Fifth Week of Lent

The Mass and Spiritual Warfare

No one should try to engage in spiritual warfare all alone. It's far too easy to be defeated when you have no backup from your comrades in arms.

That's one reason the Church requires all Catholics to attend Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation. Obviously, the grace we receive directly from Christ at Mass is paramount. But in addition, Jesus gives us graces indirectly through our connection with the Christian community. St. Paul says that "We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:25). We fight the good fight until Christ's return as part of a vast army, and each individual soldier's success is tied to the triumph of the whole.
This means that the people you see around you in the pews are important, but it goes further. We also receive the prayers, encouragement, and support of the unseen hosts of heaven. In the Liturgy of the Word, God speaks to us through the inspired words of the prophets and apostles. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the whole company of saints and angels are present with us, worshiping our Lord together. The saints and angels are specifically mentioned in the Eucharistic prayers to highlight this reality.

The communion of saints is Christ's Body, so closeness with him implies closeness with our brothers and sisters. As the Catechism says, “Since receiving this sacrament strengthens the bonds of charity between the communicant and Christ, it also reinforces the unity of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ" (1416).
Attending Mass with the masses means amassing massive graces!
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.