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Catholic Voice
  February 23, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

Lent: Do something, and do it out of love

Most Rev.
Michael C. Barber, SJ

My brothers and sisters, fellow disciples of Jesus Christ,

By the time you read this, Lent 2015 will have already started. I am pleased and amazed that Ash Wednesday is now one of the biggest days for attendance at Mass, even though it is not a Holy Day of Obligation. Anyone and everyone can come forward to receive the Blessed Ashes.

We all get off to a good start. Aren't you pleased to see people in your office, or on the street, or riding BART, or in Safeway, that have ashes on their forehead?

From the time of Christ onward, we Christians have made a practice of doing penance for the 40 days of Lent. Up until 1965 we all fasted and abstained from meat for almost every day of Lent. Since Vatican II the only communal penance we perform together is fasting and abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In the United States, the Church also asks us to abstain from eating meat on the Fridays of Lent (like we used to do every Friday of the year).

The Church now leaves us free to design our own penance. The danger is that, left to ourselves, we may end up doing nothing. So I hope that when you finish reading this column, you will make a decision as to what you are going to do for Christ during Lent.

Giving up something you like is a good start. For me it's chocolate, potato chips and desserts. Adding something to your life is likewise good: getting up earlier in the morning, going to daily Mass, saying a rosary every day, making a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.


Lent begins
Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral Christ the Light.

List of Lenten events.

Keep in touch
with the bishop

• Subscribe to his blog: bishopbarbersj.wordpress.com

• Read his columns at www.catholicvoiceoakland.org and click on the "Bishop's Column."

• Where is the bishop going to be? See his public schedule.

• View or listen to his talks and homilies at www.oakdiocese.org/homilies
Helping out at Catholic Charities or St. Vincent de Paul are fine resolutions. Donating to the Rice Bowl effort is an excellent idea, which directly benefits the poor.

As a spiritual director in seminaries for 12 years I cautioned the men not to attempt something too grand, for fear you may give it up within a week. (In fifth grade I tried to give up all TV for Lent and collapsed in failure in less than a week, as my brothers kept turning up the channel when "Superman" was on, my favorite show).

I usually advised my seminarians to give up something they would notice, but no one else would. If you usually take sugar and cream in your coffee, drink it black during Lent. If you usually put butter and jam on your toast, eat it dry. Small things, done in love, are very efficacious.

Love is the key. It does not matter so much what we do, but who we are doing it for.

We offer our 40 days of Lenten sacrifice for someone who has loved us first. And died for us.

I am writing this on the last day of my annual eight day retreat. I was drawn to spend time this year reading again the account of Our Lord's Passion.

I also watched the graphic film "The Passion of the Christ," which I had not seen in 10 years. When we realize how much Our Lord endured out of love for us, our sacrifices seem very small indeed. The important thing is that we do something this Lent, and do that out of love for Him.

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