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By: Father John Coughlin, OFM//MDS Musings Blog

Father John celebrates Ash Wednesday at MDS

We entered into Lent on Ash Wednesday. Catholics and other Christians who observe this liturgical season know it is an approximately 40 day period of preparation for Easter. Many associate the penitential color purple with this time of the year and reflect on the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness and being tempted by Satan. Greater self-discipline is often pursued through prayer, fasting, and alms-giving during this season. Few, however, are knowledgeable about why Lent started in the first place. The simple answer is Baptism.

Baptism is the gateway into the life of the Church. By the fourth century, those seeking admission into the Church had to enter into a long process of preparation that sometimes lasted a couple of years. The end of the process was known as the Catechumenate, and those participating in it were catechumens. This journey culminated in an intense 40-day retreat as a way to prepare them for the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion) at the Easter Vigil.

In the early centuries of Christian history, the norm was for the Church to baptize adults. As the centuries progressed, baptizing infants became the new norm and the baptismal nature of Lent was largely forgotten by Christians. Since Vatican Council II, however, the Church has been emphasizing the connection between Lent and Baptism. For any of us who are observing Lent this year perhaps, in addition to our chosen penitential practices, we might want to rediscover our baptismal promises. How are we living those promises out? Also, how might we be a support to present-day catechumens as they prepare for the sacraments of initiation and entry into Christ’s Body, the Church?

About Father John:
Father John is a native of Queens, New York. He entered religious life in 1995, a few years after earning an undergraduate degree in English from Hunter College in Manhattan. He is a member of the Order of Friars Minor, more commonly called the Franciscans. He took solemn vows in his religious order in 2001 and was ordained a priest in 2002, shortly after finishing a Masters of Divinity at the Washington Theological Union. During his journey as a priest, Father John has been blessed to serve in parish ministry, retreat ministry, and campus ministry. His most recent assignment was a chaplaincy to the Catholic community at the University of Georgia. Having thoroughly enjoyed working on a college campus, he is thrilled to be able to continue offering spiritual assistance in an educational environment at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church and School and Mount de Sales Academy.