Jottings from Fr. J.J.

PREPARING FOR LENT – When we go on a vacation, we do a lot of prep. We make the time, we budget, get supplies, plan an itinerary and pack. As disciples, it may be helpful to look at the 40 days of Lent in the same fashion. If we approach the season as a 40-day spiritual journey, complete with a road map, itinerary and supplies needed to   complete the trip, we will be that much more fulfilled when it is complete. With a little planning, prayer and a lot of divine intervention, we believers will reach our final destination and celebrate the joy of Easter with a renewed sense of faith. Some helpful ideas:

1) Lent begins on Wednesday. We have Masses here at St. A’s at 9:30 a.m., 4:45 p.m., and 7 p.m. We will    receive ashes on our foreheads as a reminder to repent and turn from sin. To fully plunge in to the season of Lent, it is better to have a plan in place by this symbolic day. Look ahead to the end of Lent,  reflecting on goals to reach before Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Sunday Vigil.

2) You put snacks in your carry-on for vacation. Why  not plan meaningful, meatless meals? During Lent, Catholics between 14 and 60 years old are to abstain from meat on Fridays and fast on Ash Wednesday. With so many meatless options available, this act alone may not seem like a sacrifice, so make sure to be mindful of others who are less fortunate. Abstaining from meat is meant to show solidarity with the world’s poor.

3) Make prayer a habit. Before starting the journey, pray for guidance along the way. Visit our Chapel. Find meaningful Bible passages such as those    offered specifically for Lent. Reflect on the day’s readings and Gospel; make connections with your own Lenten goals by writing them down in a journal.

4) Attend church more often. We have Mass here every day and it is well attended. Curious as to what affect it has? Ask a daily Mass attendee.    Although practicing Catholics must attend church on Sundays and holy days, many churches overflow only on Christmas and Easter. Participating regularly in Mass provides an opportunity to hear what the Lord is asking of you. It feeds you and allows a connection with the Body of Christ (the community).

5) Consider abstinence and change. Many Catholic adults vividly remember giving up candy during Lent, a practice of self-denial that made the sweet treats in Easter baskets seem like a special reward; however, abstaining also means eliminating unhealthy habits or changing an area of your life.   Getting rid of excess material possessions, giving up smoking or cutting down on alcohol are all challenging yet reachable goals.

6) Help others through good works. We perform active works of charity to supplement the more traditional Lenten ideas of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Take the money saved during a meatless day and donate it. Volunteer at a food pantry to reinforce your fasting. Send letters to local seminarians to underscore your prayers for vocations.

7) Enjoy Mardi Gras (in moderation). The day before Lent begins, celebrate Shrove Tuesday or Paczki Day by joining in the fun of a Mardi Gras party.    Eating a zillion calorie donut may not be your bag, but do something to help yourself symbolically mark a shift to a more thoughtful, peaceful time of spiritual growth. 

God bless,
Fr. J.J.