Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday, is the traditional season of renewal and repentance in the Catholic Church.
It is a time when the Church calls on the faithful to renew their commitment to Christian life. this renewal is a central part of our preparation for Easter. The Gospel tells us how to approach renewal through prayer, fasting and charity.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting and abstinence. Fasting measns that the amount of food we eat is considerably reduced. Abstinence means that we give up particular kinds of food or drink, for example meat and alcohol. Friday, and especially the Fridays of Lent, recalls the crucifixion of Our Lord as we prepare for Easter. Fridays are set aside as special days of penance.
Bishop John Kirby talks about Lent and Trócaire’s Lenten Campaign 2011, which focuses on poverty and land issues affecting the people of Northern Honduras.
Pope Benedict’s Message for Ash Wednesday – “Lent: Rediscovering our Baptism”
“Today, with the austere symbol of the ashes, we enter the period of Lent, beginning a spiritual journey which prepares for a worthy celebration of the Paschal mysteries. The ashes … are a sign reminding us of our status as created beings and inviting us to penance, to intensify our commitment to conversion so as to continue following the Lord”, said the Pope in his general audience today, held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 7,000 faithful.
“Lent is a journey, it means accompanying Jesus as He travels to Jerusalem, the place where the mystery of His Passion, Death and Resurrection is to be fulfilled. It reminds us that Christian life is a ‘road’ to be travelled, consisting not so much in a law to be observed as in the person of Christ Himself, Who must be encountered, welcomed and followed”.
“It is above all in the liturgy, in participation in the holy mysteries, that we are drawn into following this path with the Lord, … reliving the events that have led us to salvation; but not as a simple commemoration, a recollection of things past”, the Holy Father explained. “There is”, he said, “a keyword to indicate this, which is often repeated in the liturgy: the word ‘today’, which must be understood not metaphorically but in its original concrete sense. Today God reveals His law and we have the opportunity to chose between good and evil, between life and death”.
“On Sundays during Lent we experience “a baptismal itinerary” which helps to conform “our lives to the requirements and duties of that Sacrament, which lies at the foundation of our Christian life”.
“The first Sunday [of Lent], called the Sunday of temptation because it presents us with the temptation of Jesus in the desert, invites is to renew our definitive choice for God, and courageously to face the struggle that awaits us in remaining faithful to Him”. The second Sunday is the Sunday of Abraham and the Transfiguration and, “like Abraham, father of believers, we too are invited to depart, to leave our own land, to abandon the certainties we have constructed and place our faith in God. We may glimpse our goal in the transfiguration of Christ, the beloved Son, in Whom we too become ‘children of God'”.
On the third Sunday we encounter the Samaritan woman. “Like Israel in the Exodus, in Baptism we too received the water that saves. Jesus, as He tells the Samaritan woman, has the water of life which satisfies every thirst; this water is His Spirit. … The fourth Sunday leads us to reflect on the experience of the man ‘blind from birth’. In Baptism we are freed from the shades of evil and receive the light of Christ in order to live as children of light. … Finally, the fifth Sunday presents us with the raising of Lazarus. In Baptism we pass from death to life and become capable of pleasing God, of causing the old man to die so as to live in the spirit of the Risen One”.
In Church tradition the period of Lent is characterised by practices such as fasting, almsgiving and prayer, said Pope Benedict, explaining how fasting “means abstaining from food, but it also includes other forms of privation for a more abstemious life”. It “is closely linked to almsgiving … which under the one name of ‘mercy’ embraces many good works”. Moreover, during this period the Church “invites us to a more trusting and intense prayer, and to prolonged meditation on the Word of God”.
“On this Lenten journey”, the Pope concluded, “let us be attentive to welcoming Christ’s invitation to follow Him more decisively and coherently, renewing the grace and commitments of our Baptism, so as to abandon the old man who is in us and clothe ourselves in Christ, thus reaching Easter renewed and being able to say with St. Paul ‘it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me'”.
Bishop Liam MacDaid, Bishop of Clogher, reflects on the season of Lent and makes an invitation to people to make a pilgrimage to Lough Derg.
Temperance is a virtue which can help us to moderate the attraction to substances like alcohol and so avoid excessive use.
Alcohol, when used in moderation,can be good and a part of our social life.However we must remember that alcohol is also the number one drug in our country, and does affect us in some way.
Consider some of these facts:
- Alcohol is a drug, and a drug changes the way the body works.It affects the mind, the body and emotions. Alcohol is a depressant.
- Alcohol affects every single person in Ireland today.We cannot deny this when we consider:
- One in three deaths on the road are alcohol related
- One in four of the most serious domestic abuse cases involve alcohol One.
- One in four A&E admissions are alcohol related (Alcohol Action Ireland 2008).
Heavy drinking affects the health and well-being of many of our friends, family and neighbours and many experts associate depression,anxiety and increasing lack of self confidence with our increased consumption of alcohol.
Alcohol is everywhere in our society and approximately €55million is being spent by the Alcohol Industry convincing us through advertising that it is a necessarypart of a successful lifestyle. it is unfortunate that our young people have to be bombarded with advertisements promoting alcohol products in so many sports arenas, at prime times on our televisions, in flyers distributed alongside so many promotions by pubs,off licenses and supermarkets.
We know anecdotally that every family is in some way affected by alcohol harm in Irish society. An independent national survey of Irish attitudes to alcohol by Alcohol Action Ireland in 2006, found that 82% of people felt that our current alcohol consumption levels are a problem.
All of this tells us something which needs to register with us so that we can see that we can all do something to help, rather than waiting for Government to lead. As a society we need to agree what is acceptable to tolerate or not with regard to drunkenness, harm to self, to others, protection of children and families.
Parents have the greatest influence, power and responsibility over their children especially when it comes to alcohol misuse. Parents and guardians are in the position to show by example, not getting drunk, or showing that alcohol is not the way to cope, or the only way to have a good time. A practical suggestion to consider at this time is to refrain from alcohol during Lent.
Fr Theobald Mathew (1790-1856)
Fr Mathew was a Capuchin friar from Tipperary whose 19thcentury crusade against the abuse of alcohol gained him the title of “Apostle of Temperance”.
Fr Mathew’s call to sobriety has relevance to modern Ireland. The cost to the nation by way of, human suffering, abstention from work, criminality and social upheaval is inestimable. The alarming rise in teenage and underage drinking attracts growing concern and there have been calls for well-prepared alcohol awareness programmes for schools.
Compassionate Lord and Saviour,
you inspired the Capuchin Friar Theobold Mathew to show your compassionate face to those addicted and burdened by the abuse of alcohol or addicted behavior, and to promote temperance.
May we today, continue to serve our brothers and sisters with love and joy, And to foster balance, and moderation in our life styles with the help of God.
So, we pray, “here goes in the name of God.”
A number of our parishes nationwide have opened youth cafés. Many of these cafés are being provided in parish halls or facilities that were not being used fully. All Cafés are being managed by volunteers who are fully trained in all areas of youth leadership by Diocesan youth services or by agencies such as Foroige or Youth Work Ireland. The main aim of these café’s is to provide what many of the youth asked for in their areas, that is a safe environment for young people to gather. Many of the cafés were first opened on shoe string budgets. They include comfortable seating, television, computers with internet access, table games as well as the provision of subsidised drinks and snacks. On talking to some young people that use these Café’s these are some of the comments that were given.
‘I used to be getting in trouble with the Guards a lot, since getting involved in the youth café it has kept me out of trouble, now I am a trainee youth leader.’
‘If we were on the streets hanging about, we would be under more pressure to use alcohol or take drugs, but in the Café, we are safe and can talk.’
‘It shows the Church care about us by giving the hall, so we get involved in other things that are taking place in the parish.’
To receive further information on any of the above, or wish to receive a DVD on our initiative please contact us in the Columba Centre in Maynooth 01-5053044 or by email at [email protected]