Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this first Sunday of Lent, we are invited to travel with Jesus to the desert. We hear from the Gospel that before Jesus begins His ministry, He is led by the Spirit to the desert for forty days. It is not by chance that He went to the desert for that amount of time. These elements recall the Exodus of the people of Israel who spent forty years in the desert before entering the promised land. The Jewish Tra- dition says that God brought the people there in preparation to enter the land He had promised to their forefathers. It was necessary for them to realize that it was God who provided everything they needed and wanted. In the desert, they saw God providing for them water, mana, quails. It was a teachable moment so they could understand that God always provides. Even they had to fight the seven nations or conquer the city of Jericho, to enter in Israel, after those 40 years. They were convinced that God would lead them by the hand. Therefore, the number forty and the location of the desert in the Bible al- ways means a time of preparation, formation. The same applies for Jesus. He is led by the Spirit to teach us to rely only on God.
These forty days of Lent that we have in front of us is also a time of preparation for us. Instead of being a preparation to enter the promised land, we are called to be prepared to enter Heaven. This is a spe- cial time to refocus our lives in God. We are called to reawaken our faith. Maybe our focus lately was only to get by this time of Covid, or to endure these winter days before spring, but we forget that we are called to something much greater, namely, to Eternal Life! We have an open invitation from God to go to His house! The Lenten practices are ways to help us realize that we can spend some time without earthy pleasures without problem. We have the opportunity to experience God’s providence in different ways.
Don’t be afraid, brothers and sisters, to be bold in your faith! Don’t settle for anything less than para- dise/heaven! Do not aim lower than being holy! Christ wants to transform us, to experience his transfig- uration, to resemble him. It’s a great time! What an opportunity we have in front of us! So, let’s be joyful that God allows us this time to get closer to him, to love him more, to be convinced that He alone is enough!
God bless, Fr Steven
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As we pray for all families this weekend, we celebrate the World Marriage Day, we also get ourselves ready to enter into Lent. It’s always a privilege that God gives us to have a special time to look over our actions and repent from them. “Now is a favorable time” St. Paul exhorts the Christian community in Corinth. Wednesday, February 17th is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, 40 days that God gives us in prepara- tion for Easter. In this yearly preparation that God allows us to live it once more, we are called to grow closer to the Lord, to avoid whatever distracts from his path, and to do everything to love him above everything else. Therefore, the most common practices during this time is to pray, fast, and give alms.
The time of prayer is always something that helps US! We can think that we are doing God a favor, or trying to please him...however, we are always the first beneficiaries of prayer. The other day someone told me that I was lucky that that person was at mass. Without much thinking, the Lord inspired me to reply that she was the lucky one to be at mass. When we pray, receive the sacraments, God bestows upon us so many graces that we are not even aware of it. That’s why in this time, we will have more opportunities to pray! The church will continue to be opened from 6:30am-6:30pm for private prayers. We will continue with Daily Adoration from 6:30-7:30am, Daily Rosary starting at 7:00am, and Daily Mass at 7:30am every day of the week. We also have the Cenacle every Monday 6:00-7:00pm in the Chapel downstairs. Starting on Friday, February 19 , we will have Stations of the Cross every Friday at 6:00pm in the main church. We will also have our monthly 24h Adoration on February 21-22 and March 14-15. They will start around 6:00pm on Sunday (after the 5:00pm Mass) and conclude on Monday at 6:00pm. We will continue offering Confessions every Tuesday in the park- ing lot 5:00-6:00pm and Saturday 1:00-3:00pm in the chapel. Since Pope Francis has declared the year of St. Joseph, we will also have something special that week. We will celebrate the Triduum of St. Joseph with two days of talks (March 17 and 18) and concluding with a mass on his feast day on March 19 . The following day we are contemplating the possibility of a mini-retreat for men, but that is not 100% sure yet. (PS. There is a wonderful 33 day consecration to St. Joseph by Fr Donald Calloway that starts on February 15 . There are also other consecrations and novenas that can be done as well). We are also called to Fast during this time. The prescription of fasting is mandatory for Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, when a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. Then on Fridays of Lent we are called to abstain/avoid eating meat. This is something to help us to be aware of this time of preparation. Another Len- ten fast is from something that we enjoy, such as coffee, chocolate, alcohol, watching TV etc...I always suggest that, instead of avoiding doing something and simply deny ourselves from those “pleasures,” we can use those opportunities to grow closer to the Lord. For instance, instead of watching wheel of fortune, pray the rosary. Instead of listening to music while driving or at home, say the chaplet of divine mercy. Instead of pur- chasing our daily Dunkin or Starbucks drink, give that money to the poor. These practices are only to help our sanctification, to strengthen our desire to avoid sin and choose holiness. It is also important to help the chil- dren and the youth to live this time with joy. It’s a special time, and only for 40 days. We need to think crea- tively to help them fast and abstain from our day-to-day activities and to think of others. For example, at CCD, the children will be called to bring canned food to help our Community Cupboard.
Lastly, we are also called to practice Almsgiving during this time. Giving alms, and any act of charity, like praying, always benefit us first. By helping one another, God always give us one hundred-fold of our generosity. Surely there is the principle that we are all called to share with one another the gifts that God has given, but again, it’s about us sharing more than the other people receiving. Christ exhorts the apostles, “we cannot love God and money.” By giving alms, we make a stand to love God above everything else. The scriptures always see money as a sign of power. So in Deuteronomy, when Moses told the people of Israel to love God with all their heart, soul, and strength, the appeal is to love God also with our possessions. For that, we will try to collect money through different drives to help the poor and the different needs from our communities. Stay tuned for information.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, as Pope Francis said in his Lenten letter last year, “the fact that the Lord once again offers us a favorable time for our conversion should never be taken for granted.” Let’s take advantage of what God wants to give us, let’s open our hearts to receive the grace he has prepared for us, let us prepare ourselves to enter into his rest/eternal life. Let’s live this time as a spiritual diet, by losing some sins and look fabulous for the feast of the Resurrection on Easter Day!
God bless, Fr Steven
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This January, my family and I have experienced the Lord's passage in our lives: the death of my father, Afonso Albino de Castro. We had an experience of pain, but an experience of faith and consolation from God. He passed away on January 7, 2021, at the age of 64. Within a month he contracted Covid-19, went to the hospital, died, was buried and ENTERED INTO ETERNAL LIFE.
Yes, I am sure of his “salvation”, because first of all God is merciful and also before his death, he was very sorry for his sins. He was able to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick through me a few days before he passed. I am so happy that God granted him His grace through me, because when I was a child, I received faith and blessings through his hands. Now through my hands, as a priest, he received God's forgiveness. I remember seeing him many times ready to go to Mass, well dressed, waiting for us and also hurrying us.
I am sure he is with God in Paradise and that I shall see him again in Heaven. As Saint Braulio, Bishop, says: “Let the hope of the resurrection encourage us, then, because we shall see again those whom we lose here below”. It was because of this faith in the resurrection that the whole process, hospital, death, burial and mourning after death, was so smooth and consoling to me.
Finally, I would like to thank Cardinal Sean who called me when my father fell ill; Fr. Steven who allowed me to go to Brazil; Fr. Przemek and all the parish staff for their support; and to all of you, dear IC parishioners, for your prayers, messages, emails, letters and much more. I really feel loved by God for being part of this family, the IC family.
Thank you very much!
Fr. Adriano Albino de Castro
Father Steven Clemence