The Joy of a Front Row Seat

This article was posted on: April 10, 2024

May you empty yourself of the things of this world and fill yourself with the joy of the Gospel.

February is half over, and hopefully, the cold will be too! I came across the following line a while back, and it sums up winter pretty well, “Some people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” Hopefully, March will bring a favorable change in the weather and a bit less snow.

We are about to enter the season of Lent. As we know, Lent is the 40-day liturgical season of fasting, special prayer and almsgiving in preparation for Easter. Lent is a time of sacrifice to bring about a transformation within our souls. A blessed Lent is one where we invite God into our lives, allowing His presence to renew us.

As we approach Lent, I encourage you to deepen your faith by taking advantage of the many opportunities our parishes offer. Perhaps attend an extra Mass each week during Lent. If your schedule allows, come on a Wednesday, a Thursday or a Friday to experience the quiet and prayer of a weekday Mass. Additionally, I urge you to make time for confession this Lent. This great sacrament of mercy is truly a special touch of grace. In this sacrament, we experience healing and peace. Nothing is better than being touched by God’s love in the sacrament of confession. Pray the rosary also. This great meditation on the mysteries of our faith prepares our hearts and souls for the power of God. In praying the rosary, we become united to the life of Christ, His saving actions and the maternal consolation of Our Lady.

During Lent, we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit through prayer and penance. The Holy Spirit, our powerful and gentle advocate, comes to us when we make ourselves open to Him. Prayer and penance are the path to a living relationship with God through the Holy Spirit.

As a priest, I am blessed with a front-row seat to the mighty works of God. Each year on Easter Vigil, I witness the joy of the newly baptized entering our Faith. Their many months of preparation led to the joyous reception of the sacraments of initiation. This joy continues throughout their lives and is experienced every time they receive a sacrament. It’s like a river flowing from the source of all grace.

I feel blessed to be in the front row, witnessing the joy that each sacrament brings and how it blesses and heals everyone around me. I often say that the six feet of real estate between the altar and the first pew marks some of the most special places in a person’s life. Baptisms, marriages, daily Communions, anniversary blessings and so many more moments of joy happen in this special place within the church.

Life’s challenges are also the openings for the joy of conversion. The mercy of confession remedies the brokenness of sin. The sacrament of the sick strengthens the body’s weakness. And the final prayers offered at a funeral extend the hope of our truest wealth, the gift of the resurrection.

May this season of Lent be rich in the blessings of Christ. May you empty yourself of the things of this world and fill yourself with the joy of the Gospel.

Story by Father Daniel Thelen, Pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Marshfield
Published in the March/April 2024 issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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