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ASH WEDNESDAY

February 25, 1998             SECTION TWO              vol 9, no. 40



Paring away the weight of Lent by dieting on Prayer, Penance and Good Works!

     In Bishopspeak today we bring you practical words from the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska - Most Reverend Francis T. Hurley who speaks plainly and simply in touching his flock and we hope it will move you as well to action through prayer and deed. Click on MITERS THAT MATTER
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The following column on a practical approach to Lent is from Archbishop Francis T. Hurley, head of the Anchorage Archdiocese and available at the Anchorage Archdiocese website.]

Lenten Fast

     We are a diet crazed society. If there was ever a question about that in my mind, it is blatantly answered by the advent of cable TV in my home. Never have I seen so many pitches to lose pounds. There is one sure-thing program not included, probably because it is free. As with Smith-Barney it is the old fashioned way--Lenten fast and abstinence.

Motivation Makes the Difference

The jazzy ads for quick and effortless loss of weight confirm another point. The motive in the ads is so that one can look better and feel more energized. Nothing wrong with that except that it is a totally self-centered interest. For too many people what is self-centered does not last too long. Motivation, to be strong, must look out beyond self. Making a commitment to others and or to do something sacrificial is a strong prod to conscience. There is also the element of shame if one is not true to the commitment. Commitment and shame are attached to Lenten fast and accountability at the end of Lent.

On Whose Behalf?

On whose behalf should I make a commitment to fast and abstain during Lent?

Iraq

For the people in Iraq, so that they will not become even worse victims because of their leader? Or because of our U.S. leaders?

For the U.S.

To avoid the use of military attacks on Iraq?

For our President and Congress

To be strong and firm in avoiding armed conflict, in not resorting to military attacks?

Cancer

For the most recent cancer victim that I learned about?

Violence

For the teenagers who are getting caught up in violence, in gangs?

The Divorced

For families shattered by divorce; for spouses to seek reconciliation; for an abandoned single parent with children; for the children of divorced parents?

My Archdiocese, [My Diocese], My Parish

That each can be truly a spiritual people in every way?

Family Members

For what I see as much needed for members of my family?

Thankfulness

To use Lenten fast and abstinence as a way of being thankful, as a way of reminding me each day to ask myself, for what am I thankful?

Thankfulness will put a smile on your face during Lent and after Lent, too. Smiling during fasting is recommended by Jesus: "When you fast you are not to look glum as the hypocrites do. They change the appearance of their faces so that others may see they are fasting. I assure you they are already repaid. When you fast see to it that you groom your hair and wash your face. In that way no one can see that you are fasting but your Father who is hidden; and your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you."

Lent and Stewardship

Stewardship has been a prominent theme throughout the Archdiocese [dioceses] for the past two years. Have you thought of fasting and abstinence as a form of stewardship? It is! Stewardship expresses itself by being an identification with my neighbor. What God has entrusted to me I must share with my neighbor. Self-denial helps me to identify with the poor by enabling me to experience voluntarily what they experience involuntarily. That is stewardship in reverse. Identifying with the poor, the sick, the lonely, the hurting, the suffering people enables me to draw from them rather than them from me.

When you see on TV those pitches to lose pounds, remember that there is a better way!


The final moments at Lazarus' Home

     Having begun this inspiring Lenten series last week, we complete the Lesson part of Lesson 2 today with part three of FAREWELL TO THE HOLY WOMEN AND THE MOTHER, where Jesus bids adieu to Mary Magdalene and shares some special moments with His Blessed Mother Mary. Click on "IT IS CONSUMMATED!"

part three

     Jesus turns back to the chair beneath the garden window and in the light I am able to see His wonderful eyes awash in His own holy tears. But there comes another knock, not timid but assured, and turning round Jesus opens His arms to admit Mary, Marthaís sister, into His presence.

Once the great sinner, the scandal of the family, the Magdalene rushes across the room and falls at Jesusí feet!

"Arise, Mary," Jesus tells her lovingly. Let us sit together in the last of the sunshine."

Drawing her to her feet, I can clearly see that Mary of Magdala is indeed a beautiful woman. She is tall and slender, her face spotless, her long, thick hair pulled back and kept in place by very plain combs and hair pins.

She is without any adornment, no make-up whatsoever, yet her beauty is all the more real. She has large eyes which see much, which contemplate much and ponder, but the very essence of her soul, now transformed into holiness because of Jesus, is a pure light which gazes at Jesus with intense pure, spiritual love.

"Master!"

"Mary."

"The time has come for You, for all of us. I do not fully understand how, but I feel it here in my heart. It is like a sword, or a very heavy weight."

"It is the time of sorrow, Mary, for all who must be obedient to the Father. Then shall come the triumph, the victory."

"I believe and my heart understands your words."

"Mary, my beloved child, a true conquest for My Kingdom, you must not be sad. This is Godís victory and the fulfillment of My earthly Mission."

"Master, it is just that now, at this time, I seem to see all my past life - my life of hideous sin - rise before me as a hideous monster. And at night when I seek to pray, my prayer does not come because this monster from my past curses me, calls me a fool and condemns me."

Jesus looks at her intently and He is searching her heart, which gives Him such joy because it overflows with the pure love He seeks from all His lost sheep.

"Mary! Mary! This is not the time of the evil one. Satan seeks to strike at each heart. He seeks to blind, confuse and through confusion he leads to doubt and despair. Look at me, Mary!"

Mary, who has lowered her head now looks strongly, steadfastly into the eyes of her Lord and God, and upon her features a renewed courage appears.

"Master!"

"Do you believe that you are forgiven? Do you believe in My love for you, and how your repentant heart gives Me, the Man, courage and strength?"

"Yes, Lord, I believe." Jesus rises from His chair and places both hands upon her head. He raises His eyes to Heaven and His lips move in silent prayer.

"From this moment on, Mary, you shall no longer be victim of the evil oneís lies. You possess pure, holy love. This shall sustain you and you shall be strong in the face of the multitude which shall insult and ridicule and threaten all who love Me. Mary?"

She is weeping now, but gently, quietly."Yes, Master!"

"I want you to remember this time. Let it, and all that I have said and done for you, be ever in your mind and upon your heart. Mary, when the dreadful hour comes you will have courage, and fro you many, in future generations, will find hope and trust in Me."

"I will be strong, Jesus, for I love you so."

"You will shine as a star of love in My kingdom, and at the end of all time you will know all those souls who, by your life and example, have believed in Me and won eternal life. I bless you, My dear, loving daughter. Stand by your family. Be an example even to My Apostles, for the moment of their real strength is yet to come. Do this, My child of love. And I shall return to you, to re-confirm to you all I have spoken."

Mary now leaves her chair and falls to her knees. She bends low and, in perfect humility, bestows a kiss upon the feet of her Savior. Then, she takes first His right hand and kisses the palm, while Jesus gazes with ardent love and constant blessing. She does the same to His left palm, each kiss placed upon the pure, holy, spotless flesh that will in a few days be bruised, lacerated and pierced by cruel spikes.

Her tears do not cease, nor are any more words spoken. She bows low and hiding her face beneath her veil, she withdraws.

Jesus appears saddened, and does not sit but looks out upon the peaceful garden of Lazarusí estate, drawing from The Fatherís creation yet more solace as His hour draws near.

"Son!" His Motherís greeting. A voice made in Heaven, from Heaven. Quickly Jesus turns to see Mary, His most holy Mother, already near Him. She moves without sound, always meek, humble, gentle and so aware of Her Sonís increasing anguish.

"O! Mother!" It is a sigh. A prayer.

"Dear Son, I am here now. I will not leave You until you instruct me to do so." Her eyes behold Him, drink in every aspect of the Son of God, Whom she has born in her virginal womb.

"The hour is so close. I have said nearly all I must say to fulfill the Divine Will."

"I know, Son."

"They shall need you, O good, holy Mother!"

"I know, Son. I will not fail You. I will be whatever God wants me to be for them."

"Mother, with each passing moment The Son grows closer to His hour, and the awesome burden increases. Yet, together, We must exhort all to faith, to hope and to love."

"Yes, my Son. We will do that. The Father will hear my poor prayer."

"OI sorrowful mother, the world will one day recognize that you, also, have suffered the most hideous tortures, and have remained without the slightest blemish of sin. This is a font of strength for Me, Mother, because I shall have before Me in My deepest anguish, your virtues so beautiful before the Trinity."

"I am the handmaid of the Lord, Son. I have never sought other than His Will."

"Pray now with Me, Mother, for the strength needed to fulfill Our Mission. Pray to the Father for all mankind, that all that is yet to be suffered shall not be in vain."

They kneel, their heads lifted to Heaven. Together they pray, "Our Father, Who art in Heaven..." and the sun sets upon their prayer.

NEXT INSTALLMENT: Part Four of Lesson 2: Our Lady's meditation on FAREWELL TO THE HOLY WOMEN AND THE MOTHER


The Season of Lent begins

     With today's liturgy we begin the next six weeks of purple or violet vestments to signify the penitential time of Lent. For the liturgy of Ash Wednesday and tomorrow's Mass plus meditations for both days, click on LITURGY OF THE DAY

ASH WEDNESDAY, February 25, 1998


THURSDAY, February 26, 1998


PRAYERS & DEVOTION

Today's prayer is taken from the Opening Prayer for the Ash Wednesday Mass

Lord, protect us in our struggle against evil. As we begin the discipline of Lent, make this season holy by our self-denial. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen


Medjugorje Monthly Message for February 25th

      Dear children! Also today I am with you and I, again, call all of you to come closer to me through your prayers. In a special way, I call you to renunciation in this time of grace. Little children, meditate on and live, through your little sacrifices, the Passion and Death of Jesus for each of you. Only if you come closer to Jesus will you comprehend the immeasurable love He has for each of you. Through prayer and your renunciation you will become more open to the gift of faith and love towards the Church and the people who are around you. I love and bless you. Thank you for having responded to my call! For more on Medjugorje, click on MEDJUGORJE

674 and counting, hoping and praying..


WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant

HEADLINES:

POPE SIGNS POLAND TREATY IN UNUSUAL MOVE

     VATICAN (CWN) -- After months of on-and-off negotiations, the Holy See has signed a new concordat with Poland, governing relations between the two.

      The concordat, originally negotiated by the Vatican and the Solidarity-dominated government of Poland in 1993, became endangered when that regime lost power to a new ruling coalition dominated by former Communists. But the Solidarity bloc regained control of the national legislature last year, paving the way for final approval of the pact.

      Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, himself a former Communist, has given his final approval early this year, overcoming earlier misgivings. After giving the pact his final approval yesterday in Warsaw, Kwasniewski predicted that the agreement would promote the further development of "good and friendly relations between Poland and the Vatican." He expressed the hope† that these relations would "not lead to arguments" within Poland, but rather would encourage "peace and reconciliation, which are necessary and welcome, as His Holiness has said."

      The Vatican, too, issued a formal statement voicing the "hope that the corcordat will reinforce the cordial relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Poland, leading to a new rapport between Church and state, in accordance with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the new Code of Canon Law."

      The concordat's 29 articles provide, among other things, for legal recognition of the Church and her institutions in Poland, freedom for Catholic apostolates, the teaching of religion in public schools, recognition of civil and canonical marriage, the Church's right to use the means of public communication, and government support for Catholic university faculties in Krakow and Lublin."

      In a break with tradition, Pope John Paul II personally signed the agreement at the Vatican today. (Ordinary the Vatican Secretary of State signs such documents.) The Pope's gesture was taken as an indication of the high importance he attaches to this particular agreement.

      The treaty which governs the Polish states relationship with the Catholic Church has undergone a troubled ratification process since the fall of Communism in 1989. The ex-Communists blocked the concordat while it held power in Parliament between 1993 and 1997, but the ruling Solidarity alliance quickly ratified the document after it won national elections last fall.

      The Holy Father called the Polish ambassador to the Vatican on Monday to witness the signing, which ANSA said was probably meant as a gesture of courtesy toward his homeland and a sign of the importance he attaches to the treaty. The concordat stipulates that church marriages are legally binding and provides for religious education at the earliest levels of education.


YELTSIN BRIEFS RUSSIAN PATRIARCH ON VISIT WITH POPE

     VATICAN (CWN) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin visited Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow yesterday, to wish him a happy birthday (his 69th), and to give the Orthodox leader a report on Yeltsin's February 10 meeting with Pope John Paul II.

      "We had a peaceful conversation," the Russian president the Patriarch, according to a report in the Itar-Tass news agency. "We avoided hot topics like his visiting Russian and the relations between the two [Catholic and Orthodox] churches."

      The Itar-Tass report indicated that Patriarch Alexei said he was interested not in mounting a crusade but in "finding some reciprocal understanding," so that the tensions between Rome and Moscow might be resolved. He reportedly added that the Moscow Patriarchate and the Holy See are engaged in "very difficult" negotiations regarding "certain points which make our relations very delicate." He was referring to the conflicts between Ukrainian Catholics and their Orthodox neighbors over the distribution of Church property confiscated during the Stalin era.


ITALIAN SPECIALIST ASSAYS NEW COLLEGE OF CARDINALS

     VATICAN (CWN) -- The addition of 20 new members to the College of Cardinals has ended the Italian control of that body, according to the noted Vatican observer Giancarlo Zizola.

      Zizola, who covers the Vatican for the Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore, pointed out in yesterday's edition that Italian cardinals will no longer hold one-third of the votes in a conclave-- the margin which he said would be necessary to control a papal election.† While the February 21 consistory saw 7 new Italian members added to the College of Cardinals, Zizola pointed out that this number could be misleading, since the proportion of Italian cardinals is dropping; it is now roughly one-fourth of the total body. He added that Pope John Paul, the first non-Italian pope of the 20th century, has overseen "the national dispersion of the College," which now includes representatives of 56 different countries.

      Zizola pointed out two clear indications of the overall trend. In 1958 there were only 15 non-European cardinals, among the 51 members of the College; today there are 66, out of 122 cardinals. And there are now 54 cardinals from the southern hemisphere-- among them, a sizable bloc of 23 from Latin America.

      Although 85 percent of the current cardinal-electors have been chosen by Pope John Paul, Zizola cautioned against the assumption that a future papal conclave would produce a "photocopy" of the Holy Father's wishes. He observed that in the past, many conclaves have confounded all expectations, overlooking highly favored candidates and electing relatively unknown cardinals for the papacy. He mentioned in particular the elections of Popes Pius X and John XXIII- - each of whom was elected despite widespread assumptions that a different cardinal would emerge victorious from the conclave.†

ACKNOWLEDGMENT:To subscribe to Catholic World News Service, available daily by e-mail, click here .

PROVERB OF THE DAY

"The Sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight."

Proverbs 15: 8

For all other standard features, articles and columns, click on Archives

Click here to return to SECTION ONE or click here to return to the graphics front page of this issue.


February 25, 1998 volume 9, no. 40         DAILY CATHOLIC