Sunday 27 September, 2020

Fr Francis talks meaning of Ash Wednesday and Lenten period

Parish Priest of Gros Islet, Father Michel Francis spoke with Loop News on the topic of Ash Wednesday and Lent.

He shared that in the modern time we can come up with creative ways to make sacrifices so that the life of another person can be improved.

"Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the Holy Season of Lent, which is the preparation for the great feast of Easter when Christians celebrate the resurrection of the Lord. Easter is the greatest feast in the entire cycle of events for celebration because with the resurrection of Jesus that is the hope that Christians have that death doesn't end in the grave."

"That period of five weeks calls for fasting, for prayer and for almsgiving or charity, not that it is not done the rest of the year... for the next 40 days when the Christian is able to practice those disciplines it is a spiritual preparation to celebrate that great feast of Easter."

Fr Francis notes that the season is still being well observed in St Lucia today: "People are still very observant in coming to receive ashes and that is something you will see islandwide. We have services even for the Catholic and government schools, in fact, I had two this morning, and the services in the church for the faithful. You do see a large number of people who want to begin the Lenten days in the proper way with the imposition of ashes on their forehead. If you were to go to the cathedral at midday or at 6 pm you would see quite a bit of people going to receive ashes."

Fr Francis spoke about how the observation of Lent has changed over the years, "It's a 40-day period where in times past it was a time of quiet, when it came to music and parties and those social events were really toned down which would help create the atmosphere for prayer, reflection and meditation. Today we have to compete with social events and it becomes difficult to keep that period of quiet. People who desire it have to create it for themselves... it is quite challenging but it is doable."

Fr Francis spoke on diet as it relates to the season, "Lent is preceded by Carnival. Carnival coming from the Latin word 'carne' meaning meat and 'vale' meaning to flee from, so it is the fleeing from meat. Poor people ate fish centuries ago and the average folk ate meat so fasting from meat would be to identify with the poor... we are still supposed to abstain from meat on today, Ash Wednesday, and on Good Friday. The practise of eating fish on Wednesday and Friday of Lent is still practised.

Fr Francis mentioned that fasting does not only concern diet and that fasting today can also mean speaking less, doing a good deed, spending less time on social media, taking the time to visit someone, saving on indulgences such as chocolate. 

He shared that he read a suggestion that we could take an item of clothing from our closets every day of the 40 days and at the end of Lent donate the items to the needy.

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