My brothers and sisters, I greet you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The season of Lent approaches, and I would like to take this opportunity to share some thoughts about our journey together. It is my hope that we will all pursue a holy Lent. Lent is a time of preparation; we prepare ourselves as individuals, and as a community of faith, for our journey with Jesus Christ. Nothing is as important as our walk with Jesus. Lent is a time of intentionality and fasting. Our Lenten discipline is a movement away from the temporal satisfaction of the world and toward the eternal heart of Christ. We open our hearts and minds to the presence of God.
I have traveled on the pilgrimage, been present with our laity and clergy, and heard the beauty of your stories, individually and corporately. I have felt the Holy Spirit calling me and us collectively to begin a journey deep into our faith. That calling will be characterized by Prayer, Proclamation, and Peace. We will be the people of God in the Diocese of Pennsylvania dedicated to going deep in prayer, being bold in the proclamation of the Gospel, and committed to bringing peace in our communities.
In preparation to walk with Christ in his obedience and suffering, I am inviting you to participate as a diocese in several ways. First, let's pray. I often hear people say they do not have time to pray or they need to learn how to pray once again. Just speak to God; gaze upon the Lord. Leave everything to God. Speak to God in the car, during those "transition times" when going from meeting to meeting. Pray, pray and then pray again. I have a feeling God wants to hear our voices.
I encourage you to center your life with worship and sacrament by seeking out a midweek or daily Eucharist service to attend regularly during Lent. We know the joy of our Sunday celebrations, and I also know that finding another opportunity to anchor your life to the celebration of Holy Eucharist will sustain you spiritually.
Second, I invite you to explore the practice of contemplative prayer. Specifically, I would like us as a diocese to pray the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner") as a way to center ourselves. To this end, I will make available prayer ropes to those who may want one, as a way of incorporating a significant tactile element to our contemplative life. I would also encourage you to join over 1200 of your brothers and sisters in the Diocese in reading scripture daily through the Bishop's Bible Challenge.
Finally, I invite you to read two books and watch one movie with me. I would like for us all to read and reflect on Fleming Rutledge's book "The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ." The second book is "The Way of Silence: Engaging the Sacred in Daily Life" by Brother David Steindl-Rast. The movie I encourage us to watch is "Of Gods and Men." A film based on the life of the Cistercian monks of Tibéhirine in Algeria, from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996."
Our spiritual and communal journey is beautiful. The Diocese of Pennsylvania is filled with faithful and hopeful people I am blessed to serve as your servant and shepherd. You are a gift to the church, and we are sharing the Good News of our Savior Jesus Christ. Know you are in my prayers and are deeply loved.