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Looking ahead to Lent

Lent begins in less that three weeks on Ash Wednesday, February 26. Holy Mass and the Distribution of Ashes will take place at 8:00 AM, 12:00 Noon, and 7:00 PM. We have a grave obligation to keep Ash Wednesday a day of fasting and abstinence. Fasting means that everyone from the age of 18 years to their 59th birthday is obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting usually means only one full meal and two partial meals. It would normally preclude snacks in between meals, unless there are health issues involved. Voluntary fasting on other days of Lent, especially Fridays is highly recommended.  Abstinence means that all persons who have already celebrated their 14th birthday are bound to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays of Lent, and Good Friday.

Baptismal Font Sanctuary of St. Francis Xavier, Javier, Spain.
From this font emerged many children of God. The grace of Baptism continued to pour out in the life of St. Francis Xavier, who was baptized in this font and who in turned baptized countless in his missionary life. Lent is a journey to renew our baptismal grace.

The three pillars of Lent are prayer, self-denial, and charity. The penitential practices are the means by which we are equipped to fight against sin and temptation, make amends for sin,, and draw closer to God. These three pillars support us in rebuilding our relationship with God, self, and others—relationships that sin has damaged. To avail oneself of all the graces of penitence, our Lenten resolutions should not just be limited by giving something up or other acts of self-denial. Our Lent should include taking more time each day to pray, over and above our normal daily prayer routine. Lent also requires us to bind all our practices together with the bond of charity. Self-denial frees resources in our lives that normally we would spend on ourselves. In self-denial, our self-interest in transformed into true compassion and charity towards others, especially in the form of almsgiving for the poor.

To assist in our Lenten prayer, all parish families will be given a copy of Bishop Robert Barron’s book 2020 Lenten Gospel Reflections. You will receive your copy at mass the weekend of February 22/23.  This book includes the Gospel of each day with reflections by Bishop Barron and includes a setting of the Stations of the Cross, reflection questions for each day, and space to record your response to God’s Word.  Also, Lenten Discipleship groups are being organized using content provided by the Diocese of Jefferson City relating to pastoral planning for our parish and for the Church in Mid-Missouri. You may sign up for a group in the Fellowship Hall or call the office to express your interest.

Deliberate acts of charity during Lent are what ensures that our other Lenten practices do not become occasions of pride and vanity. Jesus calls this “almsgiving”, from the word that indicates acting mercifully towards another who is in a situation of need. For over forty years, the US church has supported Operation Rice Bowl, a program that is the major source of funding for the Church’s efforts to feed the hungry. Don’t forget to pick your Rice Bowl up before Lent begins. In addition to our common works of charity, use the money that you would have otherwise spent on the things you gave up for Lent and donate that money to Hope House or another local social service organization.

To learn more about what the Church teaches about Lent, visit our Diocesan web site’s Lenten Regulations page.