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Spotlight on Lent

Spotlight on Lent

Lent is the principal season of penance in the Christian year. With that in mind, Catholics must fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, and on Good Friday, April 2. Additionally, they must abstain from meat on all Fridays during Lent.

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the norms of fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. Fasting means a person is permitted to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may also be taken, but they are not to equal that of a full meal. The rule of abstinence from meat is binding upon Catholics aged 14 and older. When health or ability to work would be seriously affected, these guidelines do not oblige. Catholics are also strongly urged to develop and follow a program of voluntary self-denial, prayer, almsgiving and works of charity and mercy.

Here are some inspirational quotes to accompany you on your Lenten journeys:

(Lent) is a period of spiritual “combat,” which we must experience alongside Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the arms of faith: prayer, listening to the word of God and penance. In this way we will be able to celebrate Easter in truth, ready to renew the promises of our baptism.

+ Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and, just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves.

+ St. Francis de Sales

Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.

+ St. Catherine of Siena

Lent is a time of going very deeply into ourselves… What is it that stands between us and God? Between us and our brothers and sisters? Between us and life, the life of the Spirit? Whatever it is, let us relentlessly tear it out, without a moment’s hesitation.

+ Servant of God Catherine Doherty

We live in an environment polluted by too much verbal violence, by many offensive and harmful words, which the internet amplifies. We are inundated with empty words, with advertisements, with subtle messages. We have become used to hearing everything about everyone, and we risk slipping into a worldliness that atrophies our hearts. … [In this noise] we struggle to distinguish the voice of the Lord who speaks to us, the voice of conscience, of good. … Lent is the right time to make room for the Word of God. It is the time to turn off the television and open the Bible. It is the time to disconnect from your cell phone and connect to the Gospel.

+ Pope Francis

The [pilot] gains new confidence with each experience in the air. Every trip bears him higher and higher, finding his element more and more in the great spaces of the universe. His horizon is boundless, the firmament is his home.

So too with us. If we “be risen with Christ,” we will “seek the things that are above.” Lent will not have been an interlude, an episode, but rather a trial trip in which we have gained experience and confidence for greater flights. We have tasted the fruits as well as the fears of penance. We will not hesitate as before to leave earth behind and rise, borne on the strong winds of grace, into the boundless spaces of God.

Not that we deny difficulties and dangers. We know only too well that the lightest carelessness of self-confidence will dash us to earth, perhaps fatally. Our confidence rests in the powerful means of God’s grace. We soar on the merits of Christ, not our own. The strong winds of prayer and humility bear us up where the Spirit blows and carries us where it will. We are at home with God: “The Lord is our firmament.”

This is the meaning of Lent in practice: the following of our Lord Jesus Christ into the desert and up to Calvary, the welding of our wills to His in the mastery of love. Then will the resurrection dawn find us at His feet crying joyously: “Teacher!”

+ Father John J. Burke, C.S.P.