My Dear Parish Family,
Welcome to Lent! You may have already decided what you are doing for the next 40 days in the way of prayer, self-denial, and charitable works (the three “pillars” of Lent) to prepare for the great feast of Easter. Some of us are still deciding, but I am going to suggest that whatever we do for Lent, we put it all into the context of baptismal spirituality. Let me explain by way of a little historical background.
In the early centuries of the Church, becoming a Christian was a gradual process of apprenticeship in a counter-cultural way of life. The season we now call Lent was the final and intense period when the seekers were prepared to be immersed into the waters of baptism at the Easter Vigil. When infant baptism became the norm by the fifth century, Lent became only a penitential time for the baptized to prepare for the celebration of Easter. The pre-baptismal character of Lent was forgotten until it was revived by the Second Vatican Council in the twentieth century.
Today Lent has two strands, baptismal and penitential, woven together. It is again a time when we journey with the Elect (see “Becoming Catholic” on page 9) to the baptismal font at the Easter Vigil. As we encourage and pray for them during Lent, we reflect on the meaning of our own baptism when we ourselves "put on Christ.” Our Lenten penitential practices can help us to examine our lives in the context of baptismal mission: are we living as disciples of Jesus, being His heart and hands in the world today? For 40 days we ponder this, through our Lenten practices, so we can authentically renew our own baptismal promises at Easter.
I'd like to suggest that you and your families do something at the beginning of Lent that I did recently with the adult Confirmation candidates. Single people could do this with a small group of friends. Gather mementos of each person's baptism: the certificate, candle, white garment, photos, and stories remembered by those who attended. Share all these memories with the group. What should emerge, as it did with our Confirmation candidates, is a sense of the importance placed on this day by our families. Hopefully this will lead to a discussion of the meaning of baptism and the difference it makes in our lives and in the life of the world.
May Lent 2022 be fruitful for all of us, marked by an increased awareness and understanding of the great gift of baptism.