Thank you to all the men, women and children who helped to make our annual Parish Festival such a wonderful success. The proceeds of this entire event go to benefit our school, and without it, it would be almost impossible to maintain the quality school program that we have. There still are some outstanding bills to be paid, and when these have been settled, we’ll give you the final results. In a special way, I thank Julie Ott for her leadership that pulled together a great team of volunteers and guided us through those long days before the festival and the actual three-day event itself. There were many men and women who worked behind the scenes, especially Jay Flood and his maintenance crew, and the Flea Market team under the direction of Al and Mignon Attard. Tickets sales reached the desired goal, thanks to an energized effort under Maria Sesto. Then there’s the ever-present, original “energizer-bunny,” Kim Weber. There were many others whose names I would like to mention, though I’m unable at this time. Suffice it to say, it was teamwork that helped us put it all together in a marvelous and very spirited effort to continue to support our parish school. Thank you, one and all!!
As we settle into our Lenten season, I will now share with you some excerpts of the Ash Wednesday homily of Pope Francis – a help to our meditation on this season.
“In this season of grace…. we once again turn our eyes to God’s mercy. Lent is a pathway that leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children. It is the road leading from slavery to freedom, from suffering to joy, from death to life.
The mark of the ashes…. reminds us of our origin, namely, that we were taken from the earth, that we are made of dust. However, we are dust in the loving hands of God, Who has breathed His spirit of life upon each one of us, and still wants to do so. He wants to keep giving us that breath of life that saves us from every other type of breath: the stifling asphyxia brought on by our selfishness, the stifling asphyxia generated by petty ambition and silent indifference – an asphyxia that smothers the spirit, narrows our horizons and slows the beating of our hearts. The breath of God’s life saves us from this asphyxia that dampens our faith, cools our charity and strangles every hope.
The breath of God’s life sets us free from the asphyxia that so often we fail to notice, or become so used to that it seems normal, even when its effects are felt. We think it is normal because we have grown so accustomed to breathing air in which hope has dissipated, the air of glumness and resignation, the stifling air of panic and hostility.
Lent is the time for saying “no” — No to the spiritual asphyxia born of the pollution caused by indifference, by thinking that other people’s lives are not my concern, and by every attempt to trivialize life, especially the lives of those whose flesh is burdened by so much superficiality. Lent means saying no to the toxic pollution of empty and meaningless words, of harsh and hasty criticism, of simplistic analyses that fail to grasp the complexity of problems, especially the problems of those who suffer the most.
Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters: in a word, all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion. Lent is a time for remembering, and asking ourselves what we would be if God had closed his doors to us.
What would we be without his mercy that never tires of forgiving us and always gives us the chance to begin anew? Lent is the time to ask ourselves where we would be without the help of so many people who in a thousand quiet ways have stretched out their hands, and, in very concrete ways, given us hope and enabled us to make a new beginning.
Lent is the time to start breathing again, to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity. It is a time to set aside everything that isolates us, encloses us and paralyzes us. Lent is a time of compassion, when, with the Psalmist, we can say: “Restore to us the joy of your salvation, sustain in us a willing spirit,” -so that by our lives we may declare God’s praise; and our dust – by the power of His breath of life – may become a new life.”