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Lenten confirmation program

Parishes throughout the Diocese of Burlington have been invited to participate in a Lenten program to prepare adults to receive the sacrament of confirmation at Pentecost.
 
Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne confirms adults at Pentecost at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington. “Offering this program through Lent and the Easter Season allows those adults [18 and older] who are seeking confirmation to be adequately prepared to receive the graces of the sacrament both intellectually and spiritually,” explained Deacon Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the diocese. “Journeying with the community through Lent and Easter is a wonderful opportunity to grow closer to Christ and prepare to receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.”
 
Confirmation is one of the Sacraments of Initiation, the initial sacraments by which persons become members of the Catholic Church: baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. Through these sacraments, one is first welcomed into the Catholic community, nourished by the body and blood of the Lord and strengthened through intensification of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
 
Leaders for the confirmation program vary; in some parishes the director of religious education teaches the participants, in others it is a parish priest or volunteer catechist.
 
Deacon Lawson provided a workshop and online training for the parish leaders.
 
Paul Turnley is co-facilitating the program with RoseMaria Doran, for Our Lady of Seven Dolors Church in Fair Haven, St. John the Baptist Church in Castleton, St. Paul Church in Orwell, St. Matthew of Avalon Church at Lake Bomoseen, St. Frances Cabrini Church in West Pawlet, St. Raphael Church in Poultney and St. Anne Church in Middletown Springs.
 
Their program will include seven two-hour sessions: Each will use the framework of prayer, discipleship and mission to present its theme using as resources “The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults,” “Catechism of the Catholic Church” and the Bible.
 
Topics include “Desire for God,” “The Holy Spirit,” “Prayer. Challenge of following Christ. Moral Life. Mary and the Communion of Saints” and “Discipleship.”
 
“The Adult Confirmation Program is built around the framework of Encounter, Accompany, and Mission,” Turnley explained. “The first four and a half sessions, which include the three sessions during Lent, are focused on ‘Encountering Christ’ through focusing on our desire for God; the Holy Spirit; the sacraments of confirmation, reconciliation and the Eucharist; and prayer. These are preparation for accompanying the participants as they accept the challenge of following Christ, responding in love and giving their whole selves and lives to Him….”
 
Pope Francis has called for the Church to be “a facilitator of grace,” and providing an opportunity for adults who haven’t been confirmed to receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in confirmation “certainly fits the bill,” Deacon Lawson said.
 
Evangelization is about going out and sharing the joy of the Gospel, so the Lenten program “is a tremendous opportunity to reach out to those who may have drifted away from their faith,” he said.
 
The foundation of this process is a type of mini-catechumenate. Participants encounter Christ -- especially in the Gospels -- the leaders journey with them, and then the participants are equipped and sent forward on mission to live a life of faith.
 
Edmundite Father David Cray, pastor of St. Jude Church in Hinesburg and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Charlotte, likes the idea of a “uniform…flexible and convenient” process throughout the diocese to prepare adults for confirmation. Offering it during Lent has the benefit of proximity to the Pentecost confirmation by the bishop.
 
However, offering the program during Lent is what is suggested but not required.
 
Turnley said the program combines the elements of re-enkindling love, devotion and commitment to Jesus as the Christ through prayer, the sacraments and a willingness to be Christ in the world “with the opportunity of refreshing our understanding of our faith and our beliefs.”
 
The process in the diocese will be ongoing and offered annually as well as on an as-needed basis.  

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Originally published in the 2017 spring issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.
 

Pope: Lent breathes life into world

Lent is a time to receive God's breath of life, a breath that saves humanity from suffocating under the weight of selfishness, indifference and piety devoid of sincerity, Pope Francis said. 

"Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters," the pope said March 1 during an Ash Wednesday Mass.

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass after making the traditional Ash Wednesday procession from the Benedictine monastery of St. Anselm to the Dominican-run Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome's Aventine Hill.

After receiving ashes on top of his head from Cardinal Jozef Tomko, titular cardinal of the basilica, the pope distributed ashes to the cardinals, his closest aides, some Benedictines and Dominicans. 

He also distributed ashes to a family and to two members of the Pontifical Academy for Martyrs, which promotes the traditional Lenten "station church" pilgrimage in Rome.  

Lent, he said, is a time to say "no" to "all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion."

The church's Lenten journey toward the celebration of Christ's passion, death and resurrection is made on a road "leading from slavery to freedom" and "from suffering to joy," he said. "Lent is a path: It leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God's children."

The ashes, while a symbol of humanity's origin from the earth, the pope said, is also a reminder that God breathes new life into people in order to save them from the suffocation of "petty ambition" and "silent indifference."

"The breath of God's life sets us free from the asphyxia that so often we fail to notice or become so used to that it seems normal, even when its effects are felt," the pope said. 

The Lenten season, he continued, is a "time for saying no" to the asphyxia caused by superficial and simplistic analyses that "fail to grasp the complexity of problems" of those who suffer most.

"Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good," the pope said.

Instead, Pope Francis said, Lent is a time for Christians to remember God's mercy and "not the time to rend our garments before evil but rather make room in our life for the good we are able to do."

"Lent is the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity," the pope said.
 
  • Published in Vatican

Other persons are a gift

A few days ago I met a very little girl who made a big impression on me. Grace and her older brother, Benedict, suffer from a rare genetic disorder that has resulted in serious hearing impairment and limited physical growth. The two come to our home for the elderly each week with their mother to pray the rosary with our residents. Watching Grace and Benedict interact with the elderly, I was amazed by their maturity and graciousness. I almost felt that I was in the presence of angels – such was the radiance of these two beautiful little ones in the midst of our frail seniors.
 
In all likelihood, Grace and Benedict will never make an impact on the world scene, and yet I believe that they, and so many other little, hidden souls, make a huge difference in our world spiritually. This is what our Holy Father is suggesting by his Lenten message this year.
 
The theme he has proposed for our 2017 journey through Lent is “The Word is a Gift. Other Persons are a Gift.”
 
Using the parable of Lazarus and the rich man from St. Luke’s Gospel, Pope Francis turns our attention to those whom we might usually ignore. He compares the anonymity of the rich man, who is never named in Scripture, with Lazarus, who appears with a specific name and a unique story. Lazarus “becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast.”
 
The pope continues, “Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value.” Lent, he says, is a favorable season for recognizing the face of Christ in God’s little ones. “Each of us meets people like this every day,” says the pope. “Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable.”
 
This is what our foundress St. Jeanne Jugan did so beautifully. Mindful of Christ’s promise that whatever we do to the least of his brothers and sisters we do to Him, she opened her heart and her home definitively to the needy elderly of her day. She often counseled the young Little Sisters, “Never forget that the poor are Our Lord. … When you will be near the poor, give yourself wholeheartedly, for it is Jesus Himself whom you care for in them.”
 
Jeanne Jugan looked upon each elderly person with the loving gaze of Christ and so she saw each one as a treasure worthy of reverence and loving care. She knew that despite outward appearances, each person to whom she offered hospitality was someone for whom Christ died and rose again; each one was someone worthy of the gift of her own life.
 
Pope Francis’ prayer this Lent is that the Holy Spirit will lead us “on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need.” Let us pray for one another, he concluded, “so that by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and the poor. Then we will be able to share to the full the joy of Easter.”
 
I thank God for my recent encounter with Grace and Benedict, for they opened my eyes anew to the beauty in each human person. My wish for you this Lent is that God lead might you to a similar life-changing encounter.
 
Sister Constance Veit is the director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.
 

Finding peace of mind during Lent

Each time I see a baby sleeping peacefully, it reminds me of peace of mind at its best. Unfortunately, as that child grows, he or she will experience a life filled with anxieties that are forever disrupting its serenity.

Thanks to Lent, we have the opportunity to reflect on peace of mind and how to best maintain it. Throughout the Gospels, Christ repeatedly says the heart is the primary place for finding peace. He is forever asking, "Is your heart in the right place and do you listen to it when it isn't?"

Unfortunately, listening to the heart is usually not the first place we go to when disturbed. Why is this? It is because we tend to look "out there" for the disturbance. That disturbance may be coming from a spouse, job, neighbor or some other aspect of our anxious world.

Christ, however, reminds us to look inward, to call our soul, even as it finds itself stretched among desires, plans and intentions. Often, however, we find ourselves in a world that has lost its ability to contemplate, to employ the power of meditation to sort through and gain control over life's anxieties.

We live in a world of heightened distractions that hinder us from shutting off the things that disrupt us.

What might be the vices that most sicken the heart? Christ gives us the answer in Mark 7:21-23:

"From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile."

Here Christ connects defilement with our conscience. When we are in sync with the conscience, a wholesome, peaceful order follows. When we are at odds with it, it defiles us with shame, guilt and sleepless nights.

But why do these feelings arise? It is because we haven't been true to the person we truly are. We aren't the person we desire to be. We don't truly have love of self because we have forfeited God's love in us. In telling us to love "your neighbor as yourself," Christ tells us that we must first truly love what we stand for in order to love another person. This love puts the mind at peace.

Lent is often pictured as a time to "get in shape," or to fast and abstain as a means for improving the spiritual life. But it's also equally true that it is an opportunity to work on and improve peace of mind.

By Father Eugene Hemrick

Catholic News Service

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne will distribute Ashes on February 10 during the 12:05 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 20 Pine Street, Burlington, and at the Catholic Center on UVM's Redstone Campus, 390 So. Prospect St., Burlington at 7 p.m.

The faithful are welcome and invited to attend.

Lent Begins

Ash Wednesday, February 10

Days of fast and abstinence: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday

Days of Abstinence

All Friday's through Friday, March 25

For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may also be taken, but not to equal a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.

 
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