Dear People of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston,
The season of Lent is fast approaching. Once again the Church provides us an opportunity to become all that God calls us to be. The Gospel passage proclaimed on Ash Wednesday calls us to embrace the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As we enter Lent, I encourage you to look at these traditional practices to formulate a personal plan, as I will do, that will enable us to grow as faithful followers of the Lord Jesus.
Certainly, we may increase the amount of time we give to prayer. Perhaps, more importantly, we can look at how we pray – the quality of our prayer. It is appropriate to make known our needs and the needs of others in prayer – that’s intercessory prayer. At the heart of prayer is opening ourselves up to the Father’s love, wisdom and guidance. What is more important: that God hears us or that we hear God? I am sure you would respond the latter. If that is the case, why is it that we do so much talking and so little listening when we pray? God knows our needs. We need to discover his will and his plan. Let us take time for reflective prayer and for disciplined silence. Let us hear with our minds and hearts the words we pray. The scriptures, in particular, the Gospel for the day, are an excellent source for reflective prayer. Let us celebrate Mass, the heart of who we are as a community of faith, more deeply and frequently. Plan now to celebrate the Sacred Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.Fasting is a discipline that strengthens our wills. It helps us to say no not only to what is wrong but also to what is good for a greater good. Lent invites us to fasting and abstinence. It calls us to forego self-satisfaction for the sake of building the Kingdom of God. More important than fasting from food is fasting from evil. As we begin Lent, it is a good time to look at what we are doing that we should not be doing and the good we could be doing that we have avoided doing. The major part of our Lenten fast and abstinence should be turning away from sin so that we may live the Gospel more fully.
Lent is also a time for almsgiving. It is an opportunity to focus on the needs of others, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable. It is a time to share ourselves and our resources in the service of others. We live in a world where the focus is often the self and personal wants. The Church is a community of disciples following Christ, reaching out to others in spiritual and physical need. One form of almsgiving all of us can embrace is asking ourselves what we should be doing that we are not doing and call ourselves to action.
I pray that this Lent, we will all engage in meaningful prayer, significant fasting and generous almsgiving. I pray that when this Lent comes to an end and we begin the celebration of the Sacred Triduum we will become one with Christ in the giving of self for the sake of others. God help you keep a holy Lent this year!
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Mark E. Brennan
Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston