Through Lenten observances of prayer, self-denial and works of mercy, the faithful show that 'we are committed to this relationship'
DETROIT — A few dozen Catholics braved the ice storm, cold and freezing rain to begin their Lenten journeys together with Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, who celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Aloysius Church in downtown Detroit on Feb. 22.
The archbishop's custom of celebrating Ash Wednesday at St. Aloysius, a block from the archdiocesan Chancery, served as reminder to those who attended or listened to his homily via livestream that Christ is calling each person to repentance as the Church begins its journey toward Easter.
Shortly before distributing ashes, made from the burned palms of the previous year's Palm Sunday, Archbishop Vigneron remarked that Lent is a call to renew one's covenant with God in Christ Jesus.
“Lent is, in some sense, a retreat (for) the whole Church,” Archbishop Vigneron said.
In addition to accompanying catechumens — those who look forward in faith to their baptism at the Easter vigil — Lent is “a way for us who are already baptized to be renewed in our identity as God's children and members of the Church,” the archbishop said.
During his homily, the archbishop called upon the faithful in southeast Michigan to look at their Lenten resolutions and observations through the lens of a covenant.
A covenant, the archbishop said, is about a total gift of self to another — in this case, the marriage between God and His church through Christ.
"Lent is about renewing that relationship,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Each of us entered the covenant on the day we were baptized. The catechumens will enter the covenant on the Easter vigil when they are baptized, and it will be sealed in their confirmation and at the wedding feast of the Lamb when they receive their first holy Communion.”
The faithful renew this covenant through their Lenten observances of prayer, self-denial and works of mercy, the archbishop added.
Through a renewed commitment to prayer, the Christian deepens his or her relationship with God in Christ and gives him more attention, Archbishop Vigneron said. Likewise, through self-denial during Lent, one proves to Christ that the bond with him is serious, he added — “(to prove) that it counts, that we would even sacrifice for that bond and that we are ready, if he should ever ask such a thing, to die for him,” the archbishop said.
“Our works of mercy demonstrate that we are indeed committed to this relationship, and, in fact, that this relationship with you, Lord Jesus, is more important than all the money in the world. And I would rather be poor, a pauper, indigent, Lord, than to lose you.”
In addition to giving alms, fasting and committing to a daily habit of prayer, Catholics in Metro Detroit can take part in special Lenten holy hours, part of the I AM HERE campaign to encourage deeper devotion to Christ in the Eucharist.
At the end of the 40 days of Lent, when the Church comes together for the Lord’s supper at the resurrection on Easter day, this prayer, fasting and almsgiving will have the ultimate effect of renewing one's relationship with the Lord, the archbishop said.
“And so I hope, I pray, and I ask you: Please, pray that each of us comes renewed in this relationship and more completely receiving God’s incomparable love for me and you, reciprocating that love in a way that you have never experienced it before,” Archbishop Vigneron said.
As Scripture teaches, "this is the acceptable time," and we should not waste these days, the archbishop added.
“God has been waiting for you to come to the church today to be signed with the ashes and to make this commitment,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Think of it from Christ’s point of view: How ardently he longs to know you better and have you love him more deeply. How he hungers for that love and how he wants you to hunger for the love of him.
“This is what we offer today: a promise," the archbishop concluded. "I promise you, Lord Jesus, that I will strive to put aside whatever is impeding our friendship and our love, so I may receive what you offer and give you back my love and my heart in return.”
Resources during Lent
Several resources offered by the Archdiocese of Detroit can assist the faithful in finding Mass times, confessions, Eucharistic holy hours and Lenten dinners. For more information, visit AODFinder.org.
To find an I AM HERE Lenten holy hour near you, visit iamhere.org/lent.