Why we need to make sure that Lent is ‘for us’

A few weeks ago, Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George, in his column in his archdiocesan newspaper, addressed divisions in the Catholic Church in the United States and disputes over the Church’s role in civil society from a Lenten perspective. 

Not only was the topic timely — see, for instance, our editorial on abortion and health care reform (Page 19); or Russell Shaw’s analysis of the bind new same-sex marriage laws have put on the local Church (Page 4); or our March 7 story on anti-poverty coalitions the bishops’ conference has made, incidentally, with pro-abortion and pro-gay-rights groups — but it was written clearly and simply. And because Cardinal George is the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, the voice is also among the best informed. 

I’d like to highlight a couple of paragraphs. (To read his entire column, navigate to www.catholicnewworld.com and locate the cardinal’s column for the Feb. 28 issue.) 

Cardinal George draws on Christ’s own example to figure out the approach today’s Catholics and Church should have in engaging the world. 

“Some Catholics want the Church to conform to society perfectly; other Catholics want the Church to withdraw from society in order to preserve her integrity. She does neither. The Church does what Jesus did: publicly preach the truth about God and our relationship to him; invite everyone to follow him in his Church; and enter into the public discussions that establish the common good in every society. Like the public life of Jesus, the public life of the Church is often contentious. Some not only reject her teaching, they resent it. Others not only reject her teachers, they would isolate them or find ways to punish them.” 

So it’s not easy being a Catholic in a pluralistic society. In efforts to help make society “a little bit more like the kingdom of God preached by Jesus,” we find that allies on one issue won’t be allies on everything. 

“Given the ill-tempered state of public discourse and of public life right now, it’s easier to find enemies than it is to find allies. Some enemies resort to hate mongering, even within the Church. Others are beginning to sponsor fascist tactics, taking to the streets and stirring up hatred of the Church in the name of tolerance. The Church has seen it all before, but we haven’t seen it so clearly in this country in the last 50 years. The challenge is always to speak the truth with love, in both private and public,” Cardinal George said. 

“The fundamental truth of the Gospel is that self-righteousness is the one sin that cannot be forgiven. Jesus died and rose to make us righteous, rightly related to his Father and ours. Self-righteous people don’t need Jesus because they don’t need a savior. They live on their own terms. Lent is not for them.” 

Let’s make sure Lent is for us. 

I’m looking forward to hearing from you at feedback@osv.com.