Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This week, we began the season of Lent. Lent is the church's primary penitential season, a 40-day period of more intense prayer, focused fasting and increased charity or almsgiving. These efforts are designed to help us deepen our spiritual lives as we prepare to celebrate the Paschal mystery of the Lord's saving passion, death, and resurrection, which we will celebrate at Lent's conclusion during Holy Week and Easter.
The mark of ashes we received on Ash Wednesday is an outward sign of our interior desire and need to die to ourselves so that Christ, the Risen One, will live more fully in us, in order that his presence will be more visible in our world. Jesus invited us in the Gospel "to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him." Lent encourages and challenges us to do this more thoroughly and effectively. Because of this, these 40 days are a gift, for which we can and should be ever grateful.
Throughout the next 40 days, we will have many opportunities to grow in faith, hope, and love in Christ. Among them, I would recommend daily Mass if possible; more frequent participation in Eucharistic Adoration, which is offered and available in so many of our parishes; a thorough and fruitful reception of the Sacrament of Penance, so good for our souls; the praying of the Stations of the Cross, which help us walk with Jesus in a spiritual way on his journey to Calvary; the adopting of forms of penance, which help to discipline our bodies, minds, hearts and souls; and finally some increase in charitable giving, which helps us to put others first, a particular challenge in our times but nonetheless a duty of a disciple of Jesus.
In addition to these, we would do well to read more Scripture and other spiritual reading, such as the lives of the saints or books on prayer and other religious themes, and to pray the rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or other devotionals. I would also highly recommend that we get back to spending Sundays as a day of rest and renewal, by spending it with the Lord at Mass and later with family, and fasting from technology, unnecessary work and busyness. These are opportunities to use the next 40 days well and to thereby gain much spiritual fruit from them.
Dear friends, I hope you know already that your bishop prays for you everyday in his daily prayers, but especially during these days of Lenten observance. Much grace flows to the church and her children during them. Please pray for me and for all our priests, deacons, religious, and seminarians, that together with all of you, the people we love and serve, we will all be truly blessed with a joy and a peace that come from a spiritually disciplined life, a life centered in and always in Christ, whose passion, death and resurrection offers us an eternal life, a life beyond all our hopes and dreams. May God give us all a truly blessed Lent.
+ Bishop Carl A. Kemme