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ASH WEDNESDAY

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



"Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."

     The forty six days or quadragesima of Lent officially begins today - Ash Wednesday - when we seek the mark of the Christ's Cross in the form of ashes as a reminder of our humanity and temporal nature on earth and to work harder towards our Heavenly goal. This distinguishing "smudge" on our forehead sets us apart from those who willingly embrace the mark of the beast by yielding to temptation and sins of the flesh and world. To help us fend off these temptations, the Church teaches that fasting and abstinence are the best way of mortification for the soul. In today's editorial we speak of the origins and the differences between fasting and abstinence in It's a fasting fashion! Click on Today's CATHOLIC PewPOINT

It's the fasting fashion!

     Today is that one day of the year when Catholics stand out from all others because they bear a special mark on their forehead. That is unless they wipe or wash it off out of embarassment before going to work or school. Yes, it's Ash Wednesday when loyal Catholics take the time to attend Mass and receive the Ashes symbolic of what Lent is all about. Ah, Lent! It's a time that is "lent" from God to better prepare us when it's time to repay our debt to Him. Like a bank, we build up dividends in the penances and sacrifices, fasting and abstinence we observe.

       When the priest, deacon or extraordinary minister makes the sign of the cross with the ashes on our foreheads and utters the words, "Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return" it is a reminder for us of where we came from and where we're heading; no - not a ball of lint inside a vacuum cleaner where so much dust is gathered - nor on the end of a dustmop, but rather toward Heavenly bliss where our soul will live forever - if we but heed God's Will by following His directives through Sacred Scripture and His Holy Church. It's that simple! But we've gotta want it and we've gotta work for it. There is no such thing as a free lunch and Lent brings this point home, though if one is truly observing the practice of penance, sacrifice and fasting, lunch isn't important. The state of our soul is - as well as the condition of countless other souls who we offer in reparation through our expiation. That is what Lent has always been about. The term Ash Wednday whose etimology is derived from the day of ashes - dies cinerum in Latin - was first found in the Roman Missal around the eighth century. The ashes then as now come from the burnt cinders of blessed palm fronds from the previous Palm Sunday. It was a continuation of the ritual practiced in the Old Covenant when repenting sinners covered themselves with ashes and garbed themselves in prickly sackcloth. While few wear sackcloth today except the most avant garde fashion models going to extreme in style, we do retain the ashes ceremony, simplifying it to only the foreheads. Can you imagine the messy carpets and floors of the churches, not to mention dry-cleaning bills, if we still strewn ashes all over our bodies? So the Church, in her wisdom, simplified it. It marks the beginning of Lent which derives its name from the Greek word tessarakoste meaning "fortieth." How do we get four letter word out of that mouthful? Well it's kind of a hybrid mutation from numerous dialects throughout Europe in earlier times. Some claim Lent is the Teutonic word for "springtime" and it was the easiest to pronounce. Well, that's true and besides - saying the Latin quadragesima (Latin for "fortieth") can be tongue-twisting. So we're stuck with the word "Lent."

       But we're not stuck in Lent. Oh, we are if we're not willing to focus the next forty six days on bettering ourselves spiritually and morally. Wait a second, did we say forty six? Isn't that supposed to be forty? Yes and no! There are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, however the Sundays are not included for those are not days of fasting. Therefore take away the six Sundays and - voila - we have forty days. These forty days are supposed to be days of fast and abstinence. However, the Church has relaxed the rules over the years, especially in the Western Church - specifically the United States. The question always comes up: "what's the difference between fasting and abstinence?" Fasting is required for all those over 21 years of age in which no two meals will equal the third. The best way to observe this is to eat very little in the morning and afternoon and have a regular meal in the evenings which cannot surpass the total amount of food consumed at the previous two meals that day. Sounds somewhat confusing but that is the fast the Church in the United States mandates. Our Lady, however, has imparted other ways of fasting to her visionaries and asked that this method be passed on to all her children - that is fasting on bread and water only. In the Medjugorje apparitions, she asks these fasts be observed Wednesdays and Fridays. The latter is true fasting for we are giving up the meats, sweets and delicious foods and drinks we have been used to on special days for the specific purpose of calling to mind our dedication to live God's Will and sacrifice our physical pleasures in favor of spiritual favors. Again, that dividend thing! Abstinence, on the other hand has nothing to do with fasting except to stay clear of meat on these days. Ash Wednesday and each Friday in Lent are days of abstinence. Again, this may not be such a sacrifice to many if they are vegetarians or trying to lose weight. But it is something the bishops of the United States are considering resurrecting - meatless Fridays again in order to emphasize the importance of sacrifice and in reparation for the sins of abortion and other atrocities that contribute to the culture of death. The required age for abstinence is 14 years of age. So during Lent, all teens and their parents should pass on the Big Macs on Fridays in favor of the Fish Sandwich or…following the Blessed Mother's counsel - try bread and water. It's a great purifier physically and spiritually!

       There are many who, for health and physical reasons, cannot always fast. The Church is lenient on this and encourages one to give up something such as television, sweets, a pleasure that one would miss and when one misses it will call to mind the purpose of why one is giving it up. It's called Lent and it's an annual affair which requires common sense for the body and the soul. God is lenient as to intent and practice. He knows it's not easy. After all He's not asking us to do something He didn't do. Remember Jesus spent forty days and nights in the desert ALONE with very little to eat and drink and was tempted greatly. So when temptation comes, remember He's with you and it'll be easier to fend off satan's wiles. And if you falter in fasting, relax and try again. But don't relax too much, after all it's Lent! And when you leave the Church today, don't be afraid to wear those ashes proudly! It's the fasting fashion!

Michael Cain, editor

"We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee, because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world."

     To commemorate Lent we begin carrying on a daily basis the Way of the Cross with meditations on each station and, for graphics users, an inspiring painting of each station that best depicts Christ's travails that He underwent for all of us. From tomorrow on, these will be within the PRAYERS & DEVOTION section of each issue. For today, click on MEDITATIVE STATIONS OF THE CROSS

MEDITATIVE STATIONS OF THE CROSS FOR LENT
On the Way to Calvary

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.


FIRST STATION: Jesus is Condemned to Death

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

Weakened by Your Agony in the Garden, You now hear the fateful words of Pilate. Were You afraid, Jesus? I would be, such a cruel death. So unjustified. Permit me, my Jesus, to learn the great lesson of humility which You gave us, as You stood defenseless, offering nary a word to those who sought Your ruin. You, Innocence Itself, accepted the unjust sentence, which came upon You because of my sins. Jesus, touch my heart. Purify it. Convert it fully. Take my hand and help me walk the Way of the Cross with You...the Way of Salvation.

SECOND STATION: Jesus Carries His Cross

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

If You were weak before, how much so now that You had endured a scourging, one I can't even comprehend, but which fills me with horror. Yet they presented You with Your Cross, and with arms of love You received it, in perfect obedience to Your Heavenly Father that all men might be saved. You did not recoil from it. I would have. I still do, because at the slightest suffering I become impatient, frustrated, even angry. I want to run away, to seek solace in others, to deny that suffering is part of everyday life. Permit me, on this walk with You, dear Jesus, to learn in the depths of my soul and heart, to embrace the Cross which is the only way to Eternal Life. Whenever sorrow or suffering come, help me to remember that I deserve to shoulder the cross, because You, Who are the Innocent Lamb, embraced it without complaint out of love for me, a poor sinner.


THIRD STATION: Jesus Falls the First Time

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

So brutalized were You, my Jesus, that any ordinary man would have already expired. The loss of Your Sacred Blood causes You to fall heavily to the ground. No one showed You the least bit of compassion. Instead, You were kicked, spit upon, whipped and yanked to Your feet with the heavy burden of the Cross upon Your shoulder. Permit me, dear Jesus, to learn the virtue of patience. Let me remember Your example, and when things go wrong for me in any way, let it be the silence of Your Love which seals my lips out of love for You.


FOURTH STATION: Jesus Meets His Sorrowful Mother

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

My Jesus, can anyone ever know the anguish which was exchanged between You and Your most Holy Mother? Help me to meditate upon this meeting, and to learn from it that You, the Sinless One, and Your Immaculate Mother, call me to give up my sins, my inclination to evil. Whenever I am tempted, let me fall at the feet of Your Sorrowful Mother and there, with the tender mother's love which flows from her heart, receive Your strength to resist temptation, to grow stronger in my faith, in my resolve never to sin again. Let me gaze upon Your Holy Face, my Jesus, and understand what Love really means.


FIFTH STATION: Simon the Cyrene Helps Jesus

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

It wasn't compassion which forced the Roman soldiers to make Simon help You. They feared You would die and they would not have the victory of seeing You die in anguish on Calvary. My dear Jesus, grant me the grace to help You carry Your Cross, making it my own with the full knowledge and assurance that it is You Who helps me to carry it. Only in this way will I be able to bear all with loving obedience, and patience, that Eternal Life might be mine.


SIXTH STATION: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

You never forgot, even in the midst of Your torture, to give to those Who truly love You, a remembrance of Yourself. You desired for all men to remember Your Passion that from it they might learn Love. Imprint the image of Your Holy Face upon my heart and soul, my Jesus. In this way, strengthened by Your merits, let me always think of You, placing You above all earthly cares, until I see You in Eternity.


SEVENTH STATION: Jesus Falls the Second Time

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

So weakened! Your Holy Face lies on the hard ground, the weight of the Cross even heavier now. You fell, my sweet Jesus, to remind me of the pride and self-love that I cling to in life, rather than willingly, submitting myself fully to Your Holy Will in all things. Permit me, dear Jesus, to learn from You, and to henceforth be mindful to prostrate myself before You, my Lord and my God, that I might learn humility and simplicity in all things.


EIGHTH STATION: Jesus Comforts the Women of Jerusalem

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

The weeping arouses You from the anguish of Your continuing Passion. You manage to speak to the women, and Your Holy words should arouse in me a deep repentance of all my sins. You Who are sinless, went to Your death with peace for You were united fully with the Father. Permit me, my Jesus, to contemplate my offenses against You, to confess them with a contrite heart, and to weep in the depths of my soul, for all I have done to cause You such suffering. And let me always remember that as You gaze upon me, it is with eyes of Mercy, so infinite is Your Love.


NINTH STATION: Jesus Falls the Third Time

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

Life is waning from Your Sacred Body, but there is still a long, painful way to go. You fell, but You did not give up, in order that God's Will might be fulfilled. Teach me, my Jesus, to rise every time I fall, and to understand in my soul that You are there to help me to my feet, that it is You Who sets me once again on the right path - the Way of the Cross.




TENTH STATION: Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

Your soiled garments adhere to Your Sacred Body because of the clotted blood. What anguish You suffered in order to atone for the sins of intemperance and sensuality. Permit me, my dear Jesus, to surrender to You all of my sins of the flesh, and even more, all of my earthly attachments. As You were subjected to the humility of being stripped, so teach me the joy of being stripped of sin, of earthly attachments in every instance, that I might stand with You on Calvary, a repentant sinner filled with joy and hope at the Salvation You have won for me.


ELEVENTH STATION: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

I cannot comprehend what it was like to have cruel nails pounded into my tender flesh. I shrink from this, my Jesus. Sometimes it terrifies me. But You did not shrink from it. Permit me, my dear Jesus, to remember that it is my sins which have done this to You. You looked far beyond the pain, which I cannot fathom, to the Will of the Father, and the salvation of mankind. Let me remember in times of pain and sorrow, that You hold my hand and give me strength to endure, that You might wound my heart with the Love of Your Own Heart. Divine Mercy was poured forth upon mankind when the lance pierced Your Sacred Heart. My Jesus, grant that I, prostrate at the foot of Your Cross, may receive Your Divine Mercy.


TWELFTH STATION: Jesus Dies on the Cross

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

I behold You, my Jesus, hanging upon the Cross in bitterest agony. You raise Your Sacred Head with the last ounce of Your strength and Will, and You look upon me. A look of such love! Of such compassion! O, permit me, my Jesus, to remain at the foot of Your Cross, gazing upon Your Sacred Countenance. Imprint upon my heart a lively contrition for my sins, which weighed so heavily upon you as You died in agony. Let me hear in my heart the words You offered to the Good Thief, and may I draw comfort from Your loving promises. Help me to look to Your Heavenly Mother, my own Mother, for the guidance I need to remain with You in these last terrible moments before eternal bliss.


THIRTEENTH STATION: Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

It is consummated! You have surrendered Your Divine Soul to the Father. Now, Your Blessed Mother, bereft of her Son, and alone of all consolation, receives Your lifeless body into her arms. Those about see only the lifeless body. Mary believes that You, God, will rise again on the third day, and if there is any comfort for her, it is this. With Mary, may I, a sinner, kiss each wound upon Your Sacred Body, in loving remembrance of all You have done for me. The journey is now complete for You. Help me, my Jesus, to complete my journey in this life, with the sincere faith that You shall greet me for all Eternity.


FOURTEENTH STATION: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You.
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

What great sadness weighed down upon Mary as she watched Your Body hastily prepared for burial, and the cold, lonely tomb receive the Flesh of her flesh, and of the Father. She watched with tears streaming down her face as the stone was rolled in front of the tomb, her faith her bulwark against despair. Grant to me, my dear Jesus, the grace to ponder the Way of the Cross which all men must walk, in order to come to that moment of glorious resurrection with You for all Eternity.

A Time to Prepare before the Warning!

     Lent is the time to be reminded of the Warning in preparation for the cleansing of body, mind, soul and earth that God has promised in order to make way for the new Era of Peace - the Second Advent - the glorious Reign of the Sacred Heart. For details on this we continue to bring you the Garabandal apparitions and the messages therein in our on-going mega series feature on Marian Apparitions this century. For the fifty-seventh installment entitled - "For whom do the bells toll?" - part two, click on THE AGE OF MARIAN APPARITIONS
Installment Fifty-Seven

GARABANDAL: For whom the Bells Toll!

Part One

     We now arrive in the Marian Apparitions timetable at 1961, a time when rumors were beginning to circulate that change was in the wind as Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council. The politics surrounding Garabandal during those and subsequent years prevented the dire messages from being taken seriously, but in recent times the bishop has been more open to examining the content and giving credibility to what Our Lady imparted to the four young visionaries in this mountainous community in northeastern Spain. The interesting aspect of these messages are that they are meant for our times in the late nineties and that they are intricately related through the saintly Padre Pio who is up for Beatification. Yes, the timing is right for the messages of Garabandal, with the increased concern about the Warning and the Miracle promised at Garabandal and affirmed by a multitude of other visionaries. In the next several installments we are going to attempt to show how the Warning and the Miracle are intertwined in God’s master plan for in each ensuing apparition or message, Our Lady, in this Age of Marian Apparitions, unveils another piece of the overall "puzzle" in her on-going crusade to bring all her children back to her Divine Son.

     Though the timing of the first Garabandal apparition was twenty years before the daily visits began in Medjugorje, they are intricately linked as are the messages of Betania, Akita and countless other sites and messages to messengers the world over. Just how closely the "Ten Secrets" of Medjugorje relate to the messages of Garabandal and the Warning, no one except the visionaries really know for sure, but we do know that the parallel of Garabandal to Medjugorje is no coincidence.

      Twenty years before Our Lady appeared to six children in the small village of Medjugorje, the Blessed Mother appeared to four children in the even smaller village of San Sebastian de Garabandal in the northernmost mountain region of Spain. Like Medjugorje, Garabandal is less than a hundred miles from the coast; like Medjugorje, Garabandal is nestled between the mountains: like Medjugorje, the villagers were poor farmers whose faith was strong, yet simple. And yet it was this unpretentious hamlet Our Blessed Mother chose to impart her most powerful message since LaSalette and Fatima.

      The sixties had just dawned. It was a time when the "age of innocence" was about to be transformed into the "age of guile and deceit". The era of "Camelot" was soon to become Mordred’s dungeon for the sinister sin of abortion was just coming into its own, sexual mores would be stretched to their limits, and the world would turn further away from God, committing sins that would cause many tears of sorrow and cry out for Justice. In addition, the Second Vatican Council had been called. Little did anyone realize that from the authentic good fruits of the Spirit how the evil one would afterwards confuse the faithful through those within the Church who had sold their souls to the prince of darkness.

      Our Blessed Mother knew this was all just over the horizon when she began appearing to four young girls- Mari Loli Mazon, Conchita Gonzalez and Jacinta Gonzalez- all twelve years old at the time of the first apparitions-and Maria-Cruz Gonzalez, age eleven. Though the three shared the same surname, they were not related. Like the young visionaries in Medjugorje two decades later, these girls had been up to innocent, but mischievous fun-stealing apples on the hillside above the some seventy rough-tiled homes in the village. As their consciences got the best of them, their imagination took over and they thought they saw an angel on the evening of June 18, 1961. Indeed, they did, and he reappeared silently for the next week to them in the same spot. This Heavenly messenger had come to prepare the children for a cornucopia of visits from the Mother of God.

      Just as he did at Fatima when he announced he was the "Angel of Peace", this time he identified himself as St. Michael the Archangel! The Guardian of the Faith had come to tell these elementary school girls that the Mother of God would soon appear to them. Early on the evening of July 1, 1961 St. Michael appeared again to the four and heralded that Mary would soon appear to them as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

NEXT INSTALLMENT: Part Two - Garabandal: For whom the Bells Toll!

To review all past installments of this on-going series, go to Archives beginning with the inaugural A CALL TO PEACE internet issue in January 1996. volume 7, no. 1.


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


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