Ash Wednesday and Lent

“Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return”.

What is Lent and Ash Wednesday?

Lent is the Holy season in which we prepare for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It lasts for approximately 40 days. We prepare with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is also a time to remember our Baptismal promises and for repentance. Basically, Lent is a time for “spring cleaning” our lives while giving thanks to God and strengthening our relationship with Him.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Although not a Holy Day of Obligation, Catholics go to church to receive a sign of the cross on their foreheads from ashes (ashes from the blessed palms used on Palm Sunday the previous year). This mark is a reminder of our mortality and a call for repentance. The priest blesses the ashes and says, “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return”.

Fr. Sam Explains…

If there is ever a day throughout the year where you can spot Catholics at a glance, Ash Wednesday is it. It is the only time of the year whereby Catholics literally wear their faith on their foreheads. The ashes themselves are made from burnt palms which were used in the previous years ‘Palm Sunday’ services. This instantly reminds us, that all earthly glory, even that given to Christ himself on earth, fades away. It reminds us of the fragility and mortality of our earthly life and our need to be redeemed by our heavenly Father. Our bodies then must fall temporarily into dust, like all things. But this should serve to challenge us in our everlasting accomplishments: Am I focusing all my time and energy on earthly things that are passing away? Or on heavenly things that will remain forever? The ashes we receive then shouldn’t be a gloomy reminder of death, but the glorious promise of eternal life’. 

A Family Perspective…

‘Giving something up’ for lent is a pretty useless exercise if you don’t know why you are doing it. Fasting is not a body detox, a way of losing weight or an opportunity to see how far we can push ourselves. It’s not even really worth anything as a discipline exercise. In fact fasting is ONLY worth anything at all if used in conjunction with prayer. Then it becomes an incredibly powerful spiritual tool.  

When we pray we begin to understand that our fasting sacrifice is actually all about love. It helps us understand that love and sacrifice are actually inseparable. We can then relate this to the sacrifice Jesus made for each one of us on the cross.  When we feel the pinch of our little sacrifices during Lent, we also begin to experience something else – gratitude. Thank you Jesus, for sacrificing everything, for me.

Lent is a time when family prayer is essential.  We are truly preparing as a family for Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. With children it is best to keep prayer time short and to the point and above all – regular. Meal times are a good time to pray with kids: ‘Dear Jesus, thank you for giving your life for us on the cross. Amen.’ Short and sweet and to the point. Along with this prayer you could also invite your children to give up something small at the dinner table ie. ketchup, dessert, or water instead of juice (it is much better for kids to fast like this as a daily exercise rather than try to give one thing up for 6 weeks and then fail!) Then the money saved can be given to the poor.

Thought for the week…

FASTING IS USELESS WITHOUT PRAYER.

Dear Jesus…

Help me learn that love and sacrifice are inseparable. Help me understand your sacrifice on the cross and help me understand how much you love me.

Thank You, I love You Jesus. Amen.

Download this newsletter to use in your school or parish: Ash Wednesday and Lent.doc Ash Wednesday and Lent.pdf

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