Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. Joel 2:12
WE BEGAN OUR LENTEN JOURNEY on Ash Wednesday, March 6. This is our solemn fast, a time when we enhance our spiritual life with prayer, fasting and almsgiving and give God first priority in our lives. The somber tone of the liturgy at St. Paul’s Monastery during Lent creates a velvet hush of silence where we can fall more deeply in love with God.
We receive the black ashes, marked on our foreheads: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The ashes are gritty, and throughout the day we feel them on our fingers, on our skin. We recognize one another in the streets, at work or school. We are bonded by this sign of the cross on our faces, this sign of what is most important to us. The mark is made on our hearts. We belong to God. The ashes are also a powerful reminder of our mortality.
I attended Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul at 5:15 p.m. https://www.cathedralsaintpaul.org The homily included the idea that if we are returning to God, it implies we have been away for a while. Father John Ubel, Rector of the Cathedral continued, “Lent is a time to draw closer to Jesus through his death and resurrection.” The Cathedral is especially significant and moving to me during this time of year, since 19 years ago I was preparing to become Catholic through the Cathedral's RCIA program, which culminates with the sacraments received at Easter Vigil.
There were hundreds of people at Mass late on Wednesday afternoon, despite the fact Ash Wednesday is not technically a Holy Day of Obligation. This was a great witness of our faith, to see so many people heading to church after work, persevering in the crowded parking lot and narrow streets, made more challenging by mountains of snow. It was worth it. It is always worth it: the extra lengths we go to for our faith.
What I desire above all this Lent is to continue to feel God’s presence each day, enfolding me with peace. I often feel enveloped in protection, especially when attending Mass at St. Paul’s Monastery with the Sisters.
May you draw closer to God during this Holy Season of Lent. We hope to see you at St. Paul’s Monastery for Daily Prayer or Mass. “We are restless for You, God, until we rest in You.”– Saint Augustine
Church of St. Louis King of France, St. Paul. “We worship you, O Christ, and we praise you, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.”