This coming Wednesday, we begin the season of Lent with the traditional observance of Ash Wednesday, where churches will be filled with people who seek the traditional sacramental of blessed ash (if not the Holy Eucharist) and begin their forty days of penitential observance. During this time every year, we examine our lives to see where we have strayed from God and how we can turn our hearts back to the Lord in preparation for the celebration of His resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday. This examination is both an individual and a communal task: that is, each person examines his or her own personal life to turn away from sin; but, we also need to take a look at how, as a parish, we are living either in conformity with God’s plan or contrary to it. There are many practices that we can do individually during Lent, such as fasting and abstinence from meat on Fridays, making charitable contributions, and increasing our time spent in prayer, including Eucharistic adoration, saying the Rosary, praying the Stations of the Cross, reading the Bible and going to the Sacrament of Penance. We also practice bodily mortification by “giving up” (sacrificing) something we like, e.g., alcohol, dessert, television or movies as a means of penance for our sins so that we can grow spiritually.
As a community, there are many other things that we can do as well. Some of the individual religious practices mentioned above can also be done with others in the community of faith or with our families, such as Eucharistic adoration, praying the Rosary, meditating on the Stations of the Cross, studying the Bible, or volunteering time to help others in need.
I would also like to suggest something by which we can examine the moral condition of our society with regard to marriage and family life, namely, concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront. Among these difficulties and challenges that families face are pornography, divorce, cohabitation without marriage, children born outside of marriage, troubling individualism (which deforms family bonds), homosexuality, civil legislation which compromises marriage and the family, secularization and “the crisis of faith,” witnessed among so many Catholics, which oftentimes underlies the crisis in marriage and the family.
A prime example can be seen in many of the popular movies which present themselves as contemporary reflections of our culture, but which, in fact, are a pullback away from true family values and can easily become occasions of sin.
Though I won’t personally give up movies, I will make an effort to view only those that promote Christian family values. Since so many people around the world form their impression of American culture from what comes out of Hollywood movies, it is no wonder that people of other countries, especially those that highly value family life, often view our American culture as morally bankrupt.
So, rather than waste time on a worthless flick, take the time to reflect on the true purpose of human sexuality and its relation to marriage, procreation and family life. Promote time as family to pray fervently during this season of Lent for a conversion of our culture from its preoccupation with selfish sensuality. Take time to speak with your family members about the true understanding of family life as God intended it to be. And, if you are inclined, as I am, to make an occasional trip to the cinema or view movies on Netflix or some similar media, make sure you treat your children to some wholesome entertainment that will lead them one day to a greater appreciation for the total giving of man and woman to each other in the sacred bond of marriage as God intends it.