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Today is Lætare Sunday, from the first word in Latin of the introit antiphon, “Rejoice, Jerusalem!”  We have reached the midpoint of Lent and know that the joy of Easter is not far off.  The liturgy expresses this joy this weekend by fading the penitential purple of the Lenten vestments to a more festive rose.

The cause for rejoicing which today’s liturgy puts before us is the mercy of God, who is represented by the father in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son.  Despite the younger son’s foolish abandonment of his family and training, and his selfish and wasteful dissipation of his inheritance, the father does not give up on him.  Despite his grief at his son’s rejection of him, he never gives up hoping for his return.  When his longing eyes see his son afar off, he goes out to welcome him with incredible joy.  Note that it is not only we who rejoice in God’s mercy, but also God who rejoices in our conversion.

The Church too, as a loving mother, is always ready to welcome back those who have abandoned their training and gone astray.  Many parents continue to pray that their children will return to the practice of the faith.  Saint Monica persevered in prayer for her wayward son, Augustine, who eventually attributed to his mother’s prayers the grace of his conversion.  Through the ministry of Mother Church in the sacrament of penance, God the Father offers us all the grace of forgiveness in this celebration of divine mercy.  As Saint Paul says in today’s Second Reading:  “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”  Come to confession again this Lent, and rejoice!

The sacrament of penance is available at St. Charles on Mondays at 5:00 PM and Saturdays at 3:00 PM, and at St. Peter on Saturdays at 6:00 PM.  The priests of the Chippewa Falls Deanery will assist with penanceservices this week.  Ours will be at St. Charles this Monday evening,April 1, at 7:00.  Do not put off until tomorrow what you should do today.

Remember that the Fridays of Lent, the day of our Lord’s passion and death, are days of penance, characterized by abstinence from eating meat at least by those who are 14 and older.  I encourage families to come to the Stations of the Cross at 6:00 on Wednesday evenings at St. Charles.  “The Way of the Cross” or “The Stations of the Cross” is a centuries-old devotion that gives to us who cannot make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land the opportunity to walk with Christ along the Via Dolorosa(“Sorrowful Street”).  Guided by passages from the scriptures and prayers from the liturgy, we are able to meditate upon our Lord’s suffering for the sake of our redemption.  Nowadays there are few families who come.  This is really sad, since families miss out on this opportunity to pray together, and children lose this opportunity to learn the story of our Lord’s passion and its meaning for us.  So make it a point to come to the Stations on the Wednesdays which remain this Lent.

Pray the rosary again this week for people affected by flooding.  Pray for people estranged from the Church, that they may seek reconciliation through a good confession.  Pray for the needs of the Church in our diocese and, as always, pray for peace.

May God bless his people with peace.

Monsignor Gorman