Young adults of St Felix de Valois, Bankstown, were delighted to receive inspiring tips on preparing for Easter at the first of regular catechesis sessions in the parish.
Father Christopher del Rosario, assistant priest at St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish, Parramatta, presented the talk, ‘How to make a good Lent’ at Bankstown on 19 February.
Catholics must be prepared for Easter through their penance and the grace of their Baptism said Fr del Rosario.
“Why these two? Why does Church highlight Penance and Baptism? Because both aspects allow us to witness to Christ,” he said.
“In Baptism, we are incorporated into the body of Christ and thus become recipients of the immense graces that are poured out from the Father to us.”
Penance is often misunderstood, and so must be appreciated in the light of its full context, Fr del Rosario said.
“The greatest disease in our world today is sin,” he said.
“The Devil is the greatest terror and oppressor this world has ever seen and no one is talking about it.”
“We are in a real battle and penances are designed for spiritual warfare.
“Penances are not there to make you look holy … they are supposed to aid you in your battle against the devil.
“This is our way to give us over and over more to God. Penances are acts of purification, which disciplines our bodies so that in the larger fight we can say no.”
The youth were asked to make realistic choices when it came to their own penances and to be honest with themselves about their own lives.
According to Fr Chris, realistic preparation during Lent was important as it teaches us how to live a holy life, which assists us in bearing witness to the Risen Lord in the world.
“Without witness who is going to tell other people about Jesus Christ? You. You are the one who has to show them about Jesus Christ in the world,” said Fr Chris.
“You need to show them what it is like to love and serve the Lord.
“That is your job and it is a real serious job because it is supposed to lead us all to Heaven.
“That is why we have Lent. To prepare you to go out and bear witness.”
Fr del Rosario finished his catechesis by giving the youth seven practical ways that they can make their Lent a fruitful one.
These included the traditional Lenten pillars of prayer, fasting and alms giving, but also focussed on making a good confession and choosing good reading material.
After an animated Q&A session, the youth continued the discussion with Fr Chris and Bankstown assistant priest Fr Ronnie Maree during a shared meal hosted by St Felix Youth.
Seven good ways on how to make a good lent
1. Make your goals doable. Don’t think you need to make some severe penances only to give up before the 40 days. Understand yourself. What are my weaknesses and what are my strengths? What are some penances I can give to God so that I can say no to sin?
2. You need good material. We need good material and what better way than following the lives of the saints. Saints are sinners like us who have had great falls and ultimately struggled along the way to sanctity. So make sure you have good reading material as these are ways you can train your mind and learn more on how to make a good Lent and prayer life.
3. And 4. Examination of Conscience and confession. Confession is so good. Many people are terrified when it comes to confession. I do not want you to be terrified when it comes to confession. Because in confession, just like baptism, you are free from Sin.
In the story of the prodigal son, the father runs to his son, clasps him in his arms and kisses him. The father has every right to stand at his doorway and wait for his son to come to him and fall on his knees and say sorry. However, he does not. He runs to his son and embraces him. Even after his son disowns him, the Father responds by giving his son a robe, sandals, a ring on his finger and kills the fat calf all for his son.
When it comes to confession, the father does the heavy lifting. He is running to you as you walk into that confessional. As soon as you hear the words “I absolve you of your sins,” you are in his arms with a robe on your back and a ring on your finger. This is what is so beautiful of the Sacrament of Confession. Just make sure you make a good examination of Conscience.
5. Pray. It is very hard to fight a spiritual battle when you are running on empty. Prayer is your way to receive all this grace so that, when the Devil come to you, you can give him a spiritual punch in the face. Prayer is so transformative. Prayer is ultimately you gazing at the Father and keeping your mind and heart fixated on him and being able to do anything.
One of my favourite stories in scriptures is the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. Peter looks out and sees Jesus walking on the water and says, “Lord, if you want me to come to you then I will come”. Then Peter starts doing something out of the ordinary, he starts to walk on water. He just keeps walking because his mind is fixed on God. Then he takes notice of the sea, the thunder, the lightning, the wind and the waves and he begins to sink. It shows the power of prayer when you heart and your mind is fixed on God. You can do anything.
The devil in that story are the waves, the storm, the wind, everything, and that is the world. We are walking in this world towards Christ and everything is trying to pin us down. However, when your mind is fixed on God, nothing can touch you and it is a calm as the sea. That is what prayer does. It elevates our heart and minds to God so that we can see things in ways you never thought you could. You are able to love in such extraordinary ways.
Do not overcomplicate prayer. When you are sitting in front of the Lord and have nothing to say, just speak to the Lord in your own way. Sometimes that means screaming and shouting but then let Him talk.
6. Fasting. We need to be able to fast. It means fasting from things we are addicted to not just from food. These small ways that you can deny yourself so that when it comes to your sins you can say ‘No, I am fighting for you Lord’.
7. Give Alms. We have to give of ourselves as well. What we learn in prayer has to be put into action so that what we learn others will learn as well. It is not only about giving money to the poor. The poor person could be the person next to you in the pew. They could be so malnourished in the love of God that they see Sunday as an obligation.
The poor person could be the top person in the class who only knows about their studies. No god or no religion. They are poor. They are really poor because they don’t know what richness is. They are so poor because they are malnourished in Christ and you need to give them real riches, the riches in Christ.