By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

Bishop Douglas J. Lucia’s three-day Lenten Mission last week offered “fervent petitions” for God’s mercy and compassion amid the “storm.”

“Walking with Christ, from Our House to Yours” drew more than 1,500 views; the hourlong programs were streamed live on YouTube from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse. [Find videos of each day of the mission at the bottom of this post.]

The mission expressed hope, concern for workers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, and the need for repentance.

On Day 1, which featured Eucharistic Adoration, Bishop Lucia said, “All are close to our hearts today.” He prayed that the virus “will be driven from us.” He expressed his faith that the Lord is inviting us ever to come to him and to trust him.

“May we come back to the Lord through this time of prayer and know he is with us,” the bishop said. He prayed for medical workers, those ill with coronavirus, those working to keep food on the table, and those who carry that food to different parts of the country and elsewhere around the world.

In his commentary on Day 1, national Catholic speaker Chris Padgett said, “God is walking with you now.”

Padgett, who is married with nine children, noted that on social media, some people are treating the lockdown “like a vacation.” But what about those who get laid off and have bills to pay, or those people who are sick and hurting?

“Where is God?” Padgett asked. His answer: “He is right with you in that struggle. … Some of you are pulling your hair out now. Our Church wants you to know you are going to make it.”

Padgett cited four things he sees in every saint: sacrifice, service, mediation, advocacy. He noted that rearranged, the first letters of those words spell out M-A-S-S.

“This is not a vacation,” Padgett said. “Go deep into the heart of the Lord.”

He spoke of a friend who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease. The friend can’t breathe on his own and operates a computer with his eyes. In a Facebook post that probably took up to an hour to compose, Padgett said, his friend offered all his suffering to those who have lost jobs and those who work in ministry.

Noting the saintliness of that friend, Padgett urged the YouTube audience to “be the saint God wants you to be. … Spoil one another rotten, serve one another.”

Toward the end of Day 1, the bishop offered prayers for Pope Francis, that he have health and strength to guide God’s holy people; for all bishops, priests, deacons, and others with a special ministry and all God’s people; for “all who seek truth with sincerity”; for those who do not believe in God or his son, Jesus, that the Holy Spirit “may help them follow all that is right” and show them the way to salvation; for those who serve in public office, that God guide their minds and hearts; for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic; and for the remaining days of Lent to be a time of preparation for the spiritual celebration of the Paschal Mystery.

Day 1 ended with the singing of “How Great Thou Art.” Music was provided all three days by Jeremy Bobak, a music minister at Divine Mercy Parish in Central Square.

Day 2: Penitential Service

Day 2 opened with Bobak singing a song about grace, holiness, and hope.

“We seek to be reconciled to the one who gave his life so we may no longer be slaves to sin,” Bishop Lucia said.

Noting the populace is face to face with its mortality, the homilist, Father Rick Riccioli, recommended penance.

“What’s going to happen to me? The people I love. Where is God in all this?” said Father Riccioli, a friar and the pastor of Franciscan Church of the Assumption in Syracuse.

Day 2 included Scripture such as Isaiah 43:20, Luke 22:42, John 19:2-3, 16-17, and Mark 15:23-24.

“Our lives have been upended by this pandemic,” Father Riccioli said. He noted that in normal times, people immerse themselves in work, numb themselves in the gym, socialize, and go to church in what they might consider to be a rote observance of Sunday responsibility.

But now, he said, “we’re stuck.” That, he said, can entail eating or drinking too much or escaping into movies too much “to assuage that uncomfortable silence that invites us to go deeper and look at ourselves.”

He added: “We can fill the silence and the stillness of these days with multiple activities or focus on gratitude — gratitude for the breath we have, gratitude for our life, gratitude and awareness that everything we have is a gift from God. … God knows our sins and loves us.”

Naming our sins in the sacrament of penance, Father Riccioli said, “means we own our actions or our failure to act.”

He acknowledged that confession can seem like a root canal or an audit by the IRS. He explained that confession is like imagining God as a woman in labor: There can be tears in the mother’s eyes during labor and tears in the baby’s eyes when it is born, but as they go through the experience and the newborn is placed in its mother’s arms, “everything else is forgotten.”

Reconciliation, Father Riccioli said, “is our return to God’s loving arms. … God looks at you with great tenderness, and all is forgiven.”

Bishop Lucia thanked Father Riccioli for his reflection on the Sacrament of Penance.

The bishop recited words from the Confiteor, and he cited scenes from Christ’s Passion as a way to ask questions of oneself. Alternately reading those questions were Lisa Hall, director of the diocesan Office of Family/Respect Life Ministry, and Mary Hallman, diocesan director of Evangelization. Among them:

Do I support others with prayers when they are caught in a crisis of faith? Do I regularly attend Mass to ask for God’s help in my life? Have I harmed others directly or indirectly? Have I mocked others? Do I gossip about people? Have I supported those who suffer? Do I offer help to elderly or infirm family members? Do I accept God’s will in my own circumstances, or am I resentful or bitter?

Bishop Lucia said people can read more about the Sacrament of Penance at “Go in peace,” he said, “glorifying the Lord by your life.”

Day 3: Mass of Healing

Bishop Lucia prayed for the Blessed Mother’s “intercession for the human family.” He also asked for an end to the pandemic and for strength, comfort, and trust in the “tender compassion of our God.”

Father Christopher Celentano, the Day 3 homilist, said, “I don’t know about you, but it still feels like a storm to me.”

Even in this time of silence, with self-isolation, Father Celentano, the pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in North Syracuse, advised the viewers to “invite the Lord to be there with you.”

He noted that on March 27 in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis himself was isolated on the podium as he delivered his extraordinary blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world). A sense of “consolation and peace” came about, Father Celentano said, and the focus was on Jesus.

The homilist also cited Luke 8:40-56: “Jairus’s Daughter and the Woman with a Hemorrhage.”

Luke’s Gospel says Jairus was an official of the synagogue whose young daughter died. Luke says Jesus “took her by the hand and called to her, ‘Child, arise!’ / Her breath returned and she immediately arose.”

The same Gospel speaks of a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. Luke says the woman came up behind Jesus and “touched the tassel on his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stopped.”

That woman showed a beautiful response to Jesus’ presence, Father Celentano said: “She knew she would be cured.”

He added: “Our God makes us clean when he allows us to touch him and he touches us.”

He praised the Sacrament of Penance as one way of approaching God. People feel unworthy to ask for forgiveness, he said, but “accusatory tones are not the voice of the Lord.”

Bishop Lucia praised Father Celentano’s homily, and he expressed his own concern for all the caregivers who are “on the front lines these days” and for people ill with coronavirus and other diseases.

“We come to the Lord knowing it is from him that healing power goes forth,” the bishop said.

He prayed for those who have died as result of the pandemic, that they may enjoy the happiness and peace of heaven and that their loved ones be consoled.

Ending the mission, the bishop prayed for the blessing of God to “come down upon you and remain with you forever.”

Watch video of each day of the mission below, courtesy Syracuse Catholic Television.



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