February 1, 2016
The West Texas Catholic: Bishop Zurek, we begin our first conversation of 2016 with some unfinished business from Christmas 2015.
Bishop Patrick J. Zurek: I just want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who will be listening to this on St. Valentine Catholic Radio or reading it from our
West Texas Catholic newspaper. Christmas was more beautiful for me this year, maybe than many others. What I appreciated so much were the greetings you sent to me, cards, your notes—some of you sent letters; they were very beautiful to receive. I thank you especially for your prayers. All of you said that you were praying for me and for my ministry. That is probably what gets me from day to day in my ministry and I am most grateful for that. I want to thank you too; many of you made comments about my presence in the diocese, almost eight years now, and what I do in the diocese. You have been so supportive and grateful to me. That makes me in turn again more grateful to you because, at least I know that I am going somewhat in the right direction. I thank you for that.
I thank you too for your comments about my homilies. I thank you too for friendship. It is one thing to be the pastor and another thing to share friendship also. I think the Book of Sirach 6:14 is very beautiful: “A friend is a sturdy shelter. He who finds one has found a treasure.” That is how I look to you in thanksgiving. I thank you too for the many gifts you sent and just your thoughtfulness in sending them. I thank you for your comments to me. I thank you for our time together. I am most grateful for your love and the support of the diocese in all the varying ministries. I pray and continue to pray for God’s blessings upon all of you in this New Year.
WTC: Now we move on to new business. The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Some thoughts as we begin Lent 2016.
Bishop Zurek: My first thoughts go back to St. John Paul II who gave us a new set of mysteries for the Rosary—the Luminous Mysteries—which deal with the actual ministry and life of Jesus. The third Luminous Mystery has always fascinated me. The Holy Father entitled it
The Inauguration of the Kingdom of God through the Proclamation of the Gospel and the Call to Conversion. That is a two-pronged approach. Jesus began by His preaching. He validated who He was, the Son of God, by His miracles and called us to change our way of life. He came to present us a blueprint, if you will, for life—the Gospel itself. If we take those two components as we are about to enter Lent, they would be a good blueprint for us.
Jesus proclaimed the Gospel. You hear your priests, deacons, and myself proclaiming the Gospel to you through our homilies. I would hope, if you are not already doing so, that you proclaim the Gospel with words to each other—words of support, words of admonition if necessary. Help each other to grow into the image, the likeness of the mature Christ, as St. Paul said—free to speak, free to talk about the Faith, especially in the family. If we want to change the world, the world changes first with me and with my family.
Secondly, we must give witness to that. Not just with words, but truly living the Gospel, not trying to find “wiggle room” this way or that. Jesus was not comfortable with that. He had a vision; His vision was that we love each other and we forgive each other. Then we set a whole new blueprint for humanity.
The second component is a call to Conversion, to change. We are in the year of the Jubilee of Mercy. We have a Holy Door here in the diocese. This is the first time this has occurred in the history of the Church. Walking through that door to obtain the indulgences, the special graces, is very significant. We should walk through that door with a sense of Conversion. None of us, myself included, should say we are not in need of Conversion. We are all in need of conversion. The Holy Door and this Holy Year, this Lent should be more efficacious than ever. If we truly set our minds on changing, we ask the Spirit of God to be with us so that that change can be effective.
Look at different aspects of your life; maybe each week take one component. Maybe I’m too irritable; maybe I’m not grateful enough. Work on one of those each week, so that slowly by Easter you can come to a greater sense and depth of what it means to be Christian. Then at the Easter Vigil or on Easter Sunday when we profess Our Faith, through the renewal of our Baptismal Promises, it will have
We are called during this time to three things: to a greater sense and depth of prayer; to abstinence; to fasting. I always get tickled every year when many places during Lent, parishes included, have fish fries on Friday evenings that are “all you can eat.” Well, that’s not in the spirit of Lent. Abstinence is to do without meat, yes. But abstinence and fasting together indicate that what we save in our budget for food on Friday should go to the poor. It should be alms given, whether to Catholic Charities or to your parish. We give up something so that someone who is without may have something. Let’s learn to do with less, not just be “food wise.” I think all of us in America could lose a few pounds. Yes, but can we also learn to do with less material goods to help others. Let’s abstain in order to give alms.
Fasting has always gone together with prayer. The great Church Fathers and Saints of old said that fasting makes our prayers so much more efficacious, strong, powerful when we combine the two. Lent should be a period that will end with
something being different in our lives. Remember these three things—prayer, fasting, abstinence—but above all prayer. Remember that we prayed for the conversion of Russia for decades, seven to be precise. Finally, the wall fell, slowly; it has taken time. But a conversion is taking place and the wall came down. This has helped the conversion and transformation of the world. As I change my attitude and put on the mind and heart of Christ, it should affect my family. It should affect all in the family—the parents, the father, the mother, the children and each other.
We look at the world today and see darkness. It is not enough to be content to see the darkness and gripe about it. We can change it by polishing up our holiness so that the light we received at Baptism may shine more brightly. Instead of talking about it, pray more for a change in the Middle East. Pray for an end to terrorism. Pray that the Lord through his Spirit will change the mind and the heart of the people to be light and examples of love rather than to effect darkness and hate. I ask you to make your prayer and your petition that we be more loving, more merciful, more faithful to the Gospel and the third Luminous Mystery. We are called by Pope Francis, too, to be more loving and more merciful to each other and more faithful to the Gospel. If we can do this, Lent will be totally different from what it was before and Easter will certainly be more joyful.