February 10, 2016: Let the fasting and penance begin!

~by Susi Pittman

It is Ash Wednesday and the Roman Catholic Church begins a spiritual retreat into the heart of what is the season of Lent; the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth, The Promised Messiah, Son of God. Catholics must move through the coming 40 days reflecting on the greatest Passion and Love ever offered the world. Lent is a lifestyle change we embrace to prepare ourselves for the greatest story every told, the coming Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus the Christ.

The ashes we receive on our foreheads are from the palms saved from the previous year and burned in most cases, with ceremony at the church, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Did you know that blessed ashes have been used since the time of Moses? In my home, I have kept my palms placed in various rooms as a blessing to that room and it is with great reflection that I gather them and bring them to the church for burning. Much has happened in the year past and it is a sobering time to reflect on one’s work for the Lord both done and undone.

Perhaps you have just partaken in the non-religious Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday tradition of overindulgence in eating or drinking. It is noted perhaps that this practice has its root in the fact that Catholics were called to a stringent adherence to the removal of meat from the daily diet in the early centuries. And one either needed to either eat their meat quickly or allow it to spoil due to no refrigeration during the six weeks to follow.

Lencten is the Anglo-Saxon word for springtime and is the root of where we get Lent. It was in the springtime, respected since the 3rd century that the early Church associated with the Lord’s resurrection, the celebration of receiving the sacrament of Baptism. Thus today, RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) candidates are received in the spring of the year into the fullness of the Church, having received their Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This Rite was indeed practice by the disciples following the death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus as converts were innumerable. I can still recall my husband Greg being received into the Holy Roman Catholic Church through the RCIA program during Holy Week of 1992. What a blessing it was in our married life and how it endowed our marriage with a greater grace in our married love.

Stations of the Cross are offered in every parish each week throughout Lent. This practice goes back to Bethlehem around 350 A.D. You spiritually and prayerfully participate in the Via Dolorosa, the path that Jesus walked in Jerusalem to His crucifixion. There are fourteen stations that depict Jesus’ journey:

1)Christ condemned to death;2) the cross is laid upon him; 3) His first fall; 4) He meets His Blessed Mother; 5) Simon of Cyrene is made to bear the cross; 6) Christ’s face is wiped by Veronica; 7) His second fall; 8) He meets the women of Jerusalem; 9) His third fall; 10) He is stripped of His garments; 11) His crucifixion; 12)His death on the cross; 13) His body is taken down from the cross; 14) His body is laid in the tomb.

Our Catholic sanctuaries are now decorated in the color purple, stripped of their usual festive decorations and reflective of the penitential mood that permeates the season. Our liturgical celebration itself moves towards penitence.

Lent is a forty day period and it is a time for fasting, abstinence and penance. A time to consume less, abstain from that which you might relish and seeking penance to reconcile ourselves with God. What better time to seek out the Sacrament of Confession and make peace with the Lord on things that have come between that relationship.

It is in moving through these next forty days that we will see the dawn of Holy Week arrive. It will be there, where we will taste the bitters of death and rejoice in the promise of eternal life in Jesus, The Christ!


Susi Pittman is founder of CatholicStewardsofCreation.com and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; an advocate for the Florida Catholic Conference; an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Augustine;a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.



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