Lent starts on Ash Wed, Mar 5 and ends with the start of the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, which is the beginning of the Triduum. Easter Sunday is April 20.
What is Lent?
Lent is a time when the Catholic Church collectively enters into preparation for the celebration of Easter.Lent originally developed as a forty-day retreat, preparing converts to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. It is now a part of our Church's liturgical calendar and a season of conversion for all. Conversion is the process of turning away from sin and turning to God.
Are Sundays a part of Lent?
Sundays are always a day of celebration of Christ's passion and Resurrection, so we celebrate on these days. While still part of the season of Lent, they have a mixture of both celebration (because it is Sunday) and repentance (because it is Lent).
Does this mean I can "cheat" on Sundays?
Since Sundays are not part of the penitential season, you are not required to practice signs of penitence on these days. But, there is no reason you can't do them either. If you feel you are "cheating" then it isn't helping! Since the Church has some conflicting information (different documents state different things) I think you should do what you feel is best regarding the Lenten season and Sundays. In other words, follow your conscience.
Why forty days and not some other number?
Because 40 is a special number in the Bible. It signifies preparation for something special - as in the 40 day flood of Noah.
*Moses stayed on the Mount Sinai forty days (Ex 24:18),
Jonah gives the people of Ninevah forty days to repent (Jon 3:4) - (there are many other Old Testament stories)
*Jesus, before starting his ministry, spent 40 days in the desert in prayer and fasting (Matt 4:2).
So, as in the Bible, we spend 40 days in preparing ourselves to rejoice at the Resurrection of our Lord at Easter.
What is Ash Wednesday all about?
Ash Wednesday is so named because this first day of Lent is where we are marked with ashes to show the repentance of our sins and mourning. This is also a Biblical sign that we live today. We can see this in several verses.
"I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (Dan 9:3)
Other verses include: 1 Sam 4:12, Jon 3:6, Esther 4:1 and Matt 11:20-21
Today, ashes are still this same sign of repentance and mourning for our sins. They also represent our mortality. "I am nothing but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27). We started as nothing and our bodies will become dust and ashes after our death. Reminding ourselves that nobody escapes physical death, we look forward to eternal life.
So, why are the ashes made into a cross on the forehead?
Because it is the ancient sign of being marked by Christ in our baptism. We are no longer our own, but Jesus Christ owns us. The book of Revelation tells us that all the elect will be marked by the sign of Christ - "On Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads." (Rev 14:1)
Where do we get the ashes?
They come from burning the palms from last years Palm Sunday Masses.
Who can receive ashes?
Anyone can receive ashes on Ash Wed. While we have communion only for Catholics who are in good standing with the Church, all may receive ashes.
Is Ash Wed a holy day of Obligation?
No. But all Catholics are strongly urged to attend, because it is the start of the Lenten season.
Do we have to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wed?
Yes. This means that all Catholics from 14 and up are required to abstain from meat and Catholics 18-60 are required to eat only one average meal and two snacks without anything else. Children, the elderly and those who are sick are not obligated to do this.
Again, this is because we are called to by Jesus. By denying ourselves something good, we remember what the highest good of all is - GOD. We also practice self-discipline and self-mastery, which we need in order to achieve holiness. Jesus fasted in the desert and calls us to as well.
"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." (Matt 6: 16)
"and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer." (Luke 2:37)
Fasting also helps focus us in our prayer. *Yet when they were ill, I...humbled myself with fasting.” (Psalm 35:13)
Why abstain from meat?
Because of the spiritual discipline it provides. "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . 'I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.'" (Dan 10:1-3) We give up meat, which still today is a luxury in some parts of the world, as a good thing that we offer up in order to remember that Christ is better than food and needed more by all of us than anything else.
Why is fish not considered meat?
Because it was the food of the poor who could not afford meat, yet could catch fish to sustain themselves.
So, what are the other days of fast and abstinence?
Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence from meat, this is because Christ died on a Friday.
So, why do people "give up" things during Lent?
While we are not required to “give something up” we are required to do something penitential. Lent is a great time to break a bad habit and give it to the Lord. These sins and vices we should not take back after Lent. It is also a time to give something up that is good during this season. This is why people give up something they enjoy. In doing so we can draw closer to God by our temporary sacrifice. We should find an appropriate balance of giving something up and not completely cutting ourselves off of good things. We will find our need for God if we do it correctly.
What else then IS required during Lent?
The Church asks us to increase our prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is assumed that we are already doing these things and should merely increase them.
Got any suggestions?
First off, pray about what you are going to do for Lent. Ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your spiritual practice of Lent. Then find a few things that you feel called to do. Don't do too much or too little. Stretch yourself, but don't pick things you won't stick to.
This year, journey through Lent with Fr. Robert Barron:
Sign up here to receive daily Lenten reflection from Fr. Barron.
POPE FRANCIS APPOINTS SPRINGFIELD PRIEST TO HEAD DIOCESE OF WICHITA, KANSAS
WICHITA, Kan. – His Holiness, Pope Francis, has named Msgr. Carl A. Kemme, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, to be the 11th bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, Kansas. The appointment was announced today in Washington, D.C., by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop-elect Kemme, age 53, will succeed now-Archbishop Michael O. Jackels, who in April 2013 was named head of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa.
Bishop-elect Kemme said he was “deeply humbled and honored by the appointment of Pope Francis as the 11th bishop of the Diocese of Wichita.”
“To be a bishop in the church has never been something I have sought or dreamed possible,” he said. “I have accepted this assignment relying solely on God’s grace and mercy to help me fulfill the lofty responsibilities of this office. The confidence our beloved Holy Father has shown in me is a source of humility and peace in knowing that God chooses the weak and sinful to accomplish his great mission in the world.”
“Pope Francis has reached into the heart of Illinois, to the Diocese of Springfield, to call forth a pastor. God has heard our prayers for a wise and loving bishop to guide us in building up the Body of Christ and the Reign of God. This person, this priest said ‘Yes’ to that call,” said Msgr. Robert Hemberger, diocesan administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. “We are grateful to God, to Pope Francis, and to this person soon to be ordained the 11th bishop of the Diocese of Wichita.”
Bishop-elect Kemme is the son of Donald and Marita (Kortte) Kemme. He has four brothers and one sister and grew up on a small family farm in rural Shumway. His family attended and his parents are still members of the Church of the Annunciation Parish there.
He was a student at Shumway Elementary School and Beecher City High School and then attended St. Henry’s Preparatory Seminary in Belleville where he received his high school diploma. He entered the Diocesan Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield in 1978, and then graduated from Cardinal Glennon College and Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, where he earned the bachelor of arts and the master of divinity degrees.
He was ordained to the priesthood on May 10, 1986, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield, Ill.
“Of course, I will miss my family, my friends, my bishop, my brother priests, and co-workers in our diocesan curia in the Diocese of Springfield, but at the same time look forward to making my home now in the state of Kansas and in the Diocese of Wichita,” Bishop-elect Kemme said.
The Call of God
Great examination of a topic we all need to reflect upon - how and why God calls us and what that means for us. Fr. Robert Barron discusses the calling of the Disciples.
Pope Francis' Homily on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
"When Mary and Joseph take their child to the Temple of Jerusalem, it is Jesus' first encounter with His People"
On Sunday, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and Day of Consecrated life, the Holy Father presided over the celebration of Holy Mass, in the Vatican Basilica, with members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and of Societies of Apostolic life. Concelebrating with the Holy Father were priests belonging to Religious Orders, Congregations and Institutes.
In the course of the rite, which opened with the blessing of candles and a procession followed by the Eucharistic celebration, the Pope delivered the homily which we translate below.
* * *
The feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is also called the feast of encounter: the beginning of the liturgy states that Jesus goes to meet His People, it is the encounter between Jesus and His People. When Mary and Joseph take their child to the Temple of Jerusalem, it is Jesus’ first encounter with His People, represented by the two elderly Simeon and Anna.
It was also an encounter within the history of the People, an encounter between young people and the elderly: the young were Mary and Joseph with their newborn, and the elderly were Simeon and Anna, two personages who always frequented the Temple.
Let us observe what the evangelist Luke says of them, how he describes them. Of Our Lady and Saint Joseph he repeats four times that they wanted to do what was prescribed by the Law of the Lord (cf. Luke 2:188.8.131.52). One gathers, almost perceives that Jesus’ parents have the joy of observing God’s precepts, yes, the joy of following the Law of the Lord! They are two newlyweds, they have just had their child, and they are altogether animated by the desire to fulfill what is prescribed. This is not an external fact; it is not to feel well, no! It is a strong, profound desire full of joy. It is what the Psalm says: “In the way of Thy testimonies I delight … Thy law is my delight” (119:14.77).
And what does Saint Luke say of the elderly? He stresses more than once that they were led by the Holy Spirit. Of Simeon he affirms that he was a just and pious man, who awaited the consolation of Israel, and that “the Holy Spirit was upon him” (2:25); he says that “the Holy Spirit had revealed to him “ that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ, the Messiah (v. 26). And, finally, that he went to the Temple “inspired by the Spirit” (v. 27). Then of Anna, he says that she was a “prophetess” (v. 36), that is, inspired by God, and that she was always in the Temple “worshipping with fasting and prayer” (v. 37). In sum, these two elderly were full of life! They were full of life because they were animated by the Holy Spirit, docile to His action, sensitive to His calls …
And behold the encounter between the Holy Family and these two representatives of the Holy People of God. Jesus is at the center. It is He who moves everything, who attracts one and all to the Temple, which is the House of His Father.
It is an encounter between young people full of joy in observing the Law of the Lord and the elderly full of joy by the action of the Holy Spirit. It is a singular encounter between observance and prophecy, where the young are the observers and the elderly are the prophets! In reality, if we reflect well, the observance of the Law is animated by the Spirit himself, and the prophecy is moved in the way traced by the Law. Who more than Mary is full of the Holy Spirit? Who is more docile than she to His action?
We look at consecrated life in the light of this evangelical scene as an encounter with Christ: it is He who comes to us, brought by Mary and Joseph, and it is we who go to Him, led by the Holy Spirit. But He is at the center. He moves all, He attracts us to the Temple, to the Church, where we can encounter Him, recognize Him, welcome Him and embrace Him.
Jesus comes to meet us in the Church through the foundational charism of an Institute: it is lovely to think thus of our vocation! Our encounter with Christ has taken its form in the Church through the charism of one of his male witnesses, of one of his female witnesses. This always astounds us and makes us give thanks.
And lived also in consecrated life is the encounter between the young and the elderly, between observance and prophecy. Let us not see it as two opposite realities. Rather, let us leave the Holy Spirit to animate both, and the sign of this is joy: the joy of observing, of following a rule of life; and the joy of being led by the Spirit, never rigid, never closed, always open to the voice of God who speaks, who opens, who leads, who invites us to go towards the horizon.
It does good to the elderly to communicate wisdom to young people; and it does good to young people to receive this patrimony of experience and wisdom, and to carry it forward, not to keep it in a museum, but to carry it forwards facing the challenges that life presents; to carry it forward for the good of the respective Religious Families and of the whole Church.
May the grace of this mystery, of the mystery of encounter, enlighten and comfort us on our journey. Amen.