Dear friends of CLINIC,
As we entered the first full week of Lent, following the Mass and Gospel with the story of the Lord 's forty days in the desert, I was able to chair my first meeting as CLINIC Board Chair at their new offices. All present were able to see the new offices in Silver Spring, Maryland and ask the Lord's blessing upon the leadership and staff of CLINIC and their new office space. Special thanks to Jeanne, Maura, and all of the staff.
Since we are still at the beginning of our Lenten journey – and having encountered the living Word of God with St. Matthew's account of the Jesus' Forty Days and temptations – we are led now to reflect on our own forty days and what our Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are going to look like for us. I would like to offer some liturgical/historical reflections and then some pastoral ones. They are all part of the same reality of our response to the Lenten call for penance and sacrifice, and thus conversion of heart!
First, on a historical, ecclesial, and liturgical level, I recommend some reading and reflection on the history and meaning of the Lenten Station Churches in Rome. This read would bring us out of our present moment to the Lenten seasons of ages past, where we can pray together with the bishops of Rome and the holy men and women of every time and place. Each day of Lent is marked by the celebration of Mass and prayer at a different ancient church in Rome, for example Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill on Ash Wednesday, San Giorgio in Velabro at the foot of the Paletine Hill the next day, and Saints John and Paul on the Celian Hill on Friday. This is a custom that dates back at least to the 3rd and 4th century A.D. Large crowds of faithful of every language walk across the city of Rome in pilgrimage before sunrise (and all day) to pray together!
There is also the walk of Faith during the season on a pastoral level.
Our Lenten pilgrimage of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving leads us of necessity to the families and religious and priests we journey with daily in our work and ministry of CLINIC. In our search for a closer walk with the Lord in these days, they can show us the face of Christ in their struggles. We have a Lenten journey of 40 days, but truly their own personal situations can be a Lent with no end in sight. Quite different from our efforts at "sacrifice" of candy or soda!
How do our Lenten sacrifices and penance help them? Do we pray for them and with them in addition to our personal and liturgical prayer, so they are integral to our mission and not just another case number? Do we give them the "alms" of our care, love, and sacrifice in addition to our financial assistance?
The season of Lent is a time for all of us to remember that this "accepted time" is a journey of Faith to the life of the Risen Lord together with all whom we serve, especially those in the CLINIC family.
Thank you for all that you do. A very blessed and Holy Season of Lent.
Gratefully yours in the Lord,
Bishop Kevin Vann
CLINIC Board Chair
*The Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann is Bishop of Orange and the Chair of CLINIC’s Board of Directors.