Updated: Jan 9
Dear Friends in Christ:
Last weekend we heard one of the most challenging, most difficult, most confounding passage in all of the gospels. As I mentioned in my homily, it is also the most fundamentally Christian because it is the passage that calls on each of us to be the most like Christ. More than that, it calls on us to be “merciful, like the Father is merciful.” That is a tall order. And look at what it entails. Turning the other cheek, giving away your cloak, and the most radical and counter-cultural of all, Loving your enemies and praying for those who mistreat you. WOW! But it’s hard! It almost seems impossible and yet he showed us it is possible by His example! He taught us what he meant. He practiced what he preached. Pray for the grace to love the unlovable, to forgive the unforgivable, and to remember in prayer those you’d rather forget.
This weekend we celebrate the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time which is often skipped over but, given that Lent is so late this year, we get to celebrate this Sunday. It is a Sunday in which the readings are full of aphorisms. An aphorism is an adage or a tersely phrased statement of truth. This weekend we hear three in our Gospel. “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?” Of course we know that this is true, but it also points to the reality for us as people of faith that we cannot teach until we have learned. We cannot guide someone in the faith until we have done our part to learn the faith. Then we hear, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” We can relate with this one as well. It is easier to point to the faults of others than to recognize our own or, even more so, it is a mechanism by which we feel better to point out the failings of others as a way of hiding our own. Finally, we hear, “For every tree is known by its own fruit.” We interpret this one to point to the fact that when a person does good things, we know this is a good person. When a person is continually stirring up trouble, we know that this person is troubled. The fruit reveals the person. Yes, of course, we always depend upon the mercy of God, but we have to respond to this mercy by doing our best to live the Christian life to bear fruit that points others to God.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday the beginning of the Holy Season of Lent! I need this Lent. Perhaps you do too. Lent is a time for us to grow in our faith life to let the magisterium and Holy Spirit guide us. Lent is a time for us to look into ourselves. How is the upset we have with others a reflection of our own faults? Lent is a time to consider our living of the Christian life. Do our actions demonstrate a continual conversion to Christ?
This Wednesday we will mark our foreheads with a cross of ashes, the traditional sign of repentance. We will distribute ashes during Masses at Saint Bridget Church at 7AM and 9AM, and at Saint Thomas Becket Church at 5:30PM, as well as during the Prayer Service at 3:30PM at Saint Thomas Becket. Please join us as we begin this most holy season of preparation.
How will Lent be different for us this year? This weekend we have the opportunity to think about how we will make Lent meaningful this year. What will we do to make this Lent different? What will we do to Encounter Christ during the coming weeks of Lent?
This weekend we are distributing the “Little Black Book” for Lent (available at all church entrances) and we find that it encourages us in these final days before Ash Wednesday to take a few minutes to sketch out our plans for the 40 days ahead. Of course our Lenten journey will include the three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But, concretely, what will this look like in each of our own lives?
Prayer—Will I make a little extra time for some prayer, scriptural or spiritual reading? Will I stop in at Adoration on Friday afternoons? Will I attend a weekday Mass or two in addition to our Sunday worship? Will I attend the Lenten Evening of Reflection on Tuesday, March 12th? Will I come to pray the Stations of the Cross on the Fridays of Lent?
Fasting—What will I fast from this year? Can I truly give up something I routinely enjoy, whether food, drink, entertainment, social media, and the like? Or perhaps I will fast from being negative for the 40 days? Fasting and Abstinence are not meant to torture us, but to give us some sense of discipline and control over our passions and desires. What will you fast or abstain from?
Almsgiving—Sharing the time and resources we’ve saved with someone in need helps us connect with the sacrifice Christ made for us. Giving alms to the poor is one of the most concrete ways of fraternal charity. I have heard of some of my friends, fellow Amazon Prime people, who have literally spent Lent putting things in their shopping cart, then ask themselves if they can do without the items, and then took the money they would have spent on those items and gave it to a charity. One such friend donated over $1,000 at the end of Lent! It wasn’t easy but it was so rewarding when he presented the check to the local food pantry to know that his little sacrifices all Lent will help to feed his neighbors in their time of need. Our young people can learn this practice as well with the help of the Rice Bowl Project which our students in religious education and our school will be participating in. This is a wonderful program that teaches our children not only about giving up and putting their change into the little box, but it also teaches our young people about our responsibility to help the poor throughout the world in their time of need. The Rice Bowls will be handed out to classes beginning this Sunday so all children will have them before Ash Wednesday!
This Lent we will be focusing our homilies on the Seven Sacraments. We as a Pastoral Staff thought it was a good time to use the weeks of Lent to focus on the Seven Sacraments since they are the lifeline of our faith. “The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. There are seven sacraments in the Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1113) “Sacraments are ‘powers that comes forth’ from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body, the Church. They are ‘the masterworks of God’ in the new and everlasting covenant." (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1116) Given the importance of the Sacraments, we are excited to use the readings of Lent to offer some spiritual reflections on the Sacraments in our lives as followers of Christ.
As I mentioned last week, our theme this year is Encounter Christ #prayfastgive. The themes we will work on communicating through homilies, programs, and activities will be the 4 R’s of Lent: Renew, Reflect, Respond, and Repent. We will strive to show how it is through the Sacraments that we come to Encounter Christ as we seek to repent of our failings and be renewed by His Grace so we can then respond to His will and reflect the presence of Christ in our lives.
HERE are some of the other activities and programs you can expect this Lent, in addition to regularly scheduled Masses and activities:
Weekly Confessions in Saint Bridget Church on Monday mornings from 7:30-8:30a.m. Please note this is in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Hartford and the Lenten Confession Program. We will also hold an evening of Confession during Holy Week.
Stations of the Cross…every Friday at Saint Thomas Becket Church at 3:30p.m. and at Saint Bridget Church at 7p.m.
Lenten Suppers…Every Friday evening of Lent from 5-7p.m., a Lenten meal is prepared at Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish Center. Menu always includes Pasta with sauce, salad, bread, a variety of soups each week, beverages and so much more. Cost is $10 per adult, $5 children and seniors, and $25 max per family. PLEASE JOIN US!
A Lenten Evening of Reflection for ALL parishioners…on the evening of Tuesday, March 12th the Pastoral Staff will, once again, lead an evening of reflection. We will begin with a Pasta Dinner at 5:30 pm cooked by our Cheshire Knights of Columbus, which will be followed by presentations and age-appropriate activities for adults and children! There will be an adult presentation, presentation for High School Students, as well as various presentations with activities for children in various age groupings. REGISTER NOW!
Our Weekly Corporal Works of Mercy…see below…
We as a parish family of Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish will focus in a special and meaningful way on the Corporal Works of Mercy during the weeks of Lent. It will be an opportunity for us as a family of faith to reach out to others with the mercy and love of God and to fulfill the call of Pope Francis to be instruments of mercy in the lives of others.
We have developed a program that will run from the First Sunday of Lent right through Easter. Each week, at both of our church campuses, we will be focusing on a particular Corporal Work of Mercy and we invite you all to participate. See the details for this program on page 7 of this bulletin so you can cut it out and put on your refrigerator! Thank you for helping our brothers and sisters in need this Lent!
Finally, I offer you a Lenten Challenge and Invitation…This Lent share with someone what we are doing in our parish. Share with them your experience of the activities and events both spiritual and social that make you proud to be part of our parish family. Invite someone to join us! Bring a family member or friend to our Lenten Suppers or Adoration or Stations of the Cross. Bring someone who may have stopped practicing their faith to Mass with you. You are the means through which others come to know the Lord and His love, why wait to bring them to the table where He nourishes us in Word and Sacrament? Can we all invite one person back to the Church, back to the practice of their faith? I think we can! The Challenge Is ON!!!
As always, remember to pray for our parish families and ask God’s blessings as we build His kingdom here. Please know that I am praying for you, and I ask for your prayers for me, that together through the intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, and united in the Eucharist, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world.