Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2024. Easter is Sunday, March 31, 2024.Lent: A time of spiritual renewal
Staff Report, The Florida Catholic, Venice edition (February 9, 2024)
The Lenten Season is an important time to take the opportunity to refocus one’s thinking on how to grow closer to God and farther away from evil.
Lent is one of the most important liturgical seasons of the Church’s calendar and begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. The faithful are prepared this season for Holy Week, those sacred days in the Church calendar when we celebrate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“The faithful are all called to know better their faith, to live it more deeply, and share their love of the Lord with others,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane said. “This ties in directly with our Lenten call to turn our lives over to Christ and to be more the man or woman of God calls us to be.”
Many opportunities are offered by the Lenten Season to take advantage of that concept of knowing, living, and sharing the faith, Bishop Dewane said. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads, “The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all in several forms; fasting and abstinence, prayer and charity, and almsgiving and self-denial, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others” (CCC 1434).
These three pillars of the Lenten observance, fasting, prayer, almsgiving, express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. The Lord calls each person to total commitment. By practicing these observances together, they become more than the sum of their parts. They become part of a faith that flourishes and a heart that is increasingly dedicated to the Lord.
Fasting and abstinence
Fasting and abstinence is not about food, or lack of it, but instead about sacrifice for the benefit of our spiritual lives. Sacrifice and self-denial should not be viewed as something to lament, but instead should be viewed as an opportunity to remove anything that distracts us from Jesus Christ.
For early Christians, fasting was an important and meaningful Lenten practice in commemoration of Christ’s Passion and Death. The current Lenten discipline, set forth by the Roman Catholic Church, consists of both fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 14) and Good Friday (March 29), as well as abstaining from meat each Friday of Lent. Fasting and abstinence are about spiritual conversion and renewal, not solely about meat and no food.
“I encourage each of you to reexamine fasting and abstinence this Lenten Season and possibly rediscover them as virtues in the living of your life,” Bishop Dewane said. “When fasting, or abstaining from meat, this Lenten Season try not to just ‘follow the motions,’ so to speak, make an extra effort to improve upon the spiritual areas of one’s life.”
The second Lenten pillar is prayer, which the Catechism tells us is coupled with charity. All Catholics are called to a meaningful prayer life. A prayer life includes both personal, which comes from the heart, and traditional prayer, with both dimensions the faithful grow closer to both Christ Himself — as well as to His Church.
“During Lent our prayer life should not only grow, but it should focus upon the areas of life in which we might have fallen short of God’s expectation—in other words, where we have sinned,” Bishop Dewane said.
Prayer is an indispensable component of the Catholic Faith. By growing and maturing in faith, prayer becomes an act of worship. As life progresses and one receives more of the Sacraments, and more often, prayer is recognized as a critical act of public worship in the Church, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Vatican II called the Mass “The Source and the Summit.”
The five basic forms of prayer are blessing, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, and praise. When someone prays in any one of these forms, they are expressing a different emotion, need, concern or appreciation. No two prayers from the heart are the same, just as no two conversations are the same.
“In prayer, we grow in the love of God and greater appreciation of who God is and what God does,” Bishop Dewane said. “In a world so full of uncertainty and loneliness, great comfort should be taken in knowing that by praying, God will offer His blessings and grace. By praying, the blessing upon us is returned. This is the beautiful exchange that needs to be part of one’s daily life.”
The third pillar of Lent is almsgiving is coupled in the Catechism with self-denial. While often mentioned as the last of the three traditional pillars of the Lenten observance, is certainly not the least of the three and is often completely misunderstood. The Church’s expression of almsgiving is an act of self-denial, or an expression of charity and assistance extended to the needy.
By almsgiving during Lent, one not only expresses care for those in need, but also expresses a sign of gratitude for all God has provided in one’s own life. These acts of charity are connected to the responsibilities of living the faith that begins with baptism and is reignited in the Sacrament of Confirmation.
“All bear responsibility in helping our brothers and sisters in Christ, but it takes prayer and reflection to understand how God is calling each of us to give of oneself,” Bishop Dewane said. The Catechism states, “almsgiving, together with prayer and fasting, are traditionally recommended to foster the state of interior penance.”
“In a sense, almsgiving is a type of prayer,” Bishop Dewane said. “Because almsgiving requires sacrifice. It is also a sort of fasting from the material world, in that what could have been purchased.”
In addition, Bishop Dewane said the precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season merits a reminder.
To facilitate this requirement, every Parish in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present 4 to 8 p.m., Friday, March 22, and 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, March 23. Check with your local Parish for additional confession times or the availability of a Penance Service. These opportunities are made available so that the faithful may find ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Click on the links below for resources for a fruitful Lenten and Easter season. Resources are from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Diocese of Venice Office of Evangelization.
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT TELEVISED MASS FOR THE HOMEBOUND
Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Televised Mass – The Diocese of Venice in Florida will air the televised Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Masses, each for a full hour. The Masses can be viewed at 9:00 a.m. on the CW Network in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, Charlotte, Hardee and Highland counties, and at 10:30 a.m. on FOX4 in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Hendry, Glades and Desoto counties. The Mass is also available on the Diocese of Venice website.
The Three Pillars of Lent:
The precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season merits a reminder.
To facilitate this requirement, every Parish in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present 4 to 8 p.m., Friday, March 22, and 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, March 23.
Check with your local Parish for additional confession times or the availability of a Penance Service. These opportunities are made available so that the faithful may find ample opportunity to receive God’s Mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Ash Wednesday, February 14: A call to conversion, repentance, and reconciliation.
We begin our 40 Days of Lent by entering into the desert with Jesus. The ashes remind us of our mortality and our need for conversion. The discipline of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is the remedy that the Church gives us during this penitential time of repentance, conversion, and reconciliation.
February 18 – First Sunday of Lent
“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested. Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.’” Mk 1:12-15
February 22 – The Feast of The Chair of St. Peter the Apostle
“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Mt 16: 18-19.
February 25 – Second Sunday of Lent
“Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white…Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus…Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came the voice, ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’” Mk 9:2-4, 7.
March 3 – Third Sunday of Lent
“O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness, who in fasting, prayer, and almsgiving have shown us a remedy for sin, look graciously on this confession of our lowliness, that we, who are bowed down by our conscience, may always be lifted up by your mercy.” From the Collect for the 3rd Sunday of Lent.
March 4 – Memorial of St. Casimir
Today we celebrate the Memorial of St. Casimir, the Patron Saint of Poland and Lithuania. St. Casimir, born in 1458 and only 23 when he died, was a prince and son of King Casimir VI who was the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. He fought the temptations of riches and materialism growing up in a royal household and was known for his holiness, humility, service to the poor, and his desire above all else to serve Christ the King by building up God’s Kingdom.
March 10 – Laetare Sunday
Laetare means “rejoice” in Latin, and the rose color is one that symbolizes joy. Priests may where rose-colored vestments and the altar may have some flowers adorning it today. During Lent, as in Advent (Gaudete Sunday), the Church allows a little pause in our penitential practices, to experience the hope and joy of the coming of the Easter Solemnity, and to
gather our strength, to be refreshed in body and soul, and to be encouraged as we enter into the final portion of Lent when we enter into the holiest of days, the Triduum.
March 17 – Fifth Sunday of Lent: The Raising of Lazarus
“I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” John 11:25-27 (From today’s Gospel)
March 19: Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
“Inspired by the Gospel, the Fathers of the Church from the earliest centuries stressed that just as St. Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, that is, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model.” — St. John Paul II
March 24 – Palm Sunday
Today is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week, with Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
“…they brought the colt to Jesus and put their cloaks over it. And he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!” Mark 11:7-10
March 26- Diocese of Venice Holy Chrism Mass, Epiphany Cathedral, Venice, 10:30 a.m.
Read more about the annual Blessing of the Oils and the Consecration of the Chrism from the USCCB here. Watch as Bishop Frank J. Dewane blesses and consecrates the Chrism Oil at last year’s Holy Chrism Mass, here.
Sacred Paschal Triduum
The Easter Triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday.
General Information from the USCCB, click here.
Questions and answers, click here.
March 28 – Holy Thursday (Last Supper)
Today is Holy Thursday, the first day of the Sacred Triduum. We commemorate the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the institution of the Sacred Priesthood, and Jesus washing the feet of the apostles, establishing the mission of charity of all Christians to serve one another.
March 29 – Good Friday
Today is Friday of the Passion of the Lord “Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” Isaiah 53: 4-5
March 30 – Holy Saturday
“Today is Holy Saturday, a day of profound mystery: Christ is dead and yet he remains busy at work, descending to the underworld to free the righteous held captive in the chains of death. The mournful suspense of Holy Saturday is thus imbued with the certainty of the Resurrection. Though our earthly sojourn be continually tinged by death, we know that our longing to exult in the fullness of redemption is not in vain. The Son of God himself has passed through death to rob it of its apparent finality. In Jesus, life wins.” From the Magnificat, comment on Holy Saturday.
The Lord’s Descent into Hell– Excerpt from an Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday on Christ’s Descent into Hell:
“‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.”
March 31 – Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
“The Lord is truly risen, alleluia! To him be glory and power for all the ages of eternity, alleluia, alleluia!” Lk 24:34; cf. Rv 1:6