FAST and feed the hungry.
This was the call of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle to the Catholic faithful who will mark the beginning of Lent today, Ash Wednesday.
Today, priests will smear the foreheads of their flocks with ashes in the sign of the cross while saying, “Dust you are and to dust you are returned.”
The ashes will come from burned old palms used in last year’s celebration of Palm Sunday, which is part of the 40-day Lent.
According to the Church, the ritual is associated with repentance and serves as a reaffirmation of faith.
It is also a way for Catholics to be Christ-like and to seek forgiveness for their sins.
Tagle said Catholics can mark Lent by fasting and doing acts of charity.
He noted that the start of Lent is a reminder of the greatness of God and his eternal love to his people.
“Sa napakagandang balita, ang Diyos lumalapit sa mga makasalanan. Sa halip na layuan ang mga nagkasala sa kanya, tumalikod sa kanya, ang Diyos natin sa isang mahiwaga at misteryosong paraan ay siya pa ang lumalapit [A beautiful gesture, it is God who reaches out to sinners. Instead of Him shunning those who had sinned against Him, who had turned their backs on Him, God, in his magical and mysterious way, is the one who approaches us]” Tagle said.
The prelate asked the faithful to feed hungry children through Fast2Feed, the Hapag-Asa Feeding program of Pondo ng Pinoy of the Archdiocese of Manila and its suffragan dioceses.
The program provides supplemental feeding and early education to children as well as livelihood and skills training for their parents.
Last year, the cardinal said, donations provided more than 21,000 malnourished and undernourished children in the Pondo ng Pinoy member dioceses with warm and nutritious meals every day for six months.
The program’s goal for this year is to feed 25,000 children.
The Fast2Feed program asks people to fast and donate the money that would otherwise be spent for food to Hapag-Asa.
Donations can be made through Fast2Feed envelopes distributed in parishes, and the envelopes may be offered during Mass, or turned over to the parish office.
Donors may also deposit their donations in designated banks.
“Lent should be a particular occasion to heed Pope Francis’ call to practice mercy through concrete acts of charity,” Tagle said.
“It only takes P1,200 or P10 a day to bring back a hungry and malnourished child to a healthy state in six months,” he noted.