The season of Lent is once more upon us. The backbone of Lent is the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. This holy season mirrors the 40 days in the desert of the Lord.
Often, (from my own experience) we make some attempt at “something” during this season but it has no lasting impact in our lives. I would suggest that this Year of Mercy can make change the result of our Lenten practices, so that the spiritual renewal and conversion of heart toward the Lord that is intended by prayer, fasting and almsgiving take root in our lives and last far beyond the season.
First, there is the image of pilgrimage for this season. There is the centuries-old liturgical practice of the Lenten stational Churches in the city of Rome, where the faithful of Rome walk a Lenten pilgrimage to pray at an ancient church in the city of Rome. I would suggest some Lenten reading on the stational Masses, and taking advantage of the Stations of Mercy here on Christ Cathedral Campus. In this way, the Year of Mercy can strengthen our Lenten pilgrimage. A special word of thanks to Fr. Christopher Smith, Rector of Christ Cathedral, for this inspiring idea.
Secondly, we can also turn to the Year of Mercy to reflect on how the Mercy of God is shown to us this Lent, and how we become agents of this Mercy for others. I would turn to the words of my friend Cardinal Donald Wuerl on how this can be a concrete part of our lives. When he was in St. Peter’s Square one day last fall, he was reflecting on the homeless, and offers these words from a new book entitled Beautiful Mercy:
“There is yet another form of housing the homeless. This may touch a little closer to our own home. In John’s Gospel, as Jesus hangs on the cross, his concern now turns to his mother and what will become of her. Then he says to St. John, ‘Behold your mother.’ The Gospel tells us ‘And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.’ (John 19:27) Sometimes the call to house the homeless brings with it the challenge of our own family members who may no longer be capable of the independence that has so marked their lives. In this time when we not only celebrate a Year of Mercy, but conclude two Synods of Bishops on the Family, we are reminded that our love and mercy always must begin at home. Family must always be home, the shelter for the lonely, disabled, or elderly family members who can longer care for themselves. Family members should never feel homeless, no matter what their condition.”
Beautiful Mercy is a companion work for the Year of Mercy, authored by Pope Francis with contributions from more than two dozen priests, religious and academics.
Thank you for your faithful witness to the Lord in so many ways. I pray that this season of Lent will be a special pilgrimage of holiness, love and the mercy of God for us all. More to follow.