The traditional three pillars of the Catholic Lenten observance are Prayer, Penance or Fasting, and Almsgiving.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to these three as “acts of religion” flowing from the New Law of Christ, the Gospel. (CCC no. 1969). Found in the Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers of the Church, they express conversion in relation to oneself (fasting), to God (prayer), and to others (almsgiving.) (CCC no. 1434)
In a sermon by the 5th century bishop, St. Peter Chrysologus, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (which he calls mercy) are presented as closely interconnected elements of the Christian life, so interdependent that he says, “If you have only one of them, or not all together, you have nothing.” (Office of Readings, Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent).
The Virtue of Justice, one of the “cardinal,” or hinge virtues in the Christian life, is the constant and firm inclination of the will to give their due to God and neighbor (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1807).
The first person to whom we owe justice is God, and justice toward God is expressed in the virtue of Religion. From the Latin verb re- “ligare”,” to tie or bind, religion is that act by which we bind back - we give ourselves to God. We came from God. We belong to Him. We owe Him back the gift of ourselves.
As the Easter Season ended with the Solemn Feast of Pentecost, the Church’s liturgical calendar resumed what is called “Ordinary Time.” However with the successions of several wonderful major Feast days, we continue to be uplifted by the testimony and reminder of God’s grace.
The Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday.
The following week brings Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Corpus Christi is historically the Thursday after the Sunday of the Most Holy Trinity, but in many places it is celebrated instead on the Sunday following Trinity Sunday.
The Friday of the week after Corpus Christi is celebrated as the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In Advent we sing, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel…” This and the other verses of this song are from the Church’s prayer on the seven days of Advent leading up to Christmas.
But who is Emmanuel? The story begins with two prophecies – and two promises.
In the Old Testament, King Ahaz is surrounded by his enemies. He doesn’t know what to do next. The Prophet Isaiah tries to guide him, but the King doesn’t trust God. Isaiah tells him to ask God for proof. No. He won’t do so.
St Joseph is the father and lord of the Holy Family. Is this because he is more important than the other members of the family? Clearly not. His spouse was the sinless ever-virgin Mary; his “son” Jesus, was “true God and true man.” Nonetheless, in accord with an authentic human anthropology, and as husband, his role is properly to guide, protect, to provide for, and administer the workings of the family.
The husband and father models virtues especially vital to his sons: fortitude, fidelity, temperance, especially purity. To his daughters he teaches the importance of finding - in a man – an unconditional and other-centered love. He expresses the masculinity of faith, hope, and love. He shows how strength is tempered with mercy. Indeed, “The divine Fatherhood, [of God the Father], is the source of human fatherhood.” (Eph 3: 14 - Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2214).