Tag Archives: Easter

Celebrating a Holy Catholic Easter: A Guide to the Customs and Devotions of Lent and the Season of Christ’s Resurrection

Fr. William Saunders
TAN Books, 224 pages

For Catholics, Lent and Easter are all about ashes, fasting, fish on Fridays, palm branches, and those Easter Triduum liturgies, correct? Well, as Fr. Saunders relates in this fine book, there’s actually a whole lot more to these liturgical seasons that make them so rich in opportunity for spiritual growth. Here he explains the fuller meaning behind the familiar Catholic observances and takes us deeper: historical backgrounds, tips on preparation for one’s Lenten Confession, the significance of Holy Week liturgies, and the glorious feasts of the Easter season right up through Pentecost. Be prepared to experience these seasons of penance and new life like never before.


Order: Amazon

Abortion is not health care

Easter is the feast of life, the feast of Christ’s victory over death. Upon coming out of His own grave, Jesus did not only overcome His own death; He overcame yours, mine, and the entire kingdom of death.

And He overcame the power of abortion.

On Easter, we come to church not simply to congratulate Jesus for rising from the dead, but to celebrate the fact that we share that victory through faith and Baptism.

And we are called to proclaim and apply that victory to every segment of our society. That’s the source of our pro-life mission – and our pro-life hope. We don’t stand before the culture of death wondering if or how we will overcome it. Rather, we stand before it in strength, declaring that it has already been conquered. Christ is risen! We are not just working for victory, we are working from victory. The victory of life is our starting point!

On Easter morning, Mary Magdalene stood weeping by the tomb. Jesus Himself stood there. But, St. John’s Gospel tells us that she did not know Him and supposed it was the gardener. “‘Woman,’ He asked her, ‘Why are you weeping? Who is it you are looking for?’“ The very cause of her grief was about to be removed by the One asking her about it. Little did she know that the reason for her weeping had already been destroyed. The Lord was present.

On Easter afternoon, two of the first Christians were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, filled with despair, and Jesus began to walk with them. However, they didn’t recognize Him. But the very reason for their grief had been destroyed by the One now asking them about their grief. The Lord was present and was walking with them. Their hearts began to burn within them.

As the Church continues to deal with the tragedy of abortion, she faces not only a sin against life, but a sin against hope. We do not see “abortion” walking down the street. What we see is a mother caught in the grip of despair. Even if she knows abortion is wrong, as most do, she sees no other way out. She too is in despair. She feels she must choose between the baby’s life and her own life.

This despair can blind us to the value of the child. It also distorts our entire health care system. When the killing of a child is considered by some as “health care,” even to the point of taxpayer funding, then despair has infected us deeply

The pro-life movement challenges the very notion that abortion is medicine. The burden of proof, in fact, is not on pro-life people to show that abortion is wrong; it is on abortionists to show that it is health care. Medical intervention is not justified without medical indication. What disease does abortion cure? What medical benefit does it bring? None.

Medical interventions are meant to help the body do what it is supposed to do but is having trouble doing. Abortion does just the opposite, violently stopping a natural process.

Medicine lives by the dictum “First, do no harm.” That excludes abortion immediately, not only for the harm it does to the baby (see LookAtAbortion. org) and to the whole family and beyond (see AbortionShockwaves.com) but for the harm that comes to the health care profession itself by giving in to the despair that says killing the innocent is inevitable, a necessary evil to solve problems we can’t solve in any other way

It is time again, with eyes full of hope, to see the Risen Christ walking among us.

FR. FRANK PAVONE is national director of Priests for Life

Turning totally to God…

Every year, the Catholic Church goes into the desert.

For 40 days, Catholics pray, fast, and give of their time, talents, and resources. Lent is a season where Christians accompany Jesus in the wilderness and strip themselves of creature comfort to refocus on their spiritual journey.

“The main point of Lent is conversion. That doesn’t mean merely a small course correction or a small little thing we have to fix. Ultimately, conversion means we’re turning with Jesus, that we’re living truly with Christ,” said Father Roger Landry, a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts who serves as an attaché for the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.

Beyond a six-week grind

Seen through that lens, Lent is far more than a six-week period where Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays and “give something up” like chocolate or candy. In the three pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – this penitential season offers the opportunity for a “reset.”

“Anything short of that is not going to hit the mark that Lent points us to,” Father Landry said.

In Paragraph 540, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that during the “solemn forty days of Lent, the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” In the fourth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we learn that the Spirit led Jesus, after his baptism, into the desert “to be tempted by the Devil.”

For 40 days, Christ prayed, fasted and resisted Satan’s temptations to attain earthly power and test God the Father. Jesus emerged from the wilderness tired and hungry, but ready for his public ministry; a road he knew would end on Calvary.

Meaning of ashes

“The theme of Lent is given to us on Ash Wednesday,” Father Landry said. “It’s to repent of anything that leads us from the Lord and to truly grow in faith by believing the Gospel. Everything that comes afterward is for helping us turn more and more in faith toward Christ.”

The Lenten journey begins on Ash Wednesday, when faithful who attend church that day will have an ashen cross traced on their foreheads, with the priest or minister saying, “Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” That act symbolizes our mortality, our need for ongoing repentance, and the call to continual conversion and holiness.

Holiness in everyday action

“Lent is meant to make you holy, so everything that we’re going to do during Lent has to be with that end in mind,” said Father Landry, who generally encourages daily Mass or a half-hour period of daily prayer. Fasting has to take into consideration someone’s physical and psychological health, though it should be something that reminds one that they’re imitating Christ’s self-denial.

With regard to almsgiving, Father Landry said he encourages people to reach out to someone each day during Lent, such as a great aunt in a nursing home, an elderly shut-in neighbor with no living relatives, or a high school friend who recently lost a parent.

“A small reach-out can be a phone call, a letter, even a text message or email, to give alms of themselves each day during that season,” Father Landry said. “That is something that will help them reorder their relationship with their neighbor far more than writing one check to a good cause.”

Ordering the ‘interior house’

As a penitential season, Catholics are called to do penance during Lent. Interior penance can be expressed in many and various ways.

“Penance is sincere sorrow in action,” Father Landry said. “We can say sorry to God for our sin, but penance involves those practices that help us to turn our life around so that we’re no longer doing the same things that wound our relationship with God and others.”

In Paragraph 1434, the Catechism says Scripture and the Church Fathers insist, above all, on three forms of penance: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Those forms express conversion in relation to oneself, to God and to others.

During Lent, Catholics should dedicate a little more time each day for prayer. That could be a half-hour of contemplative prayer, reading the Bible, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, attending Daily Mass, a weekly Holy Hour, or renewing a devotion to the rosary.

Prayer, temperance attunes toward God

Popular Lenten devotions such as the Stations of the Cross on Fridays — where the faithful spiritually accompany Jesus during his Passion — are meant to deepen that pillar of prayer.

“They’re not just good holy practices,” Father Landry said. “They’re ways to help us attune our heart and our life to what God is doing.”

The Church calls on Catholics, ages 18 to 59, to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Canonically speaking, that means a person on those days is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two small meals that together do not equal to a full meal. However, that is a minimalistic approach that Father Landry said “is never going to make us holy.”

“At a practical level, we need to be regularly doing something that allows us to keep our appetite in check,” said Father Landry, who encourages people to abstain from soda, coffee, and alcohol and to only drink water during Lent.

He also advises people to give up all desserts, not just chocolate.

“If we’re able to do those types of things, it’s going to be much easier for us control our appetite in general, so that we’re able to obey God rather than our lower nature,” said Father Landry, who added that fasting also helps the faithful to cultivate mercy for the poor and hungry.

“There are almost 800 million people who go without adequate food in the world,” Father Landry said. “So fasting allows us to have a great solidarity with them as well.”

Almsgiving – the forgotten ‘other’

In that same spirit, almsgiving is “a witness to fraternal charity” and “a work of justice pleasing to God,” as the Catechism says in Paragraph 2462. Almsgiving can take the form of donating money and goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. Special collections during Lent, such as Catholic Relief Services’ popular Rice Bowl program, present opportunities to give alms.

Almsgiving, which is derived from the Greek word for mercy, is intended to transform the Christian’s heart to have genuine compassion for one’s neighbor.

“Like prayer gets our relationship with God right, almsgiving helps us to get our relationship with our neighbor right,” Father Landry said, “So that we recognize that God is calling us to love our neighbor as he has loved us first, to the point of real sacrifice.”

The Sundays of Lent, which are not counted in the season’s 40 days, retain a joyful Easter character. A tradition in the Church holds that those Sundays provide a weekly respite for people who are seriously fasting during Lent. Deciding whether to relax one’s Lenten fasting on Sundays is a matter of individual conscience.

Worthy Lent draws to True Christ

Lent ends on Holy Thursday, which marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum, which includes Good Friday and culminates with the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Easter Vigil. The Triduum is the summit of the Church’s liturgical year. Father Landry said celebrating the Triduum is essential to living a good Lent.

“If our Lent preparation is going to do its thing, then it’s going to help us live a truly holy Triduum as the most important time of the year,” Father Landry said. “It can make us holy by keeping us very close to Christ throughout the most important events in our salvation.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Set season ablaze with missionary spirit – and flavor of faith

Ancient man’s introduction to fire was likely a brush fire set by lightning. After watching animals eat flesh of other animals trapped and burned in the fire, man sampled the roasted meat and found it tasty. Once he harnessed fire, man duplicated the roasting method by throwing small animals into flames for dinner. Hunters around a campfire might easily have pierced a chunk of meat with their spear, thrust it into the flames, and spit-roasting was born.

Fire and cooking catapulted the concept of taste along with nutrition. The late anthropologist Carleton Coon stated that cooking was, “the decisive factor in leading man from a [rudimentary] existence into one that was more fully human.” Heat when applied to food broke down fiber, released proteins and carbohydrates, and transformed inedible foods, such as tough or toxic roots and tubers, into edible, nutritious forms. Cooking meat killed bacteria, reducing food-borne illnesses. Cooking allowed man to consume higher-quality nutrients, resulting in healthier, stronger, smarter people.

Fire revolutionized humanity, forever distinguishing men from animals and was a giant step toward civilization. Communal fires brought people together to socialize. Language, communication, planning and organization evolved around the evening fire. Eventually storytelling, the harbinger of recorded history, was ablaze as well.

Reflective of the Easter season are the “tongues as of fire” which rested on each Apostle at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descended upon these believers directing their missionary efforts throughout the world. St. Catherine of Siena believed, “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze.” May the Holy Spirit ignite our souls that we, too, may be ablaze to spread the truth of God to men of every tongue and nation. 

CHEF JOHN D. FOLSE is an entrepreneur with interests ranging from restaurant development to food manufacturing, catering to culinary education. A cradle Catholic, he supports many Catholic organizations, including the Sister Dulce Ministry at Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, LA.

MICHAELA D. YORK is vice president of communications for John Folse & Company.


Roasted Rack of Lamb • prep time: 1 hour • Serves 6-8

Most lamb is sold frenched (with part of rib bones exposed). In this dish, lamb is seasoned with herbs and garlic to enhance the flavor. This recipe can be prepared in the oven, fireplace, or outdoor rotisserie.

2 racks of lamb, frenched
2 tsps chopped rosemary
2 tsps thyme leaves
2 tsps chopped tarragon
2 tsps chopped basil
1 tbsp minced garlic
salt and black pepper to taste
granulated garlic to taste
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbsps Dijon mustard
¼ cup fresh bread crumbs, divided
¾ cup pinot noir
1 cup prepared demi-glace

NOTE: Prepared demi-glace may be purchased in the meat section of most upscale grocery stores. Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine rosemary, thyme, tarragon, basil, and minced garlic in small bowl. Season with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Rub lamb well with herb-garlic mixture; set aside. In 10-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté lamb racks, bone-side down, 3–5 minutes, taking care not to move lamb racks while cooking to keep herb and garlic seasoning in place. Turn lamb racks over and sauté additional 3–5 minutes. Place skillet with lamb racks, bone-side up, in oven and roast 15 minutes. Remove lamb racks from oven. Using a pastry brush, brush each rack with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and top with an equal portion of bread crumbs. Return lamb racks to oven, bone-side down, and bake 7–10 minutes or until lightly browned and thermometer inserted into the meat registers 128°F for medium-rare. Remove lamb racks from skillet, place on a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil 10–15 minutes for juices to redistribute. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil from skillet. Deglaze skillet with pinot noir; reduce volume to half. Add prepared demi-glace and bring mixture to simmer, stirring constantly to incorporate well into the wine reduction. Season well using salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. To serve, slice into individual lamb chops, place onto platter, and top with sauce. NOTE: If cooking the lamb racks in a fireplace or outdoor rotisserie, eliminate placing the racks in the oven. Once the lamb is roasted to your liking, brush with Dijon mustard and bread crumbs. Cook an additional 5–7 minutes or until bread crumbs are lightly toasted.

Enhance Easter feast with spring’s primavera

Primavera! Spring! Land that has lain bare and dormant during winter is coming alive. The winter season, mirroring the liturgical season of Lent, is giving way to the beauty of spring — bursting forth into new life as we celebrate the Easter season!

God gifted us with these seasons. “Then God said: Let the earth bring forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it. … Then God said: Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the seasons, the days and the years.” (Genesis 1: 11-12; 14-15)

In Italy, my birthplace, the season of spring is a special time. For farmers, it marks a new beginning – soil that was barren and tilled during the fall and winter, is ready to regenerate. My favorite farmer, my mother, says the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, is one of the biggest planting days of the year. Seeds of all sorts are planted, many ready for harvest within weeks. But some, like tomatoes, are harvested months later.

Nature mirrors the mighty plan of God. At the Annunciation, God becomes man — the seed planted in the womb of the Virgin Mary; nurtured and grown, to be born some nine months later, to become the Bread of Life!

In springtime some of the best pasta dishes are enjoyed in Italy. Fresh, seasonal spring vegetables, served with some of the world’s most flavorful pasta artigianale (artisan pasta), make a perfect Pasta Primavera dish. There is a village near my hometown, along the southern foot of Mount Vesuvius, called Torre Annunziata. It is famous for its “macaroni” production — macaroni referring to all types of pasta. Like so many Italian towns, Torre Annunziata is named after a church, one dedicated to the Virgin of the Annunciation.

When I was a kid, I believed all saints, including the Virgin Mary, were Italian. All their names were Italian (Santa Maria, San Giuseppe, San Pietro, etc.); the pope lived in Italy; and every city had a saint’s remains buried in its church. I was eventually disappointed to learn about my misinterpretation, but I probably wasn’t the first Italian to think Italians invented half the world.

The mild climate of Torre Annunziata, created by the sea on one side and Mount Vesuvius on the other, makes it the perfect place for producing pasta. Pasta is best when subjected to a long, slow drying process in warm (but not too warm) temperatures. Torre Annunziata pasta is hung from bamboo sticks outside to dry in the sea wind, which can take up to five days. The result is a pasta so perfect in texture and taste you’ll understand why Italians eat it with almost every meal.

You can pair any vegetable – fresh, sautéed, or any cooking style –with your favorite pasta to make a scrumptious, rustic Pasta Primavera dish. Happy Easter – Buona Pasqua!

CHEF NEIL FUSCO is founder of Cucina Antica Foods, Corp., a specialty Italian food-products company. Raised on a farm in San Marzano in southern Italy, he learned his family’s production and cooking with the renowned San Marzano tomatoes they’ve grown there since the 1800s. His newly released cookbook is “The Main Ingredient,” with amusing and heartfelt stories about faith, family and recipes from his childhood in southern Italy.

Rustic Pasta Primavera

Serves: 4


25 ounces Cucina Antica® Tomato Basil cooking sauce
Italian imported fusilli pasta (cooked and drained)
1 medium yellow squash cut in 1/2 inch squares
1 medium zucchini cut in 1/2 inch squares
½ lb of fresh mushrooms quartered
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped


In a 10” sauté pan on medium heat add olive oil, squash, mushrooms, and zucchini. Sprinkle with salt. Sauté until you have achieved a soft but crunchy consistency.

Add 25oz Cucina Antica® Tomato Basil cooking sauce and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Simmer approx 2 minutes.

Take approx ½ cup of the sauce and mix with cooked pasta.

Plate pasta and top evenly with the remaining sauce and vegetables. Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese and basil evenly and serve immediately.

The Resurrection: Hope for a fallen world

The battle of good-versus-evil has been going on ever since Eve ate the fruit in Eden. In our day, the culture war is reaching a fever pitch as we battle over the next Supreme Court Justice and president of the United States.


Patrick Novecosky

If you comb the headlines like I do, you’ve probably been scratching your head for years (if not decades) wondering, “What in the world are people thinking!?” Canada is legalizing assisted suicide, possibly even for teenagers (click for related story). The federal government is picking on an order of nuns (click for related story). And some of those seeking the highest office in the land are acting like juveniles.

How did it come to this? Has our culture devolved or is it just that the 24-hour news cycle allows us to be informed of every un-newsworthy incident? It’s both. But it’s deeper than that. Here’s my theory: When a person, a community, a culture or a nation separates itself from God, then logic, reason and truth become irrelevant.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). Catholic teaching is clear that the fullness of truth resides in the Church because Jesus is Truth itself. So when our culture tells God that He is irrelevant or “dead” (click for related story), then we are quite literally on our own. We become the arbiter of truth. That’s a mighty big load, and none of us can carry it because we are not God. As a result, a whole host of errors — plainly obvious to faithful Christians — become part of the culture.

Saint Paul warned about this when he wrote to Timothy: “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths” (2 Tim 4:3-4).

Sadly, the time he warned about is here. We need to remember that bringing logic, reason and truth to the table is only part of our duty as faithful Catholics. Prayer is essential. Actually, prayer must come first. Sin causes confusion in the hearts of sinners (all of us). Prayer helps sweep away the spiritual cobwebs. We need to have that constant lifeline to Jesus.

If we have any hope of turning the culture to Christ, we must embrace prayer and fasting — after the feasting of Easter is through, of course. We must take the lessons we learned during Lent and turn them into resolutions to be saints in an era that begs for saints.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

The battle for souls

Editor Patrick Novecosky writes that the time has come for fearless Catholicism . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

If there’s one thing that Lent and this Easter season has reminded me of, it’s that we’re at war. We’re in the thick of a battle for souls, and our eternal destination is one of two places.

Scripture and Church teaching are clear that heaven and hell are real — and that all souls in purgatory are destined for heaven. There’s nothing new in this. The battle for souls has been going on since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. However, it seems we’ve forgotten about the battle. In the comfort of our modern world, it’s easy to forget that 3,400 children are murdered via surgical abortion every single day in America. It’s easy to forget that the multi-billion-dollar porn industry is destroying marriages and warping people’s sense of reality. It’s easy to forget that Christian values are under assault from our own government.

Sen. Rick Santorum reminded Legates at the annual Summit last February that secularists are relentless in their efforts to change the culture, to remove every vestige of God and faith from the public square. Christians, he said, seem to have surrendered without a fight in the culture wars. His point is that we need to be equally relentless in our efforts to win back the culture — and, similarly, we need to be relentless in our efforts to win souls for Christ.

Legatus is the perfect venue for business leaders and their spouses to be formed for battle. As you know, Legatus exists to help its members “learn, live and spread the Catholic faith.” Formation happens at monthly chapter events, at our conferences and pilgrimages, and through this magazine. But that formation needs to be rooted in each member’s personal prayer and friendship with Jesus Christ. Without those roots, sunk deep into fertile soil, the culture will rip us out of the ground and blow us away like a tumbleweed rolling across the desert.

Post-Christian America is rarely friendly to those who take their faith seriously. In 2012, Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky said, “We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead be Catholics by conviction. In our own families, in our parishes, where we live and where we work … we must be bold witnesses to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We must be a fearless army of Catholic men, ready to give everything we have for the Lord, who gave everything for our salvation.” (Read the entire homily.)

Legatus members are on the front lines of this battle for souls, where every person we encounter has an eternal destiny. Let’s do all we can to get to heaven and take as many people with us as possible.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.