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Great Lenten Resources

Aggie Catholics has a great post on tons of Lenten info, readings, videos, etc…worth a peak.

Ash Wednesday

And so, Lent begins and as usual my grandiose intentions of a well planned lenten season have failed before it even started.  This holy season is an invitation to return to the basics of our spiritual life–and perhaps I’ve stumbled upon the first lesson: don’t over-complicate the simple.  Just resolve to focus on the three simple practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Fr. Barron explains it well:

Pope Benedict’s Ash Wednesday Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the Church celebrates Ash Wednesday, the beginning of her Lenten journey towards Easter. The entire Christian community is invited to live this period of forty days as a pilgrimage of repentance, conversion and renewal. In the Bible, the number forty is rich in symbolism. It recalls Israel’s journey in the desert, a time of expectation, purification and closeness to the Lord, but also a time of temptation and testing. It also evokes Jesus’ own sojourn in the desert at the beginning of his public ministry, a time of profound closeness to the Father in prayer, but also of confrontation with the mystery of evil. The Church’s Lenten discipline is meant to help deepen our life of faith and our imitation of Christ in his paschal mystery. In these forty days may we draw nearer to the Lord by meditating on his word and example, and conquer the desert of our spiritual aridity, selfishness and materialism. For the whole Church may this Lent be a time of grace in which God leads us, in union with the crucified and risen Lord, through the experience of the desert to the joy and hope brought by Easter

Cardinal Dolan on Ash Wednesday

It’s OK to Eat Meat Tomorrow, Even Though It’s a Friday in Lent

Eating meat: permitted on the Annunciation

Citing Canon 1251, various dioceses, Catholic bloggers, and even secular newspapers are noting that the obligation to abstain from meat is abrogated on Friday, March 25, because it is the Solemnity of the Annunciation.
Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

Lent 101 by Archbishop Dolan

Fasting and Alms Giving – the Wings of Prayer

“Today, with the austere symbol of the ashes, we enter the period of Lent, beginning a spiritual journey which prepares for a worthy celebration of the Paschal mysteries. The ashes … are a sign reminding us of our status as created beings and inviting us to penance, to intensify our commitment to conversion so as to continue following the Lord”

In Church tradition the period of Lent is characterised by practices such as fasting, almsgiving and prayer, said Pope Benedict, explaining how fasting “means abstaining from food, but it also includes other forms of privation for a more abstemious life”. It “is closely linked to almsgiving … which under the one name of ‘mercy’ embraces many good works”. Moreover, during this period the Church “invites us to a more trusting and intense prayer, and to prolonged meditation on the Word of God”.
“On this Lenten journey”, the Pope concluded, “let us be attentive to welcoming Christ’s invitation to follow Him more decisively and coherently, renewing the grace and commitments of our Baptism, so as to abandon the old man who is in us and clothe ourselves in Christ, thus reaching Easter renewed and being able to say with St. Paul ‘it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me'”.

Helping Others In Making God’s Love Known

How important a role do we allow God to play in our daily life?  During the season of Lent we reflect on our relationship with God and how receptive we are to His limitless love for us.  We focus on those things that obscure and damage this relationship and take the necessary ‘corrective measures’ to re-orient our lives toward Him and reflect that love to others.  Penance, fasting and abstinence are effective tools we can use to accomplish personal conversion and extend God’s love to others.  Alms-giving allows us to help those beyond our reach by assisting others in utilizing their own efforts and talents to bring God’s love to others. 

I have written before about Fr. Tom’s Kids and the Dominican Mission in East Africa.  Fr. Martin Martiny, OP (my former classmate) has written an “update” on the incredible work being done by the Dominican priests and sisters, bringing Christ’s love to a small part of the world that knows none.  Please read the letter below–perhaps you may be inspired to send some alms their way.


7 March 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Die when I may, I want it said of me that I plucked a weed and planted a flower wherever I thought a flower would grow.”

We Dominican Friars have no illusions here in the midst of the rainy season in Kisumu, Kenya that our actions will save the world from the ravages of poverty, HIV, typhoid, malaria, war, rape, polygamy…. We are confident, nonetheless, that we can plant a few flowers, and sow and nurture the seeds of the faith in a part of the world where beauty and faith are most in need.

As a Dominican priest and missionary, I, Fr. Martin Martiny, serve with my brother and sister Dominicans, along the shores of Lake Victoria, the source of the White Nile amongst a community of Kenyans who are mostly of the Luo tribe. As a Dominican family, we are teaching, preaching, serving as chaplains at a local university, running a primary/secondary school called Our Lady of Grace, and a program of focused charity called Fr. Tom’s Kids, in honor of Fr. Tom Health who was killed in a robbery in 2005 and who had a great devotion to the youths of the area.

Our Lady of Grace school offers daily Mass and is home to the only chapel in a high school in this archdiocese with the Blessed Sacrament in permanent repose. We have around 220 full time students, almost all of them boarders and none of them able to pay the fees necessary to go to school. Today, we have about 70 kids attending Our Lady of Grace whose sponsors have been unable to continue their contributions. Undesignated donations have enabled us to keep all of them so far but it has been ‘a close run thing’, as Wellington described the battle of Waterloo. Even in the midst of the financial challenges, we have continued to accept the cases of kids who are really impossible to turn away.

Recently, Dominican sisters brought us out of the blue, 5 kids whom they could no longer assist. One is a small girl who is just about completely blind, another is a healthy and cheerful dwarf, and three others are suffering from rather severe physical handicaps—missing hands, feet, or a substantially shortened leg. We could not in good faith take the girl going blind; but were able to get her into a school for the blind run by Franciscan sisters about 45 minutes from here. The rest we did accept as an act of faith and we are feeling our way to how we can best help them. So far we just treat them like any other students and they seem to be thriving under these circumstances. None of these kids, however, has a sponsor; so….

We have also accepted responsibility for a young boy whose bone marrow has essentially shut down. He has been in and out of the hospital because he has almost no platelets and a far below minimum level of blood cells. We, with the help of a local couple, are keeping him in school while keeping an eye on him. There is no good reason why he is able to go to school. By all rights an infection should have already taken him away. We have placed him under the spiritual protection of Mother Rose Hawthorne, the founder of the Hawthorne Dominicans, and to date he remains in school as an actively participating student.  This is Wycliff, for whom some of you have offered prayers.

We do not, moreover, send away young girls who get pregnant—where would we send them? We do our best to avoid making them feel rejected. Most come from incredibly challenging backgrounds and have suffered severe humiliation and extraordinary emotional harm in their earliest years. We stress patience and kindness in the midst of personal self-discipline.

We have one girl who was brought at the age of 12 by a religious sister and relative. She was a total orphan and had bounced from relative to relative all of her life. No one would accept responsibility for her for longer than a few days. She was, consequently, starved for love and respect at the same time she had never had anyone demand that she live by rules and guidelines. She was okay at first; then became wild and kept running away. Eventually, I had to call in her grandfather and tell him we could not help her if she was always running away. We do not run a prison. The grandfather took her home; but she essentially was without any supervision.

Although she was not ours, I continued to send for her about every month or so to see how she was doing—not well. Eventually, she showed up at my office beaten, covered with dirt, wearing torn clothing and smelling like a polecat. She was just exhausted and at the end of her tether. We talked for a while. I asked if she was pregnant. She said she did not know. I sent her up to get a bath and afterwards we talked some more. We gave her a pregnancy test. She was a thirteen year old positive for motherhood and negative for all the local diseases. She was also in shock. The father, in his mid twenties, disappeared, of course, from the picture. We did not send her away and did our best to reassure her that she remains our daughter. She eventually gave birth to a daughter, Clare Siena Shakira, and is now reenrolled in primary school grade 6. Her determination to complete school and to be a good mother is impressive, although we have to remind ourselves now and again that she is still only 15 years old.

We are purchasing Catholic bibles for our religion program. Believe it or not, one cannot get a Revised Standard Version of the bible with the Apocrypha in Kenya. We would like to get 100 copies of the Good News for the primary and another 136 copies of the RSV for the secondary students—both with the Apocrypha. Few, if any, Catholic schools in Kenya use the Catholic version of the bible because it either doesn’t exist in the RSV for high school or it is more expensive in the Good News Version. The missing 7 books, however, are important in teaching about marriage and about the Resurrection, just to mention two areas.

So these are some of the challenges we face in trying to preach Christ to the locals here and my less than brief introduction to Our Lady of Grace School and Fr. Tom’s Kids in Kisumu, Kenya. We ask for your continuing prayers and are grateful to all our benefactors.

God bless,

Fr. L. Martin Martiny, O.P.

He made us one with Him when He chose to be tempted by Satan

From a commentary on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop
In Christ we suffered temptation, and in him we overcame the Devil
Hear, O God, my petition, listen to my prayer.  Who is speaking? An individual, it seems.  See if it is an individual: I cried out to you from the ends of the earth while my heart was in anguish.  Now it is no longer one person; rather, it is one in the sense that Christ is one, and we are all his members.  What single individual can cry from the ends of the earth? The one who cries from the ends of the earth is none other than the Son’s inheritance.  It was said to him: Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as your possession.  This possession of Christ, this inheritance of Christ, this body of Christ, this one Church of Christ, this unity that we are, cries from the ends of the earth.  What does it cry?  What I said before: Hear, O God, my petition, listen to my prayer; I cried out to you from the ends of the earth.’  That is, I made this cry to you from the ends of the earth; that is, on all sides.
Why did I make this cry? While my heart was in anguish.  The speaker shows that he is present among all the nations of the earth in a condition, not of exalted glory but of severe trial.
Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial.   We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations.
The one who cries from the ends of the earth is in anguish, but is not left on his own.  Christ chose to foreshadow us, who are his body, by means of his body, in which he has died, risen and ascended into heaven, so that the members of his body may hope to follow where their head has gone before.
He made us one with him when he chose to be tempted by Satan.  We have heard in the gospel how the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness.  Certainly Christ was tempted by the devil. In Christ you were tempted, for Christ received his flesh from your nature, but by his own power gained salvation for you; he suffered death in your nature, but by his own power gained glory for you; therefore, he suffered temptation in your nature, but by his own power gained victory for you.
If in Christ we have been tempted, in him we overcome the devil.  Do you think only of Christ’s temptations and fail to think of his victory?  See yourself as tempted in him, and see yourself as victorious in him.  He could have kept the devil from himself; but if he were not tempted he could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.

Concluding Prayer
Almighty God, grant that by this annual observance of Lent
  we may move forward in our understanding of the mystery of Christ
  and make it an essential part of our lives.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
  who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
  God for ever and ever.

Ash Wednesday at Santa Sabina

At the Holy Father’s Wednesday Audience earlier today, Pope Benedict directed our attention to the formula of the imposition of ashes, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”–or “Convert and Believe the Gospel”:

“Conversion means changing the direction of the path of our lives. (…) It is going against the current when the “current” is a superficial, incoherent, and illusory way of life that often drag us down, making us slaves of evil or prisoners of moral mediocrity. Nevertheless, through conversion we tend to the highest measure of Christian life, we trust in the living and personal Gospel who is Jesus Christ. He is the final goal and the profound path of conversion, the path that we are all called to travel in our lives, allowing ourselves to be illuminated with his light and sustained by his strength, which moves our steps”.
“With the distribution of ashes we renew our commitment to follow Jesus, letting ourselves be transformed by his paschal mystery so that we may conquer evil and do good, so that we can let our ‘old selves’, tied to sin, die and let the ‘new person’ be born, transformed by the grace of God”.

This evening (Rome time) the Holy Father gathered in the Benedictine monastery of S. Anselmo and processed to Santa Sabina, the first Stational Church of Lent.  Santa Sabina is a pristine Roman Basilica built in 422.  Pope Honorius III entrusted the basilica to the Dominican Order in 1219, three years after its founding.  Considered “Dominican Headquarters”, it’s walls have seen the likes of St. Dominic, St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope St. Pius V.

Lent FAQ

Aggie Catholics posted some great Lenten resources and I encourage you to take a look.  If you have yet to give Lent much thought, don’t worry, there is still time to jump in.  Below is excerpted the Aggie post:


When Does Lent Start in 2010?
Lent starts on Ash Wed, Feb 17.  Easter Sunday is Apr 4.

What is Lent?
Lent is a time when the Catholic Church collectively enters into preparation for the celebration of Easter. Lent originally developed as a forty-day retreat, preparing converts to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. Lent is a season of conversion. Conversion is the process of turning away from sin and turning to God. Lent starts with Ash Wednesday (this excludes Sundays, which are not part of the 40 days) and ends on Holy Thursday, the first day of the Triduum, the three holy days before Easter.

So why aren’t Sundays part of Lent?
This is because Sundays are always a day of celebration of Christ’s passion and Resurrection, so we celebrate on these days.

Does this mean I can “cheat” on Sundays?
Since Sundays are not part of the penitential season, you do not have to practice signs of penitence on these days. But, there is no reason you can’t do them either. If you feel you are “cheating” then it isn’t helping! There are some others that believe that Sundays are a part of Lent, but I do not agree with their take. Since the Church has some conflicting information (different documents state different things) I think you should do what you feel is best regarding the Lenten season and Sundays.

Why forty days and not some other number?
Because 40 is a special number in the Bible. It signifies preparation for something special – as in the 40 day flood of Noah.
* Moses stayed on the Mount Sinai forty days (Ex 24:18),
* Jonah gives the people of Ninevah forty days to repent (Jon 3:4) – (there are many other Old Testament stories)
* We also see this with Jesus, before starting his ministry, he spent forty days in the desert in prayer and fasting (Matt 4:2).
So, as in the Bible, we spend forty days in preparing ourselves to rejoice at the Resurrection of our Lord at Easter.

So, what is Ash Wednesday all about?
Ash Wednesday is so named because this first day of Lent is where we are marked with ashes to show the repentance of our sins and mourning. This is also a Biblical sign that we live today. We can see this in several verses.
* One verse is – “I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” (Dan 9:3)
* Other verses include: 1 Sam 4:12, Jon 3:6, Esther 4:1 and Matt 11:20-21
Today, ashes are still this same sign of repentance and mourning for our sins. They also represent our mortality. “I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27). We started as nothing and our bodies will become dust and ashes after our death. Reminding ourselves that nobody escapes physical death, we look forward to eternal life.

So, why are the ashes made into a cross on the forehead?
Because it is the ancient sign of being marked by Christ in our baptism. We are no longer our own, but Jesus Christ owns us. The book of Revelation tells us that all the elect will be marked by the sign of Christ – “On Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Rev 14:1)

Where do we get the ashes?
They come from burning the palms from last years Palm Sunday Masses.

Who can receive ashes?
Anyone can receive ashes on Ash Wed. While we have communion only for Catholics who are in good standing with the Church, all may receive ashes.

Is Ash Wed a holy day of Obligation?
No. But all Catholics are strongly urged to attend, because it is the start of the Lenten season.

Do we have to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wed?
Yes. This means that all Catholics from 14 and up are required to abstain from meat and Catholics 18-60 are required to eat only one average meal and two snacks without anything else. Children, the elderly and those who are sick are not obligated to do this.

Why fast?
Again, this is because we are called to by Jesus. By denying ourselves something good, we remember what the highest good of all is – GOD. We also practice self-discipline and self-mastery, which we need in order to achieve holiness. Jesus fasted in the desert and calls us to as well. * “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Matt 6: 16) * “and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.” (Luke 2:37)
Fasting also helps focus us in our prayer. *Yet when they were ill, I…humbled myself with fasting.” (Psalm 35:13)

Why abstain from meat?
Because of the spiritual discipline it provides. “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . ‘I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.'” (Dan 10:1-3) We give up meat, which still today is a luxury in some parts of the world, as a good thing that we offer up in order to remember that Christ is better than food.

Why is fish not considered meat?
Because it was the food of the poor who could not afford meat, yet could catch fish to sustain them.

So, what are the other days of fast and abstinence?
Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence – Friday was the day Christ died.

So, why do people “give up” things during Lent?
While we are not required to “give something up” we are required to do something penitential. Lent is a great time to break a bad habit and give it to the Lord. These sins and vices we should not take back after Lent. It is also a time to give something up that is good during this season. This is why people give up something they enjoy. In doing so we can draw closer to God by our temporary sacrifice. We should find an appropriate balance of giving something up and not completely cutting ourselves off of good things. We will find our need for God if we do it correctly.

What else then IS required during Lent?
The Church asks us to increase our prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is assumed that we are already doing these things and should merely increase them.

Lent Begins

Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, we begin the holy season of Lent.  Reflecting on the meaning of Lent and doing the usual deliberation on my “Lenten Plan”, I found the Church already gave us a clue in this past Sunday’s Gospel:

And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases;
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man!
Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
“But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. “Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
“Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
LK 6:17, 20-26

Notice how Luke’s Beatitudes are different than the ones we are accustomed to hearing in the Gospel of Matthew (blessed are the poor, blessed are the hungry).  Jesus does not refer to the poor or the hungry in generic terms here, but “He lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are YOU poor…blessed are YOU that hunger'”.  And likewise Jesus directed a stern warning to the disciples: “Woe to YOU…”.  Jesus speaks directly to His disciples, and in turn speaks directly to us.  If we are rich and full now–the terms Jesus used connote ‘absolute capacity’ or ‘completion’–we have no room for God or desire for fulfillment in Him.

Lent, therefore, is a holy season to examine ourselves and purge those things in us which leave little or no room for God, and renew our desire for holiness.  Pope Benedict in his Lenten Message instructs us:

Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need – the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship. 

During the holy season of Lent, we are called to increase our normal practice of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.  What are these practices and what can we do to prepare for the Solemn Feast of Easter?  More to come.