This week I was happy to share the meaning of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season on AOL Video. Please click on the below graphic to access the video or you can see it here.
Posts Tagged ‘Lent’
Fridays of Lent are days of special sacrifice anyway, so I guess maybe the anguish caused by that day’s headline in our city’s newspaper should have been accepted as an invitation to further penance.
You’re familiar with the crescendo of recent stories on the sad and disturbing case of a German priest accused in 1979 of the vicious crime and sin of sexually abusing minor boys. When these hideous allegations came to the attention of this priest’s archbishop, a man by the name of Joseph Ratzinger — who now happens to be the bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI — he rightly removed the priest and ordered him to report for residential assessment and therapy.
The shock of the original abuse is intensified because, tragically, upon his release from treatment, the priest was reassigned to parish work, although not by Archbishop Ratzinger. Horribly, as often was the case, the Reverend Peter Hullerman went on to abuse teenagers again.
Sad and sickening, a story all too familiar to us, as we Catholics in the United States have had to face this same ulcer ever so frequently over the last nine years. Scabs are reopened, anger rekindled, trust painfully restored now being chipped-away-at again, victim-survivors, their families, the vast majority of priests, and faithful Catholics, all hurt anew.
Pope Benedict XVI himself has expressed hurt, anger, sorrow, and contrition. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and now as Pope, he is seen as one “who gets it” when it comes to the horror of clergy sexual abuse, and who has placed the full force of the Apostolic See, the Vatican, behind efforts to reform. Who can forget his forthright references to this scourge at least half-a-dozen times in his visit to our country nearly two-years ago, and his moving meeting with victim-survivors? And now we have his blunt, realistic Pastoral Letter to Ireland on the crises there. He must be asking, as we all do, “When will it all end.”
So Friday’s headline, only the most recent, stings us again: “Doctor Asserts Church Ignored Abuse Warnings,” as the psychiatrist who treated the criminal, Dr. Werner Huth, blames the Church for not heeding his recommendations.
What adds to our anger over the nauseating abuse and the awful misjudgment in reassigning such a dangerous man, though, is the glaring fact that we never see similar headlines that would actually be “news”: How about these, for example?
– “Doctor Asserts He Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since Dr. Huth admits in the article that he, in fact, told the archdiocese the abusing priest could be reassigned under certain restrictions, a prescription today recognized as terribly wrong;
– “Doctor Asserts Public Schools Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since the data of Dr. Carol Shakeshaft concludes that the number of cases of abuse of minors by teachers, coaches, counsellors, and staff in government schools is much, much worse than by priests;
– “Doctor Asserts Judges (or Police, Lawyers, District Attorneys, Therapists, Parole Officers) Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since we now know the sober fact that no one in the healing and law enforcement professions knew back then the depth of the scourge of abuse, or the now-taken-for-granted conclusion that abusers of young people can never safely work closely with them again.
What causes us Catholics to bristle is not only the latest revelations of sickening sexual abuse by priests, and blindness on the part of some who wrongly reassigned them — such stories, unending though they appear to be, are fair enough, — but also that the sexual abuse of minors is presented as a tragedy unique to the Church alone.
That, of course, is malarkey. Because, as we now sadly realize, nobody, nowhere, no time, no way, no how knew the extent, depth, or horror of this scourge, nor how to adequately address it.
The sexual abuse of our young people is an international, cultural, societal horror. It affects every religion, country, family, job, profession, vocation, and ethnic group.
We Catholics have for a decade apologized, cried, reached out, shouted mea culpa, and engaged in a comprehensive reform that has met with widespread acclaim. We’ve got a long way to go, and the reform still has to continue.
But it is fair to say that, just as the Catholic Church may have been a bleak example of how not to respond to this tragedy in the past, the Church is now a model of what to do. As the National Review Online observes, “. . . the Church’s efforts to come to grips with this problem within the household of faith — more far reaching than in any other institution or sector of society — have led others to look to the Catholic Church for guidance on how to address what is, in fact, a global plague.”
As another doctor, Paul McHugh, an international scholar on this subject at Johns Hopkins University, remarked, “Nobody is doing more to address the tragedy of sexual abuse of minors than the Catholic Church.”
That, of course, is another headline you’ll never see.
We are just about half-way through Lent, making this the perfect time to recommit ourselves to a real spirit of prayer, fasting, and charity. My column this week in Catholic New York, the Archdiocesan newspaper, is all about Lenten Penance. Here’s an excerpt:
Jesus doesn’t really tell us what we should exactly do for penance—although He does extol fasting, cutting down seriously on food—but He sure insists that we undergo some self-sacrifice.
Yes, it may be eating less, giving up certain foods, or doing laudable acts we find tough.
All you need to do is look at me to conclude that I’m hardly an expert in fasting. But, believe me, I highly appreciate its value, take it seriously in Lent, and realize that it is a big boost to my spiritual (and physical) health.
On my weekly program, A Conversation with the Archbishop, heard on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, I speak with Monsignor Charles Murphy, author of the The Spirituality of Fasting. (The program airs today at 1:00 p.m. eastern time, and is repeated several times over the weekend.) Monsignor Murphy is a priest of the Diocese of Portland, Maine, and one of my predecessors as Rector of the North American College. I highly recommend his fine book.
One of my favorite characters of American literature is Scarlett O’Hara of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Do you remember her response to any problem or difficulty that came her way? It was always “I’ll think about that tomorrow. I’ll worry about that tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.”
We are all like Scarlett O’Hara when it comes to our spiritual life, aren’t we? Don’t we all say: Do I need to pray more? Yes, but I’ll think about that tomorrow. Do I need to get closer to God? Sure, but there’s plenty of time to worry about that later. Do I need to turn away from sin and follow the Gospel more faithfully? Absolutely – and maybe I’ll start sometime soon.
Today is the beginning of the magnificent season of Lent, and we are all called to prayer, self sacrifice, and works of charity as we meditate on and look forward to celebrating the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord. In today’s Mass, we hear Saint Paul proclaim in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Let us all make today the day we begin to convert our lives and follow the Gospel more closely. As our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI said during his audience today,
Conversion means changing the direction of the path of
our lives….It is going against the current when the “current” is a
superficial, incoherent, and illusory way of life that often drag us down,
making us slaves of evil or prisoners of moral mediocrity. Nevertheless,
through conversion we tend to the highest measure of Christian life, we
trust in the living and personal Gospel who is Jesus Christ. He is the final
goal and the profound path of conversion, the path that we are all called to
travel in our lives, allowing ourselves to be illuminated with his light and
sustained by his strength, which moves our steps.
A happy and blessed Lent to you all.
“It” starts tomorrow, Ash Wednesday.
What is it ? Lent is the forty days of preparation for Holy Week and Easter.
Why do we have it ? To accept in a more intense way the invitation of Jesus to be more closely united with Him on the cross, thereby dying with Him to sin, selfishness, Satan, and eternal death, so to rise with Him on Easter Sunday to a more radiant life of grace, mercy, and spiritual rebirth.
How do we do it ? Through the three ancient Lenten practices: prayer, sacrifice, and charity.
A newsman asked me if I have any practical counsel for Lent.
“Yes,” I replied. “Get back to confession.”
This sacrament of penance is most associated with this season of Lent.
There is no better time to approach this sacrament of reconciliation than before Easter.
Last week I made my annual retreat with thirty-five other priests from the archdiocese in Ars, a tiny village in southwestern France.
That village had a legendary pastor, or curé — the Curé of Ars – by the name of John Vianney for forty-one years. While there, he converted the town, and, a case can be made, all of France, simply by hearing confessions. By the time of his death in 1859, they had built a new train station to handle the thousands who came weekly to approach the confessional of the humble, holy pastor now venerated as the patron saint of priests.
We priests knelt before that simple wooden confessional a lot last week, preparing for our own confession on retreat, and praying, at my request, for a renewal of the sacrament of penance in our own parishes and archdiocese.
A good friend of mine is pastor of a bustling, prestigious parish in a large city. He loves it, and they, him. A couple of years ago he shocked them one Sunday when, in his sermon he announced that, as much as he enjoyed being their pastor, he had asked the archbishop for a transfer. When the congregation gasped, he explained:
‘Well, I don’t think you need me. See, you must all be saints. I was sent to serve sinners. But, apparently there are none here in this parish, because I sit in the confessional with no customers!”
We’re called to be saints, but we’re sure not there yet. And a great help to get there is the sacrament of penance.
And Lent is a grand time to return to it!
A blessed Lent !