When the Church celebrates the mystery of Christ,
there is a word which marks her prayer:

Catechism #1165

There is no doubt that St. Francis and St. Clare were TODAY! saints. The early sources liken their spiritual pilgrimage to a race, well-run and won. Perhaps that is why, with their eyes fixed firmly on Jesus, our Guide and our Goal, they entered so joyfully into

the solemn forty days of Lent (during which) the Church unites herself
each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.

Catechism #540

These happy penitents understood, as few have, that the Church’s prescribed days of fasting and abstinence ensure times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.
Catechism #2043

Few can look at Francis, fiddling with two sticks and singing of the love of God, wandering through the woods weeping that LOVE IS NOT LOVED! and not recognize a heart made free by penance and asceticism. We need only read the testimonies of the Sisters who lived with St. Clare to be assured that a life spent in penance for the sins of the world produced a woman radiating joy and peace to all who knew her. They understood that a free heart is a giving heart, one that rejoices to offer the Lord its sacrifice of love and praise.  The saints of Assisi would be the first to endorse the Church’s designation of Lent as

time particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises,
penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as a sign of penance,
voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving,
and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works.)

Catechism #1438

In the forty TODAYS of Lent, let us look to St. Francis and St. Clare, experts in the art of joyful, Christ-centered penance. Let us see with the eyes of faith that the purpose of self-denial is to turn us more fully to God, the source of all forgiveness and love. Let us learn from them the secret of the happy penitent who knows that

Taking up one’s Cross each day and following Jesus
is the surest way of penance.

Catechism #1435

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