"From The Bishop" - Column for March 2016 NCC

March 1, 2016

24 Hours for the Lord – Friday and Saturday, March 4-5 One of the programs encouraged by Pope Francis to highlight the Year of Mercy is a block of time, 24 hours in fact, to be set aside in every Parish for a time of Adoration and especially for abundant opportunities to access the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I have sent to pastors a proposed outline for how this time could be utilized in the Diocese of Santa Rosa. For some parishes a full 24 hour, overnight adoration may not be feasible. For those which already have a Perpetual Adoration Program such a schedule is relatively easy to adapt. In other parishes I propose the possibility of two 12 hour periods of Adoration and Prayer, one on Friday and one on Saturday. Pastors are free to adapt the proposed schedule according to their own prudent judgment. As I have told the pastors, the key is to offer an abundant amount of time for people to come to confession.
         The Season of Lent is a great season of grace and it is particularly a season for the grace of repentance and reconciliation. I could not help but notice the great numbers of people who were eager to come to Mass on Ash Wednesday, to receive ashes and to hear ‘Remember that you are dust…’ I teased those present at the Cathedral on Ash Wednesday evening that, if asked by their friends what they did Wednesday night, you could say, “I went to Church, was told that I was dirt, got ashes signed on my forehead and felt great! It was wonderful!” It would not appear to the secular mind to be wonderful and so we are challenged to ask ourselves, ‘Why is this such a popular day?’
         I truly believe that we are all deeply aware of our sinfulness, conscious of our unworthiness to be called children of God, and of our need for the merciful gaze of our Father. Our attentiveness to Ash Wednesday is a sign that we truly do recognize our need for the Sacrament of Reconciliation but there are many things which keep us from a regular use of it. We all have our own excuses and perhaps we could pray during the proposed 24 Hours for the Lord that we receive the grace to overcome our own excuses and to recognize them for what they are, excuses. Sadly, there are some who are not able to come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation due to their life situation, the most common of which, is living in an ongoing intimate relationship which is not recognized by the Church as a valid marriage or not resembling marriage at all. Such situations require a deeper commitment to repentance and a more dramatic change of life but the mercy of God assures us that He still calls us to move in the direction of repentance. For these souls join in the 24 Hours for the Lord with the prayer that His grace will open a pathway for you to see a way to future reconciliation and to strengthen your resolve to take that path, however difficult it might appear. There are many souls in the Church ready and eager to accompany you on your journey to a deeper relationship with the Lord.
         I pray that these hours will be for all of us a time to embrace the mercy of God and to allow ourselves to be embraced by Him. Vasa
Bishop Robert Vasa