This Sunday evening (3/5) we will begin our parish’s 3-day Lenten Mission. Lent is the season when we take up in a more serious and intentional way the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In my experience, it’s hard to engage these disciplines on our own. It’s helpful when we give up dessert as a family or decide to pray the rosary together each morning on the way to school. It can be exciting to track as a couple or a family how much money we’ve saved by not spending it during Lent on unnecessary things so we can share it with those in need. In a similar way, the Lenten Mission is an opportunity for us to reflect together on our relationship with Christ and pray as a family of faith.
This year’s Mission will feature two speakers. Fr. Justin Cinnante is a member of the Carmelite Order who lives in Tarrytown and serves as the priest chaplain at Iona Prep. Fr. Justin will give the talk on Sunday (3/5) and Tuesday (3/7) evenings. The other speaker is Sr. Anne Immaculee S.V., a member of the Sisters of Life who currently resides at Villa Maria Guadalupe in north Stamford. Sr. Anne will speak on Monday night (3/6).
The evenings will run from 7-8pm at St. Cecilia Church. They will begin with the exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament on the altar in a monstrance. A monstrance is a metal stand that is shaped like the sun, in the center of which is a little glass window in which the Eucharistic Host is displayed. The priest will greet Our Lord with incense while singing an ancient Latin hymn, O Salutaris Hostia. After a few minutes of silence, the speaker will begin. When the speaker has finished, there will be a period of about 20 minutes during which we will pray silently in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. If we’re not accustomed to sit quietly for that amount of time, it can be helpful to bring a notepad to jot down something we liked from the talk that we can meditate on in the presence of the Lord. We might bring with us a list of people we’d like to pray for and use the time to speak their names to Jesus in the monstrance. We might meditate on a passage of scripture or simply share with Christ the things that are troubling us, difficult decisions that confront us or someone we love.
The period of silence will end with the praying of the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus. Then the priest will lead the congregation in Benediction, which he initiates by incensing the Eucharist while singing th ancient Latin hymn, Tantum Ergo Sacramentum. Benediction culminates with a special blessing of the people with the Eucharist in the monstrance, and it ends with the priest reposing the Most Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle and the singing of “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.”
Although the Lenten Mission is three nights, it is ok if you are only able to attend one or two nights. Hopefully this time together before the Eucharist will be a source of renewal for us as a parish. I pray it will awaken us to the great thirst in our souls for the mercy that we find in Christ Jesus alive in the Sacrament. At the very least, may it give us something to think about and talk about as we make our way together through these 40 days of preparation for Easter.