A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘Ash Wednesday


Planning a wedding, celebrating a new job, welcoming a newborn or an adopted child into our family, moving into a new home? If so, the solemnity of Ash Wednesday might seem at odds with our mood.

Think about this reading from Joel 2:12-13*:

“Yet even now,” says the LORD,

“return to me with all your heart,

with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

and tear your hearts and not your garments.”

Wedding 300dpi BW

My maternal grandparents on their wedding day

Who could think of fasting or weeping or mourning at a joyful time? And yet that is what we’re called to do.

We don’t have to draw on memories of sadder times to get into the spirit of Lent; instead, we need to look into our hearts to see where a change is in order:

  • Do we focus on appearances, or are we genuine?
  • Are we proud of what we have or thankful for our blessings?
  • Do we judge those who are less fortunate or give to those in need? Do we give donations or volunteer our time to gain attention or to serve?
  • Do we take our spouse and parents for granted, or are we grateful for their love and support? Do we care for them in turn?
  • Do we encourage our children or nag them? Do we push our expectations for their lives or encourage them in their God-given gifts? Do we notice and comment only on acting-out behaviour or give them credit for the good character they show in working hard at school, getting along with siblings, doing their chores and being kind?
  • Do we focus on others’ mistakes and refuse to acknowledge or ask forgiveness for our own?
  • Do we attend Mass and receive the sacraments only occasionally, or do we receive them regularly to strengthen us?

If we do a spiritual self-check and think everything looks fine, maybe we need to ask the Spirit to show us where we might be failing our families, our friends, our faith or ourselves. Then, even in a time of great joy, we can enter into the spirit of Lent and begin to prepare our hearts to welcome the risen Lord at Easter.

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.”

~ Luke 3:4

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)



Shrove Tuesday being tomorrow and Ash Wednesday the following day, the season of Lent is just around the corner.

For some, the start of Lent may be nothing more than a good excuse to eat pancakes or begin the countdown to enjoying Easter treats. Now, I enjoy chocolate eggs just as much as the next person, but Lent should mean so much more.

As Mary Kathleen Glavich, SND, reminds us in The Confirmed Catholic’s Companion: A Guide to Abundant Living, this season is about penance, almsgiving and fasting, with this focus:

Lent is a time of sanctifying our lives in preparation for celebrating Jesus’ glorious resurrection.

And so we’re turning our minds to what we might give up for Lent, such as chocolate, coffee, some screen time, or a habit we want to break. Or maybe we’re considering taking up a spiritual discipline, such as attending morning Mass, taking part in Eucharistic adoration, or praying the rosary a certain number of times each week.

Here are just a few thoughts on ways to mark Lent:

  • Plan to receive the sacrament of reconciliation during regularly scheduled reconciliation times or following our parish’s reconciliation service.
  • Serve at the Ash Wednesday service or a Way of the Cross service.
  • Spend one lunch hour each week attending a midday Mass near our workplace.
  • Take part in a perpetual rosary with fellow members of a parish group or ministry team.
  • Involve our family in planning and preparing meatless meals for Fridays in Lent.
  • Make our favourite specialty coffee or tea at home and collect the amount we would have spent in a jar over the course of Lent, to be donated to charity at Easter.
  • Go through our family’s spring clothes and shoes and donate outgrown but gently used items to charity.
  • Serve a shift at a shelter or soup kitchen with our family or parish group.

I pray that, on our own and within our families, we would find our journey through Lent a time of spiritual growth as we prepare our hearts for Easter.

O Lord, the house of my soul is narrow;

enlarge it, that you may enter in.

It is ruinous, O repair it!

It displeases your sight; I confess it, I know.

But who shall cleanse it, to whom shall I cry but to you?

~ St. Augustine of Hippo, quoted in Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers


As a child, I used to look forward to Shrove Tuesday, although many people called it “Pancake Tuesday.” Sometimes my father would make the thin Danish pancakes we could spread jam on and roll up with a fork (sorry if I’m making anyone hungry).

I’m sure I wasn’t thinking about the start of Lent. I didn’t really do much to observe Lent before coming to the Catholic Church. Sure, I gave something up for the season, and I knew Lent was a time to prepare for Easter, but I didn’t give much thought to fasting, prayer and charitable giving.

But as author Mary Kathleen Glavich, SND, tells us in The Confirmed Catholic’s Companion: A Guide to Abundant Living, “Lent is a time of sanctifying our lives in preparation for celebrating Jesus’ glorious resurrection.”

With Ash Wednesday just two days away, we need to think about planning for a good Lent. How will we spend this season? Here are a few  ideas:

Fasting. We could give up late-night snacking or chocolate. Or we could give up something like nagging, swearing, or something that’s a bad habit in my house—yelling to another person instead of walking to the room that person is in to ask a question.

Prayer. We could try some new mealtime graces, use an app such as Laudate to pray a virtual rosary or other prayers, or make time first thing in the morning to talk with God. We could also attend a Eucharistic adoration service (I had the joy of attending one during our Confirmation retreat), a Stations of the Cross service, and/or early morning Mass during Lent. Or participate in a perpetual rosary—many members in my parish’s CWL group have committed to praying one mystery every day in Lent.

Charitable giving. If we’re giving up something we normally spend money on, we could put that amount into a jar regularly during Lent and donate the sum to a charity we have a connection to or one that our parish supports. Or donate items to the food bank. Or buy a cup of coffee or some food for someone living on the street.

For those in search of some ideas for Lent, visit BustedHalo.com to read Renée LaReau’s archived article “25 Great Things You Can Do For Lent…besides giving up chocolate” and check out the site’s “Fast Pray Give” calendar.

I pray that we would use this season to prepare our hearts so that we may better appreciate the joy of Easter.

“Yet even now,” says the LORD,

“return to me with all your heart,

with fasting, with weeping and with mourning;

and tear your hearts and not your garments.”

Return to the LORD, your God,

for he is gracious and merciful,

slow to anger, and abounding in mercy,

and repents of evil.

~ Joel 2:12-13*

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Last year, Ash Wednesday fell shortly before the Rite of Election, where my husband and I were to be received as candidates. Our parish priest asked us to help with the imposition of the ashes. We had to mark people’s foreheads with the sign of the cross and say, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

And so began my first full Lent in the Church.

Before that, the closest I’d come to observing Lent was giving up coffee for those forty days—and although I don’t drink a lot of coffee, it wasn’t pretty. (Just ask my family.)

I wasn’t used to fasting…or abstaining from meat on Fridays…or adding spiritual disciplines to my life during Lent. But I took on these challenges and participated in a Lenten Bible study in our parish. By the Easter Vigil, I felt more prepared to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

And isn’t that what Lent is all about—preparing our hearts by sweeping out the cobwebs through fasting, doing penance, and giving to charity?

How are you preparing for Easter? Read the rest of this entry »

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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