Many began Lenten journey at start of economic downturn, Cardinal says

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — In his annual Lenten message, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony told Catholics that the country’s economic downturn has caused many people to already experience the season of Lent. "Lent actually began in 2007 for thousands of families all across the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and we have been in a long and protracted season of Lent ever since," he said in the message, released Feb. 25. The cardinal said the Lenten journey has already been a long one because of an economy that continues to spiral downward "day after day, with millions of jobs being eliminated, with people unable to make their house payments, thus losing their homes, and with so many fearful of what tomorrow might bring." He urged Catholics to embrace the current hardships and to offer prayers and sacrifices for those impacted by the economic crisis. Cardinal Mahony said he intends to pray each day of Lent for different groups of people impacted by today’s economy — such as those who are out of work, families who have lost homes, parents who struggle to make ends meet for their children, those who have lost health insurance and retirees whose pensions have been reduced. He said the Lenten season was a time to "reflect more deeply into our lives with God, to reorder our personal priorities according to the Gospel, and to live out increased personal sacrifice in our daily living." In previous years, "when life and our financial security were far more predictable," the cardinal noted, Lent was a limited time of special sacrifices before life went back to normal after Easter. "But now we have a new reality," he said. "We aren’t choosing our sacrifices this year; they have chosen us. And they aren’t just for six weeks; they have been our burden for over 75 weeks now with no sign of relief in sight." Cardinal Mahony said he personally planned to use the time of Lent to embrace "the new wearisome burdens, difficulties and unexpected hardships that have confronted me on my journey of life and faith." "I can’t pretend that these difficult burdens aren’t there; nor can I try to somehow sneak around them and move on," he said. "What I must do is recognize them, embrace them, realize I can’t carry them alone and ‘make sacred’ all that surrounds me." He said the Ash Wednesday words "repent and believe in the Gospel" — used during the administration of ashes — have profound meaning. The call to repentance, he said, "means putting aside my pride and my spirit of self-sufficiency, and realizing that the only life-giving path forward is to embrace humbly what surrounds me — knowing ever more deeply that God is far more present to me in the midst of helplessness and weakness than when there are fewer challenges." He said the admonition to "believe in the Gospel," means Catholics should listen to the Gospel messages during Lent and also realize they are walking with Jesus as he "embraces opposition, rejection and seeming abandonment."

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