Walking in the Steps of Christ with Faith in Our Future
Originally published in Catholic Outlook March 2015
By Daniel Ang
This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Merton (1915-68), a spiritual master of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, or ‘Trappists’ as they are commonly known.
Merton converted to Catholicism in his early 20s and soon after entered the Cistercian Order at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Louisville, Kentucky, where he went on to become a spiritual lodestar of the 20th Century via a best-selling autobiography and erudite writings on prayer, contemplation, war and justice.
Merton’s wisdom remains authoritative and insightful in this season of penitence, “The purpose of Lent is not only expiation, to satisfy the divine justice, but above all a preparation to rejoice in His love. And this preparation consists in receiving the gift of His mercy – a gift which we receive insofar as we open our hearts to it, casting out what cannot remain in the same room with mercy”.
Lent, therefore, is not merely a time for “squaring conscious accounts” as Merton puts it, “but for realising what we had perhaps not seen before”.
The light of Lent is given to us to realise the reach of God’s mercy and in the light of that love to recognise our need of deeper conversion so that we can further receive God’s life into our own and bring to the world a stronger witness of our identity as sons and daughters of Christ.
Lent not only calls for personal conversion in the light of God’s mercy but also invites the conversion of our parishes, groups and movements of faith. It is both a personal and communal journey.
The personal practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are radically oriented towards God and to others, and so ought to send us outward together into mission in the wider community.
Lent calls us to respond as Church to those in spiritual and social poverty and hunger, calls us to evangelise and serve, to proclaim and dialogue in faith. The sacrifice of Christ is calling us to self-giving as disciples, to love of our neighbour.
The Pastoral Planning Office in collaboration with agencies of the Diocese has made available resources to support conversion and mission throughout the Lenten season.
The resources include a Lenten Calendar for Kids, a Prayer of the Faithful booklet, family prayer kits, and a Stations of the Cross prayer booklet, all of which are freely available on our website: faithinoufuture.org.au
It is not too late to make the most of these practical offerings and, in the words of 17th Century poet Robert Herrick, “to keep a true Lent”.
The good news is that our schools and parishes have entered into this season with great creativity and commitment. Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes, has prepared 560 family prayer packs for each family in their primary school and 600 packs for students in local state schools to be distributed by catechists.
Similarly, Our Lady of Lourdes Primary, Seven Hills, has prepared kits to welcome kindergarten families to the community of faith while Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown, is providing Lenten resources to participants at their monthly family Mass.
hese great Lenten resources are filled with helpful and simple ideas to help parishes to assist their communities to engage with the season.
St Bernadette’s Parish, Castle Hill, is also making use of the Lenten resources and Alice Bradshaw, sacramental coordinator, shared her thoughts: “T
|Castle Hill’s Alice Bradshaw.|
“I particularly like the Lenten Calendar and the prayer kits which offer a beautiful way to focus more on God for both adults and children. These are the kinds of ideas and support that parishes need. I also like that these resources are from our ‘own backyard’!”
The Holy Spirit is opening and drawing our local communities to the mission of a New Evangelisation, a mission ‘new’ in ardour, method and expression.
As ever, this Lent is a time of conversion and outreach for the Diocese of Parramatta, a part of our growth and sharing of faith as the Church in Western Sydney.
We look forward to sharing more good news as our Pastoral Plan, Faith in Our Future, continues to shape our communities of faith and inspires each one of us, under grace, to see “what perhaps what we have not seen before”.
Daniel Ang – DirectorPastoral Planning Office
Catholic Diocese of Parramatta
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