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Ash Wednesday Begins the Season of Lent

27 February 2012

22nd February was Ash Wednesday and in the Roman Catholic Church it is the first day of Lent, the season of preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday, the season of Mercy.

During Mass and in our Homerooms, ashes were applied to our forehead in the sign of the cross as the words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” are spoken to emphasize our call to continual conversion and holiness of life. The distribution of ashes symbolizes our mortality as well as our need for ongoing repentance. The ashes we receive are a reminder of our own sinfulness, and many Catholics leave them on their foreheads all day as a sign of humility.

Fasting and abstinence
On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday Catholics are to observe the law of fasting and abstinence (Canons 1250-1253). It is necessary for us to observe at minimum requirements of the Church as a matter of humility and obedience.
- The law of fasting requires all Catholics between ages 18 and 60 to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. This means eating only one full meal and two smaller meals with no food in between.
- The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat. Besides Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics are to abstain from eating meat on all the Fridays of Lent.

Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving
During Lent, we seek to follow the mind of the Church in developing our spiritual life. The Church recommends three key penitential practices of Lent and these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving or mercy. St Peter Chrysologus said that Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains and mercy receives. He said these three components are one, and they give life to each other. A great way to keep a particular focus on Lent is to read Pope Benedict XVI’s 2012 annual Lenten message www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/lent/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20111103_lent-2012_en.html

Giving something up
Usually during Lent it is practical for us to give up something. Be careful not to set your goals too high that it will be too hard for you to finish. Don’t let yourself get off easily from your goals. Pray and discern carefully before you set your goals. Give up something different from what you gave up in the previous years. Some people give up sweets for Lent and that is good. However, I recommend you to move beyond giving up sweets to giving up some habit of sin that marked your life. Perhaps something that you are addicted to; for example: facebook, internet, drinking, swearing, anger, TV, spending, gambling, eating, smoking, etc.

Remember, Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. And that always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace new life in Christ.

Doing something extra
Besides giving up something, it is also practical to do something extra during Lent. Again don’t set your goals too high but be reasonable. Some of the things that you can do for Lent are: go to the weekday mass instead of Sundays only; spend more time in prayer and before the Blessed Sacrament; say the rosary daily; go to confession more often; do some charity work, help a member of your family, etc. It is never too late to start.

Have a holy and fruitful Lenten season.

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