02/14/2018, 16.07
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For Card Gracias, Lent is a time of fasting and works of mercy

by Oswald Gracias*

About 500 Catholics took part in Ash Wednesday Mass in the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Mumbai. They heard practical indications for the Lenten period. In lieu of abstinence, people can perform works of charity and exercises of piety. They can also benefit from the sacrament of reconciliation.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Today about 500 Catholics gathered in Mumbai’s Holy Name Cathedral to celebrate the Ash Wednesday liturgy. Card Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Mumbai and new president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), led the service. For the occasion, he sent out the Lent message to everyone and expressed a wish that it be a time of spiritual enrichment, fasting and works of mercy.

In addition to the message, the archbishop gave indications for the Lenten period, urging the faithful to perform a series of practical actions to promote the culture of mercy dear to Pope Francis. These include gathering in prayer with the family; reciting the Rosary and reading the sacred texts together; doing acts of penance such as fasting, following a vegetarian diet and abstaining from drinking and smoking; performing works of charity like offering meals to the poor; doing voluntary service in charitable associations; visiting to the sick and the elderly; or making blood donations.

"Our penance during the season of Lent should transform our hearts, enabling us to experience God's love, to become merciful in turn, so that in an ever-new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church's tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.”

Here is the cardinal’s message.

“With Ash Wednesday on February 14, 2018, we begin the specially grace-filled season of Lent, during which we are invited to meditate on the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord.

“In his message for Lent 2018, Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus warned against a situation in which the community of disciples might find itself: false prophets leading people astray, and love that is the core of the Gospel growing cold in the hearts of many. The sentiments of compassion and mercy, the fruit of love, should never grow cold. The season of Lent, specially through frequent attendance at Mass and feeding on the Word of God and the Eucharist, should become a time of spiritual renewal. More prayer, acts of penance and works of charity is what the Church recommends during Lent.

“Canon Law authorises Episcopal Conferences to determine, in place of abstinence, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety. The CCBI has discussed this in depth, and I am giving below several alternatives suggested. However, I encourage you to go back to our ancient practice of abstinence from all meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays of Lent, besides also following one or more of the options given. We need to be generous with the Lord. In memory of our Lord's Passion on Good Friday, and so that the fruits of Lent continue throughout the year, I recommend that in our homes and institutions, we abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. This is also a time for sacramental Confession. Please do not wait for Holy Week, but already now, benefit from the graces offered by the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“Canon 1249 states: ‘All Christ's faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his own way, to do penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. On these days, the faithful are in a special manner to devote themselves to prayer, to engage in works of piety and charity, and to deny themselves by fulfilling their obligations more faithfully, and specially by observing fast and abstinence.’

“The days for the common practice of penance are Ash Wednesday and every Friday of the year.”

* Archbishop of Mumbai, president of the Catholic Bishops 'Conference of India (CBCI) and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC)

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