Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Lent 2013 is a season in which we are called to a renewal of faith. Especially, in this special Year of Faith for the Universal Church, we all need to go back to the very foundations of our faith.
Our Catholic faith is the most fundamental value of our lives – never more so than when we experience testing times. Let us never forget God calls us into the desert only to strengthen and deepen our faith.
From a spiritual perspective, the 'desert' is that place we enter to be reminded of the One who is truly essential in our lives, where we stand before God with no false veneer or pretence. For many of us there can be the 'desert' of illness, of joblessness, of anxiety, of conflict and of doubt; the ‘desert’ of moving to get back on to one’s feet after a bewildering setback.
Particularly during this Lent 2013 we are specially mindful, as a local Church here in Australia, of the 'desert' that has been created by the tragic crimes of sexual abuse perpetrated by some of our fellow Catholics and the devastation it has wrought upon innocent persons.
No matter the 'desert' we enter into, it must become for us that place where we confront the challenges of daily life, not as insurmountable problems but as stepping stones to growth. It is that place where we confront ourselves with no other support than God.
Yet we cannot face this Lenten journey relying only on our own willpower. We can all be so easily overwhelmed by our sense of our own weakness and anxiety about the future. Without faith as our bedrock, as our Holy Father Benedict XVI reminds us in his 2013 Lenten message, our plans and activities cannot bear authentic fruit.
So it was that Jesus spent forty days and nights in the desert. Harassed and tempted by Satan’s temptations, he proved faithful to his Father and to his mission for our sakes. He showed how a life of holiness requires prayer. Prayer is simply being present to God.
And so it is for us during the 40 days of voluntary 'desert' living this Lent. Our prayer, penance and fasting take us to the ‘desert’ where, stripped of customary comforts and excess, we learn to rely on God alone.
Grounded in faith - from which all authentic charity flows - we are called to act justly and love tenderly especially by showing compassion and mercy to the poor and disadvantaged.
So during our Year of Faith this Lent let us deepen our journey of faith as disciples:
- Fridays of Lent in our Archdiocese should become special days of fasting and prayer. Days of special penance where we implore the Lord to bring deep healing to all those suffering from the crimes of sexual abuse.
- I encourage you to go on 'pilgrimage' to pray at the special churches designated as pilgrimage churches during the Year of Faith. Such journeying reminds us of the need to pray frequently and intensely for divine grace which is our only salvation in times of special pain and crisis.
- Charity and solidarity for the poor and disadvantaged is also a vital way of deepening our Catholic faith. Please support Project Compassion and the works of the St Vincent de Paul Society. A quiet act of charity for someone in need - unknown and unnoticed - is also a powerful way of living our Catholic faith.
Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that in order to journey through the 'desert' and face the temptations and wiles of the Evil One we must become people of deeper faith. It is only by accepting God’s unconditional love that we sinners can journey on.
No matter then what challenges are ahead of us - this Lent 2013 we remember it is never too late to start again. May the God of all consolations be with us all in this our special Year of Faith.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
+ Denis J. Hart
Archbishop of Melbourne
In the Archdiocese of Melbourne, the pilgrimage churches for the Year of Faith are:
The Papal basilicas:
St Patrick’s Cathedral
Our Lady of Victories, Camberwell
St Mary of the Angels, Geelong
Parish churches and shrines:
St Mary’s Star of the Sea, West Melbourne
St Monica’s, Moonee Ponds
St Patrick’s, Mentone
St Anthony’s Shrine, Hawthorn
Our Lady of Ta’Pinu Shrine, Bacchus Marsh
Polish Shrine of the Divine Mercy, Keysborough
St Francis Xavier, Frankston
St Mary’s, Seymour
Sacred Heart, Croydon
St Mary’s, Dandenong
St Mary of the Assumption, Keilor Downs
Sacred Heart, Preston