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Lenten Ember Wednesday 

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy

 both soul and body in Gehenna.

 

Judith, Chapter 15, Verse 1-2

1 On hearing what had happened, those still in their tents were horrified. 2 Overcome with FEAR and dread, no one kept ranks any longer. They scattered in all directions, and fled along every path, both through the valley and in the hill country.

 

Judith even in the midst of the enemy camp demonstrates her piety and continues to keep Jewish dietary laws. When offered rich fair she refuses and continues in prayer. Every morning before dawn she leaves the camp to beseech the Lord. She keeps ritual purification and bathes in the spring of the camp. Judith for three days establishes this routine in the camp. She knows she must kill Holofernes before the 5th day when the rulers of the city promised to surrender. She pushes trust in Yahweh to its limits. On the 4th day she is invited by Holofernes to a banquet. She accepts prepares her weapon, her beauty and sallies forth to battle. The power of her beauty is immediately evident. Holofernes is overcome with desire. He drinks too much and lies drunk on the bed. All the guests depart thinking they are getting jiggy with it. They are alone. She prays and draws Holofernes own sword; asks for strength and strikes severing his head from his body. Judith calmly returns to her routine; wraps the head in a food pouch and goes out of the camp for prayer. She goes home and liberation is proclaimed. Victory now needs action. Judith acting as general hangs the head on the city wall and initiates a fake attack on the camp. The cry is heard in the camp of Holofernes: “A single Hebrew woman has brought disgrace on the house of King Nebuchadnezzar!” The troops are dismayed. They run back to Syria.[1]



Building up the Kingdom[2]

 

Scripture and the Church teach us that we have three divinely ordained purposes that give our lives meaning:

 

·         Salvation — seeking to save our eternal souls and help save the souls of others (that salvation, the Church teaches, is God's free gift but requires our cooperation through faith in God, obedience to his commandments, and repentance of our grave sins).

·         Service — using our God-given talents to build God's kingdom here on earth.

·         Sanctity — growing in holiness.

 

The third of these life goals, sanctity, is central to building Catholic character. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says something that is stunning: "Be thou made perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). St. Gregory put it this way: "The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God." Scripture tells us, "God is love" (1 Jn 4:16). If we want to be like God, our vocation is to love. The essence of love is to sacrifice for the sake of another, as Jesus did. Love is self-gift. What, then, is our goal if we want to develop Catholic character in our children and ourselves? Look to the character of Christ: A life of self-giving.

 

Natural Virtues

 

The high goal of Christ-like character builds on a base of what the Church calls "natural virtues." Among the natural virtues that families and schools should nurture are the four advanced by the ancient Greeks, named in Scripture (Wis 8:7), and adopted by the Church as "the cardinal virtues": prudence, which enables us to judge what we should do; justice, which enables us to respect the rights of others and give them what they are due; fortitude, which enables us to do what is right in the face of difficulties; temperance, which enables us to control our desires and avoid abuse of even legitimate pleasures. These natural virtues are developed through effort and practice, aided by God's grace.

 

In order to develop a Christ-like character, however, we need more than the natural virtues. We also need the three supernatural, or "theological," virtues: Faith, Hope and Love.

 

Spiritual Virtues


 

1.      Faith in God, which enables us to believe in God and the teachings of his church.

2.      Hope in God, which leads us to view eternal life as our most important goal and to place total trust in God.

3.      Love of God, which enables us to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.

 

The three theological virtues are considered supernatural because they come from God and have as their purpose our participation in God's divine life. As the Catechism (1813) teaches, the theological virtues are not separate from the natural virtues; rather, they "are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character." The Catholic writer Peter Kreeft points out, "The Christian is prudent, just, courageous, and self-controlled out of faith in God, hope in God, and love of God." The supernatural virtues, like the natural virtues, grow stronger through our effort and practice, in cooperation with God's grace. 

Wednesday in the First Week of Lent[3] 

EPISTLE, m. Kings xix. 3-8. 

IN those days came Elias to Bersabee of Juda, and left his servant there, and he went forward one day s journey into the desert. And when he was there, and sat under a junipertree, he requested for his soul that he might die, and said: It is enough for me, Lord, take away my soul: for I am no better than my fathers. And he cast himself down and slept in the shadow of the juniper-tree: and behold an angel of the Lord touched him and said to him: Arise and eat. He looked and behold there was at his head a hearth-cake, and a vessel of water: and he ate and drank, and he fell asleep again. And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said to him: Arise, eat: for thou hast yet a great way to go. And he arose, and ate, and drank, and walked in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights, unto the mount of God, Horeb. 

GOSPEL. Matt. xii. 38-50. 

At that time, some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Jesus, saying: Master, we would see a sign from Thee. Who answering said to them: An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights: so, shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it: because they did penance at the preaching of Jonas. And behold a greater than Jonas here. The queen of the south shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it: because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon and behold a greater than Solomon here. And when an unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith: I will return into my house from whence I came out. And coming he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then he goeth, and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is made worse than the first. So, shall it be also to this wicked generation. As He was yet speaking to the multitudes, behold His Mother and His brethren stood without, seeking to speak to Him. And one said unto Him: Behold Thy Mother and Thy brethren stand without, seeking Thee. But He answering him that told Him, said: Who is My Mother, and who are My brethren? And stretching forth His hand towards His disciples, He said: Behold My Mother and My brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my father, that is in heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother. 

Prayer. Mercifully hear our prayers, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and against all our adversaries extend the right hand of Thy majesty. Amen.

What is the Ember-Days? 

Days instituted to thank God, each season of the year, for the benefits received during that season, and to remind the faithful, each quarter of the year, of the duty of penance; also, to pray to God for deserving priests, for on those days the ordination of priests usually takes place. (Goffine’s Devout Instructions)

 

·         The Ember Days are four series of Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays which correspond to the natural seasons of the year. Autumn brings the September, or Michaelmas, Embertide; winter, the Advent Embertide; Spring, the Lenten Embertide; and in summer, the Whit Embertide (named after Whitsunday, the Feast of Pentecost).

·         The English title for these days, "Ember," is derived from their Latin name: Quatuor Temporum, meaning the "Four Times" or "Four Seasons."

·         The Embertides are periods of prayer and fasting, with each day having its own special Mass.

·         Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday were days of particularly devotion in the early church: Wednesday, as recalling the betrayal of our Lord, and Friday in memory of His Passion, Saturday was later added to these days of prayer and penance as a continuation of Friday, and as far back as the second century they were set apart as Stational days, that is as days of special religious service and fasting.

·         The Ember Days, although the occasion of their institution is uncertain, are a reminder of these ancient days of devotion. Their purpose is to thank God for the fruits of the earth and other gifts of nature, to teach moderation in their use, and to assist the needy. From the time of Pope Gelasius in the fifth century it has been allowed to confer the diaconate and priesthood on the Saturdays of Ember weeks.

 

Ember Day Prayers[4]

Prayer: Antiphon: Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all He hath done for thee.
V. Lord, Thou has been our refuge. R. From generation to generation.

Let us Pray: Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that as year by year we devoutly keep these holy observances, we may be pleasing to Thee both in body and soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

In Honor of Christ's Betrayal and Passion

O God, Who for the world's Redemption was pleased to be born, circumcised, rejected by the Jews, betrayed by the kiss of traitor Judas, bound with chains, led like an innocent lamb to sacrifice, and shamefully presented before Annas, Caiphas, Pilate, and Herod, accused by false witnesses, beaten with whips, buffeted, insulted, spat upon, crowned with thorns, smitten with a reed, blindfolded, stripped of Thy garments, fastened with nails to the cross and lifted up on high, reputed among thieves, made to drink gall and vinegar and wounded by a lance; oh, by these most sacred sufferings, which, unworthy as I am, I thus commemorate, and by Thy holy cross and death, deliver me, Lord, from the pains of hell, and deign to lead me where Thou didst lead me where Thou didst lead the penitent thief, who was crucified by Thy side. Who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, livest and reignest, forever and ever. Amen.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father, etc. five times.

Prayer for God's Blessing on our Labors

O Lord, graciously look down upon Thy servants and upon the work of their hands, and do Thou, Who givest food to every creature, bless and preserve the fruits of the earth, that the needy may be filled with good things and that all may praise the glory of Thy bounty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Vocations to the Priesthood

Antiphon. Why stand ye all the day idle, go ye into my vineyard.
V. Ask the Lord of the harvest.
R. That He send laborers into His vineyard.

Let us Pray God, who willest not the death of the sinner, but rather that he be converted and live; grant, by the intercession of blessed Mary ever Virgin and of all saints, laborers for Thy Church, fellow laborers with Christ, to spend and consume themselves for souls. Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer Source: Blessed Be God: A Complete Catholic Prayer Book by Charles J. Callan, OP, S.T.M, P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1961

Preparing for Battle[5]

Know Your Commander and Comrades

Our Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Conqueror of hell and death, calls us to battle alongside Him against the Enemy so that we can have a share in His victory. To fight the good fight, however, we must know not only our adversary and his strategies; we must also know the comrades that our great Commander has given to us. Our comrades in arms are our Lady and the Saints. Just as Eve’s yes to the Enemy’s temptation brought death and the Devil’s domination into the world, so Mary’s yes to God opened the door for the ultimate victory of her Son over Satan. 

Whenever the Enemy’s assaults on us seem to multiply, we should call on Mary not just as our Blessed Mother, but as a mighty warrior before whom the demon’s tremble. St. Bonaventure once put it: “Men do not fear a powerful, hostile army as much as the powers of hell fear the name and protection of Mary.” 

We also have the aid of St. Michael and the Angels. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and delivers them” (Ps 34: 7). 

We also have our fellow Christians. We must not focus so much on heavenly warriors that we forget our earthly comrades-in-arms. Our brother and sister soldiers in the battles of this life need our support, and we need theirs. We should be praying daily with them and for them, spiritual soldiers “vigilant in all perseverance and supplication for all” our fellow combatants (Eph 6: 18). We should be offering them encouragement and counsel when we find them weary or confused, tempted by the Devil’s lies, accusations, doubts, enticements, and provocations. Roman soldiers were taught to fight alongside comrades with their backs toward one another. That way, as they battled the enemy, they were protecting one another’s backs. One man’s sword was another man’s shield. If they didn’t fight in this way, they were exposed to mortal danger. The same is true in spiritual warfare. Wherever a fellow soldier is vulnerable to the Enemy’s onslaught, we must make up the difference with the shield of our faith. This is one important reason why Our Lord established the Church. His grace to conquer the Enemy comes to us through her worship, her sacraments, and her teaching.

 

Catechism of the Catholic Church

PART THREE: LIFE IN CHRIST

SECTION TWO-THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

CHAPTER ONE-YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND

Article 2 THE SECOND COMMANDMENT

IN BRIEF


2160 "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth" (Ps 8:1)!

2161 The second commandment enjoins respect for the Lord's name. the name of the Lord is holy.

2162 The second commandment forbids every improper use of God's name. Blasphemy is the use of the name of God, of Jesus Christ, of the Virgin Mary, and of the saints in an offensive way.

2163 False oaths call on God to be witness to a lie. Perjury is a grave offence against the Lord who is always faithful to his promises.

2164 "Do not swear whether by the Creator, or any creature, except truthfully, of necessity, and with reverence" (St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 38).

2165 In Baptism, the Christian receives his name in the Church. Parents, godparents, and the pastor are to see that he be given a Christian name. the patron saint provides a model of charity and the assurance of his prayer.

2166 The Christian begins his prayers and activities with the Sign of the Cross: "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

2167 God calls each one by name (cf Isa 43:1).

Every Wednesday is Dedicated to St. Joseph

The Italian culture has always had a close association with St. Joseph perhaps you could make Wednesdays centered around Jesus’s Papa. Plan an Italian dinner of pizza or spaghetti after attending Mass as most parishes have a Wednesday evening Mass. You could even do carry out to help restaurants. If you are adventurous, you could do the Universal Man Plan: St. Joseph style. Make the evening a family night perhaps it could be a game night. Whatever you do make the day special.

·         Do the St. Joseph Universal Man Plan.

·         Devotion to the 7 Joys and Sorrows of St. Joseph 


Daily Devotions 

·         Unite in the work of the Porters of St. Joseph by joining them in fasting: Today's Fast: For the intercession of the angels and saints

·         Drops of Christ’s Blood

·         Universal Man Plan

·         Rosary



[1]The Collegeville Bible Commentary, 1986.

[3]Goffine’s Devout Instructions

[4]https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/prayers/view.cfm?id=1369

[5]Thigpen, Paul. Manual for Spiritual Warfare. TAN Books.



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