Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Light One Candle
A season of sacrifice

by Dennis Heaney

(From the Feb. 7, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

Dennis Heaney It wasn’t so long ago that we were celebrating Christmas, and now, with Ash Wednesday this week, it’s time to contemplate Lent and, of course, the glorious Resurrection of Easter.

Most people know that the day before Ash Wednesday is Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras. What I didn’t realize until recently is the connection between Mardi Gras and Christmas.

In places that celebrate Mardi Gras, including many Latin American and European countries as well as our own New Orleans and many southern cities, the big lead-up is Carnival, which traditionally starts on Epiphany (also known as Twelfth Night or Three Kings Day) at the end of the Christmas season. The colorful Carnival season includes lots of parties and generally making merry until Mardi Gras fades into the solemnity of Lent.

I love watching the turn of the holidays and holy days cycling through the length of our own lives. One minute you’re singing Christmas carols and then you’re seeing folks everywhere with ashes on their foreheads, a visible reminder we are dust and unto dust we shall return. I suppose that’s why it helps to recall that even the most somber time offers some opportunity to rejoice, and the most blissful moments can stop us in our tracks with a sobering thought.

Of all seasons, Lent is most associated with penance, sacrifice and serious reflection. With Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection, as our goal, we find cause for great joy even though we contemplate what we’re “giving up” for 40 days. After all, hardship for its own sake is meaningless. The point of self-denial is to open ourselves to God’s love so that it spreads through his world through us.

Giving up snacks or an occasional meal can be a good reminder that we’re physical beings dependent on the bounty of God’s good earth. Our voluntary fasting also reminds us that many of our neighbors, because of poverty, go hungry. They have no choice. And while we think about giving up good things, let’s also consider giving up bad ones that rob us and those around us of peace and joy.

Father John Catoir, former director of The Christophers, wrote our Christopher News Note titled “Lent: Discovering Joy in a Solemn Season,” where he shared these thoughts:

Give up resentment and become more forgiving.

Give up hatred and return good for evil.

Give up complaining and be more grateful.

Give up pessimism and become more hopeful.

Give up worry and become more trusting.

Give up anger and become more patient.

Give up pettiness and become more noble.

Give up gloom and become more joyful.

If we follow some or all of these suggestions, then, on Easter morning we will have gained far more than we gave up, knowing that God’s love propels us beyond the despair of death to the hope of eternity.

(Dennis Heaney is Director of The Christophers, an organization dedicated to the proposition that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. For a free copy of the Christopher News Note “Lent: Discovering Joy in a Solemn Season,” write to: The Christophers, 12 E. 48th St., New York, NY 10017; or e-mail:

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