It feels as if we just took down the Christmas decorations, lights and trees. Yet, Lent will be here in less than two weeks.
Lent is a time of penance. For many people, the word “penance” is a negative word. They choose to refer to Lent as a time of “conversion.” The assumption being that every Catholic knows that the Church means conversion from sin to virtue; which has an a priori condition to it. One must acknowledge one’s sins, ask for absolution in the Sacrament of Confession and have a firm resolve not to sin again. Being human, we often fall into the same sinful hole from which we were just rescued by the Sacrament of Penance. However, we keep trying.
Sorrow for our sins, confession, absolution and a firm resolution to avoid sin brings many graces. The early Fathers of the Church taught us that the only way to overcome sin and not end up confessing the same sin time and time again was through concrete acts of penance, as we shall see below.
“Convert and believe in the Gospel” in plain English means, stop sinning and live per the Gospel. The idea of believing in something with which we are unfamiliar and we don’t follow, is silly.
The Franciscans of Life suggest that you to try one or more of the following this Lent. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Usually that leads to failure, which leads to frustration and abandonment of our good intentions. It’s like overfilling your plate at an “all you can eat buffet”. You can only eat so much; the rest is thrown into the garbage.
We invite you and your friends to join the Franciscans of Life this Lent. You can join us from your home. If you you’re male and live in South Florida, you can join us on a Monday night family meeting.
First: We’re going to begin with a good examination of conscience. This means that we’re going to take inventory of the sins we have committed as well as the things that we should have done, but failed to do. If you have poor memory, make a little list for yourself. Make sure to dispose of it properly when you no longer need it.
Second: We’re going to Confession as soon as we can get there. As soon as we can get there means exactly that. Go to confession as soon as there is a priest to absolve you. Never put off what may never happen, if you get hit by a bus the day after tomorrow. You had better go to confession tomorrow instead of postponing it until next week.
Third: The Franciscans of Life invite you to join us in doing penance to atone for our sins. The keyword here is ATONE. We don’t do penance to feel good. We do penance, because we know that we have sinned and that we must make up for it. If you steal from me, you must ask for forgiveness. Justice demands that you return what you took or offer to pay for it. The same is true with God and sin. God forgives, but his justice demands that you make retribution for your sins.
Our first commitment this Lent is fasting and abstinence. Every Wednesday and Friday, from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, the brothers observe a fast and do not eat any kind of meat or meat product. This does not mean that we replace steak with crab, lobster or baked salmon. You may as well have the steak. It’s probably cheaper. Tuna, eggs, or simply a nice soup with bread is enough. It’s not as if we were going to do this forever. Obviously, we use common sense. People with certain health conditions or those who are too young or too old should not engage in a fast. Maybe they can abstain from something else, such as the Internet.
Fourth: Try to get an extra mass in at least once during the week. If your schedule does not coincide with your parish’s daily mass schedule, make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament at least once or twice a week.
Fifth: Pray with your bible. You can pray a psalm or two every day. You can read a short passage from the scriptures and ask yourself how you would respond in a specific situation in the Bible. Ask God for the grace to do so. Storing up on grace for when we need it is the best savings plan around.
Sixth: We’re going to be doing something concrete for those who are not as fortunate as we are. We’re going to collect money to purchase soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes to those who have none. We’re also going to be praying a weekly rosary for those who are being persecuted and those who are refugees and have no place to go. We’re going to beg the Immaculate to help us help them. If she wants to help them in her own way, that’s good too. But we must never dump on God, Our Lady and the saints asking them to solve problems that we can help solve. We start asking for the grace to find ways to reach out to our neighbor and we conclude by asking God to find another way, if He believes that it’s the better way to go.
You don’t have to live in our community house to join us. If you care to join us in one or more of these penances during Lent, please let us know by writing to us at
Please include your first name only, age (so that we can offer you appropriate support) and anything else that you want to tell us about yourself.
Always your brother and servant,
Brother Jay, FFV, Superior
In a few weeks, we will be announcing the time and day for our evening of contemplation that we call Carceri (Prison) in honor of the Prisoner of Love. Stay tuned in to this blog for that information.