A joyful start to the Lenten season

| March 17, 2011
Archbishop Nienstedt

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

In the first Preface listed in the Sacramentary (the little red book from which the priest prays the prayers at Mass), we read:

“Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed.”

Some Catholics might blink at the juxtaposition of those words: “Lent” and “joyful season.” Yet, I do believe that joy is the underlying attitude that the Church urges us to cultivate as we journey together through Lent.

To that end, I must tell you that my Lent this year has gotten off to a joyful start.

Rows of bags

On the morning of Ash Wednes­day, I had the privilege of celebrating Mass for the school community of St. Thomas Academy. As I entered the front doors, I knew something was different.  Lining the halls were row upon row of shopping bags filled with canned goods and other non-perishable items.

I soon learned that this was the third year that the Academy had participated in the Minnesota Food Shelf’s food drive. Since Feb. 23, the cadets had been collecting these items and storing them away for this day. As I gazed down into the assembly area, I could see that they had amassed literally thousands of those bags.

At the end of Mass, I offered a prayer over the food offerings, asking God to open the eyes of those who received these gifts to not only the satisfaction of their bodily needs but also to the spiritual hunger of their heart that only God can satisfy.

Then the fun began as the cadets formed a “living chain” or, better yet, a “human assembly line” to pass the food bags down the corridors, up the stairs, out the front doors and into the back of a semi-truck which quickly filled up with these treasures for the poor.  It was a grand sight to see, one that I am sure none of those young men will ever forget.

By the way, two years ago, the cadets raised 5,000 pounds of food, and last year 12,000 pounds. This year the total came to 14,250 pounds.

Another Lenten tradition

Students at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights stand in a semitrailer March 9 with bags of food they collected as part of the school’s annual food drive. Photo courtesy of St. Thomas Academy

The joy of Ash Wednesday continued as I journeyed in the late afternoon to the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in St. Louis Park. After a spirited liturgy, the congregation was invited downstairs to a “soup supper” on behalf of their sister parish, the Church of San Maximiliano Kolbe in Comagegüela, Hon­duras.

The relationship between these two parishes began 15 years ago with a visit to MHT by a number of Conventional Franciscan Friars from the Latin American parish. A Lenten tradition then began of offering prayers, sacrifices and alms to the poor of Honduras, especially the children of the Nuestros Pequeñas Hermanos orphanage.

The delicious soups (a choice of five) and breads were all donated for our supper so that all the proceeds collected could support that worthy cause. The room was full and the atmosphere was charged. What a joyful way to begin this holy season of Lent!

Elsewhere in today’s Catholic Spirit is an interview I gave on the topic of confirmation, an interview that was recorded on Ash Wednesday [see page 16]. Confirmation is one of the most joyful events which I have the privilege to celebrate. I hope the article conveys how much I enjoy those liturgies!

May God bless you and yours on our journey together through Lent, a time truly meant to increase our joy!

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Category: Only Jesus

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