Patriarchal Address on Ash Wednesday and the Beginning of Lent

22 February A.D. 2012

Rutherford Card. Johnson

  To the Bishops, regular clergy, and faithful of the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church, greetings and Apostolic Blessings on this Ash Wednesday, in the Year of Our Lord 2012. As the Holy Church throughout the world begins the penitential season of Lent, the hope and certain knowledge of the coming Paschal Feast must never be put from our hearts and minds. The Lenten season is a time for conversion of heart, for conversion is a constant process. We all fail in our duties and obligations as Christians, and thus are ever in need of purification, absolution, and conversion. We must never allow ourselves to become complacent, for it is in that state of complacency that we stand the greatest chance of failure and decent into apostasy. It is in that state of complacency that we are most vulnerable to the assaults of the devil and of the world. We must always seek to discover our spiritual weaknesses and endeavor to amend our lives. Truly, conversion is a continual process that requires our constant attention. Lent, therefore, is one of the greatest blessings of the liturgical year. Lent provides us with the opportunity to examine our consciences, our spiritual lives, and our daily lives, identify weaknesses and problems, and take corrective action. We are not alone in this, for the Church is there through the Sacraments and through pastoral service, to guide and support as we again make ourselves ready to receive the glorious Paschal mysteries.

  In Lent, daily prayer and meditation are essential to the efforts of purification, of penance, of mortification to the ways of the world, and of spiritual growth. Frequent reception of the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Penance are of utmost importance. In the Holy Mass, there is, during Lent, a different mass appointed for each and every day of the season, with distinct readings and prayers. While it is laudable and pious to participate in the mass every day, particularly during Lent, there is still much to be gained by individually reading the appointed propers for the mass for each day during Lent. It provides an excellent personal guide through the Season.

  As we begin the Lenten season today, we announce with great joy the increase in clerical vocations within the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church, including incardination, postulants for Holy Orders, and religious postulants. It is through these evangelists, both new and experienced, that the message of our Lord and Savior will be spread throughout the world. Indeed, the world is always in great need of the message of Christ, but now even more so in this time of extensive worldwide strife. Wars and oppression, economic turmoil, and legislation of questionable morality threaten the sanctity of life, human dignity, and religious freedom. Communists and socialists in various governments in the world seek to impose a form of material equality that can only come at the expense of personal freedom. Without personal freedom, religious freedom necessarily suffers, and the cost to an individual's spiritual development is great.

  Attacks on freedom often come in the form of restriction of information, such as legislation aimed at restricting and censoring the internet, largely over financial concerns of certain special interest groups. As wrong as such censorship certainly is, the freedom of the internet comes with tremendous responsibility for proper use. The internet may be used as a tool for good or evil. People may use the internet to enrich their lives, grow spiritually, help other people, and make the world a better place. Alternatively, people may use the internet to do injury to others, spread detrimental or defamatory messages with virtual impunity, and generally harm themselves in the process of their own actions. Freedom always comes with responsibility, for true freedom is not doing what we want to do with reckless abandon, but rather is being free and able to do those things we should do. Abuse of freedom is the byproduct of a secular society.

  In a perhaps unprecedented way, Christ's Church is under great threat. Now in the United States it is being made more and more the case that following the doctrine and discipline of the Church could have serious legal consequences. Our society is increasingly being secularized, and this makes acts and policies of the government against the Church and the Christian faithful even easier to carry out and impose. In some settings, Christian clergy are being told by the government what they can and cannot say in their prayers. In some cases, Christians are being put in the position of having to choose between their consciences and being compliant with the law. Perhaps it is the plan of secularists to replace services provided by the Church with services controlled by the government.

  Yet, the same Supreme Court that has consistently opposed public prayer, as particularly public Christian prayer, recently upheld the sovereignty of the Church. While this was a great moment for religious freedom, the skies still remain dark. The world seems determined to suppress or even remove the Christian Faith and the Christian way of life. The easiest way to allow this to happen is to do nothing about it. Christian must stand up in peaceful opposition to threats against the Faith and the rights of all people. During the Lenten Season, let us all pray daily for the true conversion of all secularists who seek the destruction of the Church from the outside and for the true conversion of all modernists and liberals within the Church who seek destruction of the Church from the inside. Let us all constantly seek the intercession of the Saints for the preservation of religious freedom and the end of nefarious attacks against Christ's Holy Church and all the faithful in Christ throughout the world.

  And now, let us all remember again the purpose of Lent and resolve to prepare ourselves as much as we can in our human frailty to be ready for the joys of the coming Paschal mysteries. Let us make ourselves ready to go up to Jerusalem with Christ and join ourselves completely to his Passion, his ultimate sacrifice on the Cross, and his glorious resurrection.

  Through the prayers and merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Blessed Michael the Archangel, Blessed John the Baptist, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the Saints, may Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to everlasting life. R. Amen.

  The Almighty and merciful Lord grant you pardon, + absolution, and remission of all your sins, time for a true and fruitful penance, an always repentant heart and amendment of life, the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit, and final perseverance in good works. R. Amen.

  And the Blessing of Almighty God, + Father, + Son, and Holy + Ghost, be upon you and remain with you always. R. Amen.


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