Lent: A time to renew our hearts

The Lenten Season always has special meaning, it is a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in preparation of celebrating the Paschal Mystery of our Faith.

In the midst of ongoing impacts during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Pope Francis reminds us that it is “a favorable time to prepare to celebrate with renewed hearts the great mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the cornerstone of our personal and communal Christian life. We must continually return to this mystery in mind and heart, for it will continue to grow within us in the measure that we are open to its spiritual power and respond with freedom and generosity.”

Lent lasts for 40 days – excluding Sundays – from Ash Wednesday (Feb. 17, 2021) to the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, which this year falls on April 1. It is a reminder of Christ’s 40 days of temptation and fasting in the desert, and of Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the desert.

The Season of Lent has a twofold character: first, by recalling or preparing for baptism and secondly, by penance, it disposes the faithful, who more diligently hear the word of God and devote themselves to prayer, to celebrate the paschal mystery.

Fasting, almsgiving, and prayer are the three traditional disciplines of Lent. The key to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We recall those waters in which we were baptized into Christ’s death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ. Tips to achieving this include praying the rosary, going to Mass more often, reading the Bible, and going deeper in our relationship with Christ. In addition, give alms and volunteer your time, as a way to profoundly reflect the Light of Christ while assisting our brothers and sisters in Christ.

During Lent, it is also common to participate in a retreat or pray the Stations of the Cross, allowing the opportunity for one to refocus on the Lord in different ways. While the Pandemic may have curbed some of these opportunities, please check with your local Parish for these and other Lenten activities.

At the Easter Vigil (April 3), a group of catechumens and candidates will be coming into full communion with the Church. Bishop Frank J. Dewane presides over the celebration of the Rite of Election. This annual tradition is a formal Rite during which catechumens are presented and their names are entered into the Book of Elect. Normally one ceremony takes place each year, but due to concerns related to the Pandemic, the Rite of Election in 2021 will occur in four locations over two weekends. The first pair on Feb. 21, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and St. Catherine Parish in Sebring, and then on Feb. 28, at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers and St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples.

The precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season indeed merits recalling for all the Faithful. To facilitate this requirement, every Parish in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present from 4-8 p.m., Friday, March 26, and 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, March 27. Additional times for the Sacrament are also offered so that the Faithful may find ample opportunity to receive God’s mercy. Parishes also could combine to have an evening prayer service with additional priests present to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Check with your local Parish for additional reconciliation times.

Dates of note

On Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments has provided guidance on the distribution of ashes amid the Pandemic. Ashes will be sprinkled on the top of the head of the faithful, rather than applying a cross on their foreheads which necessitates contact. The formula will be said only once, at the beginning of the distribution, applying it to all in general: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Following this, the guidance states that the Priest then cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask and distributes the ashes to those who come forward. The Priest takes the ashes and sprinkles them on the head of each one in silence.

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, March 19. The Solemnity of St. Joseph comes in the midst of the ongoing Diocese of Venice “Year of St. Joseph.” Bishop Dewane consecrated Diocese to the Saint on March 19, 2020, in the context of the Pandemic. The Saint is the Protector of the Universal Church. This celebration will continue through Dec. 8, 2021 in the wake of Pope Francis’ dedicating a “Year of St. Joseph.”

On the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, March 25, many Parishes add additional Mass to accommodate this day. The day also marks the start of the annual Novena for Mass for Life, a special opportunity to meditate on the progressive development of Our Lord in His mother’s womb.

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, March 28, is the day the Church remembers Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. The commemoration with the blessing of the palms and procession, is a ritual action that marks our own entry into Holy Week. Due to the Pandemic, great care will be taken in the distribution of the palms and will vary by Parish. Please contact your local Parish for questions.

During Holy Week, the annual Chrism Mass take place at Epiphany Cathedral at 10:30 a.m., March 30. The Chrism Mass is the largest gathering of priests in the Diocese and a time when they join Bishop Dewane in a celebration of the unity of the priesthood and when the holy oils used in the Sacraments are blessed and consecrated.

REGULATIONS ON FASTING AND ABSTINENCE

Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, and Good Friday, April 2, are days of fast and abstinence. All Fridays of Lent are also days of abstinence from meat.

Fasting is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by all Catholics between the ages of 18 years and 59 years (inclusive). On a fast day one full meal is allowed. Two smaller meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. In the context of observing the fast, eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids are allowed. If possible, the fast on Good Friday is to continue until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the “paschal fast” is to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily His Resurrection.

Abstinence from meat is to be observed by all Catholics who are 14 years of age and older on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent, including Good Friday.

(Note: If a person is unable to observe the above regulations due to ill health or other serious reasons, they are urged to practice other forms of self-denial that are suitable to their condition.)

Bishop helps Parish celebrate Feast Day

While the faithful sang music proclaiming the arrival of Jesus Christ at Christmas and the three kings at the Epiphany, a Eucharistic Procession circled the property of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish and Catholic School in Naples.

This procession took place on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Jan. 3, 2021), with Bishop Frank J. Dewane carrying the monstrance, and served as the opening of two days of celebrations in honor of the Feast Day of St. Elizabeth Seton on Jan. 4, 2021.

Carey Ford said it was wonderful to take part in a traditional Eucharistic Procession, bringing her back to her youth when her home Parish in Ohio had such public displays of Faith several times a year. “We are out here to honor Christ, something St. Elizabeth Seton did in the way she lived her own life. Also, everyone can see who we are as Catholics, particularly at a time when many are staying away, whether from the pandemic or for other reasons.”

St. Elizabeth Seton is patroness of Catholic schools, seafarers, those rejected or persecuted for their faith, orphans and widows and was the first native-born American to be canonized by the Catholic Church. Bishop Dewane noted that the Lord spoke to her at different points in her life as a wife, mother, widow, religious and teachers.

“The Lord called her through different moments of her life and despite many hardships which could have turned her attention away she didn’t forget about the call of the Lord,” the Bishop said. “Just as the three kings followed a star at the Epiphany, she followed a star and once she received the gift of Faith, it was Christ and the Lord who brought her through the stages in her life to ever more profoundly encounter Him. As St. Elizabeth Seton did, we must open ourselves up to be accessible for an encounter with the Lord.”

St. Elizabeth Seton Parish Administrator Father Casey Jones led adoration in the church following the Eucharistic Procession. For the Feast itself, a relic of St. Elizabeth Seton was on display and the church was open to silent prayer.

St. Elizabeth Seton was born before the American Revolution and grew up in New York as part of a prominent Episcopalian family. She married in 1794 and had five children. Discovering Catholicism while in Italy, where her husband died, she eventually returned to the U.S. and entered the Catholic Church in 1805. Later, she moved to Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she entered religious life and founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, the first community for religious women established in the U.S. She also began the first free Catholic girl’s school in the country, which formed the foundation for the modern Catholic education system. She died in 1821 and was canonized on Sept. 14, 1975.

Haitian community gathers for annual celebration

By Jean Gonzalez – of the Florida Catholic staff

Even though Myrlande Cola left her native Haiti 23 years ago, she still holds a fierce love for her country, especially Jan. 1, when she joins other community members to celebrate the independence of Haiti from France.

“This Mass is a big thing for me,” said the Immokalee resident who traveled to Bonita Springs to celebrate Mass with fellow emigrees of the Caribbean nation. “I took off work six months ago to be able to attend this. I cannot miss this Mass.”

Cola was speaking about the annual Mass held for the Haitian community in honor of both the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God and the 217th anniversary of Haiti being the first independent republic in the Caribbean. The annual Mass is hosted by the Diocese of Venice, in conjunction with the Haitian Catholic community, and was celebrated at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs Jan. 1, 2021.

The event usually draws as many as 1,000 people from throughout the Diocese of Venice and includes a visit from a bishop or archbishop from Haiti. There are currently Masses celebrated in Creole at the following parishes: St. Charles Borromeo in Port Charlotte; St. Francis Xavier in Fort Myers; St. Michael in Wauchula; Sacred Heart in Bradenton; Our Lady of Guadalupe in Immokalee; and St. Peter the Apostle in Naples. The New Year’s Day celebration is one of the few times the entire community can gather in one place.

But precautions against the coronavirus meant a visiting prelate could not travel and buses could not be used to bring in Haitians from cities throughout the 10-county diocese. Yet, Father Jean-Marie Fritz Ligonde, director of Haitian Ministry for the Diocese of Venice and parochial vicar of St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers, said the community was blessed to still have the opportunity to celebrate the special day. As he does every year, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrated the Mass with Father Ligonde, and five other Haitian priests of the diocese. The precautions might have made the crowd gathered much smaller, but the spirit of the Mass was just as joyous and enthusiastic.

“We expected between 300 and 350 and are pleased with what we have,” Father Ligonde said. “(The community) says ‘thank you’ to Bishop Dewane for being with us every year. For sharing our meal, sharing our custom and sharing our tradition. And he kept the tradition even during the coronavirus, he decided to do it. It is to be praised and we are grateful to him.”

In his homily, Father Ligonde compared the Marian feast celebrated to Haiti’s Independence Day. The Solemnity of Mary, mother of God, is the first Marian feast, and Haiti is the first independent Black nation in the Western Hemisphere when the slaves there gained independence from France Jan. 1, 1804. Haitians should find strength in Mary’s example to go forward because Mary, even she suffered and exiled while carrying Jesus.

“Because Haiti is becoming poorer and poorer now, it is time that we engage ourselves to make the resolution to go forward. We have to put action into our words,” Father Ligonde said. “Our motto as Haitians is ‘L’Union fait la force’ — our strength is in our union. We must show strength to move forward and develop our country.”

Before closing the Mass, Bishop Dewane thanked the congregation for being present during this difficult time of living through the pandemic.

“I very much regret we couldn’t have a guest bishop for you. It is a long tradition, but I think you all understand,” he said. “It is my prayer that next year we will be full again. And we will have a bishop from Haiti who will be here. Let us keep one another united in prayer, for the well-being of all gathered here, and all who have been here in the past and could not meet this year. Thank you and a blessed and happy new year to all of you. Bòn ane.”

The Mass ended with the congregation waving Haitian flags and singing their country’s national anthem — “La Dessalinienne,” named in honor of Haiti’s revolutionary leader and first ruler Jean-Jacques Dessalines. It begins, “For the country, For the ancestors, Let us march. Let us march united.”

Traditionally following the Mass, the congregation gathers in the parish center to enjoy soup joumou, a rich pumpkin soup. Father Ligonde explained how the French would make the soup and never offer it to the slaves. So, after the independence of Haiti, it became a tradition to enjoy the soup as a symbol freedom and equality.

“On Jan. 2, we celebrate the feast of our ancestors, and we have a big meal with turkeys. But on Jan. 1, we have our soup jomou. It is a meal. It is so rich, we could eat it all day,” Father Ligonde said with a smile.

But that tradition also had to be modified because of the coronavirus. Instead of sitting to have soup, the community held a drive-thru where families could still receive celebratory food, but instead of eating together, would bring it home to their own families.

Pet blessings abound

For the past six months Eleanor Warring has relied on her best friend more than ever.  Sammy, a 7-year-old terrier poodle mix was one of more than a dozen dogs present for the annual Blessing of the Animals on Oct. 3, 2020 at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Lakewood Ranch.

Warring lost her husband of 58 years in 2016 when Sammy was nearly 3 years old and the two have been nearly inseparable since. The companionship has been valued more since the pandemic began, which is why Warring wanted to be certain Sammy received a proper blessing with Holy Water from Deacon Jack Milholland.

Sammy remained still throughout the prayer service which consisted of readings from Scripture, prayers and intercessions followed by a general blessing and then individual blessings as Deacon Milholland worked his way through the crowd.

“I would bring him to Mass if I could,” Warring explained. “That is why this blessing is so special. I find great comfort with Sammy and find great comfort in the Church.”

The Blessing of the Animals traditionally occurs on Oct. 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of animals and the environment. St. Francis loved the birds near his hometown and even allowed himself to be displaced from a place of shelter in deference to a donkey. The Saint wrote a Canticle of the Creatures, an ode to God’s living things, “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.”

The celebration of the Blessing of the Animals celebrates the sacredness of all God’s creation. In the spirit of Saint Francis, the celebration honors animals that share our lives and touch our hearts. It also acknowledges and encourages respect for all of creation.

With requirements of social distancing, many of the blessings throughout the Diocese were on a smaller scale than in the past, but their importance seemed just as crucial. At St. Columbkille Parish in Fort Myers, Father Lorenzo González held a drive-thru blessing, as did Father Casey Jones at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples. Meanwhile the blessing at St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples by Father Gerard Critch was held in a courtyard.

In the wake of the pandemic, many became much closer to their pets. Whether the pets are furry, feathered, scaled or finned, they helped their owners cope with the isolation and loneliness brought on by the quarantine, or the need to remain home for work and/or school.

Our Lady celebrated in Sarasota

The Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (Our Lady of Charity of Copper) holds a special place in the heart of Isabel Diaz for Our Lady provides a connection to her heritage as an American-born Cuban.

“This devotion goes back in my family many generations and the stories of the celebrations on this day always bring me great joy,” Diaz explained as she prayed following a Mass dedicated to Our Lady on Sept. 8, 2020 at St. Jude Parish.

St. Jude Pastor, Father Celestino Gutierrez, said the celebration of the Patroness of Cuba was toned-down this year because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, the faith of the people was not diminished.

“On Sunday (Sept. 6, 2020), there was a Mass and reception, but it was more a sign of unity versus the large party it has been in the past,” Father Gutierrez said.

A statue of Our Lady was placed on a table in front of the altar for the Masses, flanked by the U.S. and Cuban flags. The image of Our Lady of Charity depicts Mary standing on the moon and surrounded by angels, while holding the Child Jesus, who holds a globe in one hand and raises the other hand in a gesture of blessing. Following the Mass, many remained to pray, leave flowers, or to take photos of or with the statue.

Diaz prayed for “protection and comfort,” during these turbulent times of pandemic and economic difficulties. “It’s what my family used to pray for before they left Cuba many years ago, and what we still all pray for. Our Lady is always there for us.”

Devotion to the Mary under the title of Our Lady of Charity dates to 1612 when two indigenous laborers and a slave boy were on a boat in a fierce storm when they sought the protection of Mary. The storm suddenly calmed and then in the distance they spotted a white bundle floating on a piece of wood. It was a small statue of Mary holding the infant Jesus on her left arm and a gold cross on her raised right hand. Inscribed on the wooden board were the words, “Yo soy la Virgen de la Caridad” (“I am Our Lady of Charity”). Despite being found in the water after a storm, the white material in which the statue was wrapped in remained completely dry.

Our Lady of Charity was declared patroness of Cuba by Pope Benedict XV in 1916. Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba in 2012, as the Church in the country celebrated the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the statue of Our Lady of Charity. The Holy Father entrusted the future of Cuba to the Blessed Virgin.

Catholic News Service contributed to this report.

Poor Clare feast celebration muted

The Poor Clare Sisters, living a secluded life in a monastery on Fort Myers Beach, are examples for all to follow, shaking off their worldly burdens to live as St. Clare of Assisi called, in cloister, devoting their life to serve as the Lord called.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane expressed his profound gratitude to the Poor Clare Sisters for their response to God while remarking how the ongoing global pandemic has forced many into isolation, which he prays has encouraged the faithful to use that time growing closer to the Lord.

The Bishop celebrated Mass on Aug. 11, 2020, the Feast of St. Clare, for the religious sisters at the San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare on Fort Myers Beach.

Abbess Sister Mary Frances Fortin and the other religious sisters at the Monastery, expressed their appreciation for the Bishop’s presence, particularly on the Feast Day of their Founder, which is an annual occasion.

“We are deeply grateful to have Bishop here with us every year, but his presence has a greater meaning to us during this pandemic,” Sister Mary Frances said. “The continued support we receive from the Bishop and Diocese is overwhelming.”

The Mass was celebrated without the normal standing-room-only congregation as the Chapel is too small to accommodate the faithful and still maintain social distancing.

“We miss the people who come to visit,” Sister Mary Frances said of those who would attend the daily Mass or come to pray in the Chapel. “Our prayers are with everyone who is suffering through these difficult times and we turn to the Lord in joyful hope that will we be able to open our doors again soon.”

Bishop Dewane said the good work of Poor Clare Sisters, “through your prayers and your example that should inspire all to devote one’s life in service to the Lord.”

The Poor Clare religious community of women was begun 800 years ago when Chiara Offreduccio, a young noble woman of Assisi, Italy, cast off her rich garments and donned the simple garb of St. Francis of Assisi to live, as he did, the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Poor Clare Sisters have called Fort Myers Beach their home since 1988. The Monastery became independent in 2009. Although the Sisters never solicit donations, many parishioners bring them groceries and send them money each month.

The daily life of the Poor Clare Sisters is set into a traditional monastic framework of prayer and work. Holy Mass and Liturgy of the Hours are the anchor of their day. Outside these times, the sisters engage in all the ordinary tasks of life in a spirit of sisterly sharing, joy and peace. A sister might be found packing up an order of hosts for one of the local parishes, taking care of the altar, sweeping the cloister walk or doing some laundry. Or you may find a sister at a desk, doing bookkeeping, answering mail, preparing spiritual cards or planning the liturgy.

While the Chapel is currently closed to the public due to the pandemic, you can contact the Poor Clare Sisters by calling 239-463-5599, emailing prayer requests to saintclare@comcast.net, or by visiting www.fmbpoorclare.com.

Donations in support of the Poor Clare Sisters can be sent to: San Damiano Monastery of St. Clare, 6029 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931.

Prayer to St. Clare
“O glorious Saint Clare, God has given you the power of working miracles and the favor of answering the prayers of those who invoke your assistance in misfortune, anxiety and distress; we beseech you, obtain for us from Jesus, through Mary, what we beg of you so fervently and hopefully if it be for the greater honor and glory of God and for the good of our souls. Amen.”

News briefs for the week of May 4, 2020

Neumann delivers cheer to seniors

The leadership of St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples spent two days on “Operations: Celebrate Our Seniors” delivering cheer from the school van to the homes of graduating seniors. Each student received their cap and gown, yard sign, a t-shirt and personalized cookie. If the seniors can’t come to school, the goal was to bring the school to them. Each senior was asked to sign a graduation poster as they received words of encouragement from the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco who run the school.

 

Online Bible Study LIVE beginning May 12

A Bible Study will be offered online through the Diocese of Venice Facebook Live on Tuesdays May 12 through July 28 using the program “Genesis to Jesus” from the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Each session will begin at 2:00 p.m. Join by going to https://www.facebook.com/DioceseofVenice/ and simply watch the live-stream video on the page. You will also be able to type in your questions and comments in real-time to participate from your own home (you do not need to have a Facebook account to watch the video but you do need to have an account to comment and ask questions)!  With so much great Catholic content out there now, here is something you can participate in yourself!

Scam Alert targeting parishioners

It has once again been brought to the attention of the Diocese of Venice that parishioners have received text/email messages from people pretending to be priests and requesting donations in the form of gift cards and/or wire transfers. The messages often greet the person by name and have the priests name in the closing signature of the message; this is a well-crafted and targeted attack on the Church across the country which has hit our Diocese again. These text/email messages are ‘spoofed’ fakes that should not be responded to or taken seriously by anyone. The best defense against this sort of scam is to raise awareness in the community and not respond or open any worrying attachments. It is Diocesan policy that no priest or staff within the Diocese request donations in the form of gift cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc

There is already an established process in place on how parishioners can make donations and participate in the life of the Parish. Whenever a parishioner is worried about any request for money from the parish or a priest, they should immediately call their parish and under no circumstances should they respond to these scam requests.

Year of St. Joseph resources online

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the care and protection of Saint Joseph in the context of the Coronavirus and announced a “Year of St. Joseph” beginning March 19, 2020 through March 19, 2021.  St. Joseph is the Patron Saint of the Universal Church, fathers, workers and the sick and dying. A number of resources, including a Novena to St. Joseph, have been made available on the Diocesan website – www.dioceseofvenice.org.

Bradenton Food Pantry

The St. Joseph Parish Food Pantry, 2704 33rd Ave. W., Bradenton, is open and distributing food from 9 a.m. to noon Monday-Friday, 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays, following all social distancing protocols. Cars will be directed through the parking lot and trunks will be loaded by volunteers in protective gloves and masks. Call 941-756-3732 if you have any questions. You do not need to be a regular client to receive food. To make a donation of money or food, please visit https://www.stjoepantry.com/.

Music lessons continue

St. Francis Xavier Catholic School first grade student learns to play an instrument with the virtual assistance of Music Teacher Jeffery Jodice using ‘Google Meet’ in Fort Myers.

Year of St. Joseph resources available online

When Bishop Frank J. Dewane has announced that the Diocese of Venice will celebrate a “Year of St. Joseph” from March 19, 2020 to March 19, 2021, resources were promised to help properly honor and celebrate this saint.

Stained glass window at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven.

On the Diocesan website – www.dioceseofvenice.org – is a “A Year of St. Joseph” link which has information on the Patron Saint of the Universal Catholic Church, families, fathers, expectant mothers, travelers and immigrants, among others.

There visitors will find several options to explore, including a Litany of St. Joseph, Prayer to St. Joseph following the Rosary, Who is St. Joseph.

One link, Plan and Future Visit, leads to a page with information about the many Diocesan locations named after St. Joseph and encourages the faithful to visit these sites when it is safe to do so following the lifting of the pandemic restrictions.

As the “Year of St. Joseph” continues, additional resources will be placed on this page, so everyone is encouraged to come back and visit often.

This “Year of St. Joseph” coincides to commemorate the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being solemnly declared Patron of the Catholic Church by Pope Pius IX in his decree Quemadmodum Deus.

Year of St. Joseph proclaimed

Bishop Frank J. Dewane has announced that the Diocese of Venice will celebrate a “Year of St. Joseph” from March 19, 2020 to March 19, 2021.

 

Stained glass window at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven.

“Particularly in this time of uncertainty in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is appropriate to seek the intercessions of the saints for guidance and protection,” Bishop Dewane said. “St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus Christ, is the Patriarch of the Universal Church. He is also guardian and protector of the Church and Her faithful. Therefore, I declare that the next year be a ‘Year of St. Joseph’ as we join in heartfelt prayer and devotion, encouraging all to take his life as our model for fulfilling our personal call to holiness.”

This “Year of St. Joseph” also coincides to commemorate the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being solemnly declared Patron of the Catholic Church by Pope Pius IX in his decree Quemadmodum Deus.

“St. Joseph is a figure who lead by example, while also offering powerful prayer and protection,” Bishop Dewane said.

In the coming months there will be announcements as events are planned, as well as prayer petitions, and other items. A prayer card will also be distributed students in the Diocesan Catholic Schools, encouraging the students seek the intercession of St. Joseph to pray for all fathers.

Masses and special events will also take place at each of the locations in the Diocese named after the saint: St. Joseph Parish and Catholic School in Bradenton; St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Moore Haven; San Jose Mission in Fort Myers and Campo San Jose Retreat Center in Lake Placid.

Lenten journey begins Feb. 26

“Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death.”

These words from Pope Francis should resonate with all Catholics and serve to remind us that the coming Liturgical Season has great significance and meaning.

During Lent, we are asked to devote ourselves to seeking the Lord in prayer and reading Scripture, to service by giving alms, and to practice self-control through fasting.

Lent lasts for 40 days – excluding Sundays – from Ash Wednesday (Feb. 26) to the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, which this year falls on April 9. It is a reminder of Christ’s 40 days of temptation and fasting in the desert, and of Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the desert.

This penitential season of fasting, alms-giving, and special prayer is like a spiritual cleansing and renewal to draw closer to God.

The key to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We recall those waters in which we were baptized into Christ’s death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.

Joshua Mazrin, Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization, said Lent is the ideal time to focus on becoming “A Disciple of Christ.”

“Discipleship is truly following the Lord,” Mazrin explained. “For Lent Jesus gives us an example by first going to the desert to fast and pray.” Christ teaches us:

  • To fast in order to grow in physical discipline. Fast intentionally – not just because it’s an old written down tradition, but in order to grow in mastery over your flesh and your passions;
  • To give alms in order to have detachment. We don’t give alms just because it’s nice. We give alms to help those in need as well as to not have an inordinate attachment to physical possessions;
  • To pray. We pray to grow in our relationship with God and as an act of humility. Humility helps us imitate Christ and a great example of humility is Mary.

Mazrin went on to explain that there are some practical things one can do to be “A Disciple of Christ” during Lent.

“Give up something specific for Lent not just to give something up, but something that will challenge you to grow in an area that will be beneficial to you and your relationship with God;” he continued. “Pray more intentionally. Meditate on purpose.  Pray the rosary, go to Mass an extra time during the week, pick up your bible and actually try to go deeper in it! Give alms, volunteer your time, try to see things from the perspective of someone less fortunate than yourself.”

During Lent, it is common to participate in a retreat or the Stations of the Cross, allowing the opportunity for one to refocus on the Lord in different ways. Check with your local Parish for these and other Lenten activities.

The precept of confessing grave sins and receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Lenten Season merits a reminder to the Faithful. To facilitate this requirement, every Parish in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present 4 to 8 p.m., Friday, April 3, and 9 a.m.to noon, Saturday, April 4. Additional times for the Sacrament are also offered so that the Faithful may find ample opportunity to receive God’s mercy. Parishes also combine to have an evening prayer service with many priests present to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Again, check with your local Parish for additional reconciliation times.

During Lent, a group of catechumens and candidates will be coming into the full communion with the Church. Bishop Frank J. Dewane will preside over the Rite of Election, at 2:30 p.m., on the first Sunday of Lent, March 1, at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice.

This annual tradition is a formal Rite during which catechumens are presented and their names are entered into the Book of Elect. This year, 112 catechumens will be joined by an additional 185 candidates who will also participate in the formal ceremony and be recognized during the celebration for answering the call to their continuing conversion.

Dates of note

In addition to Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, where one can receive ashes, there are several other key dates of note on the Liturgical Calendar.

On the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, March 19, Bishop Dewane will be celebrating 8 a.m., Mass at St. Joseph Parish, 3100 26th Ave. W., Bradenton, and then 12:30 p.m. Mass in Italian at Epiphany Cathedral, 3350 Tampa Ave. W., Venice. The Mass in Venice is at the invitation of the Italian-American Club and will include a traditional blessing of the bread and procession.

On the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, March 25, many Parishes add additional Mass to accommodate this day. The day also marks the start of the annual Novena for Mass for Life, a special opportunity to meditate on the progressive development of Our Lord in His mother’s womb.  The hope is that this meditation will help people to reflect on the sanctity of all human life, from fertilization/conception to birth and throughout life until natural death, regardless of age or condition.

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, April 5, is the day the Church remembers Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. The commemoration with the blessing of the palms and procession, is a ritual action that marks our own entry into Holy Week.

During Holy Week is the annual Chrism Mass, 10:30 a.m., April 7, at Epiphany Cathedral. The Chrism Mass is the largest gathering of priests in the Diocese and a time when they join Bishop Dewane in a celebration of the unity of the priesthood and when the holy oils used in the Sacraments are blessed and consecrated.

For more information about Lent and related activities taking place in the Diocese, or at local Parishes, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org.

REGULATIONS ON FASTING AND ABSTINENCE

Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, and Good Friday, April 10, are days of fast and abstinence. All Fridays of Lent are also days of abstinence from meat.

Fasting is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by all Catholics between the ages of 18 years and 59 years (inclusive). On a fast day one full meal is allowed. Two smaller meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids are allowed. If possible, the fast on Good Friday is to continue until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the “paschal fast” is to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily His Resurrection.

Abstinence from meat is to be observed by all Catholics who are 14 years of age and older on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent, including Good Friday.

Note: If a person is unable to observe the above regulations due to ill health or other serious reasons, they are urged to practice other forms of self-denial that are suitable to their condition.

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