Jottings from Fr. J.J.

Most of us were awakened on Monday morning to some surprising news: Pope Benedict XVI is resigning his service as the successor to St. Peter.  Why is this shocking?  The last pope who resigned did it about 600 years ago (before the United States of America even existed).  Pope Benedict said that “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

The Holy Father did not display strong emotions as he made his announcement, but spoke with great dignity, great concentration and great understanding of the significance of the moment.  He will continue to carry out his duties until Feb. 28 at 8 p.m., and a successor will likely be elected by Easter, which falls on March 31.

Because the news apparently came as a surprise, even to the Holy Father’s closest aides, II am not surprised that the media continues to stir things up and propose any number of conspiracy theories.  There is already intense speculation about Pope Benedict’s successor, what that successor should do with the Church and it has inspired many contrasting evaluations of Pope Benedict’s papacy

We have prayed for him daily since he became our Pope, and we need to pray for him even more fervently. May our Lord sustain him as he closes out his Papacy and looks to what is ahead for him.  We also need to pray for the College of Cardinals who will choose the new shepherd of the Catholic Church. Who said Lent isn’t exciting?

Some will give up Facebook. Some will give up beer. Others may decide to start going to the gym three times a week instead of giving something up. It’s that time of year again when we as Catholics start the period of transformation and reflection on what Jesus Christ has done for us and the world: His Sacrifice.   We as believers prepare ourselves for Easter by paring our lives down through prayer, fasting, giving up luxuries, penance, and giving alms. Even our Church’s environment is more austere.

This period is supposed to commemorate the 40 days Jesus Christ spent in the desert.  He faced his temptations. The word Lent is derived from the Middle English word lenten, meaning springtime – the time of lengthening days. There is biblical support for doing penance, fasting, and almsgiving, but the season of Lent, like all Catholic liturgical seasons, developed over time. In its early three-week form, Lent was the period of intense spiritual and liturgical preparation for catechumens before they were baptized at Easter. Many members of the community imitated this time of preparation with the catechumens.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “the real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare us for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ: Easter.”  The better the preparation the more effective the celebration will be. We can effectively relive the mystery only with a purified mind and heart. The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning our lives of sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer.  We need to create a desire to do God’s will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts.  Whatever you are doing this season, I hope you do accomplish this task!

God bless,
Fr. J.J.