Bulletin (February 10, 2002)

This coming Wednesday (Feb. 13) is the beginning of Lent. As you can see elsewhere in the bulletin, we have a number of services. You are welcome to any of them, whether in English or Spanish. Besides Masses at 8:30, noon, 6, 7:30 and 8:45 p.m., Abel Magana will be conducting several Word Services. The imposition of ashes on the forehead will take place at all Masses and Word Services.

I have noticed that, besides regular parishioners, many other come to church on Ash Wednesday. For some reason, it seems that young people and the poor are particularly attracted to church on that day. I have not figured out exactly why that is the case, but of course am very happy to see them. I think one of the appeals is that everyone can receive the blessed ashes. People even bring forward their infants. One thing all of us have in common is that we are made from the dust of the earth and one day (sooner than most of us imagine) we will return there. Now is the time to examine the meaning of our lives, to change those behaviors leading to destruction and to turn to the One who can give us real hope.

In the Ash Wednesday Gospel, Jesus encourages the three penitential practices: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. In performing them, Jesus says to focus not on what others think. Ultimately only God’s opinion counts. Against him alone have we sinned. (Ps. 51:6) Although we long for others to understand and accept us, we sense that, even if they did, it would not be enough.

The Bible presumes we come to God with a burden of guilt, like a condemned man walking to the gallows. In the first reading for Ash Wednesday, the prophet Joel tells us to weep, fast and mourn. (2:12) The psalmist expresses to God the following plea:

Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me. (51:4)

To some people this language seems overblown. What have I done so wrong? Besides, isn’t guilt a negative emotion from which we need to free ourselves to have a happy, productive life?

Yes and no. There is such a thing as false guilt and we need Jesus help to free ourselves from it. However, there is also true guilt. To ignore it is very risky. Let me mention two men who freed themselves from guilt – but with hideous results. By the end of his life Adolph Hitler had spent years shifting the blame. In his final testament he asserted: “Those who carry the real guilt for the murderous struggle” were not the German people or himself, but “international Jewry.” Likewise, when Timothy McVeigh looked through a video camera at the parents, spouses, and children of the 168 people he had murdered, he showed no sign of remorse.

None of us have done such horrible things as Hitler or McVeigh. Still, considering our more limited opportunities, we have also turned away from God and hurt others. For that we need to be truly – to weep, fast and mourn, as Joel says.

Lent is a time of greater penance. In the Catholic Church, every Friday is a day of special penance. The ancient practice of abstaining from meat is recommended throughout the year. As Catholic we are required to abstain from meat (e.g. chicken, hamburger, bacon) on the seven Fridays of Lent. In addition, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast. The minimum requirement is to only have one full meal and two reduced meals, with no snacks in between. That of course does not apply to those with health problems. (They are doing plenty of penance just offering their illness to the Lord.) But the rest of us should consider what type of fast we might offer to the Lord. It could include things like sweets or other favorite foods. It might also mean “fasting” from television or Internet surfing.

A much recommended practice of prayer during Lent is daily Mass. Please consider attending at least once during the week. During Lent we will be offering a special “Workingman’s Mass” on Fridays at 7 a.m. It will be very “low key.” I hope many will take advantage of it. Also I encourage you to set aside an hour when you can come to the Ailbe House chapel for Eucharistic Adoration. It may seem that to do so will take time from family or other important duties. However, I assure that an hour before the Lord will be richly repaid in terms of grace for you and your loved ones.

I ask your prayers during Lent, especially for our Finance Council and Parish Council. In last week’s bulletin, I mentioned the important issues which were expressed in the January 24 Listening Session. The Councils will be dealing with them in a very practical way and assisting me in formulating some short term and long-term decisions. Many of the things brought up at the Listening Session cannot be ignored (for example, the leaks in our church and Ailbe House, the seismic needs of our school).

Perhaps most difficult for many people today is the penitential practice of almsgiving. It involves much more than occasionally giving to a street person. It requires a cooperative effort to be truly effective. For many years Holy Family has had the beautiful practice of the two-bit collection. This Sunday it will be for our parish ST. Vincent de Paul which helps the poor right in our own neighborhoods. Next Sunday it will go to the Black and Indian Missions, a nation-wide organization of the American Bishops to support the outreach to Native Americans and African Americans. They are a vital part of our church and in many cases do not have the resources others enjoy.

Of course, almsgiving must most immediately focus on those closest, in this case the needs of our parish, which are great. I was greatly heartened by last Sunday’s collection which was over $15 thousand. If our giving each Sunday could reach that level, we would be in good shape as far as parish programs and being able to begin addressing some of our building needs. For sure, last Sunday was special, being both the first Sunday of the month and Catholic Schools Sunday. Many gave at increased level. I ask you to do your best in supporting Holy Family.

There are some wonderful activities going on during Lent. Every Friday evening at 6 p.m. we have Soups Supper followed by Stations of the Cross. Every Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. Vespers and Benediction is celebrated in our church. For our youth – Bible Study on Sunday evening from 5 to 7 p.m. and for Junior High – Tuesday evenings. This Tuesday will be the pre-Lent Mardi Gras.

Last Thursday, youth minister Vernon Wells and I had lunch with Holy Family Students at Kennedy High School to talk about the confirmation program. The students showed great interest in receiving the Sacrament when Archbishop Brunett comes here next May. Although we will not be getting around to all the high schools, I do want all students who are 16 or older know that they may participate in the Confirmation course. Please call Vernon Well, 767-6220 for more information.

Have a Blessed Lent!