Dear Parishioners: Last Sunday’s “Blizzard” hit with a vengeance with freezing temperatures, whipping winds, and snow squalls. I was joyfully surprised to see so many made it to Mass on Sunday morning. However, as you can see from the budget results many parishioners were unable to make it to Mass. Please pray that this is the last we see of such snowy storms this year!
If the snow and cold is all that we must endure to practice our faith then we should indeed be grateful. For across the globe many of our brother and sister Christians face far worse with violent persecution simply because they are Christian. For them being a faithful Christian comes with a great cost including their lives. This fact was horrifically highlighted last week as ISIS terrorists executed 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt. These men were working in Libya as laborers and were killed because of their Christian Faith. The Pope condemned this murderous attack stating: “Their only words were: ‘Jesus, help me!’ They were killed simply because they were Christians.” Simply because they confessed their faith in Jesus Christ they were brutally beheaded. The savagery of the ISIS Terrorists knows no bounds and is becoming increasing brutal. In their message to the world after killing these Christian men, they announced that “they will conquer Rome!”
It is truly a frightening proposition in light of the recent attacks across Europe. When so many of our brothers and sisters in the world face persecution and even death for practicing their faith, how blessed we are to be able to freely follow the Lord. We have ample opportunities to freely attend Mass weekly and daily, to confess our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and to celebrate the devotions of the season unhindered.These attacks upon Christians must never cause us to take our blessings and freedom to practice our faith for granted.
On Ash Wednesday we confessed our Catholic Faith in a very bold and public manner, ashes upon our foreheads. This confession of faith isn’t merely a onetime event but must be a daily act as follow Christ with greater conviction. We might offer our penance and sacrificial acts for an end to terrorism, hatred and violence. Lent calls us to repentance and conversion so that the obstacles of indifference and sin which prevent us from following Christ more closely might be removed. We pray. We fast. We give alms. We do so to refocus our lives upon the cross of Christ. These pillars of Lent are meant to deepen our spiritual life and strengthen our relationship with Christ and His Church.
In his annual Message for Lent, Pope Francis reminds us why we celebrate Lent. He says: “Lent is a favorable time for letting Christ serve us so that we in turn may become more like him. This happens whenever we hear the word of God and receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There we become what we receive: the Body of Christ. In this body there is no room for the indifference which so often seems to possess our hearts. For whoever is of Christ, belongs to one body, and in him we cannot be indifferent to one another.”
One of pillars of Lent is alms giving. Next weekend this a great opportunity to practically give alms as we begin the Catholic Charity Appeal at Our Lady of Mercy at all Masses. I hope you continue to be as supportive and generous to this important charity of our local Church as you have been in the past. Your generous donations enable the Catholic Church in Rhode Island to bring the good news of Christ to the poor, the sick, the suffering, the refugee, the prisoner and all those in need. I offer our thanks to Kevin and Nancy McDevitt and Stephen and Antonia Zubiago for once again serving as our Parish Chairs of the Appeal.
Lent is here! I hope and pray that it is truly a time of renewal, conversion and faith for you and your family and our entire parish. Hope to see you at Stations of the Cross on Fridays. Hope you make your way to Confession in the next weeks as well. Remember to pray, fast and give alms! Remember Fridays are for fish during Lent! God Bless.