Want to know why Catholics wave palms on Palm Sunday; wash each other’s feet on Holy Thursday; or kiss the cross on Good Friday? Look no further than BustedHalo.com’s® two-minute video that describes the final week of Lent we spend preparing for Easter.
By Fr. Francis Gustilo
Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is raucous day in many parts of the western society. They call it Mardi Gras … a French phrase which can be easily understood by us Pinoys when we put it in its Spanish translation: Martes de Grazo (Fat Tuesday literally translated in English although, having an British Salesian priest-confrere with us, he says they call it Pancake Tuesday). But it describes the last day when meat is allowed; next day Ash Wednesday marks the forty day Lenten season which in olden times required every good Christian to refrain from meat the whole length of the penitential season.
We’re normally struck by the sacrifice dimension of the Lenten season we fondly call Kuwaresma. It seems that our martyr complex plays a large role for this emphasis. But what seems to be deeper in our cultural psyche is the pakikiramay sa kapwang naghihirap. Here the kapwa is Jesus the Son of God, our Saviour and our Lord. Accepting to suffer like Him (some take it literally by becoming flagellantes) makes us one with Him.
However, the Ash Wednesday Gospel passage speaks not only of fasting, but also prayer and almsgiving. In fact, the three Lenten practices come together. Let me explain a little.
Fasting, if done as it should be done, that is, only one full meal in a day, will bring one to experience weariness and weakness. But the truth is we all are weak, limited, finite, even sinful and wicked! This experiential weakness through fasting will bring us down to our knees and we will re-discover and appreciate the truth of ourselves: mere creatures! Creatureliness hopefully leads us to acknowledge God’s greatness and recognize how benevolent and magnanimous He has been and is with us. Thus, this awareness of His presence in our lives leads to prayer (second lenten practice), a prayerful attitude before our Creator, a pious stance before God Almighty yet so caring and loving of us all. If prayer becomes true prayer, it should lead us to see in Christ our God not only his benevolence to us, but to other weak people as well. This awareness enlarges our worldview and makes us see the plight of the poor, the lonely and downtrodden, the widow and orphan, the helpless and the hopeless. If this happens, it is understandable how one is led to charity (almsgiving is the word the Gospel of Matthew uses).
In the end, the Lenten practices simply signify the path to eternal life which a scribe once asked Jesus with this question: “What must I do to attain eternal life?” Jesus replied: “Love God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength (prayer); and love your neighbor (almsgiving) as yourself (fasting).”
Why forty days? It is actually 47 days if you count from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. However, the real count is from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday. The next seven days is called Holy Week or better still, the week of the Paschal Triduum: Holy Thursday (Passion), Good Friday (Death) and Saturday Vigil (Resurrection). It is not the same for the Ambrosian Rite used in the Archdiocese of Milan. They do not have an Ash Wednesday commemoration, instead they start Lent on a Sunday. Thus, they count 40 days from the first Sunday of Lent to Holy Wednesday.
The Israelites journeyed in the desert for 40 years; before starting his public ministry Jesus spent for 40 days in the desert. We’re invited to do 40 days because loving God and our neighbor for forty consecutive days might help us acquire the habit of genuine loving.
Ash Wednesday, in the calendar of Western Christianity, is the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter. It is a moveable fast, falling on a different date each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter.
According to the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent forty days fasting in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry, during which he endured temptation by Satan.Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of this forty day liturgical period of prayer and fasting.
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. The ashes used are typically gathered after the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned.
This practice is common in much of Christendom, being celebrated by Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and some Baptist denominations.
Why Do Roman Catholics Pray to Saints?
Like all Christians, Catholics believe in life after death, but they also believe that our relationship with other Christians does not end with death. Catholic prayer to saints is a recognition of this communion.
Do Catholics believe that saints should be worshiped?
Why do they pray to saints?
Is there a difference between prayer and worship?
Like all Christians, Catholics believe in life after death. Those who have lived good lives and died in the faith of Christ will, as the Bible tells us, share in his resurrection.
While we live together on earth as Christians, we are in communion, or unity, with one another. But that communion doesn’t end when one of us dies. We believe that Christians in heaven, the saints, remain in communion with those of us on earth.
So, just as we might ask a friend or family member to pray for us, we can approach a saint with our prayers, too.
Many non-Catholic Christians believe that it is wrong to pray to the saints, claiming that our prayers should be directed to God alone. Some Catholics, responding to this criticism, have argued that we do not pray to the saints but with them.
Both groups, however, are confusing prayer with worship. True worship (as opposed to veneration or honor) does indeed belong to God alone, and we should never worship man or any other creature as we worship God. But while worship may take the form of prayer, as in the Mass and other liturgies of the Church, not all prayer is worship. When we pray to the saints, we’re simply asking them to help us, by praying to God on our behalf, or thanking them for having already done so.
By tradition, the Catholic Church dedicates each month of the year to a certain devotion. In November, it is the Holy Souls in Purgatory, those faithful Christians who have died and gone before us but who still must atone for their sins. The time they spend in Purgatory cleanses them so that they may enter Heaven free from all effects of sin.
Praying for the dead, especially for those we have known, is a requirement of Christian charity. Our own prayers and sacrifices can be offered up to relieve their suffering. Some or all of the following prayers can be incorporated into our daily prayers during this month.
The faithful on earth assist one another by their prayers and good works, and they are aided by the intercession of the saints in heaven, while both the saints in heaven and the faithful on earth help the souls in purgatory.