My dear friends,
We have now completed two months into our time together and as we begin the month of March, I wanted to write to you to share some thoughts. During the pandemic shutdown, I began to be more committed to letter writing, but have since let it slip with all of the transition work we have been doing. Now that things are getting a little more settled, perhaps this can be a form of regular fatherly communication about what is happening in our parish family and how we can each grow in holiness and apostolic zeal.
Living Lent Well
March 2nd will be Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I think it is very important that we each make a concerted effort to live Lent well. The three practices which we are each asked to focus on in Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In the area of prayer, it would be helpful this Lent to try to increase our times of what is known as mental prayer, the simple one-on-one conversation with God. This can be done in as simple a way as reading a scene from the Gospel, trying to really consider what is happening, and even at times to imagine that we are one more character among the story, and then to simply talk to Jesus about what is going on. It doesn’t need to be a mechanical formula, but a simple daily conversation from the heart. Yet the temptation does occur to make the practice so “flexible” that we never really do anything at all, so it can be helpful to try to commit to an amount of time, whether it is 5 or 10 minutes and to stick to it every day.
In the area of fasting, we are all probably familiar with the fact that in Lent we give something up. Rather than simply choosing the classics of chocolate or other snacks, (or worse vegetables and homework), it would be more fruitful to spend a minute or two to consider what the things are in my life that keep me from growing in holiness. Maybe it is my obsessive phone usage or my constant checking of social media. Maybe it is that I don’t get up on time, so I can never spend time in prayer in the morning because I am always rushing. Maybe it is my constant desire to buy more new things. Whatever the case may be, giving up excessive smartphone usage, social media, the snooze button, or frivolous spending this Lent may be more fruitful than just choosing an old standby without really thinking.
Finally, we have almsgiving. During Lent we should actively seek to help others in need. This can be through making donations to local ministries which help the poor, either through goods or monetarily. It can also be done through actively donating our time or talents to those around us, particularly those in need. Again, rather than just doing what we may have always done, it would be helpful to take a minute to consider, “who around me is actually in need?” Then with creative and generous charity, we should seek to help them in a way that comes from the heart and not just with automation.
Coming Together as One
There have been many blessings over these past months in our beginning to come together as one parish family. I have been so excited to see some of our Masses are much fuller and that we are beginning to meet new people and work together in many ways. Of particular note is the way our communities have come together to support our food pantry at St. Joseph School. With the regular donations from our parishioners, as well as some very generous support from the Plainville Community Food Pantry, I was recently asked if it would be possible to expand the area set aside in the school for the food pantry. This was after the almost regular state of bare shelves we found ourselves in a few months ago and it is thanks to your generosity.
Additionally, in early February we hosted a regional gathering for SEEK, which is a national conference for university students sponsored by Focus. Because of Covid, the conference was digital and gatherings were more local or regional and not all together. We had eight campuses in attendance and over 300 participants. Archbishop Blair celebrated Mass, was present for a good part of the morning on Sunday, and personally expressed how much hope an event of young people like this gives him as a bishop. I am grateful to our Knights of Columbus from Divine Providence and St. Francis who shopped for, cooked, served, and cleaned up a delicious pasta lunch for our students and missionaries. This was another example of accomplishing together what would be almost impossible alone.
There will definitely be some more changes coming in the near future. I do not want to give false hope that what we accomplished in January was the end, it was rather only the beginning of taking the steps we need to come together and rightsize our operations. While our doctrine and our faith never change, the Church in the future will need to have a continued institutional flexibility with regard to many practical decisions in order to ensure that we do all we can to meet the demands of the Gospel. Our community's witness to that has been exemplary thus far and I trust that if we approach whatever next steps need to be taken with the same faith and optimism, then we will only continue to grow and thrive.
To begin Lent, on Ash Wednesday, we will have a 6:30 am prayer service with Ashes at St. Francis, our normal 8:00 am daily Mass with Ashes, a 12:00 noon prayer service with Ashes at St. Peter Church, and our 5:30 pm daily Mass with Ashes at St. Francis.
This whole month, we will be full swing in the observance of Lent. To be 100% honest, there may be some good events happening in March, but as of the time of my writing this letter the details have not been finalized. Please keep an eye on the bulletin for the most up to date information.
Know of my prayers for you this Lent, and please pray for me.