My dear parishioners, I hope you are all keeping well in these times. It seems so long since we were able to gather together for Holy Mass. You are missed, but are remembered of course in my Masses and prayers each day. Today we celebrate the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, and interestingly this occurs at exactly the same time as the first apparition of Our Lady to St. Bernadette – by this I mean on the Thursday of the week before Ash Wednesday.
We are fast approaching the holy season of Lent, next Wednesday (17th) being Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and abstinence when normally we would be marked with an outward sign of penitence indicative of our interior desire to put off the old man and put on the new – to be transformed in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Despite not being able to come together for this celebration to mark the beginning of Lent we should now be considering with seriousness and resolve what penitential practices we are going to undertake so as to free our hearts and consciences from the burdens of sin, to purify our intentions, and to grow in faithfulness to the Lord and what He asks of us in His Gospel.
Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the keys to a fruitful Lent and to spiritual growth and development, and although the great means of our conversion and sanctification (the holy Sacraments) are somewhat at a distance for us in our current circumstances, sadly, we can make use of the combined means of intensified prayer, self-denial and sacrifice, and works of practical charity, to grow in holiness with the help of God’s grace.
I also encourage you to delve more into spiritual reading, especially the lives of the Saints, which provide inspiration and instruction for us in our own pilgrimage of faith. There are many works available through online retailers and also a good number of spiritual classics free online if we search for them. I have listed one website which provides many such links on our parish Facebook page. You might also think of daily making a good examination of conscience and a firm purpose of amendment to overcome your sins with God’s help, you might choose to pray the Holy Rosary every day if you’re not doing that already – highly recommended by Our Blessed Lady Herself, you may decide to read through the Gospels, and if you don’t have them already at home to purchase a good Catholic Bible (e.g. Knox Version, Douai Rheims, etc.) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. There are many things that we can do to establish better habits of prayer and faithfulness in this season which will continue on in our lives. One very good thing may even be, in this Year of St. Joseph, to purchase Fr. Donald Calloway’s book, Consecration to St. Joseph, and engage in that exercise over thirty-three days.
Whatever you decide to do, I pray that you will have a blessed and fruitful Lent. Try to observe days of fasting (Fridays for example) and try to give your hearts over more to the Lord by spending good quality time with Him in prayer, really making the effort to put other things aside so that you can be with Him – this sacrifice will not go unrewarded, as the Lord is very generous to those who are willing to spend time at His feet like St. Mary, sister of St. Martha.
Let us pray for each other too, remembering the Mystical Body of Christ, asking God’s blessing upon His Holy Catholic Church and its members, asking that this be a time of spiritual transformation for us all.
I hope to have the live-streaming service up and running again next week, God willing, so that I may be able to livestream Stations of the Cross or other devotions and reflections, and you can always join me on the Facebook page for the Divine Office and the Holy Rosary, and check out the informative videos that are posted there now and again.
With every prayer and blessing,