Dear Friends:

With Ash Wednesday this week, we have launched into Lent, the annual season of repentance and spiritual renewal. These forty days which will culminate in the celebrations of Holy Week and Easter should be markedly different from other days for devout Catholics. The Church offers us all some ideas on how to make Lent a time of spiritual growth and renewal. The traditional “legs” of Lenten observance, as set down by the Lord himself in the Gospel for Ash Wednesday, are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. All of us can make a determined effort to pray a bit more, eat and spend a bit less, and share more from what we have been given with those who are in need.

Several ideas present themselves for your consideration. Last weekend, those who participated at Mass at St. Mary’s heard about the annual Healing Tree Lenten Project. For a small donation of as little as one dollar and no more than fifty dollars, you can help the people of St. Therese in Marbial, Haiti, who live with far less that we have been blessed to have. The money raised from the Healing Tree in past years has helped to fund the annual medical mission to Marbial, to make clean water systems available to the people, and to donate school supplies, over the counter medications and vitamins for use there. The twinning partnership which we have had for over a decade now has done so much good and you are to be commended for your ongoing generous support of the work that is done there.

Operation Rice Bowl is conducted each Lent. By forgoing something that you like or something that you do not really need and instead donating the money you would have spent to Operation Rice Bowl, you bring alive the spirit of almsgiving which has always been praised as a means of spiritual blessing for those who make the sacrifice and material help to those who are in need. Take a rice bowl with you. Put it on the table or somewhere else in your home and put the money you would have spent on non-essentials or things of pleasure into it. When Lent ends, make out a check payable to Precious Blood Parish noting on the check that it is for Operation Rice Bowl and return it to the church. We will send the proceeds to Catholic Relief Services which will then be sure to send the money where it is needed most.

Finally, there is another option. We can fast from using our cell phones each Friday during Lent. Keep your cell phone with you, of course, in case of emergency, but leave it off if possible or try to avoid using it for the day. Spend the time you would have spent on the phone by praying more, by actually talking face to face with family or loved ones. Read a book, perhaps the Bible. Take a walk and as you do so, pray the Rosary or do some meditation.

These are suggestions. Consider them or consider some other worthy way to make this a special Lent, a special time to grow closer to God and others.