Ash, bread and publicity
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
The beginning of Lent is very important to Christians, especially in Poland. That's why a lot of people go to church on Ash Wednesday and this practice, use of ashes on your head as a sign of nothingness of man before God, has continued for generations. The majority of the Catholic society experience the time of Lent through prayer and various Lenten resolutions: people mortify themselves - children often decide not to eat sweets, those who drink alcohol resolve not to drink during that time and give the money they save for some noble ideas, etc. Being overwhelmed and intoxicated by mass media we very often have a different picture of Poland than it actually is. Our nation still has a lot of inner beauty. We can see numerous people pilgriming to Marian sanctuaries, using Catholic media: press, radio and television, a very large percentage of our society does penance and prays for others. As a matter of fact, let us see what our acquaintances do, how they pray for a good journey, making the sign of the cross before the journey, how they pray before various activities - we can see plenty of such pictures around us. I think that there is much more good, seeking God and following God, than willingness to do evil.
In Lent there are many special signs, very important to religious life. Let us pay attention to the Friday practice of the Way of the Cross when parish churches are crowded. There are also Lenten Psalms during which priests give Passion teachings. The Polish immigrants, particularly in the United States, are fond of these services. I was told that about one thousand people participate in them. I think this does not happen even in large parishes in Poland. We all admire lovely Passion songs. Last year we edited some of them on a CD as an insert to 'Niedziela'. And our readers appreciated it very much. I think we can use these songs at home this year. The CDs are still available.
'The Passion of the Christ' by Mel Gibson was a moving experience for many people last year. This film was taken as a Passion Week service. I encourage you to see this movie again as an experience of the Lord's Passion.
I know many people who help others in a subtle and constant way. This is the most beautiful Christian attitude. We must more and more sense the needs of others because there are so many people in need: families with many children, undernourished children, elderly people devoid of any care and much, much more poverty. We should join those who offer help and share our humble goods. The Holy Scriptures says that 'almsgiving saves from death and purges every kind of sin'. God is merciful for the man who shows his compassion to others. Perfect Love brings us even greater mercy when we show mercy to others. Fast and almsgiving are the elements of our attitude in the sphere of which we can still do more.
Today the public opinion is manipulated by information. When we hear about one activity in the media it seems to us that only one subject - one man or institution - helps people in need. The Church does not make her help a banner and does not help to win applause. What we need is not publicity but just help. In fact, the Church carries out charity on an enormous scale. Let us only see where people stand in lines for bread, for soup. And this is not once a year when there are some musical band and television cameras but people come to a church, to a monastery, to a religious house because they know they will be given help. This is the best mandate, which does not require expensive advertisements.
Let us open ourselves to such a form of work, let us organise help, and let us help our brothers.
The time of Lent, which we begin on Ash Wednesday, is also a time of reflection and asking for salvation. Let us use this time well. May the Cross of Christ help us find the sense of our cross.