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Father Muench Says...

Preparing for Lent

February 23, 2022

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Can you believe it? It’s almost Lent again. I am always surprised when I suddenly notice it is time again for Ash Wednesday and it is Lent. So, I thought I would share a few things with you today about Lent.

Ages ago, I would have had no trouble remembering when Lent and Ash Wednesday were coming. You see in those days, the days when I was still skiing, we, priests, always scheduled a Mardi Gras ski trip – sort of a preparation of ourselves for Lent. So, we regularly planned two days of skiing at Mont Tremblant in Canada. We always had a great place to stay, and we had good friends, religious brothers, who operated a retreat center right on the north side of the Mont Tremblant ski area. Nothing like two great days of skiing to get into the mood for Lent.

So, on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday after the Sunday Masses, several of us priests headed north. We would return on Tuesday afternoon ready for the Ash Wednesday Masses.

Let’s talk a bit about Ash Wednesday. It is such an interesting feast day, isn’t it? However, Ash Wednesday is a perfect celebration to begin the Lenten journey. This is a time of prayer and retreat. Ashes are a perfect symbol – a wonderful way to dedicate ourselves to a time of retreat, and to prayer and repentance. It’s perfect for a journey to prepare to celebrate again our salvation as we celebrate the events of the Lord’s Holy Week, the Lord’s Crucifixion and Resurrection.

I must tell you how I have often taught children why we use ashes on Ash Wednesday to begin Lent. I would begin by telling them we use ashes because they are dirty. We put dirty ashes on our foreheads as a perfect reminder that we have made a decision. This will be a time for Lent, a time for retreat, prayer and reconciliation. The ashes are our constant reminder. Actually, we should leave the mark of the ashes on our foreheads for the whole seven weeks of Lent so that we would not forget that we have made this decision that this time of Lent will be our time for prayer and repentance.

You know what Lent is all about, I am certain of that. I want you to think of Lent as a time of retreat. Usually, when we think of a retreat, we think of going away to a retreat house with some sort of program. Lent is our retreat, something we add to our daily lives. This Lenten retreat is our yearly journey, a journey that leads us to walk with the Lord, to carry our cross and to stand at the foot of the crucified Savior on Gethsemane. It’s a time to discover the risen Lord’s resurrection.

I would like to encourage you to make your retreat, your Lenten journey, more meaningful by dedicating your time of prayer to a special intention. It might be praying for someone who is in need or praying for something that is important for you now. This transforms Lent. Lent becomes a special time with intentions that mean a great deal to us, a time that brings us into a deeper relationship with Our Lord and Savior.

One more thing to add today: Lent is meant to be a time of gratitude. We do Lent to discover who we are, all the blessings that have been given to us by the Lord and all that has transformed us. For this we must be grateful. Our Lord suffered and died for us, and he rose again to new life for us. For this we are most grateful.

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