February 22, 2011 — Ash Wednesday began for me on the West Side of Manhattan across from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. For 80 years, St. Francis of Assisi parish has provided simple meals to hundreds of New Yorkers each day.
Today was much like others. More than 300 hungry men (mostly) and women – known and called by name – received a simple meal to begin their day. Today was also special because Cardinal Dolan, only back from Rome yesterday, helped to distribute meals this morning. He pointed out that this is the right way to begin Lent. He quoted from Ash Wednesday’s scripture readings: this is the type of fasting that the Lord desires – sharing your bread with the poor.
Lent provides us the opportunity to reflect on the all too present reality of suffering in the lives of those we help. Day in and day out, the dedicated women and men of Catholic Charities work not merely alleviate this suffering, but to transform it. This is done with limited resources and in an increasingly difficult environment that threatens not only those we serve, but also the organizations that provide this help. Now more than ever we need each other’s support and prayers.
There are three traditional Lenten practices – prayer, fasting and almsgiving. While sometimes seen as a burden, this season of Lent and these practices are also a gift. Take the opportunity to pause and break the ordinary and necessarily hectic rhythm of your personal and professional lives to reflect and draw inspiration from the mysteries of our faith and tradition – and the relationships that provide strength. In fasting, we touch our own self and focus on what we truly need. In almsgiving – which takes so many different forms – we touch our human sisters and brothers with whom we share the same divine Father. In prayer, we draw closer to the God whose love for us never ends.
A blessed and grace filled Lent.
Sincerely, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan
We invite you to watch this special Lenten message from our executive director, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, and learn about how to approach the upcoming weeks as a time of renewal.