This Lent, Take Heed of Jesus and Mary's Call
By Fr. Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC (Feb 28, 2017)
"Pray, pray very much. Make sacrifices for sinners. Many souls go to Hell, because no one is willing to help them with sacrifice."
I propose, in this 100th anniversary of Fatima, that we ought to have these words of Our Lady emblazoned upon our hearts; if need be, place them at work, at home, in your car, or wherever else you are!
Lent, which begins March 1, is a time of repentance from sin, and a major sin of which we need to repent is indifference to the sufferings of others, as Pope Francis stresses. For the love of God cannot remain in the hearts of those who are indifferent to the sufferings of others (see 1 Jn 3:17). We ought to give generously to the poor. Yet, even more important than the corporal works of mercy are the spiritual. Jesus told St. Faustina, "spiritual mercy, which requires neither permissions nor storehouses, is much more meritorious and is within the grasp of every soul" (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1317).
How can we practice spiritual mercy this Lent? We first ought to have mercy upon Jesus. He said, "The loss of each soul plunges Me into mortal sadness. You always console Me when you pray for sinners. The prayer most pleasing to me is the prayer for the conversion of sinners. Know, My daughter, that this prayer is always heard and answered" (Diary, 1397).
But Jesus makes it clear that "every conversion of a sinful soul demands sacrifice" (Diary, 961). In what is this sacrifice to consist? Our sacrifice is to be united to the sacrifice of Jesus: obedience unto death (see Phil 2:8). We bring God the greatest glory by fulfilling His will in all things: "My daughter, you give Me the greatest glory by faithfully fulfilling My desires" (Diary, 500). What are Jesus' desires? He desires that all be saved (see 1 Tim 2:4).
What does this daily fulfillment of the will of God look like? First, we ought simply to fulfill our duties in our state of life. If you are part of a family, I suggest reading Colossians 3:1-21 or Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetita (The Joy of Love), Chapter 4, or 1 Corinthians 13.
The penance of which Mary spoke at Fatima is primarily the fulfillment of our daily duties: at work, in our family, at our parish, etc. Faustina illustrates how simple this can be: When she had to crochet on a given day, she asked that as many stiches as she made, that many souls would be saved. After Jesus' rebuttal that her demand was too great, Faustina responded that even though her offering was nothing in itself, her offering of obedience was great when united to the obedience of Jesus hidden for 30 years, doing His daily duties in Nazareth (see Diary, 961).
Furthermore, we ought to voluntarily perform small penances: giving up a desired dessert, or sugar in coffee, or 30 minutes of television, etc. For souls are infinitely better than any of these created things. For all these created things will pass away, but souls will remain either in Heaven or Hell eternally.
Father Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC, is the spiritual director for Friends of Mercy.