Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As we begin our second week of Lent, I would like to highlight the importance of this Holy Season. The word "Lent" comes from the old English word "Lenten". Originally, it did not have religious associations, it referred to the arrival of the spring and the "lengthening" of days. In many languages, though, Lent has a direct relationship with the time that precedes Easter. It is called "40 days", which comes from the Latin “Quadragesima”, referring to the 40 days of PREPARATION to celebrate Easter. If you drive around Boston this time of year, you will usually see a lot of people out running. Many of them are preparing themselves for the upcoming Boston Marathon. They might be on a special regimen of diet and exercise helping their bodies get ready for that big day. They have their training routine in which each day without missing a beat, they do what is necessary to be prepared. We are called to do exactly the same. We are called to enter in a spiritual diet, following a spiritual routine helping our souls to be ready for our big day, the celebration of Easter. Our Lenten practices are ways in which God helps us to be spiritually fit and eager to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Therefore, do not miss the opportunities that we have like attending daily mass, Stations of the Cross on Fridays, Adoration and Confessions on Wednesdays and also the series of talks we will start this Monday, March 9th. They will be Mondays and Thursdays at 7:30pm at Meehan Hall (IC School hall up the street).
I would like to take a moment to speak about these series of talks. They are one hour long, and each session is different from the other. Even though there is a continuation between them, they are independent from one another. Meaning, if someone misses one or two talks, they still can understand everything that will be said. During past masses I have mentioned how my dad was the one who brought my family back to the church.
When my brother and I were young, my family never went to Church. My father had never even made his first communion. He had studied, married my mother, had two sons, worked hard, made lots of money, but he never went to church. He was living like a “normal life” when suddenly my grandfather died and our world was upended. Because of family problems my mother, brother and I had to move out of state practically overnight, leaving my dad behind. He stayed behind in my home state for the time being hoping to find a job somewhere near where we were living but he was unable. After a year of being separated from us, my father found himself quite unhappy, suffering with a kind of loneliness or depression. This continued separation was putting a terrible strain on my parent’s marriage and of course our family. He told us later that he tried many, many things to make himself happy so he could cope with this situation but nothing worked (I’m sure some of you passed through similar situations and tried similar things). My father was in a big, big crises and it was only getting worse, he didn’t know what to do or where to turn and on the inside he was crying out to God…then inexplicably one day he decided to go to mass. Why not, he thought. Sitting there in church for the first time, for God knows how long, he felt very uncomfortable but near the end of Mass there was a speaker, a lay man, who talked about his own life and his own suffering and how listening to a “catechesis” had helped him. The speaker was extending this invitation to the whole parish to attend a series of talks (catechesis). My father having nothing to lose decided to go and listen. Listening to those talks he was struck by the news that God loved him the way he was! He doesn’t recall much more than that - but he recalls that distinctly: “for the first time in my life I was convinced that God loved me without demanding that I change”. He had no relationship with the Church or Jesus or God; so he had no reason to believe it only that his life had become a mess. Living alone, far from those who loved him, looking for something, anything to make himself happy was the condition he was in when he went to the catechesis. Listening he began to experience this love. He continued attending these talks which led to the formation of a group of people joining a “catechumenate”. Eventually, he received all the sacraments and brought my whole family into Church. We were reunited as a family and grateful, we all made the catechumenate a part of our lives and our family changed for the better. My parents’ marriage was rebuilt along with our family and both me and my brother heard the same call in different ways and offered ourselves to the church and unbelievably both of us are now priests. Only God could have foreseen this.
What is this catechumenate? In the first Centuries, if a person wanted to be baptized and become catholic, he/ she would begin a journey of preparation for baptism. This process/journey is called catechumenate. In other words, a catechumenate is a school of faith, where one learns how to forgive, how to face sufferings and difficulties leaning on Christ, in sum, learns to love one another. Once the emperor Constantine converted, the catechumenate practically disappeared, until it was rediscovered by the church in the II Vatican Council (1960’s) under Pope Paul VI. Nowadays, Catechumenate often refers to adults who want to be baptized in the Catholic Church. However, the Catechism (#1231) says that those already baptized can also do a catechumenate. Why would a person do that? in order to help the increase of faith and for the “flowering of baptismal grace in personal growth.”
As your pastor, I urge you to take advantage of the possibility that Lent gives us to grow in the intimacy with the Lord through the many initiatives that the parish is offering during this time. Do not be afraid to try to have an encounter with Christ in your lives. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev 3:20).
Father Steven Clemence