You were pre-warned of Lent’s approach and we are soon made to face it. I want this coming season to be profitable for you. A word needs be said about the meaning of it all.
Why do we go through the annual exercise of Lent? Among the plausible answers is that this is a time to meditate on the Lord’s Passion. This is a “traditional” response to Lent, and it has a long list of saints that stands behind it. Modern attempts to make sense of Lent have done away with this aspect of it because the emphasis on the sufferings and redemptive death of Christ–even in the Mass as the sacrifice of Calvary renewed–has been obscured, if not denied. Just as we have a long period of celebration of the Resurrection in the Easter season so we have a lengthy season devoted to the memory of the Lord’s Passion. This reason for having Lent should remain. Moreover, it has great power to deepen our union with Christ.
Another motive for the Forty Days is to make reparation for our sins by penitential practices. Here again, the notion of causing oneself inconvenience, of denying some good things to oneself, of taking on some form of self-punishment in compensation for wrongdoing is very far from the modern self-absorbed mind. We ought to realize, however, that unless we do penance in reparation we will be made to pay the debt of sin’s temporal punishments in the life hereafter. This kind of reparative Lenten practice then is a form of justice to God whose honor has been derogated by sin.
Yet another reason for Lent has to do with making substantive spiritual betterment of oneself. This need not be something discreditable or unworthy of our Lenten goals. As long as a supernatural intention is present in our minds we can and should seek to improve ourselves through fasting and other forms of penance.
A whole other question is how effective such practices may be in the long run and whether or not, once Lent will have passed, our old, bad ways will return. To respond to this one should note that self improvement is always a difficult thing to access for oneself. We may seem, after Lent is over, to be going back to our former selves without any discernible and lasting change having taken place. God alone, however, is the One to make the true evaluation of our efforts, weighing them justly. We cannot accurately estimate them. One should not be reluctant to practice good works or to impose self disciplines because of the seeming futility of their effectiveness in the long run. Recall that there is merit for all works done in a state of grace and it is this “weight” of our good deeds which constitutes their essential value–not the discernible and measurable effects they have for our improvement.
Some Lenten things for the record. Ash Wednesday is a day of fast and abstinence from meat. Blessed ashes will be given at the beginning of the two Masses, 7:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Distribution will also take place at noon, but without a Mass. All Fridays of Lent are strictly binding as meatless days. Every Friday there will be the K of C Fish Fry in the gym from 4:00 until 7:00. I will be giving talks there on the Psalms, sharing with the people some of the richness that I have discovered in teaching my home school course. These talks will be in the gym, during the last part of the fish dinner. Only those dining there will be able to hear the talks. Stations of the Cross will follow these meals at 7:30 (note the new time). Friday evening Mass will succeed the Stations, sometime around 7:45. Thursday is the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes, a special day in view of our Lourdes Grotto. If it is opportune, we will pray the rosary at the Grotto on that day. This will be announced at Mass.
Monday, February 08, 2016
Fr. Perrone: Why should Catholics make reparation for their sins during Lent?
Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" [temporary link] (Assumption Grotto News, February 7, 2016) [emphasis mine]: