Mar 5, 2014

Bishop: Lent is a time to grow closer to God and to others



Story and photos by Rebecca Drake

SPRINGFIELD – Like the season of Lent itself, the noontime Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral, here, was simple and somber, and marked by the sounds of prayer and traditional chant.

The Mass was celebrated by Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, who began his homily by referencing the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine and the need for diplomacy as world leaders try to avoid more violence in that region.

Likewise, Bishop McDonnell said, Catholics must become “ambassadors for Christ,” bringing the Gospel messages of peace and reconciliation to the world. He told the worshipers present that Lent is a time “to receive God’s grace and let it act upon us.”

He also said Lent is a time “to look inwardly to become closer to God and outwardly to become closer to others in the peace of Christ.”

The Christian season of Lent, Bishop McDonnell said, “is manifest in fasting and abstinence, works of charity and, most importantly, in prayer.” These practices, he said, help the faithful to become Christ’s ambassadors, bringing his love and compassion to others.

“If that lesson of Lent is learned and lived,” the bishop said, “then we can make a difference in the world.”

After the homily, the bishop blessed the ashes that were to be placed on the foreheads of worshipers in the sign of the cross, a visual representation of the beginning of this most holy season for Christians.

Speaking to iobserve after the Mass, Marilyn Stearns, a parishioner of St. Mary Parish in Longmeadow, said she appreciates the opportunity Lent provides for sacrificing and for reflecting on the celebration of Easter that will follow the penitential season.

“”We’re all sinners,” Stearns said. “And Lent is a time for repentance and a time to be thankful for what is going to happen on Easter.”

During her observance of Lent this year, Stearns said she will try to attend Mass daily and will sacrifice a personal pleasure of hers: “I’m hooked on game shows,” she said, smiling, and will give up watching them for the next six weeks.

Omer Berteron, a parishioner of St. Michael’s Cathedral Parish, said that, at 87, he no longer drives but, “I give as much as I can to the church.”

The Southwick resident said attending Mass is very important to him and he is grateful that his daughter brings him to church on the weekend.

(Editor's note: See related story on iobserve about local Lenten services and programs throughout the Springfield Diocese.)