LETTERS: On making Lent, not Valentine’s Day a priority, bishop says

A Lenten Valentine’s Day

A recent headline in Reuters: “Fasting or champagne? Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday in rare confluence,” hits upon a question that many priests have been answering lately as Lent begins today.

This year, Ash Wednesday, a universal day of fasting and abstinence in the Catholic Church, coincides with Valentine’s Day. The answer priests have been giving parishioners, who are wondering whether they should fast or celebrate Valentine’s Day, is to have their celebrations the day before, on Fat Tuesday, or on Thursday.

Today, we should focus on beginning our Lenten journey.

Pope Francis in his message for Lent, reminds us, “Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.”

Lent, which means “spring,” is the 40-day period of fasting and prayer that Christians observe in preparation for the celebration of Easter. It goes back to the early church when the new Christians-to-be were preparing to be baptized on Easter. They were called catechumens and during the 40 days prior to Easter they repented, studied and sacrificed. When infant baptism became common, Lent became a time of repentance and renewal for all Christians.

The 40-day period of Lent serves as a time for spiritual renewal in preparation for Easter. It is a time when we can grow in our faith. The number of days represents the 40 days Jesus spent alone praying in the desert before he began his public ministry.

As the start of the Lenten season, Ash Wednesday is the day Christians choose what they will do in preparation for Easter. These include prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Ash Wednesday gets its name from the ancient Catholic custom of receiving a dab of blessed ashes on the forehead. The blessed ashes, symbolic of penance, are used to mark the forehead with the sign of the cross, with the reminder: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return,” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

Brownsville Diocese Bishop Daniel E. Flores will celebrate a Mass and distribute ashes today at 1 p.m. at UTRGV in Brownsville in the Gran Salon, across the street from the University Book Store.

Brenda Nettles Riojas,

diocesan relations director,

Brownsville Diocese

Make it a meatless Lent

Today marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period before Easter, when Christians abstain from animal foods in remembrance of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.

The call to abstain from eating animals is as current as the teaching of evangelical leader Franklin Graham, yet as traditional as the Bible (Genesis 1:29). Methodist Founder John Wesley, Salvation Army pioneers William and Catherine Booth, and Seventh-day Adventist Church Founder Ellen G. White all followed this higher call.

A meat-free diet is not just about Christian devotion. Dozens of medical studies have linked consumption of animal products with elevated risk of heart failure, stroke, cancer and other killer diseases. A United Nations report named meat production as the largest source of greenhouse gases and water pollution. Undercover investigations have documented farm animals routinely caged, crowded, mutilated and beaten.

Today’s supermarkets are well in tune with the call to abstain from eating animals. They offer a rich array of plant-based meats, milks, cheeses, and ice creams, as well as the more traditional vegetables, fruits, and grains. Entering “vegetarian” or “vegan” in your favorite search engine provides lots of meat replacement products, recipes, and transition tips.

Bill Motter, McAllen

Build the wall around Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge

If we only build the border wall along portions of our southern border, and there are no other physical obstructions preventing illegal entry into the United States in those areas that do not have a wall, then those trying to enter illegally will quickly discover those areas and cross there. This means there will be an increase of illegal immigrants entering by way of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge if there isn’t a wall there.

Why not build the wall around the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge along the east, north, and western sides, with the river being on the southern border? This wall would never enter the refuge. No plant life would be destroyed and animals would still be able to move about freely. The refuge is surrounded by plowed farm land. Once word gets out there is a barrier around the refuge, I doubt that immigrants will try to cross the river and go into the refuge to continue their way north.

Darrell Williams Sr., McAllen

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