In the first two weeks of Lent, Province ministries have welcomed the New York archbishop, been part of a broadcast on Ash Wednesday Mass on the Web, and encouraged parishioners to be open to the transformations and renewals taking place in their spiritual lives.
New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan visited the St. Francis Breadline on Ash Wednesday. It was his first visit to the 80-year-old breadline, which offers food to hundreds of people each morning in front of St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street.
While there, Archbishop Dolan chatted with media representatives and visited with the friars. He had breakfast and then toured the church and friary. The archbishop joined friars in distributing food to hundreds of down-and-out people who show up each morning. Among the friars who greeted Archbishop Dolan were Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, Michael Carnevale, OFM, the breadline director and temporary parish administrator; Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, Timothy Shreenan, OFM, Kevin Tortorelli, OFM, and former Provincial Minister John Felice, OFM.
In an interview that aired on March 10 on the Currents television show of the Brooklyn Diocese, the archbishop discussed the significance of making sacrifices during Lent. Pointing to the ashes on his forehead, he explained why he chose to spend Ash Wednesday with the friars. “These ashes don’t mean a hill of beans if you don’t have charity and love in your heart. These Franciscans do it every day, so where better to start?”
The Currents video clip begins with Dominic explaining the meaning of Lent. “Part of Lent is turning to God, but also turning to your neighbors and charity.” Archbishop Dolan’s visit is a symbol of that charity, he said.
Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving
In Loudonville, N.Y., more than 200 Siena College students, faculty, staff, and members of the community, participated in afternoon Mass and received ashes at St. Mary of the Angels Chapel.
William Beaudin, OFM, presider and homilist at the Mass, told church-goers that there were many ways to approach Lent. It is the Church’s 40-day spiritual retreat in preparation for the great feast of Easter; a time of final preparation for adults who will be received into the Church at the Easter Vigil; and a springtime of renewal of one’s faith in Jesus Christ. A time of renewal, the Lenten season, he said, can be used to repair broken relationships, habits or parts of one’s life that aren’t working. He also suggested that people consider the three traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
“By all means,” Bill said in his homily, “‘if it ain’t broken in your life don’t fix it,’ but if it is, now’s the time to join that vast throng of the broken who, with God’s help, are trying to make it whole again.” Photos taken at the Mass were posted on Siena’s Flickr site.
Several parishes around Holy Name Province, including St. Anthony of Padua in Camden, N.J., posted photos of Ash Wednesday services on their Facebook pages.
In Tampa, Fla., the friars of Sacred Heart Parish were featured by the St. Petersburg Times in a video posted on the paper’s website.
The newspaper’s video shows the Ash Wednesday service, with Sean O’Brien, OFM, giving the homily, in which he described the tradition of ashes as a sign of new beginnings.
“It is a tradition and ritual in the Church, as experienced by many generations before us. We stand together in this church as we walk up to receive the ashes in a sign of the cross … we gather as a family and mark the beginning of one of the holiest and most rigorous times of the year. A new beginning, a time of hope, of transformation, of new life. It is my hope and prayer that this special mark, a sign of new life, is something we testify to.”
Living a Simple Life
On March 10, the day after Ash Wednesday, the Province’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Directorate distributed to all HNP friars an email including an article with a Lenten theme, called “The Discipline of Simplicity.”
It was sent because “the season of Lent seemed like an opportune time to call to mind and ponder an important priority that emerged at Chapter 2011: The call to live an ‘essential, simple, and poor lifestyle’ that gives prophetic witness to our vocation as Friars Minor,” the email said to friars, reminding them of the report by Fr. Fred Link, OFM, the province’s General Visitor.
“This theme is more than an in-house concern to us as Franciscans,” according to the e-announcement. “The ecological sustainability of our planet also depends on our North American culture’s embracing a simpler lifestyle that rejects the lure of limitless material consumption and helps us to live fairly and justly within the material limits of the earth.”
With “the hope of stimulating a fertile confluence of three themes: Lent, Franciscan simplicity and ecological survival,” the article was offered for the friars’ personal and fraternal reflection. It is taken from Christian Simplicity: A Gospel Value, published by the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center.
“The Discipline of Simplicity” was written by Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline: the Path to Spiritual Growth.
In the next four weeks of Lent, the Province will undoubtedly encourage members to continue to reflect on their new beginnings, opening their hearts wider to Christ.
— Wendy Healy, a freelance writer based in Connecticut, is a frequent contributor to this newsletter.