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Lent FAQ

Your questions about Lent answered by priests from around the diocese

Why do we put ash on our forehead?
Answered by Father Jose Luis Garcia

It is a sign of penance. It is based on the Old Testament in the Book of Jonah when he went to preach to the Ninevites. The king ruled for fasting and putting ashes on their head. We place the Sign of the Cross on the forehead to remind us that we need to do penance during this time, and also to remind us that we were taken from dust and to dust we will return. 

Where do the ashes come from?
We burn the leftover palm branches from the prior Palm Sunday. We order more palms than we need so we will have enough to create the ashes.

When do I wash the Ashes off my face?
You can wash them off right away or you can leave them on all day. There are no rules about it. Many leave them on to remind them throughout the day that they need to be faithful to their promises of the Lenten season.

Should I go to Confession during Lent?
Answered by Father Richard Lifrak, SS.CC., parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Church in Edinburg

Lent is the most appropriate time to go to Confession because it is the time that we are most conscious of Jesus dying for our sins. Therefore, Confession is an opportunity to explore, with your conscience, the nature of your sin with a friendly listener who is listening in the name of Jesus, and hopefully also responding in the name of Jesus to give guidance and pardon whatever sins come to awareness. Lent is the most appropriate time of all the times that one can go to Confession because one is being helped by the liturgical season. It’s a good time for an examination of conscience - that is the key to a good Confession. Confessing your sins is certainly a meritorious act, but the clearer and graced your examination of conscience is, the more it will help your Confession to be a graced event.

Why do we pay special attention to the Stations of the Cross during Lent?
Answered by Father Manuel Alfredo Razo, parochial vicar of St. Luke Church in Brownsville 

The Stations of the Cross are a path of prayer that seek to delve us into the meditation of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ on his way to Calvary. The purpose of the Stations is to help us to join our Lord making a spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land, meditating in the most notorious moments of his passion and redemptive death. These moments are represented by a series of images or “Stations” which correspond to particular incidents that Jesus suffered on his way for our salvation. In each of these “Stations,” Christians remember with love and gratitude how much Jesus suffered for our salvation and deliverance from sin. At the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle, the Stations of the Cross are located around the sanctuary. The devotion is celebrated every Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving
The three traditional pillars of Lenten observance are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The key to renewed appropriation of these practices is to see their link to baptismal renewal.

Answered by Father José Encarnación Losoya, C.O., pastor of St. Jude Thaddeus Church in Pharr

Lent is the time each year that the Church gives us of intense self-examination to prepare ourselves for the great feast of Easter.  It is a time we should spend examining our lives, discovering the sins that have become so routine that we have become comfortable with them.  How can we take an account of our lives or make this important discovery of the state of our souls during our Lenten journey if it is not through prayer?  This is why we intensify and increase our prayer during Lent.  Spend a bit more time in silent prayer.  Meditate on all the good things God has showered you with.  Ask him:  “What should I do in return?”  Pray for the needs you see around you daily but fail to lift up in prayer:  a sick friend or relative, someone who is lonely, or something you believe needs God’s intervention.  Pray also that God give you the grace to eliminate the habitual sins you have discovered and go to Confession.

Answered by Father Fernando Gonzalez, pastor of St. Luke Church in Brownsville

Fasting is to renounce the basic need of food. The idea is that we need to take care of our body and nourish it, but also the idea that there are things that harm us and damage us. By renouncing we are not mistreating our body, we are strengthening our will. If we can renounce something that is good and necessary momentarily because we discover that there is something more important, we will have the strong will to renounce something that is not good and not necessary. The Lent season is an opportunity to come back to our heavenly home. Fasting is the opportunity to say to God that he is so important in our lives that we can renounce to eat a little bit on the two prescribed days – Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Answered by Msgr. Gustavo Barrera, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in McAllen.

Definition from the Glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:  “Almsgiving is money or goods given to the poor as an act of penance or fraternal charity.  Almsgiving, together with prayer and fasting, as traditionally recommended to foster the state of interior penance.”

I also refer you to numbers:  1434, 1969, and 2447.  They all speak about almsgiving.  The popular thinking during the Season of Lent is to “give up something”.  Our Church challenges us to think in a more creative way—to “do something positive” that not only will benefit others; but will serve to help us grow spiritually.  In St. Matthew’s Gospel we read, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat.  I was thirsty and you gave me to drink.  I was naked and you clothed me…”   Our Lord said, “When you did it for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me.”  Lent is a marvelous opportunity to see Christ is the face of those who are in need and to practice Almsgiving.

Compiled by The Valley Catholic