Experiencing the Lenten Season
The Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. This Liturgical season of Lent lasts until Holy Thursday Services, whence the Easter Triduum begins, and with it, the culmination of the entire liturgical year. Lent is an experience if one follows the Readings and Gospels of the Ash Wednesday and the Sundays of Lent, and particularly if your participation includes some form of self-denial (fasting, abstinance, good works). The Catholic Church has some rules for what needs to be done, and what is optional. These rules are usually found in Missalettes or Church bulletins so it is not necessary to delve into these here.
What is this thing about self-denial? Well, our culture, particularly the American culture isn't about self-denial at all. In fact, most people aren't particularly happy being told by churches what they should or should not do. But people who call themselves Roman Catholics, have been brought up with the understanding that we have to do something to stem the flow of sin, and that's where self-denial and inner conversion really come in. We deny self because we know it pleases Our Lord. We know this because Holy Scripture tells us about it, but also, the Catechism and lifestyle of Saints and Blessed people who have gone before us, all show a life of self-denial. If you have heard the expression "All for Jesus and Mary" you will recognize a little personal prayer that might be on our lips constantly, for all we do, we do for Jesus and Mary.
The world around us has gone mad. There is rampent materialism, growing secularism, irrational hatred (especially in the geographic region of the Middle East), there is an out-of-control greed, a total lack of brotherly love, an Abortion rate that is sickening, and what are we doing about it? Some of us, nothing. And that's a crying shame. We can do so much. We can repent, as Scripture states in Mt 4:17, Jesus began to preach and say,“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Many people tell us to sin no more, but the important thing is that Jesus Himself said so! So let us use this Season of Lent to get on the ball and rejoin the Church (whatever church you last went to, for my aim is to bring you back out of sin, if I can). If you were raised a Roman Catholic, come back to us. If you are genuinely penitent and willing to go see a priest, ANY priest, then it will happen. Some people tell me, but it has been so long ... so what? Our Lord is merciful and loves us - He is overjoyed to welcome you back and the priests nowadays don't yell anymore. They never did, but many remember old scenes like that because we cannot forgive the Church or ourselves. Walk this Lenten path and you will find Peace!
Some who have been away too long, may need more help coming back, that is, some sort of review of the Ten Commandments and the tenets of the Catholic Faith. If something like that is suggested, please follow the priest's advice. I am sure it is given with love and understanding of your problem.
Practicing Catholics may also need clarification of points of Faith now and then. If I did not have the monastic experiences in my life as recent as 12 years ago, the last review of Catholic doctrine might have been CCD or a more recent Lenten Retreat, and so there isn't much Catholic teaching for adults. With diminishing vocations (it is picking up again!) the priest to parishioner ratio is very small and there just aren't enough possibilities for personal education. This has become better in recent years with the increased use and ordination of Deacons, and my parish has nine Deacons now who do make some formation studies available to Catholics in the area. So where one needs reminders of what the Faith is all about, that possibility is available.
During this Season of Lent, let us try to come to grips with our responsibilities in life. That means getting back to the Sacraments where there is a lack of same. Self-control and self-denial in order to become better at repressing sinful acts. Don't let the devil get the best of you - fight him/her tooth and nail. Break that bondage of sin - it can be done if you want it to be done, especially with God's help. He is so eager to help us!
Thank you, and may God bless you!
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
February 24, 2012 rev. 2/6/2018
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Officers as of 1/10/2016
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS