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Live Lent this year from the heart

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

The picture in an email from a parishioner riveted my attention. It showed a bearded young man with his eyes closed receiving ashes on his forehead. Instead of the traditional cross, however, these ashes were in the shape of a heart. The caption read: When Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday.

Well, this is one of those years when it does! Obviously, the picture is meant to be humorous and not liturgically correct. However, the sentiment behind that picture reminds us of a profound truth: Lent is fundamentally a season when we’re called to a deeper love — for God, our neighbor and ourselves.

There’s a wonderful story told about the great Broadway musical star Mary Martin.

One evening before she was to go onstage in “South Pacific,” she was handed a note.  It was from Oscar Hammerstein, the lyricist for the musical, who was on his deathbed.

The short note said simply: “Dear Mary, A bell’s not a bell till you ring it. A song’s not a song till you sing it. Love in your heart is not put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.”

After her performance that night, people rushed up to her and said, “Mary, what happened to you out there? We never saw anything like that performance before!”

Blinking back tears, Mary read them Hammerstein’s note. “Tonight,” she then said, “I gave my love away!” (Story adapted from “Illustrations Unlimited,” by James S. Hewett, editor.)

The traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the practical means by which we give love away. I realize it’s a bit early to be thinking about Lent but planning our Lenten “schedule” ahead of time could ensure that we have a truly heartfelt 40 days.

Showing love for God might take shape by attending a daily Mass once a week, praying the Stations of the Cross and receiving the sacrament of reconciliation.

Lent is an ideal time to set aside a few extra moments to deepen our faith with a daily Lenten guide. Two wonderful ones are “Not by Bread Alone 2024,” by Catherine (Cackie) Upchurch from Liturgical Press (; $3) and “The Magnificat® Lenten Companion” (; $4.99). Each has a short reflection for each day, a prayer and an action item.

You can also sign up for free, daily Lenten emails from Matthew Kelly’s “Best Lent Ever” ( and Loyola Press’ “Living Lent Daily” (Google:

Showing love for our neighbor could include: donating unused or unwanted items; being on time; practicing safe driving; complimenting rather than gossiping; volunteering at a parish fish fry; or treating someone who is homebound to a visit or a meal. Let your imagination run wild in finding simple ways to love your neighbor.

Lastly, show love to yourself by eating smaller or well-balanced meals; getting adequate sleep; limiting screen time; creating a “to-un-do” list (breaking a bad habit); exercising; or forgiving yourself or burying a grudge. Yes, ideally these should be things we do every day but somehow, we don’t.

Don’t forget to ask God’s blessing on this special season and help you enter it with joy rather than dread. This prayer found on might help:

“Almighty and ever-living God, you invite us deeper into your world, your people, your Lent. May this time be one of outward focus; seeking you in those we often ignore. Help us live a Lent focused on freedom, generosity and encounter. Give us hearts hungry to serve you and those who need what we have to give.”

By the way, plan to celebrate your Valentine’s Day before Feb. 14 so you can start this Lent with all your heart.

About the author

Fr. Mark Goldasich

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