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Ordained in 2011, Father Friel served for five years as Parochial Vicar at St. Anselm Parish in Northeast Philly. He is currently studying toward an STL in sacred liturgy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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“Each Mass contains the slaying of the Victim, not repeated here in the West after centuries, made once only long ago in Palestine, yet part of the sacrifice offered throughout the world each morning. All Masses are one sacrifice, including the death of the cross, continuing through all time the act of offering then begun … Every time we hear Mass we look across that gulf of time, we are again before the cross, with his mother and St. John; we offer still that victim then slain, present here under the forms of bread and wine.”
— Fr. Adrian Fortescue (d. 1923)

The Essence of Lent
published 5 March 2014 by Fr. David Friel

HE LORD SAYS TO US, through the Prophet Joel, “Rend your hearts, not your garments” (Joel 2:13). To understand that command, we first have to know that the word “rend” means to tear something apart by force. The second thing we have to know is that the “rending of garments” was an action that meant something specific in Biblical times. When someone rent their garments, they did so to signify their grief. One might have rent garments at the death of a relative or upon news of some terrible misfortune befalling one’s family.

We see an example in the Book of Job. Upon hearing that he has lost his entire livelihood and all his sons and daughters, we read: “Job arose and tore his cloak and cut off his hair” (Job 1:20). In times like these, people would “rend their garments” as a sign to all around them that they were experiencing grief.

The Lord directs us: “Rend your hearts, not your garments.” We ought to tear open our hearts out of grief for our sins. Opening our hearts is something that we are often hesitant to do. We like to be intensely private about what’s really going on inside. But the Lord is asking us to go against that inclination. He is telling us to open up—to lay our hearts bare before Him.

This is the essence of Lent. Lent is not an Ironman competition to see how much we can do for God. It’s not about being miserable. It is not a season of Catholic group weight-loss. Lent is a time to “rend our hearts”—an occasion to come before the Lord with open hearts and to invite Jesus to bring His healing Presence there.