September 11, 2001 was a jolt. The horrific intrusion into everyday
life stirred us instinctively to prayer: prayer by ourselves, prayer
with others. Religious services and civic observances drew large crowds.
Participation in the Masses on weekends shot up. Those with a merely
secular outlook said that people simply wanted to be together.
was more to it. Attendance did level off, but for the most part
remained higher than it had been prior to September 11. But there was
more. For whatever period of time it lasted, and for some it still goes
on, people had a glimpse, a perception of higher purpose in their lives.
many wanted to do something immediately. The police officers,
firefighters, counselors, clergy and religious who traveled from distant
parts, many from Western New York, to converge at Ground Zero were
effective symbols of that aspiration. The immense outpouring of
donations to assist the families of the victims was unprecedented.
Once again goodness might have been trampled upon, but it - you - refused to stay down.
the passage of months we appreciate more deeply that grasp of higher
purpose we so carefully harbored. We realize now, however, that its
pursuit is more than a sprint. The quest is more that of the long
Some years ago there was a movie entitled "The
Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner." The point I"d like to make
here, however, is that the long distance run in pursuit of high purpose,
while lonely at times, has to be more than that. Lent is the
penitential season and a prized opportunity to grow in that realization.
prayer and fasting, expanded during Lent, can appear to be lonely at
times. They situate us, though, in deeper communion with God, more in
touch with reality.
Let"s not forget that the source and summit of
our Christian lives is the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
It is our anchor and our rudder. It is always edifying to see the
dramatic increase in participation at daily Mass during Lent.
Lent should be more distinctive than usual in that regard. Every parish
in the Diocese is expected to conduct instructional sessions,
catechesis, on the new "General Instruction to the Roman Missal." Over
400 priests and deacons participated in preparatory sessions on the
"General Instruction" last fall, and the tone of every gathering was
Videotapes are available to assist the parish
meetings now. There are a few changes in store, but nothing close to
earthshaking. I am convinced that our people will welcome the "General
Instruction" wholeheartedly and be elated with the results. We look
forward to ever more beautiful and proper celebrations of the Mass
throughout our Diocese.
Our participation in the Mass cannot be
complete without a clear understanding that our celebration both lifts
up our works of charity to God and sends us forth to greater service.
Jesus teaches us that the works of mercy are non-negotiable mandates for
entry into the Kingdom. Thus we go forward to feed the hungry, give
drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the
sick, care for the imprisoned, and (we add) bury the dead.
beyond loneliness to be more involved in the Catholic
Charities/Bishop"s Fund for the Faith Appeal, both in our contribution
and our personal work. The goal is $10 million this year. The needs have
escalated precipitously. You know the reasons: recession, job cutbacks,
September 11th consequences on available government funds, etc. People
coming to soup kitchens and food pantries have tripled in number since
last year. It is not by accident that the Appeal is conducted during
Lent, the big week being March 17th to March 24th, Palm Sunday night. It
comes early this year!
As we work to make a living and support
our families, we don"t forget those who have no work. We expand our
vision to consider helping out in our parishes, schools, religious
education programs, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA),
adult education. We look to assist in hospitals, nursing homes, home
health care programs. We get involved in community service agencies,
ministry with migrant workers. If our parishes are developing the Spirit
of Church program, partnering urban and suburban parishes and rural
parishes as well, we might offer our services there.
As a way of
expressing gratitude for the gift of our faith, we might invite someone,
or two, to consider entering the Catholic Church. Don"t alienate them.
That might produce loneliness. We remember, though, that it is by the
works of charity for the poor and the needy that the Church has been
attractive to new members over the centuries. We can"t do it all, but
all of us can do some of it. Lent is the time for more intense spiritual
exercise. It is the reminder that every one of us is created for high
Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell
Bishop of Buffalo
February 1, 2002