Lent – Time To Prepare For Death… 

Comment: 

I remember as a young person hearing the priest exhort us to make a good Lent because “for someone in this congregation it will be their last Lent.”  And he was always right. 

Certainly, the obvious time of year to examine our sinful ways has to be the penitential season of Lent which begins today, Ash Wednesday.  The clue is in those sobering words which the priest says as he places the ashes on our forehead:  “Remember, soul, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.”

Trying to find something imaginative to post here, I visited a site listing one hundred possible Lenten penances, every one of which began with the words “Give up…”  Chocolate was on that list.   Can you believe it? 

Seriously, small sacrifices are, of course, important,  but is there another angle?   All ideas welcome…  

Reminder:  we always close to blog to comments for the duration of Holy Week. 

35 responses

  1. I love that hymn! It really touches the heart and that’s what I need today, to make me determined to make a good Lent.

    I do think the small sacrifices that involve giving up food, sweets, biscuits etc. are important. If we chastise the body, then the soul benefits.

    It’s also good to do something positive, as well, and I’m thinking that people like me with a fiery temperament, could maybe work on toning that down during Lent, not reacting so quickly to things that happen which annoy me.

    I wish everyone a successful Lent!

    • Michaela,

      Agreed – the “food” penances are useful to help us chastise the body a little, as you say. Wouldn’t be Lent, would it, if we had our daily ration of chocolate, she said, trying to keep the bitterness out of her voice… 😀

  2. Maybe spending more time in prayer and spiritual reading would be a very positive Lenten penance?

    But it would only be a penance if it was taking time that would normally be used for pleasure, such as reading a novel or watching a film or favourite TV soap.

    • Josephine,

      More prayer and spiritual reading time in place of internet/TV time is a great idea. Good luck with that 😀

      Seriously, it’s a very real penance, a one-size-fits-all penance, so thank you for that very practical and very penitential suggestion… I think 😀

  3. That hymn is just beautiful. I think even in these times of division within the Church, it’s still sung in most parishes during Lent.

    About Lenten penances – trying to be more prayerful and charitable is important, IMHO.

  4. This is a good article:- https://remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/articles/item/4782-lenten-meditation-on-a-helicopter-crash

    I find that to make concrete resolutions helps. Write a list of what you intend to do during Lent and pin it up somewhere, and keep referring to it. Use it as part of your evening examination of conscience to see if you are keeping to it or not. It’s so easy to make vague resolutions only for them to go out the window.

    • Westminster Fly,

      I like your idea of making a list of things we plan to do in Lent and then keep checking it for an examination of conscience reflection. That’s a great idea, and I’m going to try it.

    • Westminsterfly,

      Father Isaac Relyea’s Lenten Retreats on video are a must to listen to, especially in this day and age. All it takes is setting aside time to listen and then meditating upon each one.

    • WF

      I plan to watach all of those videos over Lent. Many thanks for posting them here. I’ve already had one excellent telephone review from a reader who watched the first one, so I’m looking forward to viewing them all soon.

      • I watched the first one this weekend. It was very good and thought provoking. I highly recommend them. The trouble is that those who need them most will probably never see them. Perhaps CT could highlight one video a week up until Lent? (i.e. put each one up as a separate thread and encourage CT readers to watch them with their families and friends?)

  5. Maybe as a Lenten penance with a difference, we could all make a point of checking the LIFE petitions and signing them. This one is supporting faithful Catholics against the German Bishops who are trying to completely Protestantise the Church in Germany
    https://lifepetitions.com/petition/support-faithful-german-catholics-who-oppose-dangerous-synodal-path-run-by-german-bishops

    It was good to see other Catholics on the street today, showing their ashes. It’s encouraging to think not all the old customs have disappeared.

  6. I think it would be good if Catholics took a break from social media during Lent. I think the blog’s a bit different because that is to educate, the best we can, about the crisis in the Church but you can’t really do that on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, IMHO, so anyone on those platforms should think about giving them up for Lent, or at least cutting down.

    I am going to cut down in my internet activity myself, and also watch less TV. I do think our minds become so cluttered with technology and fiction, that we can actually distance ourselves from God without really knowing it.

    • Lily,

      I totally agree – a break from the more addictive social media platforms would be an excellent penance, especially for young people.

      I can’t help adding, if only we had a few more bloggers addicted to this social media platform 😀

  7. Lily took some of the wind out of my sails, but I’ve decided to blog only once a week during Lent as part of my internet restrictions.

    Meanwhile, here is a rather long excerpt from from Pius XII’s Encyclical Letter of 1957, “LE PELERINAGE DE LOURDES”:

    “She [Our Lady of Lourdes] even appeals for outward expressions: “Go kiss the earth in penance for sinners.” And to this gesture must be added a prayer: “Pray to God for sinners.”

    As in the days of John the Baptist, as at the start of Jesus’ ministry, this command, strong and rigorous, shows men the way which leads back to God: “Repent!” Who would dare to say that this appeal for the conversion of hearts is untimely today? … But the world… is … undergoing a terrible temptation to materialism which has been denounced by Our Predecessors and Ourselves on many occasions… It rages … in a love of money which creates ever greater havoc as modern enterprises expand, and which, unfortunately, determines many of the decisions which weigh heavy on the life of the people.

    It finds expression in the cult of the body, in excessive desire for comforts, and in flight from all the austerities of life. It encourages scorn for human life, even for life which is destroyed before seeing the light of day. This materialism is present in the unrestrained search for pleasure, which flaunts itself shamelessly and tries, through reading matter and entertainments, to seduce souls which are still pure. It shows itself in lack of interest in one’s brother, in selfishness which crushes him, in justice which deprives him of his rights — in a word, in that concept of life which regulates everything exclusively in terms of material prosperity and earthly satisfactions… To a society which in its public life often contests the supreme rights of God, to a society which would gain the whole world at the expense of its own soul and thus hasten to its own destruction, the Virgin Mother has sent a cry of alarm… ‘Kindly come . . . ,’said the Virgin to Bernadette.

    This discreet invitation, which does not compel but is addressed to the heart and requests with delicacy a free and generous response, the Mother of God addresses again to her children in France and the whole world. Christians will not remain deaf to this appeal; they will go to Mary.

    It is to each of them that We wish to say at the conclusion of this letter with St. Bernard: ‘Amid dangers, difficulties, and doubts, think of Mary, invoke Mary’s aid…. If you follow her, you will not stray; if you entreat her, you will not lose hope; if you reflect upon her, you will not err; if she supports you, you will not fall; if she protects you, you will not fear; if she leads you, you will not grow weary; if she is propitious, you will reach your goal….’”

    • RCA Victor,

      Thank you for that. I noted this observation…

      …excessive desire for comforts… flight from all the austerities of life.

      That describes me to a T

      Seriously, there is much food for thought in that extract from Pius XII’s encyclical, so thank you for taking the time to post it here.

  8. For Lent, I tend to do the usual giving up sweet things but this year I’m also going to try to avoid people who cause me to be angry. I’m quick tempered and I need to do that to keep calm when in the presence of certain people. If it works in Lent, I’ll extend it to the rest of the year!

    I love the hymn “Lord of Mercy and Compassion” – it’s beautiful.

    • Robin,

      While it is understandable to want to avoid difficult people (I’m one of those who is avoided like the plague! Literally… the Coronavirus has a better success rate at interacting with the human race 😀 ) – still, it’s not really ideal, is it?

      Our Lord said that if we are good only to those who are good to us, what merit is there in that? Even (He added) the pagans do as much, do they not?

      So, I’d rethink that “penance” if I were you.

      Agree about the hymn – one of my favourites.

    • Robin

      The more heroic thing to do is to put yourself more in the company of the hair shirts who irk you and work, by God’s grace, to nurture patience and charity. If you feel this is beyond your strength, however, then you have chosen the right course of action already.

      Btw, I love the hymn “God of mercy and compassion” as well. My other Lenten favourite is “By the blood that flowed from Thee”.

    • John,

      Apologies, I meant to reply to your comment days ago.

      Only to say that you are obviously very well meaning and understanding of the Scriptural roots of Lent – we Catholics are forever accused of doing things which are UN-Scriptural but that is not the case.

      Maybe you’ll come, one day, to see that having access to another Scripturally based Christian tradition – the Sacrament of Penance or Confession – is a marvellous grace all year round but especially during Lent.

      We’re always happy to help our non-Catholic friends move closer to that crossing point – so, just say the word!

  9. N O T I C E . . .

    As if I don’t have enough Lenten penances on my plate, here’s one just in… well, I have to simply give the information because the reader-critic headlined his kind letter Not for Publication… If you could but read it for yourselves, you’d see why. Not that I’m one to speak, but charity is not this guy’s strong suit…

    Following receipt of the above email, I posted the following correction on our website, Newsletter page…

    A delighted reader-critic emailed to point out the following errors in the article on the Diocese of Galloway, p.12 of the current edition. (1) The Bishop of Galloway is William Nolan, not John Cunningham (2) The photo is of Bishop Mone, retired Bishop of Paisley, RIP. This carelessness is entirely the fault of the editor, who offers sincere apologies, and, of course, gratitude to the reader who pointed it out.
    http://www.catholictruthscotland.com/newsletter.html

    That’s the bad news.

    The good news is that I can not only correct that in the May newsletter, but I can repeat the error abut the Holy Family being refugees – which, interestingly, the author of the above corrective email didn’t even mention… 😀 One has to laugh… doesn’t one? 😀

  10. Editor

    And here was I thinking you were infallible. So disappointing to discover you’re human after all!

        • Athanasius,

          How wrong can one (you!) be! I don’t exactly excel at the “prayer and penance” bit of Lent – and Catholic life in general !

          I’m hoping that my place in Purgatory will be behind a computer screen, to type out, three times, all the typos and errors I’ve ever made in the newsletter (like naming the wrong bishop and using a deceased predecessor’s photo in place of his own) – I can DO correcting typing and ID errors. Fasting and similar penances, not so much…

          • I know what you mean about Fasting and penances, being of a similar cowardly nature in the face of austerity!! Purgatory I try not to think about too much, other than to pray for the poor suffering souls already there. Talk about sticking one’s head in the sand!!

            • Athanasius,

              It can be a big mistake to stick one’s head in the sand about Purgatory, as I’m finding out right now.

              I’m reading “Purgatory Explained – by the Lives and Legends of the Saints by Father F. X. Schouppe

              Perfect reading for both Lent and the month of the Holy Souls in November.

    • Editor

      I did actually take the plunge once before when I read “Read me or rue it”, a book on the sufferings of Purgatory. Actually, I try not to keep my head in the sand on such important issues, especially with the advice of the saints that if we aim for Purgatory we’re likely to miss the target and end up in Hell.

      • Athanasius,

        Read me or rue it – that’s the one! I’ve been trying to remember the name of a book on Purgatory which someone recommended to me ages ago. Could I remember the title? Nope. So thank you for that, but after reading Fr Schouppe’s tuppence-worth, I think I’m due a rest from Purgatory, so to speak.

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