Friday, February 23, 2007

A shepherd teaches and encourages his flock

Today's post is derived from His Excellency, the Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, bishop of Madison, Wisconsin. Bishop Morlino builds on a number of themes brought up yesterday, thereby setting a good tone for Lent. He begins by addressing the crucial relationship between freedom and truth: "The Season of Lent is God's gift during which we ask for the strength to purify our hearts, to control our desires, and to serve the Lord in freedom. Lent is a time for thinking and praying about freedom and examining our conscience as to its use. Pope John Paul the Great said wisely that freedom is not the ability to do what I would like to do or what I feel like doing, but rather the ability to do what I ought to do, the ability to do what is good. Freedom is created to realize what is truly good, and so freedom is always a faithful partner of truth." He goes on to use embattled state of matrimony as an example of how freedom not oriented to the truth leads to confusion and a further weakening of our society and ourselves.

"In our culture," Bishop Morlino continues, "we frequently take the incorrect definition of freedom." We erroneously conclude that if we are free to do something that we have a right to do it. In other words, emotivists that we have become, we think that we have the right to do whatever we feel like doing. The good bishop rightly concludes that this "is a very impoverished notion of both freedom and of human rights. Freedom's partnership with truth means that freedom follows the natural law, the law of reason."

His point is ultimately that "all the education in the world does not give us a heart rooted in Christ. Prayer, along with works of penance and charity, form the core of our Lenten observance. When we receive ashes . . . we are telling the Lord, we are telling the faith community by this public gesture, and we are telling ourselves that our Lenten observance will include more prayer, more works of penance, and more works of charity.

"Sunday Mass and Mass on at least one additional weekday, perhaps Friday, would be the best place to start for those who do not attend Mass on weekdays.

"Secondly, the reception of ashes would be a public statement that I intend to make a good confession during the Season of Lent and receive the wonderful graces of the Sacrament of Penance, at least once, but more than once as might be necessary or helpful.

"The attendance at Lenten devotions - the Stations of the Cross - would also be very much in order, and of course very importantly, time spent in prayer before the Lord's presence in the Eucharist in the tabernacle - that prolongation of the Mass through meditation is always most appropriate. It is my hope and prayer that this year's Lenten journey will bring all of us closer to Christ and strengthen us in holiness."

I encourage you to read Bishop Morlino's article, entitled Lent: A time for spiritual exercises, works of mercy, in its entirety.

Once again, to Rocco, mille grazie, for bringing this article to my attention.

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