|A clean heart create for me, God;
renew within me a steadfast spirit (Psalm 51:12).
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Who are you? What is the first idea which comes to mind? Is it the name given to you at birth? Do you think of yourself as a husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew? Or as characterized by your profession; retired, lawyer, teacher, president, etc. Or by a talent God has given you; choir member, sports player.
Who are you? Do you think of yourself as a baptized Catholic? We are within the season of Lent and during this season of forty days, we seek to imitate Jesus’ forty days of preparation in the desert for his ministry. It is good to reflect upon who we are; to come to a greater understanding of how our faith is woven into every moment of our daily living, no matter how we are called.
Many of us have pondered what we are ‘giving up for Lent’ as a sign of sacrifice so that we might focus more greatly on our baptismal call to be Christ-like, to be priest, prophet and king. I must say that my own weakness is chocolate and each Lent I make a valiant effort to give up chocolate. Lately, however, I also look to what I am doing to strengthen my faith, to truly ask God to create in me a clean heart and renew within me a steadfast spirit.
There are many opportunities to strengthen our faith by immersing ourselves in the Word of God during this beautiful liturgical season. One opportunity is to be more attentive to prayer. I recall a man who made a commitment to participate in the celebration of Mass each day during Lent. His children were very young and it was quite a feat for him to be available for daily Mass and get to work on time, while also caring for the morning needs of his family.
Another opportunity is the unique Faith Fit app created by members of our Diocesan staff. By downloading the app through Google or Apple stores (it’s free!), you can receive daily inspirational messages to improve the health of body, mind and soul this Lenten Season. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the Church, is offered at various times of the day in order to sanctify it. Clergy and religious have a canonical obligation to pray the Liturgy of the Hours as official representatives of the Church. Increasingly, the laity also pray it, though they do not do so in the name of the Church. There is also an app through Divine Office to receive the Liturgy of the Hours. ‘iMissal’ is an app featuring daily Scripture readings and information about the saints.
“Through prayer, charity and humility before God, people receive a heart “which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference,” Pope Francis says in his Lenten message.
During Lent, our purification also arises from fasting and giving alms. The fasting that all do together on Fridays is but a sign of the daily Lenten discipline of individuals and households: fasting for certain periods of time, fasting from certain foods, but also fasting from other things and activities. Likewise, the giving of alms is some effort to share this world equally—not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents. Consider offering a gift to a parish ministry or Catholic Charities of Central Florida, Bishop Grady Villas, Hope CommUnity Center, some of our diocesan ministries. Special collections for Catholic Relief Services and the Holy Shrines also occur during Lent. A young man, Nathan, has written to me during Lent to send his allowance, $5, to help the poor. Pope Francis said, “…how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy. . .!”
As baptized Catholics renew our baptismal commitment during Lent, others, known as catechumens, prepare to be baptized. On Sunday, February 22, 475 Catechumens from parishes throughout the Diocese of Orlando will join me for the Rite of Election at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Queen of the Universe to publicly express their desire for baptism. Their names will be recorded and they are called the ‘elect’.
Who are you? Our fruitful observance of these Lenten practices is to recognize their link to our baptismal renewal. We are called to true conversion of our hearts and minds as followers of Christ. May our faithfulness create in each one of us a clean heart and renew in us a steadfast spirit.