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Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday.
The family of the Church begins Lent, the season of spiritual preparation for the high holy days of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
The tried-and-true way of observing a “good Lent” is threefold: prayer, penance, and charity.
Tomorrow we will be marked men. We’ll be signed on the forehead with blessed ashes. We’ll hear the somber whisper, “Remember, you are dust, and unto dust you will return.” We’ll pass up the bacon, the hot dog cart at lunch, the beef at supper, as we fast.
We are marked as sinners; we are branded as dying.
This Lent will be special as we, the Catholic family, go through the sadness of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the starkness of the period awaiting the next Holy Father, and the exhilaration of a new Pontiff.
Pope Benedict XVI has been a splendid professor.
He has taught us a lot about Lent.
In every talk he encourages us to converse with Jesus as our best friend. That’s prayer.
In his own life, especially as Pope, he has sacrificed his own comfort and convenience to serve Jesus and His Church. That’s penance.
He has constantly urged us to love and serve the poor, hungry, oppressed, and forgotten. That’s charity.
And now, he lets us know that, he, too, is a marked man, closer to death, slowed down and frail, more and more in need of God’s grace and mercy, humbly admitting his mortality, his own sinfulness, eager to prepare to be united with His Lord and Savior in His dying and rising.
Behold two great signs for us: the ashes of Lent, the example of Pope Benedict.
A blessed Forty Days!