Fr. Daniel Gifford
PREPARING FOR THE DESERT WITH DESSERT
Dear St. Louis Parishioners, We come to another turning point in the Liturgical Year, as we prepare to begin the desert season of Lent, this coming Wednesday. We recall that this annual commemoration of Our Lord’s time in the desert, in preparation for His ministry, calls us to ready our hearts to enter into His Passion, Death and Resurrection come Holy Week and Easter. The principle means we employ for this are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. As I emphasize every year, this means that each of us is called upon to commit ourselves to all three of these practices. I can elaborate on this in future weeks. For now, let us simply remember that Christ has given us everything, and thus we seek to give Him more and enter more deeply into His own thirst for souls, which was acute
in the desert. In the meantime, we now find ourselves in the final days before Lent, which I like to call “Fat Week,” as an extension of “Fat Tuesday” (aka Mardi Gras). There are many ways that Mardi Gras can be misunderstood or abused in attempts to justify all manner of excess and even sin. And to be clear, it is not an official season or observance in the Church at all, but rather a cultural custom inspired by the Church calendar. Personally, I am of the belief that it has merit, when understood in the best way possible. The basic concept is that it is fitting to take some time, before Lent begins, to enjoy some of the things that we will be abstaining from in Lent. As Catholics, we can NEVER condone or justify sin. So, Mardi Gras absolutely should not be a time when we indulge in sinful behavior, because we intend to “give that up” for Lent. We must strive to give up sin for Ordinary Time, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and even Mardi Gras itself! So, indulging in sin is not appropriate for Mardi Gras. And likewise “giving up sin” alone is not sufficient for Lent, simply because it does not yet involve sacrificing anything beyond what we are called to do all year long. So, what is an appropriate understanding of the celebration that Mardi Gras prompts? Well, now is a time to begin to ask, “what are some pleasures or luxuries in life that are good in proper moderation, but which I can live without?” These might be desserts or other sweets, alcohol, other luxurious foods, social media, hobbies or some other form of entertainment. As we consider these things, we might notice that we don’t always practice as much moderation toward them as we should or even that we simply take them for granted. In Mardi Gras, we might make an intentional effort to enjoy those things, without taking them for granted. So, we might enjoy a generous enough portion of them to really appreciate it, but without the excess that might cause us to slip back into that old habit of again taking them for granted. Then, on Ash Wednesday morning, we take our renewed appreciation of these pleasures to the next level by remembering concretely that we really can live without them! So, enjoy yourself in these next couple of days. Dare I say, even indulge a bit, but without the kind of excess that leads to sin. Then, on Wednesday, we will begin to rediscover the deeper joy of being content simply living with and for Jesus Christ.
LENT RECONCILIATION: As usual, I am going to attempt to offer as many opportunities as possible for people to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We offer the sacrament three times each week all year round. During the preparatory seasons of Advent and Lent, we increase the number of opportunities in the following four ways: 1. Available six days each week: Monday, Thursday: 4:30-5 PM; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 7:45-8:15 AM; Saturday: 3-3:45 PM 2. Holy Hour for the Reconciliation of All God's Children: Wed, March 4th @ 7PM 3. Available after each Mass on Saturday, March 21st and Sunday, March 22nd 4. Regional Penance Service, hosted in Peru. Details T.B.A.
ASH WEDNESDAY: It sometimes surprises people to hear that Ash Wednesday is often the busiest day of the year in the Church. My personal theory for why Ash Wednesday is often busier even than Christmas or Easter has to do with the fact that it cannot be secularized the way the holidays often are. Unlike Christmas or Easter, if a Christian is aware of what day it is on Ash Wednesday, the secular culture has no alternative suggestions for what they should do differently, besides what they were taught growing up: go to Church, pray, fast, and abstain from meat. And of course, seeing people with the ashes on their heads helps make it harder for people to forget what day it is! So, I will be busy with our two Masses, as well as assisting with bringing the ashes to our nursing homes. This custom began in recent years. It is my intention to begin personally bringing ashes to a different one of the nursing homes each year (with our extraordinary ministers assisting with bringing them to the others).
STUDYING THE HUMILITY OF CHRIST: The task before us in this Year of Humility is to contemplate the humility of Christ. This takes different forms, including the more contemplative approach of the “20/20 Vision '' Holy Hours each month. One other form that I am recommending is that new and existing study groups might focus on “studying the humility of Christ.” This is done simply by studying the Gospels directly. I may mention other examples later, but let me now announce that Diane and Mario Carlone will be leading a study of Christ’s Passion for Lent, using the new series “No Greater Love: A Biblical Walk Through Christ’s Passion.” They will meet on Tuesday evenings (excluding the weeks that CCW meets, as before), 6-7:30 PM. The first session will be Tuesday, March 3rd. This will be a great opportunity to enter prayerfully into Lent, alongside other parishioners. If you are interested, please reach out to Mario Carlone—815-878-6797 or Diane Carlone—815-866-1660.
NEXT SATURDAY: For those who arrive on Saturday for Mass, you may find a slightly different scenario when you arrive next week. Our second year Confirmation Prep students will be having their retreat that day - it begins earlier in the afternoon, includes Mass and Confessions with the rest of the parish, and concludes with an activity involving dinner afterward. For this reason, Our Blessed Lord will be exposed in a monstrance for Eucharistic Adoration, I will be having priest-help with Reconciliation, and occasional readings and songs will assist with prayer. We also will have a guest preacher, as the homily serves as their final talk for the day!
In Christ through Mary,
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!