On Ash Wednesday Bishop Frank J. Dewane places ashes on the forehead of a woman at St. William Parish in Naples.

Lent offers new opportunity to change one’s heart

NAPLES | Lent is a time to allow one’s heart to be touched and changed by the loving embrace of the Lord. This was the message of Bishop Frank J. Dewane during an Ash Wednesday Mass at St. William Parish in Naples.

Bishop Dewane encouraged the faithful to take the time in this Lenten Season to change their hearts “because that is truly where the witness we give to Jesus Christ comes from. It is the source of the love that we express to the Lord and to those around us.”

The Bishop added that we must be conscious of the message of the season and internalize it so we can grow closer to the Lord.

In Rome, Pope Francis described Lent as a time to “pause” from things that keep us from virtue and to return home to the loving and merciful embrace of God the Father.

“Return without fear to those outstretched, eager arms of your Father, who is rich in mercy, who awaits you. Return without fear, for this is the favorable time to come home,” the Holy Father said.

“(Lent) is the time for allowing one’s heart to be touched,” he continued, explaining how “persisting on the path of evil only gives rise to disappointment and sadness. True life is something quite distinct and our heart indeed knows this. God does not tire, nor will He tire, of holding out His hand.”

Lent began Ash Wednesday, which has its origin in the ashes that are placed of the forehead of the faithful in the sign of the cross to the words of: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Theologically, the ashes received are known by the Church as “sacramentals.” These are different from the Sacraments, in that sacramentals are “sacred signs which bear a certain resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church” (CCC 1667). Sacramentals provide grace, which is freely given by God to assist in living one’s vocation and in conforming our lives to His will.

As Lent continues, it is important to reflect upon the profound mystery of Ash Wednesday and use it as a starting point to grow closer to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

The faithful are also encouraged to confess their sins during the Lenten Season. To facilitate this requirement, all Parishes in the Diocese of Venice will be open with a confessor present so that the faithful will find ample opportunity to receive God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Confession March 23, 4-8 p.m.; and March 24, 9 a.m.-noon. Please check with local parishes for additional reconciliation times.