A shadow is cast during the tenth station when Jesus is stripped of his clothes during a Living Stations of the Cross March 9, 2018. A shadow is cast during the tenth station when Jesus is stripped of his clothes during a Living Stations of the Cross March 9, 2018. (Courier file photo)

Faithful in Rochester Diocese urged to focus on Easter joy

Given the long and involuntary penance imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which reached our region during Lent 2020, diocesan Catholics are urged this Lent to focus on the coming celebration of Easter joy, rather than dwell on the season’s penitential aspects.

“Life has not been easy this past year. The year itself has drawn us closer to God, just like our normal Lenten sacrifices would,” observed Donald Smith, diocesan coordinator of sacramental catechesis and family life.

That’s why the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis is focusing its Lenten communications this year on preparing for Easter, Smith said, hoping that such a positive approach will give parishioners something to look forward to.

“We figure people have been living the penitential aspects of Lent for a year now, but the preparation (for Easter) could bring hope,” he said.

To help communicate this Lenten focus to parishioners, the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis is sharing daily messages on the Diocese of Rochester’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, where the messages’ themes vary by the days of the week. The theme for Fridays, for example, is “Fast not Food,” Smith explained, noting that Fridays’ messages will encourage the faithful to fast from something that takes them away from God, such as anger or negativity, rather than choosing to fast from food.

Other daily messages will include Gospel quotes, prayers, Ignatian reflections and almsgiving to suggested organizations.

“We can focus on the beauty at the end of the tunnel, that we’re coming towards Easter, that’s exciting and how to prepare for that,” Smith said.

Father Thomas Mull, pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Geneva, shared similar thoughts on shifting away from a focus on penance this Lent.

“Perhaps rather than giving up something, since we are still giving up a lot, we might promise an attitudinal change,” Father Mull wrote in his Feb. 7 bulletin column, suggesting that parishioners try to be a little more patient and understanding with family members at home.

Additionally, Father Mull recommended that families select one day of the week to do an activity together instead of fasting.

Smith noted that most parishes are suggesting family days as part of the positive focus for the Lenten season and providing resource packets to encourage families to approach Lent together.

For example, St. Mark Parish in Greece is providing parishioners with Stations of the Cross booklets that can be picked up in person or printed from the parish website to accompany the parish’s livestream of the stations on Facebook. Other parish Lenten activities include Lent One Day at a Time for Catholic Teens and a weekly Friday fish fry hosted by the Knights of Columbus.

All Saints Parish in Corning is using its MyParish app to offer parishioners Lenten readings in addition to making Lenten books in hard-copy format available to order through the parish website.

St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Geneseo is offering parishioners multiple ways to pray the Stations of the Cross, including audio and visual options through the parish website. The parish is making printable resources available and offers an online calendar featuring suggested for Lenten activities like Sunday Gospel readings and recommendations for such non-food fasting options as giving up a favorite TV program for one week to spend the time with family.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For a list of Lenten resources from the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, visit, https://oec.dor.org.

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