As we are now well into the season of Lent, all of us should take some time to focus upon the three traditional aspects of our Lenten discipline: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. During this holy season of penance and baptismal renewal in preparation for Easter, we make time for additional opportunities to pray – for the good of our souls; to fast – for the good of our bodies; and to give alms – for the good of our neighbors in need. More attention to prayer helps to draw us closer to God. Fasting helps us to achieve self-mastery and draws our attention to the Lord, who alone is the true fulfillment of all our desires. Giving alms helps us to have compassion for the plight of the needy, and to understand that when we serve “one of the least of these, His brethren,” we are serving the Lord Himself who comes to us in the distressing disguise of the poor.
The rules for fasting and abstinence from meat during Lent are as follows (from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops): “Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of universal fast and abstinence. Fasting is obligatory for all who have completed their 18th year and have not yet reached their 60th year. Fasting allows a person to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may be taken, not to equal one full meal. Fridays in Lent are obligatory days of complete abstinence from meat for all who have completed their 14th year.”
Lent is also a particularly appropriate time to make a good examination of conscience and go to the Sacrament of Confession. A “Day of Mercy” will be offered here at OLR on Wednesday, March 10. Confessions will be heard continuously in the lower church beginning at 10 am until 5:30 pm. Be sure to make your Lenten confession, either here or at another parish, so that you are able to celebrate Easter fully reconciled to the Lord and the Church.
Finally, I would like to stress the tradition of “St. Joseph’s Table” as an excellent opportunity for almsgiving during Lent. In many places (especially where there is a large population of Italians) it is traditional to collect food for the needy on the Solemnity of St. Joseph. The food is displayed on a table (sometimes in a very elaborate fashion) and distributed to the poor. This year at OLR we will be having a “St. Joseph’s Day Food Drive” to benefit our St. Vincent de Paul Society. The Solemnity of St. Joseph is Friday, March 19. So, any time that weekend – Friday, Saturday or Sunday – please bring donations of non-perishable food to Mass with you and place them at the table in the church narthex that will be designated for this purpose. These items will then be given to our SVDP to distribute to the poor. Here is a list of items that are particularly useful: canned beef stew, canned chicken, canned corn beef hash, canned spaghetti and meatballs, canned ravioli, canned tuna, canned salmon, 64 oz canned/bottled fruit juice (apple, grape, etc.), and any other non-perishable food items.
Let’s all resolve to make this a holy and fruitful Lent, so that we can celebrate Easter with authentic joy!
Fr. Richard Ballard