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Lent is More Than Fish Sticks

When you think of Lent, most people think of fish sandwiches or fish sticks.  What is Lent anyway?  We are preparing for Easter, and not just for the candy or bunnies.  We are preparing for Jesus’ suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection.  This is the most important religious time of the year.

Lent starts with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter.  After Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, was killed, Jesus went into the desert for 40 days before He was crucified.  He fasted for those 40 days.  Satan confronted and tempted Jesus and tried to prevent Him from being crucified because He didn’t want Jesus to succeed in His sacrifice for our salvation.  We as Christians go symbolically into the desert with Jesus for those 40 days (estimated) and try to better our relationship with Jesus.  This is a time to purify our religious lives.

During this time, we do different devotions to help us.  One thing we do is fast.  Fasting is only eating the equivalent of one meal in a day.  Abstaining from meat is also done.  All meat is refrained from except fish.  (This is where the fish sticks come in.)  Fish is the symbol of Jesus sometimes.  These are done on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays in between.  These are sacrifices we do for Jesus in reparation for our sins.  We also usually give up something during Lent as a sacrifice such as sweets, chocolate, smoking or something.

On Good Friday, we have Mass to remind us of Jesus’ Passion or His crucifixion and suffering.  This is a very important day and the time of 3:00pm is also very important because that’s when Jesus died.  This Mass is very emotionally moving because we read the Scripture of Jesus’ suffering.  I cry every time thinking of His pain because of my sins but it also makes me want to be a better person for Jesus.

The evening before Easter, we have a very beautiful Mass called the Easter Vigil.  We light candles and read many Scriptures of the Apostles waiting for Jesus to rise from the dead.  This is the night usually when people who are new converts come into the Church after going to the RCIA classes.  They receive the sacraments they need to come into the fullness of the Faith.

During Lent, Catholics can strengthen their faith by praying the rosary, praying the stations of the cross, reading scripture or other religious devotions daily.  There are also more opportunities for us to go to Confession/Reconciliation to repent and leave sin behind.

If a person takes Lent seriously, this can be a life changing experience.  You might end up with a closer relationship with Jesus after those 40 days in the desert.  Satan tempts us into thinking we can’t change but if we persevere, we can resist that temptation and change our lives for the better.  It may sound like it’s not much fun but you can make it fun and an interesting experience if you try different things and learn more about Jesus.

So when you see all of those advertisements for fish sandwiches at fast food restaurants on TV, remember that Lent is more than fish sticks.  It’s about the love Jesus has for us that He suffered for 40 days and then suffered and died for us so that we could have a repaired relationship with God after it was broken by Adam and Eve.

 

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What is RCIA?

RCIA stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.  This is a class meant for anyone who wants to know more about the Catholic Church or for those who missed a sacrament when they were younger like confirmation or baptism.  It usually starts about September and ends at Eastertime but can go all year through.  Usually, this is about a nine month process.  People who want to strengthen their faith or just curious about the Church can go to all or some of the classes.  Just because you attend does not mean that you have to become Catholic but once you begin to understand the truths of the Church, you may feel the tug to take that leap and become Catholic.  If that is what you desire, then you would finish the classes, pick a sponsor for confirmation, and come into the fullness of the faith, usually at Easter.  You would declare that you believe what the Church teaches.  A sponsor would help to answer questions you may have and to guide you in your faith journey, helping you to build your faith stronger.  The classes are usually two hours long and cover the basics of the Catholic Faith.  You still need to keep learning about the faith after the classes because there is so much to learn.  It’s like an onion with many layers.  All you have to do to get started is go to the nearest Catholic Church and ask about the RCIA classes.  The Church will help you get started.

Usually, when you start another church, you just sign up and you start going or maybe they don’t even require you to sign up.  You can church hop without much trouble.  You might not even really understand what that new church teaches.  In the Catholic Church, we take doctrine and the 2000 year history seriously and want people who attend to understand what the teachings are. There’s a lot to cover in the classes too.  That’s why it takes months to become Catholic.

Can you pick and choose what you believe and still be Catholic?  The answer is no.  That is what is called a cafeteria Catholic.  If you struggle with certain topics such as the Virgin Mary, saints, calling a priest Father, or whatever other topic, you need to find out more and understand why the Church teaches it.  Once you understand it, it will be easier to accept.  You don’t have to be a scholar and understand everything about the Church, but you should be able to say that you accept the authority of the Church to teach the truth of Jesus.  Many people struggle with the authority of the Church since many have not had to accept higher authority than the pastor in their church.  This is a very fundamental cornerstone in the Church.  We hold the Pope with high honor because he is in the succession of St. Peter, the first Pope, and given authority through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, because… “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. Matt 16:18   It’s the truth and we have an obligation and God-given desire to accept the truth.

Some people are not ready to do any more than go to the classes for a year or two and that’s ok.  There is no pressure to become Catholic.  This is your faith journey and there is no time limit on it.  If you feel the tug toward the Church or just plain curious, take the next step and ask about the RCIA classes to find out the truth about the Church, then when you are ready take the next step into the Church.  If you are not quite ready, take your time and listen to God’s call.  He’ll lead you where He wants you to be on His time.

I’ve heard people say, “I will NEVER become Catholic!” then when they learn more about it…they end up in the loving arms of the Catholic Church and wouldn’t give it up for anything.