Page 6, 3rd March 2006

3rd March 2006
Page 6
Page 6, 3rd March 2006 — From "God speaks to the heart", a Lenten pastoral letter
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From "God speaks to the heart", a Lenten pastoral letter

by Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth: Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, When the Gospel is read to us on Ash Wednesday we will hear again those three challenges, traditionally associated with our celebration of Lent. We are to be almsgivers — generous in giving of our treasure and talents to those in need. We are to be people who fast exercising that ascetic discipline over our time and our appetites. We are to be people of prayer — seeking the face and heart of Jesus with great love...

Loving and faithful commitment to prayer has been a key factor in our quest for renewal in the Spirit for our diocese. I spend a lot of time praying for things, praying for the courage and the strength to respond to the gifts of the Spirit so freely offered, gifts which I need if 1 am to be a faithful disciple of the Lord.

But 1 am constantly learning and re-learning that discipleship is not just about what we do — much more importantly it is about who we are. When St Mark tells the story of Jesus appointing the apostles, he stresses the fact that they were to be, first of all, the companions of Jesus. No one can be a disciple without first being a companion — an intimate friend — one who "comes and sees" and who spends time with Jesus. This spending time with the Lord is the most important thing I want to do this Lent. From a Lenten pastoral letter by Archbishop Kevin McDonald of Southwark: My dear people, As we embark once more on the season of Lent, it is good to remind ourselves that this holy time should always be understood as preparation for the celebration of Holy Week and of Easter. The season of Lent is not "free standing": without the direct relationship to the Easter Triduum it has no focus and no meaning. Lent has always been a time of penance but any penitential exercise we adopt should be undertaken as a personal preparation for the celebration of Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection . At the heart of that is Good Friday: the day when Our Lord died on the cross. I would like, therefore, to offer some reflections on the cross for meditation during this season of Lent.

The cross, and more specifically, the crucifix, is the fundamental icon of our Christian faith. That is why it is important that the crucifix should be displayed prominently and unashamedly in all Catholic churches and institutions. If we, as Christians, lose sight of the cross then we lose our bearings...

For now, and for this Lent let us simply contemplate the cross and allow its wisdom to speak to us. This we can do by making the Stations of the Cross, by saying the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary or simply kneeling in silence before the crucifix. Whatever prayers or devotions we use, and whatever we do for Lent, let this be a time of growing in the wisdom of the cross, and a time of deepening our personal love for Jesus who died for us out of love that we cannot even begin to imagine.

From a Lenten pastoral letter by Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton: Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, On Wednesday, with the blessing and giving of ashes, we begin the season of Lent. This is a time to renew the life of our communities and to deepen our personal relationship with God. We are preparing to celebrate Easter and, in many of our parishes, to welcome new members. In the words of Hosea, we are allowing the Lord to lure us into the wilderness so that he can speak to our hearts — to the heart of our communities and to our individual hearts...

Throughout the diocese this Lent I would like us to ask how do we ensure that our parishes are welcoming and hospitable. Thank God, there is a spirit of friendship in our communities, but how can we better this? At present there are new populations moving into our parishes, often from other countries. On arrival they can feel isolated and vulnerable. They come to our churches because it is their faith that provides them with some security in a new and uncertain place. How do we welcome them and celebrate with them the faith which we profess together?




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