01.jpgPastoral Letter of Exhortation from Archbishop Nicholas Chia

BE CONVERTED AND believe in the Gospel (Mk 1:15). This command of Jesus rings out ever more strongly today, inviting man to conversion. This inner attitude of conversion, that is the condemnation of and detachment from sin and a striving towards God, is accompanied also by external acts of penitential practices. The interior and religious character of penance neither excludes nor lessens in any way the external practice of this virtue.

By divine law all the faithful are required to do penance. Even in biblical times we see people doing some form of penance as a sign of sorrow for their sin. It is indeed a religious, personal act which has as its aim, love and surrender to God. There is no lack of examples in Scriptures also of a social or collective awareness of sin.

Reaffirming this necessity, the church continues to seek - beyond fast and abstinence - new expressions of penance, more suitable for the times.

Lent remains the pre-eminent Penitential season. All Fridays are days of penance because each Friday recalls the crucifixion of Our Lord. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday remain days of fast and abstinence.

Fasting means that the amount of food we eat is considerably reduced. All Christians from the age of 18 to the beginning of 60 are bound by the law of abstinence (C. 1252). However our penance cannot be restricted to refraining from meat on Fridays.

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In order that we appreciate the meaning of penance more deeply, any of the following practices may also be adopted to fulfil the obligation of penance (on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities):

  1. By abstaining from meat and having simple meals;

  2. By abstaining from alcoholic drink, smoking or some form of amusement;

  3. By making the special effort involved in family prayer, taking part in the Mass, a visit to the Blessed Sacrament or a more attentive reading of the Bible, visiting the Blessed Sacrament or praying the Stations of the Cross;

  4. By fasting from all food for a longer period than usual and perhaps by giving what is saved in this way to the needy at home and abroad; and

  5. By making a special effort to spend time with or help somebody who is poor, sick, old or lonely.

The obligation to do penance every Friday remains an essential part of our Christian life. However, the manner we do it can take a different form every Friday. It is hoped that all the faithful of this region may make that sincere effort in memory of the Passion and Death of our Lord.

May this Lenten Season be a special time of grace for all of us. May we learn to die to ourselves so that we will rise with Christ at Easter!

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Yours devotedly in Christ,

Archbishop Nicholas Chia

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