The three hallmarks of the Lenten Season are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, but principally, the Church desires that each of us grows spiritually and experiences a reawakening of our relationship with God during this forty-day term of preparation that precedes the commemoration of the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection. 

In his Lenten message to the Catholic faithful, Pope Francis reminds us that we have already received God’s goodness and mercy when we were clothed with Christ on the day of our baptism.  On that day, original sin was washed away and we were reborn into the life and light of Christ.  The Holy Father describes Lent as a time for exploring the wonder and beauty of our baptismal calling to love God and to love neighbor. 

Following that Gospel mandate, I am grateful in a particular way for the generosity of the parishioners and the visitors to St. Joseph’s Church, and for the advice of the members of the Parish Outreach Committee.  In a spirit of Lenten almsgiving – and in accordance with stipulations of donors that their donations be earmarked for charitable assistance in the local community – awards will be forwarded to area individuals and families in need, but also to Haven Pregnancy Services, Lincoln-Woodstock Food Pantry, Linwood Ambulance Services, and VET’s REST STOP, a North Woodstock agency that provides shelter and mental-health counseling services to veterans in our neighborhood.  Each of these entities performs charitable activities that foster Christian healing, growth, and awareness. 

Finally, Lent is not intended as a time to make us feel disheartened about spiritual shortcomings in our lives, but rather constitutes a call to overcome self-centeredness and what Pope Francis terms “indifference to God and others.”  Ideally, Lent reminds us of our need for God’s grace in our lives and to be aware of His presence and availability to us and to everyone each and every day.