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Monsignor Moore on the Meaning of Lent

CROTON FALLS - Lent in the Christian Church is the 40-day period leading up to Easter Sunday. It begins on Ash Wednesday, which is Feb. 22 this year. 

“Lent is a liturgical season, a time of fasting, special prayers and alms-giving,” said Monsignor James Moore, pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Croton Falls. “Alms can mean more than just money. It can mean giving your time and talent.

“Ashes are placed on the forehead on Ash Wednesday because of the penitential aspect of Lent. The priest says a short prayer. Some say ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.’ Others say, ‘Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.’

“In the early church, people fasted for just a few days before Easter. As the church grew, Lent expanded to 40 days to match the time that our Lord was in preparation for the ministry,” Moore added, referring to the Biblical period that Jesus spent in the wilderness.

People were never asked to fast on Sundays, because Sundays are ‘the Lord’s Day.’ Nowadays the rules of fasting are more lenient in the Catholic Church, he said.

“Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the days when people usually fast or don’t eat meat, but that’s not always possible. Today you can substitute.”

Lent ends on the Wednesday before Holy Thursday, Moore said.

“Thursday is the day when we remember the Last Supper. Christ was put on the cross on Friday. Then on Saturday at 8 p.m. we celebrate a beautiful two-hour Mass."

It’s the Mass where people who’ve been studying to become Catholics are fully initiated into the church. People can receive baptism, first communion and holy confirmation all at the same Mass.

"It’s the one time of year when a regular priest can perform the sacrament of confirmation; ordinarily it has to be the bishop,” Moore said.

Moore described Easter as “the most important day in the Christian tradition. It’s the day when our Lord rose from the dead. Easter actually lasts beyond Sunday. The entire Easter season of Pentacost runs for another 50 days.”

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