Metro Detroiters ready for holy season of Lent

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Jim Wilson calls the holy season of Lent “one of the most significant, if not the most significant” in the whole year.

Starting today, Ash Wednesday, and running through Easter on April 5, the Royal Oak resident and other Christians in Metro Detroit as well as worldwide are focused on praying, fasting and alms-giving while recalling the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

That’s why Wilson is preparing to attend Mass frequently and ask God to protect Christians persecuted abroad.

“The time of Lent, preparing for Easter, is a time for deepening my involvement with my faith and drawing closer to Christ,” he said. “I find the whole period of Lent a rejuvenating experience. It’s a great time for renewal.”

The spiritual restoration and contemplation heightens the 40 days of Lent, which gives worshipers “a chance to get back to basics,” said Monsignor Gary Smetanka, pastor at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Grosse Pointe Woods. “Being drawn back to prayer and fasting and alms giving — the three pillars of the Lenten season — we’re recalling our need for repentance of sins and sharing what we do have, all in preparation and anticipation of celebrating Easter and the dying and rising of Jesus Christ.”

That reminder begins during Ash Wednesday services, when parishioners receive ashes in the sign of the cross on their foreheads to demonstrate humility and penitence as well as acknowledge mortality.

“This is very, very important to people,” said the Rev. June Marshall Smith of Novi United Methodist Church, which also has a drive-through service.

Many followers also abstain from some activities in a bid to sharpen their spiritual focus.

“We fast from material things so we can hunger for heaven, increase our prayer life,” said Maurine Dailey, parish catechetical leader at St. Faustina in Warren.

Besides attempting to abandon TV, Gretchen Mena of Troy hopes to give up electronics until her three young children are in bed “so I can be more present with them.” She also plans to pray more and donate to charity.

While doing so might present challenges, she said, the goal is spiritually worthwhile. “We’re reflecting on what the whole purpose of Christ’s coming is — what the sacrifices he made for us were. ... There’s always something we can do to get better and grow in holiness.”

Lent also is the season of initiating newcomers into the Catholic Church. This weekend, there are four “Rite of Election” services at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit during which entrants formally declare their intention.

Among the hundreds set to participate is Keegan Farrell, 32, a father of two from Grosse Pointe Farms.

“It’s a big moment,” he said.

Alexandra Sciturro of Fraser also is officially starting her path this weekend. While that makes this Lent more significant, she anticipates turning her attention to more prayers, activities and spiritual reflection.

“Everyone is just preparing for this time to show how truly grateful they are for the sacrifice Christ made,” she said.

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