Do you wish your prayer to fly toward God? Give it two wings: fasting and almsgiving. -- Saint Augustine.
The law of abstinence obliges those 14 years of age and older not to eat meat. The law of fast obliges all those from ages 18 through 59 to refrain from eating between meals and to limit their eating to one full meal and two lighter meals for the day. Ash Wednesday (Feb. 28) and Good Friday (April 13) are days of both fast and abstinence. In the United States, all Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence.
In themselves the requirements might seem small, but each person should consider what additional Lenten sacrifices most apply in their own life. Some examples are: giving up television, not eating certain foods like sweets or spending a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament.
Dieting and fasting might go together if one has the right motive. It seems everyone today is on some diet in the hope of restoring youthful appearance. For that hope, usually quite futile, we are willing to forgo immediate gratification. Could we not do the same thing, but for something more important - the moral condition of ones soul? If a doctor orders us not to eat certain foods, most will comply desiring to add a few years to earthly life. What about self-denial in order to achieve true life?
A good way to promote Lenten observation in your family is by placing the Rice Bowl in the center of your table. Money saved by eating more modest meals can enable Catholic Relief Services to help the needy in other parts of the world. Also I encourage you to pick up Drawing Closer to God as a lenten prayer companion. It can be obtained in the church or office for a one dollar donation.
During Lent we will have some special opportunities here at Holy Family. Three English Masses (8:30 a.m., noon and 6 p.m.) and one Spanish Mass (8 p.m.) are scheduled for Ash Wednesday. On Fridays of Lent we will have Soup Suppers beginning at 5:30 p.m. Also on Friday evenings at 7 p.m. Stations of the Cross will be prayed in the church.
In addition we have two round-the-clock opportunities. In our Ailbe House Chapel the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for adoration. Please give an hour a week to Jesus present in the Eucharist. And when you are home tune your rade to AM 1050 for 24 hour a day Catholic programming. This Lent consider turning off your TV and enriching your life with Catholic radio. For program schedule check out their website at www.sacredheartradio.org.
I'd like to close with a bit of Irish humor and a serious challenge. Fr. Tom Cox from St. Mary's Church in Ireland offered a meditation for this final Sunday before Lent:
"It’s the age of tribunals and transparency in Ireland, where openness and accountability (in theory) reign supreme. However, no living person would like to see his or her life intimately scrutinized. What you see is not what you get. At least in death we’re gentler. In fact, the best thing you can do for your reputation in Ireland is die. All the rough edges of human character get planed smooth. The addict “neglected himself” or “had a little weakness”, the difficult person “had their little ways” with the inevitable final accolade; “he/she never harmed anyone”. While one poet spoke of “damning with faint praise,” in Ireland at least, the departed are always “faithful.” Whatever about their living counterparts.
Today’s Word of God gives another measure to judge a Christian life – by its’ abundance or lack of fruit. Speech is the gauge that shows the harvest or the barrenness within. Words matter, they build up or break down. They can give life or they can kill. The words we use are a reflection of what we are. In a world where public relations can put a gloss or spin on truth, where every statement is sieved and tested for its true worth – words is the acid test of a fruitful life. So, mind your language – not just for Lent."
Ash Wednesday Homily
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C