Repent, Renew this Lent

This Wednesday is both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day – an interesting coincidence. How are we going to get around it? Ash Wednesday is a traditional day of fasting and prayer, but candy is often given to a loved one on Valentine’s Day. I suggest this: Start your day with a simple breakfast, skip lunch as your fast and eat a regular dinner. Avoid in-between meals. For your dessert at dinner, indulge yourself in moderation with your Valentine treats! Please note, for the elderly or those with medical conditions the fasting discipline of Lent doesn’t apply.

Lent is a time of repentance and renewal, and it generally comes at a good time. After all the indulgence of the holidays, we’re ready for shedding a few pounds and for some spiritual discipline. Jesus said there would be a time for his disciples to fast. Lent is that time. During Lent the Church abstains from meat on Fridays. Lent is a time to abstain from other things, too. Abstaining from the usual dose of TV, sweets, alcoholic beverages, or other things can all be beneficial as we set aside time for God, for spiritual reflection and spiritual reading. 

During the 40 Days of Lent the Church also embraces the spiritual discipline of prayer. Remember, prayer doesn’t always have to have words. In fact prayer should regularly not include words, but rather be a time to simply check out and check in with God. I recommend creating a ritual for this practice. Make a dedicated prayer space in your home with a comfortable chair, a table, a candle, and some religious images that you can simply be quiet with. Quiet your mind and let God quiet your heart. Our prayer chapel is always available for this practice, 24/7.

A third Lenten practice is almsgiving; doing good for the other – especially for the poor and those in need. Each Ash Wednesday we distribute the Catholic Relief Service ‘Rice Bowls’. Children are especially recommended to put some change into the Rice Bowls each week and bring them back on Good Friday. These donations go directly to the many works of Catholic Relief Services benefitting needy people throughout the world. Adults can participate also by contributing ‘adult change’ with their Rice Bowls on Good Friday.

Did you know our parish has a program for providing food to any hungry person in the Tri-Valley? We do! And our food program has grown 50% in the last year. Each month we provide 1-3 food boxes, depending on the family size, to about 80 needy people of the area. Each food box contains about $50-$60 worth of food. This Lent we will provide an additional 100 food boxes to St. Cornelius parish in Richmond. We need your help to meet these tremendous needs. Please see our bulletin for a list of food items for this program, and on your Lenten shopping trips pick them up and bring them to the donation bin in the Church foyer. We also greatly appreciate tax-deductible cash donations to the food program, as we must buy food to support our program.

As we will hear in the Ash Wednesday gospel, Lenten practices are not meant to be done pride fully or sadly. No. Lent should be a joyful season. That’s because God is essentially a God of goodness. We simply can’t stay sad if we’re doing good things for God! Remember the smile of Mother Teresa. That said, do maintain balance in your Lenten practices and don’t overdo it. Enjoy yourselves, too! This is God’s way.

Sincerely in Christ,

Fr. Lawrence

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