A child smiles during Ash Wednesday Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, in this March 1, 2017 file photo. (James Ramos/CNS, via Texas Catholic Herald)

Every year the Church moves the faithful through her liturgical seasons in order to grow in ways that may not otherwise be imagined. The penitential season of Lent begins Ash Wednesday, March 6 this year.


Check dphx.org/events or our Sunbeams page for events related to the Lenten season.







Catholics can identify with Christ through sacramental signs and the movement of the liturgical year. One really cannot call themselves Catholic if the practice of the sacramental life is not the spiritual center of their life. Participation in Mass, and the reception of the Eucharist and Confession on a regular basis are key.

How wonderful is the faithful person who takes initiative to invest in growing their faith in knowledge and truth. Mass attendance connects the faithful to the liturgical seasons. Each are a lens of contemplation into such mystical depths that guide the faithful through Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent and Triduum, the height of the liturgical year. Many people around the diocese are planning how they will mark this most holy time by embracing more austere challenges, and taking part in practices that will move both body and soul toward the glory of Easter.

Opportunities for parish renewal

Many Lenten activities are planned to help engage the faithful in more profound ways. Fr. Steve Kunkel, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, explained that his parish will begin the renewal program Light of the World.

“Discipleship is at the heart of Church ministry. Light of the World is a weekend retreat directed towards adult Catholics of the parish. Its purpose is Christian discipleship — following Christ personally and deeply,” Fr. Kunkel said. 

Light of the World uses the model of building deeper faith experience through the development of small faith communities that continue the work of the retreat in smaller gatherings.

“The program is meant to introduce the person into the saving love, message and life of Jesus Christ. Through testimony, teaching, and fellowship the retreat aims to provide adults with deep meaning and purpose in following Christ,” Fr. Kunkel said.

Light of the World is one of many parish renewal programs offered throughout the diocese, such as Cursillo and ACTS.

Ascetic fraternities

The Church has challenged men specifically to begin to see more intently their needed role as leaders, fathers, husbands, priests and deacons. Many men desire to engage more of a masculine spirituality, that causes them to take their rightful place in their prospective roles with renewed understanding and purpose. Exodus 90 is a direct response to offering something different that will appeal to the masculine.

Exodus 90 has its roots in Emmitsburg, Maryland, when in 2013 a group of seminarians and priests devised a spiritual exercise of fraternity, engaging in prayer and the sacramental life that would specifically appeal to men. They were inspired by a long Church history of asceticism and monasticism lived by the likes of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Benedict of Nursia.

Exodus 90 has taken off with well over 7,000 men participating since its inception. Here in the Diocese of Phoenix some men completed the program last fall, and others have recently begun their Exodus journey as of Jan. 21, exactly 90 days before Easter, when they will conclude their journey. 

Other fraternities of Exodus 90 will begin on Ash Wednesday ending their Exodus 90 in time for the Feast of Pentecost.

Terry Kennedy of St. Timothy Parish in Mesa is so impressed with the experiences he has had through Exodus 90 that he has participated in the program a couple of times. Kennedy, a father of three adult children and grandfather of nine, described the spiritual exercise as “a concrete way for today’s man, through sacrifice and asceticism, to offer himself for the expiation of not only his own sins, but the sins of the Church and world at large. To rid one’s self of the detritus that gets in the way of being a loving man, husband and father.”

Any man who is willing to embrace more of a challenge in the practice of the spiritual life is encouraged to join a fraternity of five to seven men that will commit to the 90-day experience.

“One is not able to do this by one’s self,” Kennedy said. “Iron sharpens iron.”

St. Francis of Assisi was one such saint who lived the spirit of asceticism by leaving the wealth of his upbringing behind, forming the Franciscan Order. Today he is credited with throwing himself in a thorny rose bush as an extreme example of his own practice of asceticism.

“It is as old as the Church. Saints have used asceticism to gain holiness and truly discover their place in the world that God wants them to serve Him,” Kennedy said.

The reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was one of the highlights in this Passion play that took place at St. Henry Parish in Buckeye on Good Friday in this March 30, 2018 file photo. (John Bering/CATHOLIC SUN)

Passion Plays

The roots of the Passion play can be traced back to 1632 in Oberammergau, Bavaria Germany. The depiction of the passion of Jesus in real-life has become a popular Holy Week tradition, continuously performed each year since its inception.

Jimmy Davis, a musician in the Diocese of Phoenix with his roots coming from Blessed Sacrament Parish in Tolleson, is producing a Passion play at Our Lady of Fatima Mission in Phoenix April 12-14 as part of Jimmy Davis Music and Studio in downtown Tolleson.

“Putting together a Passion play is one of my most cherished Lenten and Holy Week practices,” Davis said. “It is a great way to offer up our talents to God during the Lenten season.”

Lent is a time of personal growth for those who desire to seek such growth. The opportunities are all around, and a good place to start is being attentive to the announcements at Mass.

— By Fr. Michael Accinni Reinhardt, The Catholic Sun.