Hard as it may be to believe, our celebration of Lent 2010 began yesterday with Ash Wednesday and now will continue through Easter Sunday on April 4th. I began my liturgical celebration of this holy and penitential season by celebrating Mass for the students of St. Petersburg Catholic High School. They are unfailingly attentive at Mass when I am there and make it a genuine pleasure. The provincial superior of the Salesians, Father Thomas Dunne, was present and preached the homily to the assembly.
On March 11, 2010 we will repeat last year’s highly successful The Light is ON for You event. If you recall, we promise that all 75 parish churches and missions will be open on that Thursday night from 5pm until 8pm for the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Most Churches will also continue their practice of Penance Services sometime during Lent, so what’s the big deal about The Light is ON for You? To begin with, it will be easy to go to confession. You need not call the parish and ask what time confession is because every parish in the diocese will offer confession between five and eight that night. If you find a place closed during those hours that night, I want to know about it.
Secondly, if you have been away for a while or wish true anonymity, you can go to confession at any Church. Perhaps you work in downtown Tampa and live and worship in New Tampa at St. Mark’s as an example. You could choose Sacred Heart downtown, Corpus Christi in Temple Terrace, St. Mary’s in north Tampa and just stop by on the way home. Chances are you would have the anonymity which you feel you need for peace. Just come in, reflect on your mortal sins and your life in general, enter the confessional space and talk to the Lord and the priest. Listen carefully to his words of absolution and leave feeling healed and clean.
You may recall that last year when I presented the idea of The Light is ON for You to the priests they were skeptical. Well, to their amazement many of them were slammed that night by the number of people who made use of this opportunity and they were pleased in the end. It is now the priests who have asked that this opportunity become an annual one and it will be repeated on the Thursday night of the second full week of Lent for the foreseeable future or as long as it meets a need. Word came to me that many were wonderful confessions of people who had been away from the sacrament for a long, long time.
This Sunday finds me at the Cathedral of St. Jude for two “Rite of Election” ceremonies. This is always a day that makes a bishop feel particularly good as he officially and formally welcomes the catechumens (those who will be baptized at the Easter Vigil, confirmed and make their First Holy Communion) and the candidates (those who have already been baptized, perhaps in another religion or if Catholic it has been years since they practiced) and who will make a profession of faith, be confirmed and make their first communion. Next Sunday there will be 385 catechumens and 678 candidates for a grand total of 1063 coming into the Church and present at the Rite of Election (there are always those who are catechumens or candidates who are unable to make this ceremony but will still be received at Easter.) By the way, this year’s number is down by only nine from the number received at last year’s two Rites of Election.
From all of this, you should be able to tell that I am finally back at work. I will do all I am physically capable of doing but still am told and suspect that it will be the Fall before I can expect to be fully recovered and back at full strength. For this reason, I have reduced my confirmation schedule this year but expect to resume full service in the Fall for confirmations.
I hope that together we can spend these forty days fasting and praying so that we may fully comprehend the great Easter mystery all the more.