Why is it that Ash Wednesday gathers the Catholic faithful, particularly those who are new immigrants, in record numbers every year? One possible interpretation is that such devotion comes from the awareness that we all are sinners and that everyone is welcome to receive the ashes. Taking a closer look at our experience, we can say that Ash Wednesday gives us the opportunity to reflect on profound questions such as “Who am I, where do I come from, and where am I going?” On Ash Wednesday God reminds us that we belong to Him, that we are clay, shaped by His loving hands, and not just random beings lost in the universe. On this day God invites us to spend time with Him during the Lenten season so that we may learn to live-for-others-with-love, and to prepare ourselves to embrace more fully Easter’s promises of life everlasting.
God of Compassion, on this day of ashes and comfort for all remind me once more that I belong to You, that I come from You and to You I go. Open my heart, my mind, and my hands so that I may give You my sins, receive Your forgiveness, and recommit myself once more to love with tenderness, to act with justice, and to walk humbly by Your side.
--- Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, USCCB Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church
In most parishes, the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is held on Ash Wednesday. The collection funds projects in 28 countries to build the pastoral capacity of the Church and to rebuild and restore the faith and the light of Christ in these countries that have dark pasts but bright futures.
Today's reading from Deuteronomy reminds us to "choose life." Learn more about the United States Catholic bishops' framework for healthcare reform, which includes a commitment to the unborn and to healthcare for all, especially those who are most vulnerable, including the poor and migrants.
Throughout the year and especially during Lent, we are called to examine our consciences, becoming aware not only of our personal, individual sin, but also our participation in social sin. Use this Catholic Social Teaching Examination of Conscience as a supplement to your regular examination of conscience.
In today's first reading, Isaiah reminds us that helping the poor is an important response to our faith. Watch the "Meet Mary" video to learn about the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the domestic, anti-poverty program of the Catholic bishops in the United States that helps poor and low-income people address the causes of poverty and injustice in their neighborhoods and communities.
Today's reading from Genesis tells the story of humans' first sin. Today, sin continues to be manifest not only in our individual deeds and actions, but also in social structures that perpetuate poverty and injustice. Take action during Lent to help overcome sin through the power of Christ's love. Serve your brothers and sisters in need. Advocate on their behalf. Use these resources to help make your service project--and your post-service reflection time--truly transformational.
Each year, Operation Rice Bowl invites us to pray with our families and faith communities; fast in solidarity with those who hunger; learn more about our global community and the challenges of poverty overseas; and give sacrificial contributions to those in need.
Today's Gospel reading is the origin of the words we pray every Sunday: "Give us this day our daily bread." We depend on God for the resources we need to get through each day, but we are also called to act as His hands and feet by ensuring that all people in our human family have access to the "bread" they need to survive and flourish. Visit the Catholics Confront Global Poverty web page to learn about issues facing many members of our human family that prevent many from accessing the "bread" they need to survive, and to take the Global Solidarity Challenge.
Today, encourage a young person in your life to enter the CCHD Multi-Media Youth Arts Contest. The contest helps young people learn about poverty in the U.S. and the response of our faith. Invite the religious education program at your parish, or the school in your neighborhood, to participate as well! The deadline for the contest each year is March 31.
Today's Gospel reading from Matthew tells us, "Ask and it will be given; seek and you will find." Watch this video about Sarah Nolan, a young woman whose work to help Catholics bring their Gospel values to elected officials is making a difference for many Californians.
Leave your gift at the Altar
As Christians who have been forgiven, in our fallen world we are often called to both seek out and accept the forgiveness of others. For the past several years in different places around the world our Church has been scandalized by reports of clerical sex abuse. Pope Benedict XVI has often met personally with the victims of this abuse, as part of his travels. One such time was in Malta on April 28-2010. Pope Benedict XVI, standing in front of the altar, met privately with abuse victims. The pope had tears in his eyes as he listened to them. He expressed his sorrow, blessed and promised to pray for each of them. Accounts given by those present spoke of healing, freedom and of faith renewed.
Matthew 5:23-24 reminds us that if our brother holds something against us, we must seek his forgiveness before presenting our gifts at the altar of God.
This exhortation of our Lord is not lost on our Holy Father. The profound sin of clerical sex abuse, among other things, reminds us of just how in need of forgiveness our world is. The example of Benedict XVI reminds us that no one in this world is above seeking forgiveness, even if we’re not directly responsible. During our journey through Lent, may we be ever mindful of our responsibility to seek forgiveness and to truly forgive others from our heart.
—USCCB Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
In today’s Gospel, Jesus exhorts us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. While the threat of terrorism is a brutal reality in the world today, it is important to remember Jesus’ words and to not let our fears lead to inhumane treatment or torture of prisoners. Read about what the Catholic Church teaches about the morality of torture and reflect on how you can stop its practice.
Since the earthquake in Haiti over one year ago, Catholics have responded generously to provide much-needed help and assistance to their brothers and sisters in need. Learn more and find out how you can be involved.
Today's reading from Isaiah calls attention to the need to redress the wronged. Take a moment to read the story of Omaha Together One Community (OTOC), a multi-ethnic, ecumenical organization of some twenty-five churches, schools and parent groups that has worked to redress wrongs, such as fixing the decrepit sewage system in poorer parts of the city that was leading to unsanitary conditions.
The scourge of HIV and AIDS continues to impact the lives of many individuals and families across the globe. As part of your Lenten prayer, remember those who are suffering from AIDS.
Prayer for all who suffer from HIV or AIDS
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
O Good and gracious God,
you are the God of health and wholeness.
In the plan of your creation,
you call us to struggle in our sickness
and to cling always to the cross of your Son.
Father, we are your servants.
Many of us are now suffering with HIV or AIDS.
We come before you, and ask you,
if it is your holy will,
to take away this suffering from us,
restore us to health and lead us to know you
and your powerful healing,
love of body and spirit.
We ask you also
to be with those of us who nurse your sick ones.
We are the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers,
children, and friends of your suffering people.
It is so hard for us to see those whom we love suffer.
You know what it is to suffer.
Help us to minister in loving care, support, and
patience to your people who suffer with HIV and AIDS.
Lead us to do whatever it will take to
eradicate this illness from the lives of those
who are touched by it,
both directly and indirectly.
Trusting in you and the strength of your Spirit,
we pray these things in the name of Jesus.
—USCCB Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church
The story of Lazarus and the rich man challenges us to consider the disparity of wealth in a world where 1.4 billion people experience extreme poverty each day. Learn about global poverty and then engage your family, parish, school, or community to become a star on the Global Solidarity Map through your efforts to Pray, Learn, Share, and Advocate about global poverty.
The Annunciation of the Lord
On this day we recall how the Angel Gabriel came to the Blessed Virgin Mary and told her that she was to be the Mother of God. The significance of this feast for the Gospel of Life was recalled by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae: "The one who accepted ‘Life' in the name of all and for the sake of all was Mary, the Virgin Mother; she is thus most closely and personally associated with the Gospel of life. Mary's consent at the Annunciation and her motherhood stand at the very beginning of the mystery of life which Christ came to bestow on humanity (cf. Jn. 10:10). Through her acceptance and loving care for the life of the Incarnate Word, human life has been rescued from condemnation to final and eternal death."
The story of the Prodigal son, told in today's Gospel, is a story of God's grace and forgiveness for the undeserving. Our belief in grace, restoration, and reconciliation helps form the foundation for the Catholic church's teachings on ending the use of the death penalty.
In today's Old Testament reading the Lord uses a little slave girl to deliver the good news that God will heal Naaman, a Syrian leper. Use CCHD's Poverty USA Student Action Project to share with children in Grades K-8, the good news that they can share the love of God with others through charitable works and social justice.
Today's reading from Deuteronomy helps us to reflect on the importance of just "statutes and decrees" to govern our land, just as in the days of Israel. Today, learn about the efforts of Fr. John Tapp and his parish, who are inspired by their faith to promote just laws in their community.
Today's reading reminds us to be open to the Word of God. A good way to learn to do so is to practice Lectio Divino, or “divine reading” of scripture; an ancient practice developed by the early monks to make reading the Bible an attractive experience. A common method involves a small group of people gathering to listen to a passage read aloud. The participants first point out any word that struck them. Then they hear the same passage once more, and expand from a word to an idea reflected in the passage. After a third reading the members of the group take time to describe briefly how the passage speaks to them and how it might throw light upon the work or worries of their lives.
At the USCCB's Faithful Citizenship website, learn how to live out the commands to love God and neighbor through prayer, learning, and advocacy as a faithful citizen. Visit the Faithful Citizenship website and be sure to check out the special section for (junior high youth, teens and young adults.
In today's readings we hear that God desires love over sacrifice and he is merciful toward the humble and poor. Take some time this week to learn about poverty in the United States and some of the reasons why people are poor in our rich country. Visit PovertyUSA.org.
Catholic Relief Services Collection. In most parishes, the Catholic Relief Services Collection is held this weekend. CRS helps families by working to reunite them, caring for vulnerable and exploited children, changing unjust laws, and providing pastoral care and humanitarian and emergency assistance across the globe.
Today's Gospel reading reveals Jesus' compassion for the poor and sick. The Ending Poverty in Community resource from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development instills compassion in young people by helping them to explore the causes of poverty and to discern their own faith-inspired response.
Today’s readings remind us of God’s infinite mercy. We are called be merciful ourselves and to forgive others as God forgives us, even those who take another life. Read about how one mother learned to forgive her son’s murderer and understand the fullness of God’s mercy in this commentary from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver.
In today’s readings, the Egyptians face God’s wrath when they disobey him and worship the false idol of the golden calf. Are there false idols in your life that interfere with your relationships with God, your community or your loved ones? Renew your understanding of Catholic Social Teaching and resolve to live as Jesus taught us.
In Augsburg Germany on ‘Reformation Day’ October 31st 1999, the Catholic Church and the World Lutheran Federation signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. This agreement did something more than resolve a key debate over the manner one receives salvation. It publically put to rest an age of polemical fighting so contrary to the model given in Scripture. More importantly it also opened the doors to reconciliation. In fact, the ceremony began with a joint Lutheran-Catholic penitential service. Both sides forgave one another for the past wrongs their Churches mutually committed. The ceremony ended with an eruption of spontaneous applause, filling the Lutheran Church of St. Anne and lasting the entire time the four Catholic and Lutheran representatives signed the joint declaration.
In light of our common faith and baptism St. Paul exhorts us to peaceably and lovingly bear with one another so to preserve the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:2-6). Sadly, Christians from every tradition have often failed to do this. On October 31st 1517 Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 thesis on the doors of the church. These 95 critical arguments against then common Church practices set off a chain of events. Other Church leaders responded in kind until the infighting culminated in the Reformation and a legacy of church division.
Because Lent is a time especially dedicated to reconciliation, the historic signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification holds a special Lenten message for us. What begins with humble penitence, by God’s transformative grace, always ends in jubilant celebration. Perhaps to symbolize this, Bishop Mocko of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, in honor of the occasion nailed the Joint Declaration to the doors of both the Catholic Basilica of the Assumption and Christ Lutheran Church in Baltimore Maryland. By grace we are saved, by grace God reconciles us to Himself and miraculously enough, to one another as well.
—USCCB Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
In his Lenten message last year, Pope Benedict XVI asked us to reflect on theme of justice and especially how it applies to our treatment of our neighbors. The pope noted that “God is attentive to the cry of the poor and in return asks to be listened to: He asks for justice towards the poor, the stranger, the slave.” Help seek justice for immigrants to the U.S. by joining in the Justice for Immigrants campaign.
In today’s Gospel, Christ’s own resurrection is foreshadowed in the story of Lazarus. Test your knowledge and understanding of Christ’s resurrection with this quiz based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that all sinners become slaves of sin. During Lent, we are especially called to examine our consciences and seek forgiveness from sin through prayer and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To prepare for your next sacramental confession, review these examinations of conscience.
In his efforts to repair the divisions between the Churches of East and West, Pope Paul VI showed great wisdom by beginning theological dialogues only after a dialogue of love. One common task of ecumenicism is the healing of memories between separated Churches. This is no different from the need we often experience say with our own family. Quite often we never stop feeling hurt from what has been done by those who are supposed to love us most. In order to forgive them we too need a similar healing.
Paul VI knew he had to start the dialogue of love by returning something sacred that had been stolen long ago. Two centuries after the official split between Catholic and Orthodox, soldiers of the 4th crusade decided to take a side trip to Constantinople. Without provocation they sacked and looted the city, ousted the Orthodox patriarch and replaced him with a Catholic archbishop. Subsequently they also stole the holy relics of St. Andrew the apostle. The Orthodox were so hurt by this because a sister church had even taken their spiritual patrimony. The healing of this difficult memory could only begin with Paul VI’s giving the relics of St. Andrew back to Patriarch Athenagoras and the Greek Orthodox Church.
Like his brother Peter, patron of Rome, Andrew has long been the principle patron of Constantinople. His return symbolically reversed an injustice between two brothers and healed a memory between two sister Churches. Through Christ’s salvific work, all Christians are one family in God. Perhaps this Lent God would have us imitate the wisdom of Paul VI. By giving of ourselves we too can be a source of grace. Then we will begin to heal the painful memories that keep us apart from our families, loved ones and ultimately the world.
—USCCB Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
In today’s first reading, the prophet Jeremiah praises God for rescuing the poor. Today, learn about Community Labor United (CLU), a community organization that is working to achieve energy efficiency goals and put low-income people to work in living-wage jobs that provide career opportunities. Like many others, this inspiring group has received funds from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development to assist the poor as they work to escape from poverty.
It’s all about love…rooted in the life of the Trinity!
The Church’s focus on diversity is rooted in the inner life of God as we have come to know him in the Scriptures, as God has revealed himself to us. We are told that “God is love.” Love is about reaching out to another. The inner-life of God is Trinitarian - it consists of a mutual giving and receiving among the three divine persons. Human beings we are told are “made in God’s image.” So we are also about love and our godliness consists just like God’s in reaching out to others in mutual giving and receiving. Now otherness is about difference not sameness. So when we close ourselves off from others, from those who are “different,” we cease being like God. We stop reaching out, we stop loving. Jesus illustrated this in his parables, particularly the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The parable was given in response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer is that one’s neighbor is the “other,” not the person you think is like you, but rather the person you know to be different. He or she is your neighbor according to Jesus.
People ask why the Catholic Church is so supportive of immigrants, refugees and other people on the margins. The answer is that we are faithful to the God we have come to know in Jesus by following Jesus in living out this love for others, especially the poor and all people on the margins. These ideas are not novel. They echo what Pope Benedict XVI said so much more eloquently in his wonderful first encyclical Deus caritas est.
—Rev. Allan Figueroa Deck, S.J., USCCB Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church
As we remember Christ's suffering and death in today's Gospel readings, reflect on the suffering of many communities around the United States today as a result of the economic crisis and listen to podcasts about what Catholic teaching has to say about the crisis.
In today's readings, the prophet Isaiah reminds us of Christ's role establishing justice, healing the blind and rescuing prisoners. Follow his example of bringing light to the darkness. Visit the action page of the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development (JPHD) to take action with fellow Catholics.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus foretells his betrayal by Judas. Reflect on this paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that looks at how Judas’ treachery and the other grievous sins committed against Christ during Holy Week lead to our path of salvation.
“It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate's cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas' betrayal—so bitter to Jesus, Peter's denial and the disciples' flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world, the sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly.”
Today's reading from Isaiah and the Psalm express the pain of those who suffer. The readings may move us to ask ourselves, "Who suffers today?" Watch this video from Catholic Charities in New Orleans about the plight of oystermen in the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill. The video illustrates the oystermen's suffering--and what has brought them hope.
Today we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. Learn about one parish that is experiencing a resurrection of hope. With the assistance of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Fr. Toribio Guerrero has gained valuable skills to evangelize the neighborhood and to empower and develop leaders in his parish.
Easter Triduum: April 21 (Mass of the Lord's Supper) - April 24 (evening prayer on Easter Sunday)
Easter Sunday: April 24
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
Becoming a Catholic
On Holy Saturday, April 23, the Catholic Church in the United States will receive thousands of men and women into the church. Parishes welcome these new members through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and at a ceremony bringing men and women into full communion with the Catholic Church. Listed below are some questions and answers about RCIA.
Come to the Water,
follows a year in the lives of men and women participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in the culturally diverse Archdiocese of Seattle. Click here to view an excerpt from this program.
The RCIA, which stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, is a process through which non-baptized men and women enter the Catholic Church. It includes several stages marked by study, prayer and rites at Mass. Participants in the RCIA are known as catechumens. They undergo a process of conversion as they study the Gospel, profess faith in Jesus and the Catholic Church, and receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist. The RCIA process follows the ancient practice of the church and was restored by the Second Vatican Council as the normal way adults prepare for baptism. In 1974, the Rite for Christian Initiation for Adults was formally approved for use in the United States.
What are the steps of RCIA?
Prior to beginning the RCIA process, an individual comes to some knowledge of Jesus Christ, considers his or her relationship with Jesus Christ and is usually attracted in some way to the Catholic Church. This period is known as the Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate. For some, this process involves a long period of searching; for others, a shorter time. Often, contact with people of faith and a personal faith experience lead people to inquire about membership in the Catholic Church.
After conversation with an advisor or spiritual guide, the person, known as an “inquirer,” may decide to seek acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. The inquirer stands amidst the parish community and states that he or she wants to become a baptized member of the Catholic Church. The parish assembly affirms this desire and the inquirer becomes a “catechumen.”
The period of the catechumenate can last for as long as several years or for a shorter time. It depends on how the person is growing in faith, what questions they encounter along the way, and how God leads them on this journey. During this time the catechumens consider what God is saying to them in the scriptures, what changes in their life they want to make to respond to God’s inspiration, and what membership in the Catholic Church involves.
When a catechumen and the parish team working with him or her believes the person is ready to make a faith commitment to Jesus in the Catholic Church, the next step is the request for baptism and the celebration of the Rite of Election.
"I baptize you
in the name
of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit."
This rite includes the enrollment of names of all those seeking baptism at the coming Easter Vigil. On the first Sunday of Lent, the catechumens and their sponsors gather at the cathedral church and the catechumens publicly request baptism. Their names are recorded in a book and they are called “the elect.”
The days of Lent are the final period of purification and enlightenment leading up to the celebration of initiation at the Easter Vigil. Lent is a period of preparation marked by prayer, study, and spiritual direction for the elect, and prayers for them by the parish communities.
The third step is the Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation, which takes place during the Easter Vigil Liturgy on Holy Saturday when the catechumen receives the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist. Now the person is a fully initiated member of the Catholic Church.
After the person is initiated, formation and education continue in the period of the postbaptismal catechesis, which is called “mystagogy.” This period continues at least until Pentecost. During the period the newly baptized members reflect on their experiences at the Easter Vigil and continue to learn more about the scriptures, the sacraments, and the teachings of the Catholic Church. In addition they reflect on how they will serve Christ and help in the church’s mission and outreach activities.
What is meant when people refer to men and women
coming into "full communion with the Church"?
Coming into full communion with the Catholic Church describes the process for entrance into the Catholic Church for men and women who are baptized Christians but not Roman Catholics. These individuals make a profession of faith but are not baptized again.
To prepare for this reception, the people, who are called “candidates,” usually participate in a program to help them understand and experience the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. Some preparation may be with catechumens preparing for baptism, but the preparation for candidates is different since they have already been baptized and committed to Jesus Christ, and many have also been active members of other Christian communities.
What is the Holy Saturday rite like?
The Holy Saturday Liturgy begins with the Service of Light, which includes the blessing of the new fire and the Paschal candle which symbolizes Jesus, the light of the World. The second part consists of the Liturgy of the Word with a number of scripture readings. After the Liturgy of the Word, the candidates are presented to the community, who pray for them and join in the Litany of the Saints. Next, the presider blesses the water, placing the Easter or Paschal candle into the baptismal water. Those seeking baptism then renounce sin and profess their faith after which they are immersed into the baptismal water three times with the words, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
In some situations the water may be poured over the head of each candidate.
After the baptism the newly baptized are dressed in white garments and presented with a candle lighted from the Paschal Candle. They are then confirmed by the priest or bishop who imposes hands on their heads, and invokes the gift of the Holy Spirit. He then anoints them with the oil called Sacred Chrism.
The Mass continues with the newly baptized participating in the general intercessions and in bringing gifts to the altar. At Communion, the newly baptized receives the Eucharist, Christ’s body and blood, for the first time.
What does the white robe symbolize?
The newly baptized are dressed in a white garment after baptism to symbolize that they are washed clean of sin and continue to walk in this newness of life.
What does the candle symbolize?
A small candle is lit from the Easter candle and given to the newly baptized as a reminder to them always to walk as children of the Light.
What does the Sacred Chrism symbolize?
The Sacred Chrism, or oil, is a sign of the gift of the Holy Spirit being given to the newly baptized. It is also a sign of the close link between the mission of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Who comes to the recipient with the Father in baptism.
Why was this ancient rite restored?
It was restored in the church to highlight the fact that the newly baptized are received into a community of faith, which is challenged to realize that they too have become different because of this new life in the community.
Is there a ceremony or preparation for baptized Catholics
who never or seldom have practiced the faith?
For Catholics who have been baptized, confirmed and made First Communion but then drifted from the faith, the way they return is through the Sacrament of Penance. Catholics who were baptized but never received confirmation and Eucharist can return to the church through a process called continuing conversion that is completed with the reception of the sacraments of confirmation and Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil or during the Easter Season.
What is the role of a godparent for an adult being baptized?
Godparents accompany the candidates through the RCIA process. They are called to show the candidates good example of the Christian life, sustain the candidates in moments of hesitancy and anxiety, bear witness, and guide the candidate's progress in the baptismal life.