Sunday, February 24, 2019

Grand Rapids Serra Club Newsletter March 2019

In the diocese of Grand Rapids, we are blessed with 105 priests, 15 from religious communities, 8 from other dioceses, 33 deacons, 28 seminarians, and women religious from 10 orders.

Calendar of Events.

March 6, 2019.  Ash Wednesday.
March 10, 2019.  Daylight Savings Begins.
March 9, 2019.  Diocese of Grand Rapids Men's Retreat, 7:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at West Catholic High School.  Registration is still open.  Speakers will be as follows:  Elvis Grbac, record-setting Michigan quarterback, Superbowl XXIX champion, Pro Bowl quarterback and motivational speaker; Matt Fradd, prolific author and speaker who rallies men to live boldly and purely in our time; Matthew Leonard, Catholic author and speaker and vice-president and producer at St. Paul Center for Biblical theology; and The Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak, Bishop of Grand Rapids.  He will also celebrate Mass.  Breakfast and lunch will be served, and there will be times available for confession.
March 11, 2019.  Luncheon Meeting and Lenten Program, 12:00 Noon at Cathedral Square..
March 19, 2019.  Feast Day of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
March 25, 2019.  The Annunciation of the Lord and Board Meeting with Luncheon, 12:00 Noon at Cathedral Square.
April 14-20, 2019.  Holy Week.
April 21, 2019.  Easter Sunday.
June 19-23, 2019.  Serra International Convention, Mexico City.  Registration information is now available at the Serra International website.

Priests' Anniversaries for March.

Father Richard J. Host, March 17, 1974.

In Preparation for Lent.

In many congregations, the ashes are prepared by burning palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday.  On Palm Sunday, churches bless and hand out palm branches to attendees, a reference to the Gospels' account of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when onlookers laid palm branches in his path.

The ashes of this holiday symbolize two main things:  death and repentance.  "Ashes are equivalent to dust, and human flesh is composed of dust or clay (Genesis2:7), and when a human corpse decomposes, it returns to dust or ash."

When we come forward to receive the ashes on Ash Wednesday, we are saying that we are sorry for our sins, and that we want to use the season of Lent to correct our faults, purify our hearts, control our desires and grow in holiness so we will be prepared to celebrate Easter with great joy.

With this focus on our own mortality and sinfulness, Christians can enter into the Lent season solemnly, while also looking forward in greater anticipation of joy of the message of Easter and Christ's ultimate victory over sin and death.

The history and beginnings of Lent aren't clear.  According to, Lent has likely been observed "since apostolic times, though the practice was not formalized until the First Council of Nicea in 325 CE.  Christian scholars note that Lent became more regularized after the legalization of Christianity in A. D. 313.  St. Irenaeus, Pope St. Victor I, and St. Athanasius all seem to have written about Lent during their ministries.  Most agree that 'by the end of the fourth century, the 40-day-period of Easter preparation known as Lent existed, and that prayer and fasting constituted its primary spiritual exercises.'"

As far as the exact rules and practices of Lent, those have changed over the years.  In the early centuries, fasting rules were strict, as they still are in the Eastern churches, notes  "One meal a day was allowed, in the evening, and meat, fish, eggs and butter were forbidden.  The Eastern church also restricts the use of wine, oil, and dairy products.  In the West, these fasting rules have gradually been relaxed.  The strict law of fasting among Roman Catholics was dispensed with during World War II, and only Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are now kept as Lenten fast days."

Verses to Reflect on for Ash Wednesday:

OUR CREATION.  Genesis 2:7.  "Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."
OUR CURSE:  Genesis 3:19.  "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."
OUR CRY OF REPENTANCE:  (Psalm 51:7-10).  "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.  Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

A Prayer for Ash Wednesday.

Lord, Holy One, have mercy on us.  We confess our sins to you.  We have fallen short of your glory and without your mercy and grace, we would be dust.  We repent now.  Lord, as we enter into this Lenten season,  hear us.  Help us, by your Holy Spirit, to feel right conviction and repentance for our sin.  Help us, by your Spirit, to have the strength to overcome the enemy.

Thank you, Lord, that Easter is coming!  Death has no sting, no victory, because of Jesus.  Glory and honor and praise to His name!  Thank you for rescuing us.  Help us keep both the weight and the joy of this season in our hearts and move through the next several weeks.  Help us bear the good fruit of your Spirit.

Thank you that the ashes on our forehead do not symbolize our ultimate reality.  From dust we might have been formed, but our bodies, our spirits, ourselves, await beautiful redemption and the restoration of all things.  Help us long and look forward to that day, and let it come quickly, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Sources:, and

So What's the Connection between Candlemas and Ground Hog Day?

As we mentioned last month, we would complete this explanation in the March Newsletter.

Candlemas became linked to weather predictions about the end of winter because of an old English poem:

If Candlesmas be fair and bright,
Come winter, have another fight.
If Candlemas bring clouds and rain, 
Go winter, and come not again.

It makes sense that early February was a good time to prognosticate about the weather, especially as February 2nd marks the midpoint between winter and spring.  And the English poem appears to be the source of the shadow connection.  The Germans in Pennsylvania, also known as Pennsylvania Dutch, who undoubtedly celebrated Candlemas, added their own touch to the tradition.
This year the question of how long winter is going to last is of special significance!

Pray for Vocations and for our Club.

Also, please keep in mind that we need officers, especially a president, and for many of the available positions.  As a Lenten activity, please consider consulting the membership materials from  Read and pray!

What more doth the Lord require of thee but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?  Micah 6:8.