The penitential and grace-filled season of Lent begins with the celebration of Ash Wednesday, which this year falls on March 1. It is a season that urgently calls us to conversion and is a time for deepening our spiritual life, most especially through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in his Lenten message, encourages us to see God’s Word as a gift and other persons as a gift. He writes: “Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments, and in our neighbor. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the forty days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need.”
In keeping with Pope Francis’ exhortation, our Diocesan Bishop, Nicholas DiMarzio, in order to assist the faithful of the Diocese of Brooklyn to take full advantage of the Lenten season, would like to remind us of the following:
ABSTINENCE – All the faithful who have reached 14 years of age are required to abstain totally from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent.
FASTING – All the faithful between the ages of 18 and 59 inclusive are bound to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This practice involves limiting oneself to a single full meal and avoiding food between meals. Light sustenance may also be taken on two other occasions during the day.
EASTER DUTY – After they have been initiated into the Most Holy Eucharist, all the faithful are bound by the obligation of receiving Holy Communion at least once a year. This precept must be fulfilled during the Easter season, unless for a good reason it is fulfilled at another time of the year. By special indult, in the United States, the time period for fulfilling this precept has been extended to include the period beginning the First Sunday of Lent (March 5) to the celebration of the Most Holy Trinity (June 11).
The Solemnity of St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary is March 19 and the Third Sunday of Lent; therefore, the Feast will be celebrated on Monday, March 20.
Reconciliation Monday: This year our diocese will once again celebrate Reconciliation Monday on April 10, which is the Monday of Holy Week. As in the past, we hope this will be a wonderful opportunity for the faithful to participate in this great Sacrament of Healing.
The following also should be noted:
- The obligation to observe, as a whole or substantially, the penitential days specified by the Church, is a serious one. Days of penance are not merely individual exercises – they are observed by the whole Church, as the Body of Christ.
- After having reached the age of discretion, members of the faithful are bound to confess once a year grave sins which have not already been absolved.
- The faithful are encouraged to celebrate the sacraments of the Eucharist and penance frequently during the Lenten season. Reading the Scriptures, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, generosity toward the poor and the needy are additional means of becoming more involved in the Lenten season. Operation Rice Bowl is one example of a specific way to give alms.
- Pastors and parents are responsible to see that young persons, who are not bound to the above requirements, are educated in an authentic sense of penance.
- All other Fridays of the year remain as days of penance in prayerful remembrance of the Passion of Jesus Christ. The Bishops of the United States have recommended abstinence from meat as a penance for all Fridays of the year, although each individual may substitute for that tradition some other practice of voluntary self-denial or personal penance. This may involve acts of mortification, prayer or charity.
In prayerful pilgrimage with the catechumens and candidates for full initiation, let us accompany our Lord on his way to the cross and to the empty tomb. May we use this time of Lent to be more closely united with Christ in His Death and Resurrection.
Very Rev. Robert V. Mucci, J.C.L.