches blessed and carried at the Passion (Palm) Sunday celebration of the year before.  This is an especially powerful symbol.  The gospels tell us that Jesus triumphantly entered the City of Jerusalem amid cries of Hosanna and crowds carrying palm branches.  By the end of that very week, those accolades had vanished and the same crowd was shouting, “Crucify Him!”  How much more fragile can the praises of this world be than those which greeted Jesus on the first Palm Sunday!  What a fitting symbol for the beginning of our season of penance!

Although not a Holy Day of Obligation, Ash Wednesday is one of the most popular days on the liturgical calendar and its liturgies are usually widely attended.  This speaks both to the power of the symbol of ashes and to the innate sense of all Christians of our need to repent and to return to the Lord.




Each Friday of Lent, the Knights of Columbus will offer a Seafood Dinner from 5:00pm until 6:45pm

in the St. Francis Parish Life Center.

The meatless menu will vary each week.

For pricing and menu details, read the current Weekly Bulletin,

which is available through the Communications tab on the menu above.



via crucis 

Stations of the Cross

Fridays of Lent  at 7:00 pm

March 8 through April 12

The Stations of the Cross are a special devotion, practiced especially during the penitential season of Lent.  Stations of the Cross focus on the events from the moment that Jesus was condemned to death by Pontius Pilate until he was finally buried.  During the devotion, through meditation and prayer, we walk with our Savior on his way of suffering.  We focus on his suffering to help us recall his enormous love for us and the great price he paid for our redemption.

This devotion was first practiced by pilgrims to the Holy Land who would retrace the steps of Jesus on the road to Calvary.  To assist pilgrims, crosses were set up designating places where the faithful could pray.  When conflict arose in the Holy Land, pilgrimages became less common. Eventually, the devotional prayer began to be prayed using any set of fourteen crosses anywhere in the world.  The devotion was popularized by St. Francis of Assisi and today, most Catholic churches have stations along their walls.  In the spirit of our patron saint, we invite you to join us for this meaningful devotion.


First Friday Adoration

April 5th 

8:45 am to 5:00 pm

Benediction at 5:30 pm




Parish Penance Service

Monday, April 8th at 7:00pm

A number of priests will be available to hear individual confessions.


Lenten Confession Schedule

 Saturdays *Extended Hours* from 3:00-4:45pm,


Additional Lenten resources, may be found on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’s Lenten page:

Lent 2019