The Imperfect Saints Model Our Lenten Journey to Holiness

by David M. Carollo

I have always related to St. Peter. How many times do we hear of him as an angry man who overcomes his faults and moves closer to perfection? A trip to the Holy Land is not complete without a visit to the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. It is built on the site of the high priest Caiaphas’ home, where our Lord was held overnight in a cistern after being judged a blasphemer by the Sanhedrin. Peter stood outside during the trial, and when recognized as a disciple, denied Him three times. When the cock crowed, he recalled the words of Jesus that he would deny Him in this fashion. Repenting of his fault he sought forgiveness and returned to the road towards perfection. Striving for perfection is our duty. God does not call perfect people; He calls imperfect people to become perfect. Many great saints followed this pattern. St. Augustine comes to mind when we think of someone focused on sinful endeavors. Then through the intense prayers of his holy mother St. Monica, he repented and became a great leader in the Church.

Not all of us can be as lucky as St. Dismas, the good thief who, it is said, “stole heaven” and was assured of salvation from the Cross. Most of us pay our debt over a period of time and with a focus on dedication to the mission. Perhaps in His mercy God grants the grace to achieve greatness to the worst of us, so that we can make up for the past and repay our debt while on earth instead of in purgatory. Perhaps also the enemy attacks some individuals extra hard, as he knows the greatness that they are destined for and wants to derail their lives. He probably succeeds often in that attempt. If I accomplish things in my work, I hope to merit heaven and chip away at the time I might have earned in purgatory, due to past unfaithfulness. We cannot dwell on our former selves, however, and lament our past imperfections and sins. True contrition does not require us to hold on to guilt. In fact, it requires us to move beyond that millstone and accept God’s mercy and forgiveness. It is more important to focus on who we wish to become, not on who we were.

Lent is the season when we should set a tone for life, not just consider it a 40-day sentence of what I’m going to give up this year.  We might think, “Hey, this is a good chance to avoid some foods and knock off a few pounds.”  No problem, I like fish anyway. These sentiments are not necessarily an example of exhibiting a spirit of sacrifice. Abstaining from things is important, but being in the mindset of abstinence is more important. Understanding and accepting why we give things up during this preparatory period brings us more in communion with Jesus. The Lord spent 40 days in the desert fasting and praying in preparation for His mission. We are asked to join in that spirit for the 40 days of Lent. I have always admired the Eastern Rites, which seem to take this time more seriously than we do in the Latin Church today. When we deny ourselves simple things, we invite God in. The Fatima message asks us to live in the spirit of Lent all year round. The three shepherd children entered “Lent” and remained there the rest of their lives. Sure, I look forward to having a nice juicy steak when the fast and abstinence is broken, but only focusing on this diminishes the penitential acts that we practice.

Your prayers and sacrifices can bring peace to the world

The world watched in horror last week as Russia invaded Ukraine and put Europe and the entire world in a state of uncertainty, which had not existed since the end of the Cold War. This apostolate has always focused on the events there and our members know that only through prayer and sacrifice can we avoid the devastation of armed conflicts, which are the consequence of sin. Is it a coincidence that these things are happening when we have institutionalized sin in many forms in our country and around the world? Only by turning back this culture of sin and death can we expect the bad players to disappear from world stage. We have the power to accomplish this by our faithfulness to prayer and sacrifice daily during Lent and beyond.

Lent is a time of preparation for Easter. By practicing sacrificial acts during this time, we cleanse our bodies and souls for greater things and merit the grace to stop evil from advancing. The Catholic Faith as reinforced by the Fatima message calls us to live sacrificial lives year-round to prepare for our own Good Friday and Easter Sunday. By doing so we will bring about the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart that Our Lady promised and the era of true peace that only He can give.

Please watch our latest Fatima Today podcast, Lenten reflections with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Fr. Luke Fletcher, CFR, chaplain at the Blue Army Shrine, and Br. Pius Gagne, CFR.

God bless you and Mary keep you in her Immaculate Heart.

David Carollo is the Executive Director of the World Apostolate of Fatima, USA and National Blue Army Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima. He wrote this for his Voice of Fatima column.

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