Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is with a heavy heart that I write you this letter, and it’s not because of the departure of Fr. Przemek. As I was about to start working, news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine took over all news outlets. There were a lot of threats and suspicion these past days, but it is very sad that in 2022, after a long battle against Covid, we are back at full-fledged invasions of a country. There are some local conflicts around the world, but either they are civil war or military coup. As I was preparing the homily for this week, and connecting with the war on Ukraine, the Lord inspired me to speak about two things in this letter. The first is that there are times in which we also can wage a war against someone else and the second is if we don’t fight the battle he will sneak up on us and defeat us at every battle.
On a pilgrimage with the youth to the World Youth Day of Poland, we passed by Auschwitz. It was impressive to see the size of that concentration camp and how methodically the Germans were in killing other people. After a time of prayer over there, there was priest that opened the eyes of the youth to see that they too kill over people with words, thoughts, gestures, and in their hearts. Somehow, I had never made this connection that we too can become just like them. Although we may have never pulled a trigger, nonetheless, we could have killed many people spiritually. Hatred, bitterness, indifference, antipathy are feelings that are very easily harbored in our hearts, and they can remain there for a long time. This week in which we see the hostility of Russia towards Ukraine, the Lord invites to reflect in our own relationships and our own actions towards other people. Let’s first perceive the wooden beam in our eyes before we can attempt to remove the splinter in our brother’s eyes. I don’t mean to use the conflict of Russia or the holocaust lightly, but I think there is room for us to associate our own hearts with what’s happening out there.
The second element which originally I was inspired to write you is the battle against the devil. As Ash Wednesday approaches in a few days, we are called to conversion, and to practice penance to help us to turn our hearts from the things of this world back to God. In these forty days of Lent, we are called to fast, pray, and give alms. We don’t do these things as a diet like someone who wants to look prettier, but rather someone who is sick and needs to be healthy. Sin has always been associated with illness throughout the scriptures. Therefore, this time of Lent comes first to help us realize what’s happening in our hearts and our lives. How far are we from God? How far are we from our neighbors (and not just the people that we like, also the people we dislike as we heard last Sunday)? Paul in the letter to the Ephesians reminds us that our battle is not against the flesh, but against the spirits of the world. In other words, our struggles and our scuffles are not towards one another, but against the Devil that wants us to hate God and our neighbor. Every Lent we always hear on the first Sunday how Jesus overcomes the temptations of the devil by fasting, praying, and renouncing the desires of the flesh. Our energy should not be wasted fighting one another, but rather fighting these spirits that only desire our condemnation by tormenting our lives already here on Earth.
I urge you brothers and sisters to take advantage of the beautiful time of Lent that we are about to enter. On Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent, in which we are called not only to abstain from meat, but also to skip a meal, be close to the Lord, make an examination of your conscience, let the ashes by a symbol of our finite nature, that soon we will return to dust, for we are dust. We don’t have much time left on our hands, let’s find strength in the Lord to forgive others, to be patient with them as the Lord has been patient with us. We will also have stations of the Cross every Friday at 6pm in English, 7pm in Portuguese in the Upper Church and 7pm in Spanish in the Lower Church. We will continue to offer 2 hours of confessions on Saturday (1-3pm) and Tuesday 5-6pm. If someone prefers to come to the office for confessions, we can also arrange that by reaching out to the secretary.
Courage, brothers and sisters, on the battle against the devil, we are much stronger when united with Christ, who already defeated him. Now it’s our turn!
Father Steven Clemence