"This is our accepted time. This is our salvation. Prayer and fasting are our aim, penance our vocation." -Joel 2:12
During Lent, we are called to prayer, fasting and good works (alms giving). Lent is a season of repentance and conversion during which we become aware of the richness of God's mercy, love and forgiveness. It is a time of enlightenment and purification.
The Catholic Church in the United States asks the following of us as baptized Catholics this Lent. The days of fast (only one full meal) and abstinence (no meat) are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. All other Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence (no meat). Those between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast (only one full meal) as above. From the age of 14, people are also obliged to abstain (no meat: this obligation prohibits the eating of meat, but not eggs, milk products or condiments of any kind, even though made from animal fat).
The obligation to observe the laws of fast and abstinence is a serious one for Catholics. Failure to observe one penitential day in itself is not considered a serious sin. It is the failure to observe any penitential days at all, or a substantial number of days, which must be considered serious.
The obligation, the privilege really, of receiving the Eucharist at least once a year – often called “Easter duty” – for those in the state of grace should still be fulfilled during the period from the First Sunday of Lent, March 9 to Trinity Sunday, June 15. However, the Church’s law does permit this precept to be fulfilled at another time during the year when there is a just cause. The purpose of fast and abstinence is to make physical sacrifices that lead us to an awareness of the spiritual sacrifices we could be making. They are reminders to us to pray for the less fortunate, and to offer the money we save through our fasting and abstinence to the poor. It is an opportunity to look beyond ourselves to the suffering of others and to take action to alleviate their suffering. It is also helpful for giving us a chance to reflect on our excesses—physical, emotional, whatever—and root them out to make more room for Christ in our hearts.
Where did all the plants that were in the Sanctuary go?
Each Liturgical season has a special character to it, and we decorate the Church in a way that reflects the nature of the season. Throughout Lent, our decoration is almost non-existent to reflect our 40 day desert experience. There is a solitary vase with twisty branches to show the starkness of Lent. We spend the season stripping away and rooting out anything that prevents us from facing God fully--anything that stands between our Lord and ourselves. We fast from meat, from food in general, from whatever we gave up for Lent; and we fast from decorations in the Church. And don’t worry—the plants are in a safe place, being cared for, and will re-enter the Church at Eastertime!
What is that book in the Gathering Space?
The book on display in the front of the Church is The Book of the Elect. It is an official register in the Church that is signed by adults who are going to be Baptized at the Easter Vigil. The word Elect refers to those who will be baptized as being chosen by God, our parish community, and the Bishop for Baptism. They have been called to the Easter Sacraments, and with our support, prayer and example will have what they need to respond to their baptismal call, just as we are called to do every day. The Elect (formerly Catechumens) sign the book as a symbol of their commitment to the call, and our commitment to them. Our Elect are: Angel Lugo and Lee Mercado.
Why do the Priests and Deacons wear purple during Lent?
Like Advent, purple is the color for Lent. It has traditionally been a color to express repentance, as well as royalty. We show our sorrow for the sins we commit, and for the habits we need to break, and acknowledge that Christ is the King who can free us from them. Again, like Advent, there is a week when Pink becomes the color they wear. In Lent it is the 4th week, and we call it Laetare Sunday. Laetare means “rejoice.” This week has a more cheerful character than the other weeks, and reminds us that we’re more than half way to Easter, so keep up the good work!