“Lent helps us change for the good, for the better, for the best”

St. Joseph’s to observe ’24 Hours for the Lord’

By Laurie Schlatter
Citizen Chronicle Writer

CHARLTON — In a conversation reflecting the tides of life, the Rev. Robert Grattaroti, who goes by Father Bob, is both patient and exuberant, solemn and animated in explaining the practices of the Lenten season and the significance of “24 Hours for the Lord,” which begins with Mass at 8:30 tomorrow morning in St. Joseph’s Church, 10 H. Putnam Road.

St. Joseph’s is one of four Worcester Diocese parishes designated in Bishop Robert J. McManus to fulfill the direction of Pope Francis that Roman Catholic churches around the world are to observe “24 Hours for the Lord” March 9-10 as part of the Lenten season. Lent, which is about 40 days of prayer and fasting, began on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, and continues through Holy (Maundy) Thursday, March 29, and will
culminate with Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday April 1.

The other three churches that will also be open Friday, March 9, through Saturday, March 10, are Christ the King in Worcester, St. Roch in Oxford and Holy Spirit Chapel in Gardner. Morning Masses will bookend the 24 hours, when each church will be open for Eucharistic adoration (veneration and worship of the Lord) and the sacrament of reconciliation (confession).

After Friday morning Mass, St. Joseph’s observances will include the chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3 p.m., Stations of the Cross at 7 p.m., with benediction at 8:45 a.m. Saturday before Mass at 9 a.m.

Providing a basic primer on Roman Catholic practices, Father Bob said, “Eucharistic adoration is not the Mass. The Mass is a sacrifice of the
Lord’s Supper, where the priest takes bread and wine and offers it up to the Father and says (the words of Jesus), ‘This is my body, this is my blood,’ and people come and receive Holy Communion within the forms of bread and wine. Eucharistic adoration is an extension of that, in the sense that the host or the bread that is consecrated is put into a sacred vessel, because we believe that in that bread is really God present in the person of Jesus. So we put in a vessel called a monstrance, put it on the altar, there’s usually a candles and sometimes flowers, and people will come and just praise God, worship God present in the Eucharist.”

The chaplet of Divine Mercy is a sequence of prayers based on the rosary that seeks God’s mercy. The Stations of the Cross begin with the
condemnation of Jesus by Pontius Pilate and end with his burial. They “are part of the Paschal Mystery,” Father Bob said. “Paschal is a Greek word meaning Easter. Paschal Mystery comprises the moments of the Last Supper, Jesus’ arrest, condemnation, trial and crucifixion, and his resurrection on the third day. He breaks the bonds of sin and death by his death on the Cross. So the Paschal Mystery is the passion (suffering), death and resurrection of the Lord.”

What does the season of Lent represent to the Christian community generally and the Roman Catholic community specifically?

“To the Christian community, it is a time set apart, as it would be for the Catholic community. It’s taken from an old English word which means that the days are lengthening. Before we get into summer and right after winter, we just take a time to catch our spiritual breaths and look at our whole lives and the life of Jesus our Savior and see how they fit. We get into the pattern of the mystery of his life, which was certainly to bring the gospel of Good News, but also to live a human life in terms of ups and downs and frustrations as well as loves and so forth, and together a church, a community. In the process he came to forgive us and free us of our sins.

“Now that might sound rather interesting — what is he talking about? or what do we mean by that? Well, look around. Any newspaper or any internet, any TV series, whatever, will have something or somebody killing somebody; some are hating somebody; somebody sinned — I don’t know how we want to use that word — but he came to take that away and offer it to the Father so that he could recall us to our original dignity as children of God. And Jesus did it in his own person, his own flesh. He was the victim of hatred. He was the victim of jealousy. He was the victim of scorn. He became the object of shame, the object of ridicule. So that when we experience those things, he took them upon himself to liberate us. It doesn’t mean that we are free of them in this life. It means that we have a Savior we can call on when we go through them.”

To strengthen and empower us?

“Absolutely, yes. And I think that’s for the whole world — the Christian world and the non-Christian world — because my belief is that Jesus in his passion, death and resurrection really redeemed the whole world, everyone, whether we believe in him or not, whether we call on different gods or not. He is the creator of all. I believe that. I hope that gives some definition to what you were asking.”

It does. I didn’t hear you say, well, specifically to the Roman Catholic Church, this is what we believe that is different from the general Christian community.

“In the Roman Catholic Church, we enter into specific forms of mortification and fasting and prayer and almsgiving. For example, people who are between the ages of 18 or so to 62 are called upon to fast, to minimize your eating, if you will, called upon to abstain from eating meat on Fridays. It’s kind of a love offering. For example, a husband loves a wife, will buy her a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers. He has to spend something to do that. So something is going out of him in order to give to his wife. That’s what mortification and fasting is: Something goes out of us in order to be connected with our God, with our Savior Jesus. We give up something and so forth. There’s a cost and it’s a love cost. ‘I don’t mind spending $50 for a bouquet of flowers. I don’t mind making that trip because I want to see my friend.’ But it’s costing me something and that’s the basis of it. It’s based on love.

“Now if it’s based on, ‘Oh, I can’t wait for Lent to be over…’ I used to smoke cigarettes years and years ago, and I gave them up for Lent. It was a nightmare. It was awful. And I would say ‘Sunday isn’t Lent,’ so I would smoke all day Sunday. Then Monday would come around and I would say, ‘I’ve got another six days to wait.’

“What was happening is the focus wasn’t on God so much as it was on myself. And then there was another time when I gave them up forever and I never missed them. So it’s amazing how we change. And of course, life is change. If change is for the good, that’s great. Lent helps us change for the good, for the better, for the best.”

What is the message or relevance of the season Lent to the lapsed Catholic or to the simply curious?

“It is going to be a reminder of mortification if people want to take it on. For example, various places, churches will advertise fish fries during Lent. People are lapsed for a reason; it’d be great to get to the bottom of it. Some people that I know who had been very fervent, for one reason or another, just lapsed and fallen away. It’s unfortunate, but God still loves them. God still saves us, God still loves us. And when we get connected to that love, we change. When someone gives you a gift, something happens to you: Right away there is a response, when you know that you’ve been given a gift, a love gift, a life gift, whatever it might be. Who knows why? Life is like the tides. There’s high tide and low tide. Like the changing of the moon — a full moon, half moon, new moon — life is like that. In all of that, there is a constant, and the constant is God’s love, God’s care, God’s mercy. Hopefully we tap into that constant every so often, even lapsed, even non-believers.”

So does Lent offer an opportunity to tap into that constant?

“Oh, yes, yes, of course! I remember a song that’s gonna date me, but I’m sometimes just haunted by that song: ‘What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live? What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie? Are we meant to take more than we give? Or are we meant to be kind? And if only fools are kind, Alfie, then I guess it is wise to be cruel.’ Wow, what a powerful song that is. It comes from that movie (by the same name, 1966.)

“I think there is a message in that song: Let your heart lead the way. Let your heart lead the way. Some people have hurt hearts, wounded hearts.

They’ve got wounded psyches. I think of that poor kid in Florida: Did anybody love that kid? Did anybody try to get into his scope, his life, his
arena, to say, ‘You are valuable. You don’t have to kill. You don’t have to destroy.’”

You’re talking about the young man charged with the 17 murders?

“Yeah. Did anybody ever love him and say ‘You’re valued.’ I know a family took him in. They didn’t even know him. So we get into the workaday world, the bumps and grinds of life, without sometimes even knowing who we have under our roof. It’s too bad. If he knew he was loved, accepted, cherished, would he have done that? I don’t know.”

I like to think not.

“I hope not. … One of the things that is so very, very important is that we are all children of God, and that he loves us all and that Jesus came into the world to save us all, everybody.”

I have a notecard that I keep posted in the kitchen that says, “In essential things, unity; in dubious things, liberty; but in all things, charity,” (attributed to Meldinius, 1627.)

“Pope John XXIII used to always quote that. I’ll never forget it. I was a seminarian in Rome when he was Pope. He also used to always (say), If I have to live my life and I come to situations where I have to make a decision, and one decision is I can be strict and follow the rules, or be kind and just bend a little bit, be kind and bend a little bit. He was my mentor. I loved him. That was the influence on me when I was growing up, as a young seminarian in Rome.” (Father Bob, a Leominster native and graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, was ordained in 1962 with a degree in sacred theology from the Gregorian University in Rome.)

“All I’m saying is, here’s the gift, here’s the gift. Some people find the treasure, some people don’t. In all of it, he loves us.

“We observe Lent with ashes to remind us we’re mortal. And ashes are a symbol: You’re mortal. You’re gonna die. In other words, you think you’re hoity-toity and you’ve got all this wealth and you’ve got all this power. Hey, you’re gonna be in a box some day. So it cuts you down to size. So it’s a reminder we’re all co-equal, and it’s also to remind us that Jesus raised us from the ashes to the glory of new life, because we’re going to rise from the dead. And Jesus is coming again! I can’t wait! The sooner the better!”

The Worcester Diocese said information about the churches’ observances during Lent and 24 Hours for the Lord is available on their websites. Visit www.worcesterdiocese.org for more information.


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