Homily of Fr Casimir from Fatima Day

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At our Fatima Day on the 13th of February, Fr Casimir Zielinski, assistant priest at St. Gertrude’s Smithfield and Doctor of Canon Law, gave a homily on Lent. By popular demand, here is a copy of it below:

Dear Fathers, dear Brothers and Sisters,

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the start of the most sacred Lenten Season in preparation for the joyful Easter day, the Paschal Feast of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today is known as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday in the English world. Today is the final day before Lent, where traditionally eggs, flour and milk were used up before Catholics gave them up for the duration of Lent. In some cultures, Today is the end of Carnivale or Mardi gras, the last parties and feasts before the start of the great fast.

 In the Old Latin Mass, the faithful were already preparing themselves for Lent by the observance of Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima Sunday, that is, the 70th, the 60th  and the 50th before the start of Quadragesima, the Latin name for lent, meaning the 40 days. The term Lent comes from the shortened form of the Old English word lencten, meaning “spring season.” In the Northern Hemisphere, Lent marks the beginnings of spring, where easter joy flourishes along with the joy of full spring. Alas, we in the southern hemisphere experience a lent that grows ever colder and darker.

Today, dear brothers and sisters, you have come on pilgrimage to Penrose Park to honour Our Lady of Fatima and to prepare yourselves by pilgrimage for the spiritual pilgrimage of lent. Today, I propose like to help you do this by preaching about the season of Lent and its main activities: Penance, Fasting, Almsgiving and Prayer. 


In the Roman Church, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. It does so to incorporate a few more days into Lent, to make it 40 days, excluding Sundays to the celebration of Easter Sunday. Lent is 40 days. The number 40 is biblically important. It was 40 years that the chosen people spent in the desert, wandering out of the slavery of Egypt and into the Promised Land. These 40 years were not an exercise in being lost; instead, it was a journey of preparation for the promised Land. So, too, the 40 days of Lent are a journey and a preparation for Easter.

Although it took the chosen people a night to leave Egypt, it took 40 years for Egypt to leave the chosen people. Here, we see an important lesson about Lent and more so about Conversion. Just because we confess our sins once and are done with them doesn’t mean the Sin is done with us. Conversion and Confession are not like the flipping of a switch. On one moment and off the next. Every Sin we commit, every Bad habit we build, every vice we acquire becomes a part of us. Just like the chosen people, we can leave Sin in a moment, confess, and in an instant that Sin is forgiven, but its effects take some time to leave us. The worship of other gods and marital infidelity of the chosen people were rooted out and fought against for not only 40 years but also until the end of the Jewish Kingdom. Sin is a reality that is a part of our lives, an unfortunate and tragic part of our lives.

The liturgical period of Lent is a time for us to take a good hard look at ourselves and redouble our efforts. The Church gives us 40 days annually to do a stocktake of our spiritual lives, relationships, relationship with God and sinfulness. Lent is a favoured time for Confession. When they come to Confession, many people have a laundry list of sins. People who confess regularly know themselves enough to see that they are their most common sins. As monks, as religious, we are trained to examine conscience twice a day, once after lunch and once before bed. This doesn’t take very long because it happens twice a day, every day. Through these examinations, we come to know ourselves and our sinfulness. Because we are human and all different, with different temperaments and characters, we are all inclined towards different and specific sins.

Some people are naturally fiery and can fly into rages quickly. Some people are melancholic and can fall into lazy ruts very easily. Some of us have built habits of overeating or drinking, and thus, gluttony and drunkenness become easy to fall into. We all live in an over-sexualised environment, where summoning up a naked woman in our imaginations is just as easy as googling her. Thus, many are inclined towards the Sin of pornography. With all this, it is easy to build a list of sins we are inclined to commit which we are particularly weak to. Lent is a time to examine our conscience and our lives a little deeper, to make a list, and to check it twice. Coming to Confession should be something we prepare for. When we kneel down in the confessional, we need to say when our last Confession was, and then we need to say our sins honestly and plainly. We need to be prepared to do this. We should be happy that we confess the same old sins over and over again. We should be sad if we do not know ourselves enough that we cannot identify our sins that we commit time and time again. We should be terrified if our sins develop and get worse. When we confess our sins, the Priest, in the name of God, not only forgives us our sins but also assigns us penance; this penance is to make amends for our sins.


Penace is not a popular topic amongst modern Christians. Christianity, for many, is a religion of peace and love, of pacificist hippies, rainbows, and of Jesus riding a pony. This is far from the truth. Christianity is a religion of Conversion, hardship, and suffering. The journey to Easter is the way of the Cross. Our Lord prepared for his public ministry by a life of work and honest labour. He began his public ministry by spending 40 days in the desert. His ministry was filled with hardship and penance, and finally, his passion and death on the Cross was certainly no picnic.

In his Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini concerning fasting and abstinence in the Church, St. Paul VI states that: By divine law all the faithful are required to do penance Moreover, the Code of Canon Law says this about penance:

Can. 1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.      

Penance is not something that the Church invented; it is not something that a bunch of men in pointy hats invented for poor Christians to do. What is Penance? Penance is the means of hardship to Christian Conversion. Much like athletes going into strict training and giving up luxuries,[1] so too are Christians called to work hard to lay aside Sin and accept grace. Penance expresses an interior conversion to God by external works. Our Lord tells us in the Gospel according to Luke: I tell you, No; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Penance is putting repentance into action. Penance is also an act of justice because it seeks to repair the damage, we have done by our sins to ourselves and society and is reparation for offending God. Lent is a period of penance, a time when we need to take the obligation of doing penance seriously. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:

301. What forms does penance take in the Christian Life:

Penance can be expressed in many and various ways, but above all in fasting prayer and almsgiving. These and many other forms of penance can be practiced in the daily life of a Christian, particularly during the time of lent and on the penitential day of Friday.


Almsgiving is perhaps the most accessible form of penance to understand. Almsgiving consists of giving away material things. The best example of Almsgiving is giving freely to a noble cause, such as a charity, the poor or for the upkeeping of the clergy and the Church. In almsgiving, we give what we have extra or something that will make our lives a little more difficult. Almsgiving is giving away that extra 5 dollars we have for coffee or the money we have to go out to a restaurant in order to give it where it will do more good. How does this form of penance help us? Firstly, it takes away an opportunity for Sin and waste. It is effortless to waste money, food and time. Using these things to sin rather than do something good is also easy. Secondly, by giving things away, we gain more room in our lives for better things. Almsgiving is difficult because we love what we have. We love our time, things, and our money. By giving alms, we train ourselves to love better things more, be it our family, friends, neighbours, or, ultimately, God. This Lent, we can give to charity, to our parishes, or we can give our time. We can volunteer to help with a working bee. We can spend more time with our family, particularly the elderly. Almsgiving is about things; Fasting is about food and drink.


Two great things drive people: food and sex. Food helps us stay alive, and sex allows others to come to life. These are the two most vital impulses we have. Both things are great in moderation. Three meals a day keep us happy and healthy, whilst sex in marriage helps populate the earth. Both things are natural and good, but they can quickly get out of control. I need not explain the dangers of sexual licentiousness, but it is all too easy to forget that overeating is a problem, too. Both things connect us with the earth and the world. Eating and drinking too much weight down the soul.

The Desert Fathers were keen on Fasting, not because they wanted to lose some weight, but because they didn’t want to be weighed down. Food gives us energy, energy to work and pray. Too much food does the opposite. It takes away our energy, it makes us want to sleep, and prayer becomes too difficult and uncomfortable. For that reason, the Church requires us to fast one hour before receiving communion, we need to be hungry for Jesus and not fighting off a siesta. 

Fasting like almsgiving, set our sight on things of the world to come on the bread of life and not the tip-top wonder white bread. By Fasting, we gain self-control. If I can say no to another doughnut, I can say no to a sin. If I can say no to another chip, I can say yes to another prayer.

The Church, under pain of Sin, orders her children to fast on two days of the year, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. She doesn’t impose a harsh burden. In his Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini, St. Paul VI says: The law of Fasting allows only one full meal a day but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom. The Church requires us to fast two days a year and have only one full meal on those days, but we can also have two small snacks. Note, well, brothers and sisters, this is what the Church requires of us, but she does encourage us to fast more. Many people confuse Fasting and abstinence. Fasting is from all food and drink. Abstinence is not eating meat. St. Paul VI says this about abstinence: The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat. Good Friday and Ash Wednesday are days of Fasting and Abstinence, so only one meal and two snacks are allowed, but no meat.

In Australia, we are not required to abstain from meat every Friday, but if we do eat meat on a Friday, we are bound to do some other form of penance. In the Archdiocese of Sydney, his Grace Archbishop Anthony Fisher issued an instruction explaining how this all works. Let me read it to you:


2. On all other Fridays of the year including the Fridays of Lent, the law of the common practice of penance is fulfilled by performing any one of the following:

(a) prayer – for example, Mass attendance; family prayer; a visit to a church or chapel; reading the Bible; making the Stations of the Cross; praying the rosary.

(b) self-denial – for example, not eating meat; not eating sweets or dessert; giving up entertainment to spend time with the family; limiting food and drink so as to give to the poor of one’s own country; limiting use of social media, smart phones or television.

(c) helping others – for example, special attention to someone who is poor, sick, elderly, lonely or overburdened.

This is a good explanation and a good reminder. Lent is the time of Penance par excellence, but each Friday of the year is a day of penance. Dear Brothers and Sisters, we need to do penance because that is what Jesus wants and because it helps us pray to him.


Pope Francis has proclaimed this year a year of prayer to prepare for the 2025 year of Jubilee. Prayer is the name of the game. Praying is what we need to do. Penance, Almsgiving and Fasting help us to pray. These practices remove the things that bind us to the earth, food, and things, allowing us to reach the heavens in prayer. We often cannot pray well because we are thinking of our money, sitting in our comfy chairs and digesting the sumptuous meal we just ate. All these things latch us to the ground and connect us to this world. In this way, our prayer becomes heavy, difficult and shallow. By Fasting, we make our souls lighter so that we can fly to God. By almsgiving, we let go of the things in our hands so that God may fill them with better things. By Penace, we make up for our sins.

Today, Dear Brothers and Sisters, you have come on a pilgrimage. Pilgrimages are penitential. You give up your time, you give up your money, be it on petrol or as a donation to the shrine. Many of you don’t eat as well as you would at home. Some of you even fast. Most certainly, you have all come here to pray. Many of you have come here to Confess your sins. This is the best preparation you can have for Lent. Our Lady, when she appeared in Fatima, told the children of Fatima, “Pray, pray much, and sacrifice for sinners, for many souls go to hell because there is no one to sacrifice and pray for them Our Lady at Fatima asked us to pray and do penance. We are all called to do this, so we are here today. Tomorrow, dear brothers and sisters, Let us make the Lenten Fast great again.

Fatima Day

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