February 4, 2013
Dear friends in Christ:
Ash Wednesday this year falls on February 13th, nestled between Lincoln’s Birthday and Valentine’s Day…
Whenever it falls, however, the Lenten season calls all Christians to reflect on their relationship with Christ and their relationship with each other. Lent calls us to works of sacrifice and charity. Lent is a time for us to look into ourselves and work on those faults and failings that each of us has, because they prevent us from being all God is calling us to be. Lent is a time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that we may put things right with God and others. To that end I am asking parishes to designate additional times for the Sacrament of Penance each week of Lent. Ash Wednesday is a time for acts of penance and alms-giving, helping those who are less fortunate than ourselves. A visible sign of our Lenten practices comes on Ash Wednesday when the ashes mark a sign of the cross on our forehead to remind us that our frail human nature needs the saving power of Christ.
During Lent, Catholics who are between the ages of 18 and 59 undertake at a minimum two days of fasting: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. To fast means to take just one full meal with two smaller meals and no eating between meals. Additionally, every Catholic 14 years and older is to make Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent meatless days – days on which no meat of any kind is eaten, days of abstinence.
The imposition of ashes, fasting and abstinence from meat are outward signs of the work we seek to do during Lent: to make our interior dispositions more of what Christ would have us be. Each of us is asked, as well, to undertake particular prayers, actions, alms giving, mortifications, and self-sacrifice to help us grow in our understanding of all God has done for us. A special undertaking can be the Rice Bowl program – a sacrifice by each of us for those who never have a full meal.
May this Lent be for each of us a time of growth in our relationship with Christ and with others and may it be a time that we find ourselves more fully in concert with all that God calls us to be.
With every best wish,
Most Reverend Timothy A. McDonnell
Bishop of Springfield