My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
The season of Lent is upon us! Each year, I write to you during the season of Lent and speak about the three traditional pillars of Lenten observance; prayer, fasting and almsgiving. I ask you, “What are you doing for Lent?” Your responses vary—you may choose to ‘lift up’ (prayer) our sisters and brothers in need through prayer or perhaps make a special effort to participate in the celebration of Mass during the week or pray the rosary; some of you ‘give up’ (fasting) material things, like chocolate, cigarettes, or alcohol which are superfluous to our basic needs; or you may ‘take up’ (almsgiving) charitable acts to help and care for others.
Christ surrendered himself on the Cross; he forfeited his life that we might live. The pillars of Lenten observance are an opportunity for us to surrender ourselves to God; to refocus on matters of God’s kingdom, not of this earth. If we choose to participate, we journey back to God and truly understand that God’s Word is our fuel; our daily bread; our gift. As followers of Christ, it is not just a matter of knowing what we believe, but also a conversion of heart that our belief becomes our daily living. I encourage you to view the video series available on our Diocesan website titled, “The Way, The Truth and the Life” to help you clarify the Church’s teaching on life, marriage, family, and freedom so that you might live in Christ more fully.
During Lent, we pray with rejoicing for our catechumens, these men and women of faith who will be received into the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday during the Easter Vigil. I will greet the catechumens, their sponsors and families during the Rite of Election on the First Sunday of Lent, March 9, which includes the enrollment of names of all those seeking baptism at the coming Easter Vigil. The catechumens publicly express their desire for baptism to me. Their names are recorded in a book and they are called “the elect.”
The Diocesan Day of Reconciliation is planned for Monday, April 14 of Holy Week. The Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation, also called Confession, will be offered in all of parishes during this day. During the Sacrament, we meet the Lord, who wants to grant forgiveness and the grace to live a renewed life in Him. In this Sacrament, He prepares us to receive Him free from serious sin, with a lively faith, earnest hope, and sacrificial love in the Eucharist. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we seek forgiveness and repentance, let go of patterns of sin, grow in the life of virtue, and witness to a joyful conversion.
In his Message for Lent 2014, Pope Francis said, “In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ.” Catholic Charities of Central Florida is asking us to become a part of ‘feeding families 2gether’ where a small donation can make a big difference to feed families in need. You can donate at least 2 cans of food or 2 dollars to feed families in Central Florida or hold a Meal Packing Event where food items are purchased, boxed and bagged for Catholic Charities of Central Florida food pantries. The Diocesan special collection for Catholic Relief Services, the official overseas relief and development agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is held March 8-9 in our parishes. Centered on the theme, “Help Jesus in Disguise” the collection supports Catholic organizations that carry out international relief and solidarity efforts. Programs include relief and resettlement for victims of persecution, war, and natural disasters; development projects to improve living conditions for the poor; legal and support services for poor immigrants; peace and reconciliation work for people suffering from violence; and advocacy on behalf of the powerless.
What are you doing for Lent this year? May our efforts bring about a conversion of heart, that we live on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
Bishop John Noonan