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Sunday, September 25, 2016
Clifton: Lenten message from Bishop Declan Lang
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¬† Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ On Wednesday, with the blessing and giving of ashes, we begin the season of Lent. This is a time to renew the life of our communities and to deepen our personal relationship with God. We are preparing to celebrate Easter and in many of our parishes, to welcome new members. In the words of Hosea we are allowing the Lord to lure us into the wilderness so that he can speak to our hearts ≠ to the heart of our communities and to our individual hearts. As we enter Lent we need to ask the question: what is at the heart of our parishes and our individual lives? St Paul's response is that Christ should be written on our hearts so that we become a living letter which people can read and understand. Undoubtedly that is our desire but we know that the heart can become indifferent and hardened. We need Lent to allow the Spirit of God to renew the image of Christ within us. In 2004, a number of our parishes with other parishes throughout England and Wales, participated in a programme listening to the needs of families today. All the findings were put into a report. More importantly the Bishops of England and Wales agreed to a plan of action in response to what people had to say. The first need expressed was that our parishes should be welcoming and hospitable to all. Other requests were for the development of spirituality suitable for family life and that help is given to parents and grandparents to pass on faith in God. Throughout the diocese this Lent I would like us to ask how do we ensure that our parishes are welcoming and hospitable. Thank God, there is a spirit of friendship in our communities but how can we better this? At present there are new populations moving into our parishes often from other countries. On arrival they can feel isolated and vulnerable. They come to our churches because it is their faith that provides them with some security in a new and uncertain place. How do we welcome them and celebrate with them the faith which we profess together. It is not only people who are new to our communities who can feel isolated. Often people suffer silently and there is loneliness in their lives. This may be due to marital or family breakdown; to bereavement; to sexual orientation; to unemployment; to physical or mental health problems. What ever the need of people, hopefully within our communities they will find the healing presence of God. As we allow the Lord to lure us into the desert during the forty days of Lent, we cannot predict what the Lord might ask us to become. What we do know is that the voice of the Lord will be the voice of the God who loves us. God's call will not be to our destruction but to the enhancement of our lives. With my best wishes and prayers Bishop of Clifton Pastoral Letter to be read and made available for 25 and 26 February 2006, the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary time
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