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Sizzling Faith

Fr Charles Sewava, the director of Radio Maria, is such a storyteller! During his 7pm mass, he often has people cracking up, and reflecting.

He will tell you a story about a priest in Italy who did not like saying mass for old people, because they were so non-responsive and he wasn't used to dealing with old people, and would trick him (Sewava) into saying mass for the old people.

"I said mass for one week, then a month and finally after six months, I told him, Father, you said you would say mass, but I have said it for six months, when will you say mass? He told me that he did not like saying mass for old people because of various reasons," Sewava told his congregation during a March 6 mass.

Priests, clearly, are not spared from sin too and they ask that the faithful pray for them. Pope Francis recently revealed that he goes to confession every two weeks. You should not refrain from getting sacraments from priests because they sin, because during those, such as during confession, they are truly representing God.

Sewava will also tell you about a Christian he found weeping because the former pope had resigned, in 2013.

"The woman was weeping, saying, 'Oh my mother who gave birth to me [Nnyabo omukadde anzaala], what are we going to do without a pope?' Why should you have little faith? God will give us a pope."

He seeks to demonstrate certain points with these stories. With the first, he wanted to demonstrate how Christians can carry others' crosses through simple actions (the day's gospel reading was Luke 9: 22-25, on carrying one's cross if one wants to follow Jesus) and with the second, he wanted to show that the faithful sometimes do not trust in God yet they should.

During the 2013 Lenten period, Sewava told the story of an old Italian lady who loved candy but during Lent, she abstained from it and saved all the money she would have used to buy the candy to pay school fees for some pupils.

"The woman used to tell me, 'Father, I am not rich [to afford to pay people's school fees] but I make this big sacrifice for Lent'," Sewava said on the day he related this story.

And with a story as simple as that, he demonstrated how the congregation could put into practice Jesus' teaching on loving God above everything else and loving one's neighbours as we love ourselves during Lenten period.

Some Christians sacrifice because they love God and they can benefit society by giving to the poor, money they save from making sacrifices. In his sermon on Ash Wednesday, Msgr Gerald Kalumba, the parish priest Christ the King church Kampala, said many people don't fast and what they do is simply postpone meals.

"Your fast is supposed to help others; if you don't eat, you can use that time to meditate, pray for others as well as sacrificing your lunch money to help someone in need," he said.

He said the use of ashes is meant to remind us that we are simple humans that can perish anytime - from dust to dust. He said Christians should not wither and become disfigured because they are fasting.

"Restrain from showing [your] fast to the world; keep it in the heart," he noted.

The Ash Wednesday practice of having one's forehead smeared with ashes has a biblical parallel. The Israelites wore sackcloth and put ashes on their heads as an expression†of mourning in various books of the Bible. On Ash Wednesday, Christians mourn Christ's suffering on the cross and their own sins that made that suffering necessary.

Lent is a period for charity, repentance, humility and embracing poverty. Fr Francis Tebukozza, who celebrated Ash Wednesday mass at St Balikuddembe parish in Makindye, said those who are fasting or performing charitable acts should desist from showing off.

"If you show off, you will have got your reward here [on earth] and won't get the heavenly one," he said.

Godfrey Mutebi, a Catholic faithful, said: "I want to meditate and pray every 4am. I want to understand God and try doing special things for others."

For Michael Ssensuwa, luxuries like TV shows have to go; "I will abstain from all the entertainment shows; the only TV I will watch is news."

But there are a few other things Catholics do that they ought not to be doing:

Eating meat on Fridays

A number of people have limited the "no eating meat on Friday" rule to just beef. But Sewava says chicken and other meats should not be eaten on Fridays.

Sewava says Catholics were barred from eating meat on Friday during Lent so that they could save money which would be put to charitable purposes; beef was expensive then.

Chicken, which is now more expensive, should, therefore, also be abstained from. Fish is eaten on Friday, however, although it is more expensive than beef and chicken.

Failing to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday

Fr (Prof) Peter Neema says Catholics should fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. No meat should be eaten on these days.

Meat (food with blood) is barred on Good Friday because it is the day Jesus poured His blood for Christians' salvation; as a marker of respect for His blood, Catholics don't eat meat on Good Friday.

Stopping fasting before Holy Saturday

Neema says Lent ends at the celebration of the night-time mass on Holy Saturday, not on Palm Sunday as some Christians think.

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