“The celebration of Lent, in the context of the Year of Faith, offers us a valuable opportunity to meditate on the relationship between faith and charity: between believing in God – the God of Jesus Christ – and love, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and which guides us on the path of devotion to God and others.”
– Pope Benedict XVI
As we prepare to enter into the sacred penitential season of Lent, which begins with the celebration of Ash Wednesday on Feb. 13, we are reminded by our Holy Father that we do so within the Year of Faith. In his Lenten message for this special year, Pope Benedict calls our attention to the inextricable bond that exists between the virtues of faith and charity. He writes that, “Christians are people who have been conquered by Christ’s love and accordingly, under the influence of that love … they are profoundly open to loving their neighbor in concrete ways. This attitude arises primarily from the consciousness of being loved, forgiven and even served by the Lord, who bends down to wash the feet of the Apostles and offers himself on the Cross to draw humanity in God’s Love.”
May this holy time, in which we enter evermore deeply into the salvific mystery of our Lord’s death and resurrection, be a time of profound grace and blessings for our families, our parishes and schools, as well as for all of the people of God in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio encourages all of the faithful to enter into this more intense period of preparation and prayer by calling us to make use of the traditional Lenten practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. May our renewed faith in the risen Lord find ever deeper expression in our charity toward those most in need, particularly toward those in our diocese who continue to suffer from the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy.
In order to help us take part more fully in the season of Lent, Bishop DiMarzio reminds us of minimal requirements, established by the Church, which are to be followed during this penitential time:
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 (Feb. 17) to Trinity Sunday (May 26).
Since we have seen many spiritual benefits throughout the past several years, the Diocese of Brooklyn will continue the practice of Reconciliation Monday, which takes place on the Monday of Holy Week. All parishes are asked to offer an extended period of time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation to be celebrated in their churches.
Please note that the Monday of Holy Week this year falls on March 25, and that the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord has been transferred to the Monday after Divine Mercy Sunday, which falls on April 8.
The following should also 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.
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.
Msgr. Anthony Hernandez