Wednesday of this week saw the opening of the season of Lent. Traditionally Catholics mark the day with the reception of Blessed Ashes on their forehead. It was strange to see President Biden on the six-one news sporting the give-away dirty smudge on his forehead. I’m sure many non-Catholic viewers around the world must have thought he hadn’t washed properly that morning.

The ashes are of course no more than an outward sign of what should be an inner disposition, a disposition to change our lives in some real way in order to bring them into conformity with the Gospel of Jesus. For that reason, the church encourages us to some concrete expression of our willingness and desire to change. As children we were encouraged to give up sugar in our tea or to abstain from crisps and sweets for the seven weeks of the season. As a result of a rush of Lenten fervour I gave up taking sugar in my tea at age 12 and never went back on it!


Apart from the undoubted spiritual benefit that accrued I’m certain it helped my general health as well!

Fasting from food has of course a long tradition in the church and coupled with prayer it becomes a powerful weapon in our arsenal against evil. “This is the kind that can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29. But Pope Francis has pointed out that fasting can take many forms, all of which can be highly beneficial for our spiritual selves and for the good of others. These are some of the Holy Father’s suggestions for alternative fasting.

Each one of his suggestions will have that dual effect of making us better human beings, reflecting Christ-like attitudes and helping to create a more supportive, loving and caring environment in our homes, neighbourhood, country, and ultimately in our world.

Real spirituality should overflow in that way – it should have a transformative effect not just for each of us personally but for society as a whole. A purely private spirituality devoid of any overflow to others will do little to further the mission of the church.

So look closely at the suggestions of Pope Francis, and pick one or two that you might put into practice, you might just find that a conscious effort can effect real change! Happy Lent!

Philip Curran
St. Mary’s Lucan


March 4, 2022 - 9:08pm

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