Becoming saints in 40 days!

March 1, 2022

Becoming saints in 40 days!

 Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Here we are already in the season of Lent, when God calls us to renew the covenant that he once offered to our ancestors in faith. The word “covenant” immediately brings to mind a commitment of fidelity in mutual love that newlyweds propose to live for the rest of their lives. The word seems to disappear completely from the lips of the bride and groom after the official wedding ceremony, and becomes an outdated expression that is rarely used. This is a pity in a sense, because the same thing is likely to happen when we hear this word ringing in our ears during the Lenten season. God’s repeated invitation to re-enter his covenant each time we celebrate Lent becomes a bit like a song that everyone knows and that has become part of the furniture. We get so used to the word “covenant” by repeatedly saying it, that the word becomes a hollow phrase or a routine that naturally becomes part of the Christian’s social environment.

When I moved to the Gaspé Peninsula from 1989 to 1995 with my three Redemptorist confreres, with the aim of implanting a new evangelization project among those who were distant from the Church, I was charmed as soon as I arrived by this picturesque environment, where each small village was built in the middle of a cove and was surrounded by two majestic mountain ranges which seemed to be its guardians. I was speechless as I admired the breathtaking scenery. A spirit of praise and gratitude immediately took hold of me and caused untold sighs and expressions of affection to flow from the depths of my heart to our heavenly Father who had so marvellously thought, willed and created this magnificent universe!

After a couple of years of constantly driving the scenic route along the St. Lawrence River, which in a way closed off the Gaspé Peninsula, I realized that my eyes had become accustomed to seeing this splendid landscape that once stirred so much emotion and affection in my heart. I had become accustomed to looking at the landscape every day, and my level of wonder had gradually and imperceptibly diminished without my realizing it. Isn’t this what we also experience in our respective environments and in all our interpersonal relationships? Time slips through our fingers and we end up getting used to seeing the same things, the same landscape, the same people that we used to admire and that we have slowly but surely boxed into the daily routine. At the beginning, the new car, the new job, the new spouse, the new baby, and so on, aroused so much admiration and affection, but then the routine perniciously settled in and ended up creating cataracts that fog up our vision of the early days. But is it possible to avoid falling into this devious trap and to reverse the harmful consequences that creep up on us over time?

Yes, indeed! When we “fall in love”, we all naturally want this new emotional experience to last and not be overshadowed by any obstacle in time. It is the good Lord himself who created us in this way, in his own image, and who makes us capable of experiencing such a sublime reality. Unlike other animate or inanimate creatures, we are capable of thinking, understanding and learning different languages, of communicating our most secret affections or emotions verbally or by signs, of desiring and freely choosing to know, love or serve; only we can build complex and gigantic cities in which to live and flourish. But this comes at a price!

In any loving relationship, we must be willing to invest quality time with our loved one; we must be willing to make small or big sacrifices to let the other person know how special he or she is to us; and we must be creative in learning how to deflect the inevitable weariness that constantly seeks to set in when communication gradually breaks down for any number of reasons. In the case of parents, for example, to prevent routine from setting in and communication from gradually fading away, it will be necessary to decide to set aside a “date night” each week, perhaps by arranging for the children to be looked after, in order to keep the flame of early love always lit and resistant to the gusts of wind that often arise unexpectedly.

Another example is to decide that before going to sleep, the spouses could take a few minutes together to examine their consciences about the events that have taken place in their daily lives, and ask each other for forgiveness if necessary. This requires humility and trust, of course, as we often hurt others by our actions or omissions without really realizing it. A final example of creativity: if possible, arrange a dinner out at a restaurant with friends from time to time; buy a small, meaningful gift for your loved one from time to time to break the routine and remind the other person that he or she is important to you. Offer to do or share a daily task even if it seems a bit unpleasant at first. All these small gestures become ways of directly or indirectly communicating our love to the loved one and showing our admiration and affection.

If we truly believe that our love is rooted in this God who created us in his likeness, why should not our love relationship with him be based on the same principles and examples I have just listed, which could help to keep our mutual love relationship with him alive and lasting? The season of Lent is in reality a time to fall back in love with God; a time to renew our desire to give him a more meaningful place in our lives; a time to decide to communicate with him again each day and to take time out to converse with him in a familiar way (for example, through the diligent reading of the Bible). “But you, when you pray, retire to your most private room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is present in secret; your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Mt 6:6. In order to hear the voice of God, we must first prepare our minds and hearts by distancing them from the noise and the daily routine. These are obstacles that sometimes prevent us from discerning the discreet word that our Father in heaven wants to speak to us and that reigns in the depths of our hearts.

Finally, to keep the flame of our divine love alive and persevering, we need to imitate the techniques or principles that apply to human love: let us give him small, meaningful gifts from time to time during Lent. Let us give him the gift of an alms to a needy person, of a prayer or praise of wonder at the beauty of his creation, of suffering or sacrifices offered with love to make reparation for the daily offences that people do to God, or simply for the salvation of a soul in distress. By following these principles and carrying out these suggestions modelled on human love, we may come to become saints… in just forty days!

During this Lenten period, let us not forget to carry in our hearts, in a special way, all our suffering brothers and sisters in Ukraine, who are currently suffering the ravages and disastrous consequences of this unjustified war, a war that a poor political leader armed to the teeth and without scruples has decided to wage on an innocent nation far more deprived than his own. And all this for reasons of personal power and domination that he will never be able to justify before God and humankind. Let us pray for Mr. Putin; let us pray the Rosary for his eternal salvation and for all those who will perish and suffer as a result of his evil enterprise.

Sincerely yours in Christ our Redeemer,

+ Guy Desrochers, C.Ss.R.
Bishop of Pembroke

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