I hope the announcements are made in all the churches and chapels in our Diocese that the year 2018 has been declared as the year of the Rosary of Blessed Virgin Mary. In the context of the 450 years of Christian presence in Rosario parish by erecting a chapel the first one in this Diocese, dedicated to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary by the Portuguese in a place called Bengare, the year 2018 is declared as the year of the Family Rosary. I wish that every family revives the devotion of daily family rosary. Many suggestions are given to you to popularize this devotion in this year.
We will be celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on 11 February. Being a Sunday, the Sunday liturgy is to be followed. However you may have the devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes by the candlelit procession and rosary as it is done in many parishes. This day was also observed as a day of the sick by St John Paul II. The reason being, on the feast day and other days of the year many sick people visit the Shrine at Lourdes and pray for good health. Let us have special prayers for the sick on 11 February. Let us also remember various institutions in our Diocese giving service to the sick and abandoned by the families and the society. We should thank them for such service they do to the people who are not kith and kin to them but brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. Jesus has said as long you have done to the least of my brothers and sisters you have done it unto me (Mt.25:40).
The 14 February is the Ash Wednesday. It is a day of penance for the whole Church of Roman Rite to be marked by fasting and abstinence. The Lenten season is a time of preparation for the celebration of Easter. In early Church the baptism to the new converts was done on the Easter vigil. For this, there was a preparation for the catechumens at various stages of Christian initiation. This season prepares the faithful to recall their baptism and do penance to change their sinful life to a life of holiness. The adults from the age of 18 shall observe the fast and abstinence. Whereas, the others when they reached the age of 14 observe the abstinence. During the Lenten season let us initiate the children in the family to give up certain entertainments in the spirit of penance. During the season many holy practices are done by the faithful and priests and religious as well. We conduct the way of the cross, voluntary fasting and prayer. The faithful also go on pilgrimages and spend a day in recollection and make their confession and participate in the mass. The priests who are incharge of the Shrines should welcome the pilgrims and make good preparation to accommodate them and have a meaningful celebration of mass. Many of our faithful attend daily mass in the mornings, give up entertainments, give up the usual habit of taking alcohol, not keeping any entertainment etc. in the season of Lent. All these practices help us to change our life to return to God our heavenly Father who waits for us to shower His mercy and love on us. Those who have birthdays in lent, may kindly postpone the festive celebration, for the people are scandalized at those celebrations, when actually the lay people do not celebrate during lent. The story of the prodigal son and the lost sheep is to be repeated in our life. It is not so much the reparation of our sins but efforts we make to return to the Father, never to go back into our own profane habits. The mercy and love of God cannot be measured by us or by our penance and any kind of reparation. This is the time for us to meditate and live on the immense love and mercy of God. During this season in some places there are public way of the cross devotion, such as in Pezar, Mudipu and some other parishes. The pastors are requested to exhort the people to attend these devotions in big numbers. Our whole effort is to keep our faithful in the holiness of life when the world and consumeristic society drags them downwards.
The pastors are requested not to leave the parishes during the season of Lent and advent. The faithful require the presence of priests in their parishes for various exercises befitting the Lenten observance. We have a good custom to keep a day for confession in every parish and all the deanery priests cooperate with the parish priest to render service in the parishes. Let us continue it in a very meaningful way without rushing through the entire exercise. On the whole, let us respond to the call of God for a profound change in opening ourselves to the Kingdom of God and permitting it to determine the direction of our life. The other part of our response should be that we believe in the Gospel, and we take Jesus at His word – That what sounds too good to be true is really true. Let us acknowledge there is evil in the world and in us. We have sinned in what we have done and in what we have failed to do in; our thoughts, in our words and in our actions. Let us accept lent as a time of testing our attitudes, values, concerns and life goals – testing not with a view to pass/fail but to improve ourselves. Let us move on to direct our prayers and actions outward to the glory of God and the needs of our human community.
I request everyone to get into the spirit of Lent and to meditate on the love and mercy of God our Father. Let us pray for one another and let us gather ourselves at the end of the day for a family rosary which binds us together. Please continue to pray for me. May God bless you and keep you in His love.
+ Aloysius Paul D’Souza
Bishop of Mangalore