The advent of Lent always brings to mind Father William Delaney, former pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Manteca.
It’s what he never failed to include in his Lenten homily which brings on the memory. It was an unforgettable line made memorable not only because of its repetition year after year, but because of the chuckles that it never failed to elicit from the congregation. The six weeks of Lent, he would remind his parishioners from the pulpit, affords us the time to focus on things that are most important for the soul rather than for the gratification of the body. Giving up chocolate, ice cream, candy or such favorite indulgences during Lent is well and good for the right intentions, he would say. Then it was at this point that he delivered his punch line: “But don’t give up chocolate and ice cream or any of your favorite food because you want to look good in your bikini in the summer.”
Father Delaney, a member of the Precious Blood (C.PP.S.) order who is now a senior priest at St. Agnes Parish in Los Angeles, would then take a pause as he waited for the rolling laughter to subside. While he allowed a small smile to touch his bespectacled face, the rest of his message was always delivered in all seriousness.
Fasting and “giving up something” are messages that predominate during the 40 days of Lent among Catholics. But the “purpose for this forty-day retreat,” writes Father Joseph Illo in his blog (http://www.frilloblog.com) , “is not merely to ‘give up something,’ like sweets or television. Lent’s essential purpose is not to test our will power, but to increase our love for God and neighbor.”
The former assistant pastor at St. Anthony’s in Manteca and former pastor of St. Joseph’s in Modesto who is now senior chaplain at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., then elaborates his Lenten message in his March 2 blog:
• “Fasting prepares the ground; it cleans out the soul so that God can find a place within us. Not even Almighty God can enter a heart that is already full.
• “Fasting is not an end in itself but only a means, and yet many Catholics think of Lent as only ‘giving something up.’
• “Fasting makes real prayer possible, so that we are capable of receiving God.”
He concludes with the message that “the final end of Lent is love: love of God in prayer, and love of neighbor in almsgiving.”
The season of Lent also throws me back to the messages of “fasting and feasting” that family and friends have always shared with me through the years. There are many variations to the theme and thought, and anyone can add their own to the list as they deem applicable to their own spiritual situation. Here are some of the really touching ones that have been passed on to me for my own Lenten spiritual journey:
FAST AND FEAST
Fast from bitterness, feast on forgiveness.
Fast from selfishness, feast on compassion for others.
Fast from discouragement, feast on seeing the good.
Fast from apathy, feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicions, feast on truth.
Fast from talking, feast on listening.
Fast from anger, feast on patience.
Fast from idle gossip, feast on purposeful silence.
To contact Rose Albano Risso, email firstname.lastname@example.org