I want to remind you, dear friends, that there are only 10 days left between now and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent.
With that reminder, I would like also to make this “Along the Way” an invitation to you to spend some time between now and Ash Wednesday to decide on the kind of Lenten commitment you would like to make in preparation for the Easter feast.
A classic approach to the season is one that incorporates prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In this context, these three elements are not ends in themselves. Rather, they are time-honored and classic ways both to praise and thank God for the blessings of life and to grow through love and service to neighbor.
As I have indicated to you in other recent columns, the beginning of Lent this year will coincide with the beginning of “Spirit Alive!” a three-part program of spiritual renewal that will conclude in spring 2010. This Lent, we will focus on our relationship with Jesus. In the second movement, we will concentrate on a knowledge and love of sacred Scripture. Finally, beginning in Advent 2009, our emphasis will be on stewardship and discipleship.
Since we announced this initiative on the first Sunday of Advent, I have given it a good deal of attention. I mentioned to you earlier that, on a personal note, I have found myself called to prayer and some serious thought about my own spiritual hunger, needs and aspirations. I am grateful for that call to prayer. It can be demanding at times (who likes to be reminded that we’ve got a long way to go!); but it also has been a consolation because it helps me to locate today’s joys, challenges, pains and pleasures in the context of my growing awareness that God has been faithful to me all of my life — even when I have been off center or in the wrong place!
Spirit Alive! also has engaged me ministerially in a very concrete way. I recently made a DVD, 90 minutes in length, which contains four talks designed to help you engage in Spirit Alive! In these four talks, I share some reflections on personal and liturgical prayer; a few questions and suggested themes meant to invite you to prayer and conversation; offer some suggestions of how to keep prayer alive in the midst of busy days; and invite your commitment to join us in Spirit Alive! Each faith community will receive a DVD, and your pastoral leader will let you know when the DVDs will be available and how you can participate in this unique experience.
Please consider using the DVD in one way or another — alone, with your family, a group of parishioners, at parish meetings, etc. I won’t make you forget Archbishop Fulton Sheen, but I do hope that this modest effort will help us to gather, pray and have discussions around themes that are of deep interest to all of us. It can do us good to look at these themes together, to have some common point of reference as we engage in such effort.
Please pray daily for God’s blessings on Spirit Alive! and on our diocese.
Peace to all.