Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said: “Lent is a time of conversion and penance and a favorable time to rediscover faith in God as the criterion of our life, and the life of the church.” Rediscovering, as in growing in our faith, is a life-long journey. Each year, our dear Catholic Church gives us this opportunity during the Lenten season.
It is the customary work of sacrificing, that of giving something up during the Lenten season, that strengthens and disciplines our will so that we are not slaves to pleasure, whether it be material or otherwise. Sacrifice and prayer are key to building good habits, better known as virtues. Good habits are built and developed by disciplining the will. Denying yourself unsinful pleasures (such as not having your favorite pasta dish), will help discipline your will so when the time comes to combat temptations of sinful pleasures you will have the courage and spiritual strength to potentially make the right choice.
Lent is the perfect time for disciplining our will. Most would agree that at times, though we know right from wrong, we use our God-given free will to choose the wrong or evil that we did not intend. St. Paul the Apostle provides an excellent example illustrating this point in Romans 7:19 when he says: “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” Read the rest of Romans 7 for more. St. Paul, one of the most brilliant Scripture writers, humbly acknowledges the power of the human will.
Blessed John Duns Scotus (14th c.) writes that of the two faculties, he places primacy on a person’s free will over his intellect. This scholarly Franciscan friar, teacher at both Oxford and Cambridge, known as the “Subtle Doctor,” explains that just because one has knowledge of right and wrong, it does not guarantee one’s choosing rightly. Accepting that at times our will reigns over our intellect, it is essential to train and discipline our will in good habits, thus turning them into virtues, which strengthen us to opt for the good.
Our goal for Lent should be to strengthen our prayer life, and engage sacrifice (mortification of our will). Self-denial helps build good habits in making sound choices in this life, clearing the path for our worthiness in the next.
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’d grown there since the 1800s. His newly released cookbook is May Love Be the Main Ingredient at Your Table (2017), with amusing and heartfelt stories about faith, family, and recipes from his Old World childhood.
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe • Serves 4-6
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add chopped broccoli rabe, cover to return to boil. Once boiling, uncover and let boil for 5 more minutes. Drain broccoli rabe into a colander over a bowl, reserving all water.
In a large sauté pan, combine oil, garlic, and red pepper over medium heat. When browned, add blanched broccoli rabe with ¼ cup of reserved water. Stir to coat.
Cover the pan and cook for 15 to 20 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally until broccoli rabe becomes creamy. In a separate pot, boil orecchiette in remaining broccoli water. When al dente, drain pasta and add to the broccoli rabe.
Toss and serve with Pecorino Romano cheese.