Dear graduates of Chaminade, Kellenberg Memorial, and St. Martin de Porres,
As we reflect on the liturgical season of Lent, we are called to see how we can become more like Christ. It is a time for consideration of our shortcomings, but also of the greatness for which we are all destined through our Baptism. We are all children of God, created in His image and likeness, and we are all here for a reason and a purpose.
The past year has felt to some, myself included, as an extended period of Lent. It is hard to believe that this month will mark a full year since the lockdowns and quarantining began. Just twelve months ago, so few of us used Zoom, or worried about being too close to our friends and loved ones, or wore masks every day, and yet these have become the norm. Many people were unable to celebrate Easter, or to attend Mass at all for months. As we saw all this pain and difficulty which seemed to engulf the whole world, it would have been all too easy to believe that there was no way through it. There was a very real loss, for many, of a sense of community, of togetherness.
Luckily, there were, and continue to be, countless examples of people overcoming the limitations of travel restrictions and quarantine to create a sense of community amidst the chaos. Performers took to the new stages of apartment balconies, YouTube, and Zoom to share their gifts with the world. Masses were livestreamed around the globe so that the faithful could at least make spiritual acts of Communion. Families had virtual reunions and in many cases actually spoke more frequently than they had before.
It is always important, but especially in times of trial, to look to where there is good in the world. There are many voices out there calling for further division and sowing seeds of conflict and strife. We must resist the temptation to give in to that division. We must seek to mend and unite, even while we can only do so virtually.
Last year, Bishop Robert Barron proposed the idea of making an extra effort during Lent to be forgiving, to love one’s enemies. In a world where so many wrongs are committed, there is a great tendency to hold on to rage and ideas of revenge. But, as Bishop Barron reminds us,“Thomas Aquinas defines the deadly sin of anger in his typically pithy manner as an irrational or excessive desire for revenge. Every one of us has been hurt by someone else, aggressed, unjustly harmed, insulted, perhaps to an extreme degree. And so, naturally enough, we harbor a desire to respond in kind. . . . We spend an extraordinary amount of time fantasizing about what we might say and do to our enemies if we ever had the opportunity or the requisite power. This is what Thomas Aquinas means by the ‘deadly sin’ of anger.”
If we follow Jesus’ call to not only forgive, but to love those who harm us, or at least to try, we can make great strides among people to mend rather than to tear down, to heal rather than to harm, to build community instead of sowing division. A good way to start on this difficult journey is to realize that in whatever struggles you have, you’re never alone. You always have the love and support of your friends, family, loved ones, and, of course, the Blessed Mother and the Holy Trinity. I have found that the Jesus Prayer, a beautiful prayer popular in the Eastern Church, is a simple and effective means of calming down and entering into meditation. I will leave you with the text of this brief prayer, in the hopes that it may help you to find the strength from Christ to forgive others and build meaningful community relationships among those you encounter.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God,
Have mercy on me, a sinner.
May God bless you all this Lent, and always,
Bro. Andrew Santoriello