GROWING UP CATHOLIC | Penance, fried into a celebration of God’s forgiveness

Lent is a time for prayer, penance, and mounds of spaghetti on fried fish.

Look, I'm as surprised to have written that sentence as you may be to have read it. The Lenten fish fry is a cultural phenomena, and the Catholic fish fries in St. Louis are without compare. When I first encountered this curiosity, I quickly realized I was out of my depth. Sure, I have a Master of Divinity and can read Greek, but at a fish fry I'm surrounded by expert-level Catholics who continue to school me on the art of how to do Lent right.

POPE'S MESSAGE | Sin makes us blind, but confession heals

Pope Francis, along with senior members of the Roman Curia, listened as Servite Father Ermes Ronchi, an Italian theologian, delivered his meditation March 7 at a weeklong Lenten retreat in Ariccia, Italy.

VATICAN CITY — Exercise a little courage and go to confession, turn away from selfishness and sin and back to God in the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis urged people at a Lenten penance service.

"When our desire to be healed becomes more courageous, it leads to prayer, to crying out fervently and persistently for help, as did Bartimaeus: 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me,'" the pope said, quoting from the Gospel of St. Mark.

Editorial | Yippee! A time of renewal

We often hear there are 40 days of Lent. That's close, but not really true.

When you count the days from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, there are 46. According to the U.S. bishops' website, it might be more accurate to say that there is a "40-day fast within Lent." The Sundays of Lent are certainly in Lent, but they aren't prescribed days of fast and abstinence owing to the fact that the Church considers every Sunday as a "Little Easter."

BEFORE THE CROSS | Extending the mission of Jesus

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson led a panel discussion for the state meeting of bishops and superior generals Nov. 3 at the Cardinal Rigali Center. With the archbishop were Bishop Edward M. Rice, left, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Bishop Vann Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.

In addition to the healing carried out by Jesus Himself, the Gospels also testify that Jesus shared His healing mission with the Apostles. Each of the Synoptic Gospels affirms how Jesus made His power to heal body and soul present to the world through the Apostles:

"Then He summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. ... 'Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons'" (Matthew 10:1,8).

BEFORE THE CROSS | Exposing the root of sin

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson

Every gardener knows that if he treats only the flower and neglects the root, the weeds that plague the garden will keep coming back. Every physician knows that if she treats only the symptoms of illness and neglect to discover and treat the underlying cause, the patient's ailment might return again and again.

BEFORE THE CROSS | Temptation and misdirected desires

Sister Emeline Phan, CMR, held the prayer book and Sister Irene Dinh, CMR, the local superior, held a candle as Archbishop Robert J. Carlson celebrated a votive Mass for the Queenship of Mary and blessed the new convent of the Sisters of Mary Queen on Sept. 6. The sister’s motherhouse is in Saigon, Vietnam, but there have been Sisters of Mary Queen residing in the Archdiocese of St. Louis since 1994. The Sisters of Mary Queen serve God’s people through teaching, nursing, pastoral care, social work, early childhood education, youth ministry and more.

As we probe more deeply into the roots of sin in our lives,we find that we are not only inwardly divided but also tempted. In addition to the weakness inherited as part of fallen human nature, a force of evil also is at work in the world and in our hearts: We are under attack by the enemy of human nature, who is stronger than our human capacity. Every human person is susceptible to the strategies of the tempter, who wills our destruction and fears our surrender to God.

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