Ash Wednesday signifies the start of the Lenten season. It’s the time when many Catholics make promises or offer sacrifices to God.
“Lord, I’ll stop visiting those sites on the Internet. I will stop the bad habits that come with it. I will control my temper. I will be more patient with the members of my family and my friends at school. I will strive to become more virtuous. And in order to do that, I will give up something. I will fast from movies during Lent. I won’t drink beer during Lent. I will stop smoking during Lent.”
These different things are what we call penances. Think back to those promises and penances of all your past Lents. The problem is by about the third or fourth week of Lent, those promises you made so enthusiastically on Ash Wednesday are forgotten. If this is how your Lenten season had been in the past, welcome to the group. It happens to most of us because we get Lent all wrong.
In the preface of the Mass during Ash Wednesday, the priest prays, “Each year, You give us this joyful season.” Oh, they must have it wrong. That’s Advent. Advent is joyful as it moves up to Christmas. But Lent is a time of penance. Penance means punishment.
No, it doesn’t. Penance means “preparation so I can love better.”
Ash Wednesday is different from the other Wednesdays of Lent because you have to fast from food and abstain from meat. For many years, I would do the evening Ash Wednesday Mass at the Greenbelt Chapel in Makati, then I would head over to Glorietta. Once, I went to a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and everybody there had big ashes on their forehead—they came from my Mass—and they were eating chicken! I said, “Whoa! Fish. Fish.” And they all laughed. The reason why we fast from food on Ash Wednesday is to open our hearts wider for what we will do in the next thirty-nine days of Lent.
In the book, Deeper, Fr. Bob shares with us a simple Lenten plan. He has given seven different penances to do on different days of the week and is doable in its diversity. You won’t do the same thing throughout the season. You won’t give up something and then not be able to push through with it. These seven preparations will help you love better and, with the help of God’s grace, you will be able to carry them out.
Get this simple Lenten plan in the book below.
*This excerpt was taken from DEEPER by Fr. Bob McConaghy, available in paperback and e-book copy at http://www.feastbooks.ph!