|A frozen lake in Michigan; Zachary sent this image home from his retreat with Notre Dame's Knott Hall.|
Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation (unlike each and every Sunday), however many Catholics feel called to attend Mass today and receive ashes as an outward sign of a new beginning of inner conversion. Today is a good day to go to confession. If for some reason you don't go to confession today, make a sincere confession in your heart, asking God's forgiveness for your sins against His love, and please confess your sins to a priest very soon.
Our Holy Church gives us a short list of Precepts. These 'non-negotiables' guide our external behavior as faithful Catholics; our obligation to follow the Ten Commandments and all teachings of Christ assumed. On Ash Wednesday one of these external precepts, or rules, is in effect ~ the requirement to fast and abstain. Only one other day ~ Good Friday ~ carries this strict requirement to fast and abstain.
Somehow the teaching of these rules, or precepts, fell through the cracks for many of us post Vatican II Catholics. This partially explains why so many Catholics today do not faithfully attend Sunday Mass, and when they do return, approach Holy Communion without any thought as to their spiritual readiness to receive our Lord. Just like me, these Catholics either were never properly taught, or they do not really understand the gravity of receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal (deadly) sin. These teachings on preparing for Holy Communion come directly from Sacred Scripture:
"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup" (1 Cor. 11:27–28)Catholics in a state of mortal (deadly) sin should (are obliged to) attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. However, receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion while knowingly in this state is a grave offense. Christian writings from as far back as A.D. 70 make these teachings abundantly clear. Catholics raised without a proper understanding of Church teachings are now raising their children and the cycle of un-knowing continues; or they fall away completely, unaware of the treasure they have abandoned. Some of us have had the incredible fortune of being taught the faith by our children, and/or by zealous orthodox priests and evangelists, whose hunger for truth and desire to follow and share it have sparked our appetite for the fullness of faith.
Precepts of the Church:
A wise and holy priest once told me that my concern for the souls of my loved ones who no longer attend Mass or confess their sins, would be better directed toward fervent prayers for the healing of their inner dispositions (an increase in faith and a greater Love for God) than simply focused on a change in their outward behavior. I myself am proof positive that prayers for the conversion of souls are answered!I. To attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, and resting from servile works.
II. To observe the days of abstinence and fasting.
III. To confess our sins to a priest, at least once a year.
IV. To receive Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist at least once a year during Easter Season.
V. To contribute to the support of the Church.
Pray without ceasing...