2024 Lenten Message from His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin

2024 Lenten Message from His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin

To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West,

Dearly beloved,

Great Lent historically was the time of catechism in the life of the Church. Those answering the call to embrace Christ and His Holy Church were instructed in the Faith and prepared for baptism. The great procession of the newly-baptized into the Church is echoed in our paschal procession today at midnight. Studying and learning the faith and preparation for baptism is an integral element of the lenten journey.

Everywhere in our Church today, we see a regular and inspiring flow of individuals seeking Christ and the Church. Every parish reports growing numbers of catechumens. There is a desire growing in those left starving and dying of thirst in a culture that is increasingly secular and even anti-Christian. People seeking Christ with purity of heart and belonging to what were once “traditional” churches are finding themselves more and more having to turn elsewhere. They are looking for apostolic faith and fidelity to the words of Christ and the apostolic message delivering that word. They are finding the Church.

Why reflect on this phenomenon at this beginning of our lenten journey? The fathers call repentance, confession, and absolution a “second baptism.” Great Lent is our annual opportunity in a focused and intense way to become catechumens once again. Each and every one of us needs to go back to the beginning, so to speak. To be like the prodigal who woke up, came to himself, and returned to the Father. Our daily lives are bombarded with every manner of spiritual junk food. Our culture is pornographic and blood-soaked. Our passions are fed and metastasize within us. We embrace that more than we would like to admit and need to repent and cleanse ourselves from filth. We find ourselves sitting once again outside the gates of paradise:

Adam sat before the gates of Eden, bewailing his nakedness and crying out:
“Woe to me! I have listened to wicked deceit; I have lost my glory, and now am driven away! Woe to me! My open-mindedness has left me naked and confused! No longer will I enjoy your delights, O Paradise; no longer can I see my Lord, my God and Creator. He formed me from dust, and now to the dust I return! I beg You, O compassionate Lord: Have mercy on me who have fallen!” (Vespers of Cheesefare Sunday)

And we are called to start over. The Church is plunged into darkness, we hear the lament voiced in the Canon of St. Andrew and beg God to allow us — even though weak — sincere repentance. We begin that sojourn through the desert with joy and hope, because the Lord Himself travels with us and never leaves our side. We are invited to the oasis which is the Church, particularly the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts. We are fortified and with faith, love, repentance, and hope move step by step to the glory of the Resurrection.

I ask your forgiveness as we enter the Fast. I pray for each of you as I hope you do for me. I wish for all of you a most fruitful, sober, and joyous journey through these most holy days. May we all arrive and rejoice in the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection!

With love in Christ,

☦ Benjamin

Archbishop of San Francisco and the West