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Ash Wednesday and St Valentines Day. . .can I have a piece of Chocolate?!

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#Spirituality & Mission
February 14, 2024

By MariAnn Paladino

Growing up, my family helped to instill many Catholic rituals and traditions that influenced me throughout my life and remain a big part of who I am to this day. I am happy to share some of my personal reflections on the Lenten Season.

So, for me it all started with giving up chocolate for Lent as a kid. It helped me to appreciate that Easter Basket with chocolate, a new dress, shoes, and coat on Easter morning even more. Thankfully, I have grown spiritually since then. We observed Lent with prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

This Ash Wednesday is also St. Valentine’s Day. My thoughts, therefore, have turned to love and gratitude. I invite you to think about God’s love and love for one another as St. Valentine did this Lent. It is a time to remember the people in our life who we love, those who need love, those we have lost and those we have found again. I think about how the love in my heart has helped me to think about the life, passion, and resurrection of Jesus in a personal way and led me to unexpected places. And yes, you can have chocolate this Ash Wednesday!

To enhance our prayer life, I would highly suggest attending the Novena of Grace in honor of St. Francis Xavier at St. John’s Church on 44 Temple St. This Novena has been a Lenten practice in Worcester for over 100 Years and will begin in March, visit their website for further information. I have fond memories of attending this Novena with family members who have passed away and often reconnect with old friends that also attend it yearly.

Once again, I have registered online for “The Best Lent Ever” through Dynamic Catholic. I’ll receive a daily reflection and be able to interact with people across the world and share my Lenten journey. Perhaps you might enjoy this daily spiritual journey, it’s free to sign up! I have also purchased the book “33 Days of Eucharistic Glory” to enhance my experience.

On to almsgiving. I always pick a local charity that is meaningful to me and make a donation and often spend some time volunteering. I will also make a point to visit or call friends that are isolated, elderly, or lonely. I may even bring them some chocolate!

I also enjoy visiting St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer. Do yourself a favor and browse their gift shop where you can pick up great spiritual books and fudge (if you have not given up sweets). Also, take a moment and drive to the top of a hill to visit the Chapel, say a prayer, enjoy the view and contemplate God’s love.

Finally, pray the Rosary and Stations of The Cross. You can download some beautiful Rosaries and Stations on YouTube.

I hope you have enjoyed my thoughts on Lenten practices. I pray we all experience God’s love and the love of one another this Lent.

Happy Easter and enjoy some chocolate!

MariAnn Paladino is Director of Admissions and Marketing for Notre Dame Health Care’s Long Term Care and Rehabilitation Center