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10 Things You Need to Know About Advent    by Jimmy Akin

Advent begins on Sunday, December 1st. Most of us have an intuitive understanding of Advent, based on experience, but what do the Church's official documents actually say about Advent? Here are some of the basic questions and (official!) answers about Advent. Some of the answers are surprising!  Here we go . . .

1. What Is the Purpose of Advent?

Advent is a season on the Church's liturgical calendar--specifically, it is as season on the calendar of the Latin Church, which is the largest Church in communion with the pope.  Other Catholic Churches--as well as many non-Catholic churches--have their own celebration of Advent.  According to the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar:

Advent has a twofold character:

 as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ's first coming to us is remembered;

 as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ's Second Coming at the end of time.

Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation [Norms 39].  We tend to think of Advent only as the season in which we prepare for Christmas, or the First Coming of Christ, but as the General Norms point out, it is important that we also remember it as a celebration in which we look forward to the Second Coming of Christ.  Properly speaking, Advent is a season that brings to mind the Two Comings of Christ.

2. What Liturgical Colors Are Used in Advent?

Particular days and certain types of celebrations can have their own colors (e.g., red for martyrs, black or white at funerals), but the normal color for Advent is violet. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal provides:  The color violet or purple is used in Advent and Lent. It may also be worn in Offices and Masses for the Dead [346d].  In many places, there is a notable exception for the Third Sunday of Advent, known asGaudete Sunday:  The color rose may be used, where it is the practice, on Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and on Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent) [GIRM 346f].

3. Is Advent a Penitential Season?

We often think of Advent as a penitential season because the liturgical color for Advent is violet, like the color of Lent, which is a penitential season.  However, in reality, Advent is not a penitential season. Surprise!  According to the Code of Canon Law:  Can. 1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.  Although local authorities can establish additional penitential days, this is a complete listing of the penitential days and times of the Latin Church as a whole, and Advent is not one of them.

4. When Does Advent Begin and End?

According to the General Norms:  Advent begins with evening prayer I of the Sunday falling on or closest to 30 November and ends before evening prayer I of Christmas [Norms 40].  The Sunday on or closest to November 30 can range between November 27 and December 3, depending on the year.  In the case of a Sunday, Evening Prayer I is said on the evening of the preceding day (Saturday). According to the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours:  96. Evening prayer, celebrated immediately before Mass, is joined to it in the same way as morning prayer. Evening prayer I of solemnities, Sundays, or feasts of the Lord falling on Sundaysmay not be celebrated until after Mass of the preceding day or Saturday.  This means that Advent begins on the evening of a Saturday falling between November 26 and December 2 (inclusive), and it ends on the evening of December 24th, which holds Evening Prayer I of Christmas (December 25th).

5. What Is the Role of Sundays in Advent?

There are four Sundays of Advent. The General Norms state:  The Sundays of this season are named the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Sundays of Advent [Norms 41].  We have already mentioned that the Third Sunday of Advent has a special name--Gaudete Sunday.Gaudete is the Latin word for "Rejoice," which is the first word of the introit of the Mass for this day.  The Church ascribes particular importance to these Sundays, and they take precedence over other liturgical celebrations. Thus the General Norms state:  Because of its special importance, the Sunday celebration gives way only to solemnities or feasts of the Lord. The Sundays of the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Easter, however, take precedence over all solemnities and feasts of the Lord. Solemnities occuring on these Sundays are observed on the Saturdays preceding [Norms 5].  You also cannot celebrate Funeral Masses on the Sundays of Advent:  Among the Masses for the Dead, the Funeral Mass holds first place. It may be celebrated on any day except for Solemnities that are Holydays of Obligation, Thursday of Holy Week, the Paschal Triduum, and the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter, with due regard also for all the other requirements of the norm of the law [GIRM 380].

6. What Happens on Weekdays in Advent?

It is especially recommended that homilies be given on the weekdays of Advent. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states:  On Sundays and Holydays of Obligation there is to be a Homily at every Mass that is celebrated with the people attending and it may not be omitted without a grave reason. On other days it is recommended, especially on the weekdays of Advent, Lent and Easter Time, as well as on other festive days and occasions when the people come to church in greater numbers [GIRM 66].  The General Norms also point out a special role for the weekdays of the week preceding Christmas:  The weekdays from 17 December to 24 December inclusive serve to prepare more directly for the Lord's birth [Norms 41].  This special role is illustrated, for example, by the Scripture readings used in the liturgy on these days.

7. How Are Churches Decorated During Advent?

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal notes:  During Advent the floral decoration of the altar should be marked by a moderation suited to the character of this time of year, without expressing in anticipation the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord. During Lent it is forbidden for the altar to be decorated with flowers. Exceptions, however, are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts [GIRM 305].

8. How Is Music Performed During Advent?

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal notes:  In Advent the use of the organ and other musical instruments should be marked by a moderation suited to the character of this time of year, without expressing in anticipation the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord. In Lent the playing of the organ and musical instruments is allowed only in order to support the singing. Exceptions, however, are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts [GIRM 313].

9. Is the Gloria Said or Sung During Advent?

Neither. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal provides:  [The Gloria or "Glory to God in the highest"] is sung or said on Sundays outside Advent and Lent, and also on Solemnities and Feasts, and at particular celebrations of a more solemn character [GIRM 53].

10. What Private Devotions Can We Use to Grow Closer to God During Advent?

There are a variety of private devotions that the Church has recognized for use during Advent. The most famous is the Advent Wreath.  You can read about these devotions in the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (starting at no. 96).

Technically, a person makes themselves a saint by leading a virtuous life.  The Church RECOGNIZES saints by studying the life of a person, going through a lengthy process of canonization, and declaring the saint.  There are MANY, MANY saints in heaven that have not been officially declared by the Catholic Church.

Would you like to know about the process of canonization (written by Gretchen Crowe of Our Sunday Visitor)?        CLICK HERE


Of course they can! The name Halloween comes from All Hallow’s Eve, meaning the day before All Saints Day — those we call hallowed or holy as we hear in the Our Father.

However, we obviously want to steer people away from things like dabbling with the occult, or seances, or other kinds of “black magic” that would be contrary to our beliefs.

By the same token, if we are dressing up for Halloween we indeed should notice our style of dress and check to make sure that we are chaste in manner.

But dressing up children and sending them trick-or-treating is fine (and fun!) to do and is not contrary to our Catholic principles.

 OSV Newsweekly

The Vatican announced that Pope Francis would convene the presidents of the world’s episcopal conferences in Rome from Feb. 21-24 for a meeting dedicated to the issue of abuse in the Church. As many have demanded decisive action around recent scandals and crises, including the McCarrick revelations and the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the announcement of this gathering — slated to occur five months from now — might seem underwhelming, an example of just more talk. But this is where it’s important to understand how this pope views his role and ministry as successor of Peter.

With Pope Francis hearing from the presidents of conferences, laypeople who want to be heard must convey their concerns to their own bishops, who must likewise be candid with Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The call from the pews must not be ambiguous, and it must be communicated fervently. Bishops must be as equipped as possible with the sensus fidei (sense of the faith) to make the most of the model Pope Francis has invited them into.

In Episcopalis Communio, Pope Francis says a bishop must be “simultaneously a teacher and a disciple,” the latter requiring him to listen to what the Holy Spirit has inspired the laity to tell him. The five months till this meeting occurs are critical. Laypeople who want their Church to round a definitive corner on sexual abuse must speak out. They must continue to demand zero tolerance, full transparency, accountability and an end to the structures and practices that allowed abuse and cover-up to fester and perpetuated a Church where laypeople are seen as less than full members of the Body of Christ.

Lean in, laypeople. This won’t work without you.

OSV Editorial Board: Don Clemmer, Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott Richert, York Young 


Jesus is 'right here in this mess': A way forward for Catholics 

Gretchen R. Crowe OSV Newsweekly



It’s hard to believe it has come to this. Father Basil Hutsko of St. Michael Byzantine Catholic Church in Merrillville, Indiana, was attacked and knocked unconscious in the sacristy after celebrating Divine Liturgy at the end of August. According to a letter from another priest, before losing consciousness, Father Basil heard his attacker say, “This is for all the kids,” presumably a reference to the recently released Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing horrific acts of clergy sexual abuse against minors in six dioceses in the state.

The letter, written by Father Thomas J. Loya, was careful to stress that Father Basil was “a random target. He is NOT guilty of any sex abuse.”

As horrible and unjust as this act was, it also illustrates another important and dangerous point: People are angry, and they don’t know what to do with that anger. Even many faithful Catholics — especially on the heels of the scandal surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick — are wondering angrily: Where do we go from here?

I had the opportunity to ask that question recently to Father Thomas Berg, author of “Hurting in the Church: A Way Forward For Wounded Catholics,” for a podcast. Following is his answer, slightly edited for clarity and space, and I hope it is helpful.

“(We need) to remember that the Church is more than derelict priests who have been predators and exploited innocent people. The Church is so much more than inept, cowardly bishops who failed to act. The Church is so much more than the institutional elements that can fail. The Church is, yes, it’s an institutional reality, but first and foremost it’s a spiritual reality. It’s both of those things together.

“We need to go back to the truths of the Faith ... . We need to go back and relish the experience of the Holy Spirit’s powerful actions in the sacraments in our lives. I’ve been telling so many people: you want to do something about this mess? Go to Eucharistic adoration. Go spend time just soaking up the presence of Jesus and offering that up. Go to Jesus. He’s ultimately the answer here. We need to go back to that radical personal experience of our Lord who, not in spite of our wounds and our misery, but precisely because of our wounds and our misery, as members of his mystical body, ... comes to us.

“Jesus always wants to get into the messiness of our lives, and he’s right here, he’s right here in this mess, and he is going to purify his bride the Church. He is going to bring good from evil.

“Catholics need to learn at times to step away, especially if we’re really following this stuff. We need to get off the Twitter feed, stop reading story after story, and we need to go back, and we need to pray. We need to go to adoration, we need to spend time. We need to look for silence and quiet and bring that to this experience. I think that’s really at the heart of our way forward here.”

Listen to entire interview with Father Thomas Berg here.

Gretchen R. Crowe is editor-in-chief of OSV Newsweekly. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.


How to build a relationship with Christ 

Three prominent Catholic personalities explain why getting to know Jesus on a personal level is essential to our faith 

Paul Senz OSV Newsweekly


Jesus Christ, through his life, death and resurrection, reconciled the world to God and saved us from sin. Beyond this, is it still necessary to have a personal relationship with him? Several Catholic speakers and writers explain why it is of crucial importance.

Never fulfilled without Christ’

Teresa Tomeo is a syndicated Catholic talk-show host, author of numerous books and an international speaker. She is the host of a weekday morning radio program, “Catholic Connection,” and is a columnist for OSV Newsweekly. She is also a host of the EWTN television series “The Catholic View for Women” as well as the author of a new book titled “Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic” (OSV, $14.95).

Building a relationship with Jesus is critically important, Tomeo said, something to which everyone needs to strive. “We were made for relationship,” Tomeo said. “First with God and then with each other. Who better to have a strong relationship with than the one who knows us so intimately because he created us?”

Something — or, more accurately, someone — will be missing in our lives if we don’t have that relationship with God first, she said. “We may have good marriages and numerous friends, but we are never completely fulfilled without Christ.” Tomeo said she once had everything that is supposed to make us happy: success, material possessions, good friends and family. “But I was still empty inside until I made my way back to the Church and into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Tomeo offers four potential first steps for those trying to build a stronger relationship with Jesus.

1. Surrender daily: Tomeo points out that in our me-first world, the concept of surrender has an extremely negative connotation; but we must offer our lives to God’s will, not our own, to be fully open to a relationship with Jesus. “It’s a process,” she said. “But it starts with putting God in the driver’s seat and asking him to take control.”

2. Immerse yourself in Scripture: Tomeo suggests thinking of the word “Bible” as an acronym: Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth. As St. Jerome said, ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ, so reading the Bible daily is a great way to build a relationship with him. When we love someone, we want to get to know them better, and reading the Bible is how we can come to know Jesus.

3. Study the Catholic faith: “When we are serious about getting healthy, earning an advanced degree, saving for and building a new home, raising children, etc., we research, we investigate, we talk to all sorts of folks in order to make educated decisions,” Tomeo said. And yet, the wealth of beauty and knowledge in the Church often stays on the literal or figurative shelf. Opening ourselves up to the truth will open us up to Jesus, as he is the way, the truth and the life.

4. Get to know the saints: The Letter to the Hebrews refers to the great “cloud of witnesses” (12:1), which Catholics understand as the Communion of Saints. The stories of the saints “encourage us to persevere through suffering and to maintain joy no matter the circumstances,” Tomeo said. “The more we get to know them, the more we get to know Jesus.”


Go spend time with him’

The Catherine of Siena Institute works to ensure that every Catholic has access to a distinctly lay formation that calls each of the baptized to intentional discipleship rooted in the Tradition and magisterial teaching of the Church. Sherry Weddell is the executive director and co-founder of the Institute. In 2012 she released a book titled “Forming Intentional Disciples” (OSV, $16.95), which has sold more than 100,000 copies and has helped in the formation and discernment of Catholics all over the world.

In “Forming Intentional Disciples,” she speaks of the importance of a personal relationship with God. One chapter opens with a quote from Origen of Alexandria’s homilies on Luke, which summarizes perfectly the importance of a relationship with Jesus: “For what profit is it to you, if Christ came once in the flesh, unless he also comes into your soul?”

Weddell provided a few basic, beginning steps in building a relationship with Jesus — steps from which anyone can benefit, she said, although each individual’s journey is unique.

1. Spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament: This should be done regularly, kept on the calendar as a sort of standing appointment. “The resurrected, glorified Jesus is there in the tabernacle for you,” she said. “Go spend time with him.” Adoration is not just devotion for the super-devout, she said. “The presence of the Eucharistic Jesus is for everyone, even those who aren’t yet ready to commit to following him.” Making the intentional effort to spend this intimate time with Jesus is an important step in building that relationship.

2. Regular attendance at Mass: Worshiping the Lord before the Eucharistic table, and our reception of his body and blood at holy Communion, are of utmost importance in fostering a relationship with Christ.

3. Regular confession — at least once a month: Part of building a relationship is righting the relationship when things go awry. Regular confession is an important step in growing closer to Christ.

4. Daily religious reading: Do not underestimate the power of daily prayerful, meditative reading of Scripture (for example, lectio divina) or Church teaching (the Catechism, Pope Francis’ daily homilies, encyclicals from any of the recent popes).

5. Allow a community to help build you up: Find a way to experience ongoing community (something face to face, not just “virtual”) with others on the same journey of discipleship; join an existing group (or create one if necessary). This can take many forms. We can’t do this alone.


“Any disciple, whether a layman or laywoman, a priest or a bishop [needs to have] an all-absorbing

 relationship. Perhaps the first question that we must ask a Christian is: ‘Do you meet with Jesus?

Do you pray to Jesus?’ The relationship!” 
— Pope Francis,
 in his July 2, 2017 Angelus message

‘Called to be disciples’

Jeff Cavins is a widely renowned speaker and writer. Raised a Catholic, he fell away from the Church during college. After 12 years as a Protestant pastor, he returned to the Church and founded the EWTN television program “Life on the Rock,” which he hosted for six years. He is well-known for his Bible study programs, particularly the “Great Adventure Bible Timeline,” as well as the series “Our Father’s Plan” with Scott Hahn.

“It is important to have a relationship with Jesus because Jesus is the key to understanding God the Father,” Cavins said. “God wanted to reveal himself to us, and he did in the Old Testament in word and deed; and in the fullness of time, he fully revealed himself in his Son.”

That speaks of the relationship between God and us, Cavins said. “We’re family; we’re sons and daughters of God. So the fact that God revealed himself in a Son means that he is interested in us relating to him as a father.”

Jesus is the fullest revelation of who God is, Cavins said. “Jesus is the icon — God in the flesh. So getting to know him is your full entry into understanding the Trinity and understanding your relationship with the Father.”

The Trinity is all about relationship — it is a family, not a solitude, Cavins said. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, and the love between them is the Holy Spirit.

There are those who might say, “I go to Church on Sunday; isn’t that enough? Why do I need to have a relationship with Jesus?” Cavins responds that going to Church on Sunday is only one point of interface with us and God. But saying, “isn’t that enough?” is “tantamount to a family saying ‘I come to dinner, isn’t that enough?’ The answer is no,” Cavins said. “There is a whole life to be lived, and there is life outside of the Mass. Mass is the centerpiece, but there is everyday living.” Conversation, encouragement, teaching, rebuke, correction — all of this is part of relationships, and those relationships have to be cultivated and nurtured. “There’s so much that happens outside of Sunday,” Cavins said.

According to Cavins, it all boils down to relationship. “It isn’t about theology; it’s not about apologetics; it’s about relationship,” he said. “What we are called to be is disciples. And a disciple, basically, is someone who is constantly imitating God. Jesus came to show us the Father. For us to imitate God is the call of our life.”

The best way to develop this relationship with Jesus, the logos, the Word of God made flesh, is in prayer and in Scripture. “You have to develop every day a relationship with Jesus,” Cavins said. “Prayer, and the Word of God — this is incredibly important.”

Paul Senz writes from Oregon.

In a culture that idolizes the individual and reflexively mistrusts authority, Catholics often hear the challenge: "I have a personal relationship with God; why do I need the Church?"

“In a series of reflections on the relationship between Christ and the Church made during his Wednesday general audiences in St. Peter's Square in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI addressed that challenge.”

The Pope noted a slogan that was once popular in some religious circles: "Jesus, yes; Church, no." But such an approach, He declared, given the express intention of Christ, is "totally inconceivable" (reflection presented March 15, 2006).

"This individualistically chosen Jesus is an imaginary Jesus," the Pope insisted. "We cannot have Jesus without the reality He created and in which He communicates himself. Between the Son of God made flesh and His Church there is a profound, unbreakable and mysterious continuity by which Christ is present today in His people."

What in particular are the aspects of "the reality [Christ] created" -- that is, the Church -- that makes Christ in His fullness inseparable from it? How, specifically, does He "communicate himself" through it? According to the Pope, it all begins with the foundation for the Church established by Christ himself: the Twelve Apostles.

Apostolic Foundations

"Through the apostles," says Pope Benedict, "we come to Jesus himself." Their mediation takes place in several ways.

First, "it is from the apostles, through their word and witness, that we receive the truth of Christ." They were eyewitnesses to His life and message, given the commission to preach the kingdom of God, and they appointed successors so that "the mission entrusted to them would be continued after their death" (March 29, 2006).

"The Church is wholly of the Spirit but has a structure, the apostolic succession, which is responsible for guaranteeing that the Church endures in the truth given by Christ" (April 5, 2006).

To know Jesus, then, we need the Church, because it is the Church that authoritatively and reliably preserves and proclaims the truth about who Jesus is.

Second, Christ gave His authority and power to the apostles and their successors to offer the sacraments, which we need to be fully joined to Christ. The Pope notes in particular holy orders, through which the apostolic succession is continued; the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which reconciles us to God; and the Eucharist, in which "Jesus nourishes us, He unites us with himself, with His Father, with the Holy Spirit and with one an-other" (March 29, 2006).

Communion With Christ

Third, through the apostles Christ gathered a community that, despite the failings of its members, is a communion with himself, filled with love by the power of the Spirit: "The Holy Spirit builds the Church and gives her the truth; He pours out love, as St. Paul says, into the hearts of believers (see Rom 5:5)."

This "Communion is born from faith inspired by apostolic preaching, it is nourished by the Breaking of Bread and prayer, and is expressed in brotherly love and service" (April 5, 2006).

In all these ways, then, "through apostolic succession it is Christ who reaches us: in the words of the apostles and of their successors, it is He who speaks to us; through their hands it is He who acts in the sacraments; in their gaze it is His gaze that embraces us and makes us feel loved and welcomed into the Heart of God" (May 10, 2006).

To know Jesus Christ in His fullness, we need the Church.

Find more from Our Sunday Visitor

This is taken from Bishop Barron's daily Gospel Reflection - visit Word on Fire


MARK 14:12-16, 22-26

Friends, today’s Gospel focuses on the spiritual power of the Eucharist. The central claim of the Catholic Church is that Jesus is substantially present under the forms of bread and wine. His presence is not simply evocative and symbolic, but rather real, true, and substantial.

To verify this scripturally, look at the accounts of the Last Supper in Matthew, Mark, and Luke—and also in Paul. But look especially at the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. Jesus says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” But when they object, Jesus does not soften his language; he intensifies it. 

This is the ground for the Church’s defense of the Real Presence. How can we make sense of it? It has everything to do with who Jesus is. If he were simply an ordinary human being, his words would have, at best, a symbolic resonance. But Jesus is God, and what God says, is. 

Thus, when Jesus’ words over the bread and wine are spoken, they change into what the words signify. They become really, truly, and substantially the Body and Blood of the Lord.

This is a beautiful article explaining why we love Mary and her role in history and the Catholic faith.


novena is a nine day period of prayer (either private or public) to obtain special graces.  The word novena is derived from the Latin word novem or nine.  The biblical basis for this extended prayer comes from Acts 1:12-14 where the disciples "devoted themselves to prayer."

It is important during this time of the liturgical year because the Feast of Pentecost will be celebrated on Sunday, May 20, 2018.
The "first novena of the Church" is the Novena to the Holy Spirit.
Annual Pentecost Novena Begins May 11, 2018

Video of a Prayer to the Holy Spirit


Liturgical Notes for Easter

From Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar:

The fifty days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated in joy and exultation as one feast day, indeed as one "great Sunday."  These are the days above all others in which the Alleluia is sung.  The Sundays of this time of year are considered to Sundays of Easter and are called, after Easter Sunday itself, the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Sundays of Easter.  This sacred period of fifty days concludes with Pentecost Sunday.

The first eight days of Easter Time constitute the Octave of Easter and are celebrated as Solemnities of the Lord.

On the fortieth day after Easter the Ascension of the Lord is celebrated, except where, not being observed as a Holyday of Obligation, it has been assigned to the Seventh Sunday of Easter (cf. no. 7).

The weekdays from the Ascension up to and including the Saturday before Pentecost prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.

The liturgical color for Easter is white.  The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (no. 346) also states: "On more solemn days, festive, that is, more precious, sacred vestments may be used even if not of the color of the day. The colors gold or silver may be worn on more solemn occasions in the Dioceses of the United States of America."

Especially during Easter Time, instead of the customary Penitential Act, the blessing and sprinkling of water may take place as a reminder of Baptism.

There are six metropolitan sees and their suffragan Dioceses which maintain the Solemnity of the Ascension on Thursday:Boston, Hartford, Newark, New York, Omaha, and Philadelphia.Every other region of the United States has opted to transfer the Solemnity to the following Sunday (the Seventh Sunday of Easter).


This was taken from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops website - USCCB

This is a commonly asked question by many non-Catholics, but also by many children and those who may be entertaining the idea of becoming a member of the Catholic Church. They have heard of this practice of giving up food or sacrificing something that gives one pleasure, however, they have never fully understood what purpose it serves in one’s spiritual journey.

The three traditional pillars of Lenten observance are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that fasting is meant to prepare us for the liturgical feast. One of the great benefits of fasting is it allows us to feel our hunger. So, getting in touch with our physical hunger is meant to get us in touch with our spiritual hunger for a more intimate relationship with God.

Bishop Robert Barron teaches the pleasures of the body have a way of becoming too domineering, so we fast from them purposely to allow the deeper hungers to arise. When you suppress certain desires, other deeper ones can emerge. Archbishop Coakley says, “Acts of fasting and self-denial help us to be less focused upon ourselves and more available to be attentive to the needs of those around us. Prayer and fasting open us up to the awareness of the needs of our brothers and sisters around us, which can be expressed beautifully in works of charity or the works of almsgiving.

During Lent, one does not only have to focus on giving up something pleasurable. Instead, or in addition to, consider giving up some bad habit, meaning, fast from being judgmental, fast from your ego, or fast from finding more meaning in material things and find more meaning in building up your relationship with God. It is the hope of the church that in doing this, we will arrive at a deeper understanding of our own baptism and be lead to live it with a deeper commitment. The goal of Lent is not to arrive at the altar 20 pounds lighter, the goal of Lent for Christians to emerge at Easter resembling Jesus more profoundly.

Another word for this practice is abstinence.
"Catholics from time immemorial have set apart Friday for special penitential observance by which they gladly suffer with Christ that they may one day be glorified with Him.  This is the heart of the tradition of abstinence from meat on Friday where that tradition has been observed in the holy Catholic Church."     --USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)

Abstinence is reserved for ages 14 and older.  Catholics are permitted to eat fish and seafood on days of abstinence. 
All Fridays (even outside of Lent) are considered days of penance whereby a person is encouraged to make a sacrificial act of some kind.

Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ's victory over death.  This season urgently calls us to conversion.  Christians are asked to return to God "with all their hearts" (Joel 2:12), to refuse to for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord.  Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us.  Even when we sin, he patiently awaits our return; by the patient expectation, he shows us his readiness to forgive (cf. Homily, 8-Jan-2016).

Lent is a favorable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church:  fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.  At the basis of everything is the word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply.                                                                   --taken from Pope Francis' Lenten Message

Sacraments are outward signs that Christ instituted to give grace. (Grace is a totally free, unmerited gift from God, the sharing in the divine - God's help to us.) 

There are seven sacraments:  Baptism, Penance (also called Reconciliation), Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick
These Catholic rites marking the seven major stages of spiritual development are based on the premise of union of body and soul, matter and spirit, physical and spiritual.  The sacraments involve a physical, tangible symbol, such as the water used in Baptism and the oil when anointing, to represent the invisible spiritual reality, the supernatural grace given in each sacrament.

Taken from Catholicism for Dummies by Rev. Trigilio & Rev. Brighentipage 10-11

Basically, Catholicism is the practice of Roman Catholic Christianity.  Catholics are members of the Roman Catholic Church, and they share various beliefs and ways of worship, as well as a distinct outlook on life.

Catholics believe:

  • THE BIBLE - is the inspired, error-free, and revealed word of God
  • BAPTISM - the rite of becoming Christian, is necessary for salvation - whether the Baptism occurs by water, blood, or desire
  • GOD'S TEN COMMANDMENTS - provide a moral compass - an ethical standard to live by
  • THE HOLY TRINITY - or one God in three persons - is also part of Catholic belief.  In other words, Catholics embrace the belief that God, the one Supreme Being, is made up of three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit

Taken from page 10 of Catholicism for Dummies by Rev. John Trigilio & Rev. Kenneth Brighenti

The liturgical season of Christmas begins with the vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with him…including the fact that he was born to die for us. Therefore, the official end of the entire Christmas season on the new liturgical calendar is the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, after which Ordinary Time begins.

In Matthew 3:14 we read, “John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” You see, Jesus didn’t HAVE to be baptized, Jesus CHOSE to be baptized. Why? He chose to be baptized for us, to give us the example to follow. Many Fathers of the Church commented that in the baptism of Jesus the sacrament of baptism was born. When we receive a sacrament grace flows to us from the sacrament. In the baptism of Jesus, the grace of Christ flowed into the sacrament. Sacraments are filled with the grace of God. Baptism not only frees us from original sin, it also is where we first meet God. We are joined to the church in a special way. We are made sons and daughters of the Father and we are also made brothers and sisters of one another in the church. So, Jesus chose to be baptized for us. He gave us this sacrament, placed this permanent mark on our souls as a sign that we belong to Christ and that we are made citizens and heirs of heaven.

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

On New Year’s Day, January 1, the octave day of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Solemnity (the highest rank of liturgical celebration) of the Holy Mother of God, the divine and virginal motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Catholic Church recognizes that Christmas is not only on December 25, but the Church’s liturgy actually emphasizes the eight days or octave of Christmas. By celebrating a solemnity dedicated to Mary’s motherhood, the Church highlights the significance of her part in the life of Jesus, and emphasizes that he is both human and divine.