Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During Lent, which is about six weeks between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday, many Catholics practice self-denial and sacrifice as they repent their sins and pray in preparation for Easter. Some choose certain pleasures to give up for the full 40 days, and all Christians are instructed to not eat meat on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays during Lent, and Good Friday. 

This reminds me that during these uncertain times we have been forced to give up many things as the coronavirus pandemic has denied many people face to face gatherings, outside entertainment and everyday activities. These weeks offer challenges we’ve never had to face. We can’t attend Mass. Our routines are disrupted. We worry about ourselves and our loved ones. Our participation in the life of the Church has been affected, so we have tried to compensate by offering online Masses. 

I fear that this year’s Lent again may not be normal, but it is important to notice some qualities during this health crisis — suffering, giving up certain things and solitude — are in fact symbolic of Lent’s spiritual practice of self-denial. 

Ash Wednesday, as with many other things right now, will look different at many Catholic parishes. Other Catholics will be watching the livestream or pre-recorded Mass, as they have been for much of the pandemic, and will of course, not receive ashes. That is the way it seems like now unless things change close to Ash Wednesday. 

In researching the meaning of the word, quarantine; I found it has origins in the French for “forty” or “a forty-day period.” Many people have compared the notion of quarantine to Christ’s 40 days in the desert and the 40 days of Lent. This could be our opportunity to be in the desert like Jesus, with time away in solitary prayer. We may never again have a Lenten Season that affords us so much time to give to the Lord. Let us use this time wisely and well.  

We now have extra time to spend in prayer each day — prayer to strengthen your personal spiritual relationship with God. Pray to remember those who are sick and living in great fear, our health care workers who remain on the front lines of this disease, and for one another. You can pray the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Stations of the Cross or follow online Masses. 

 So let us, in this new Liturgical Year, think about how we live as a community, protect each other from illness, and be part of the solution to a global health crisis. And, as Christians, meet these challenges, and maybe even bring about a new and better ways of taking care of each other in the years to come. 

I want to remind you again during Lent 2021 be not afraid and become the people of hope.

Fr. Shafique

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