The New Year: opportunities for faith and growth
The month of February sees life return to its familiar pattern after the holiday season. As the Year of Our Lord 2018 begins to unfold, we naturally look to what lies ahead for us.
February sees the commencement of the Lenten Season. Catholics have traditionally sought to engage in some acts of penance and self-denial during these forty days. I encourage all to do something of spiritual significance during the Lenten season – in the form of prayer, fasting and self-denial. This year, in the light of the release of the findings of the Royal Commission, the Catholic bishops are asking all Catholics to fast. In Tasmania, we will fast from Ash Wednesday, to Friday, February 16. The bishops state, “Through fasting, we stand in solidarity with the victims of abuse whose much deeper hunger is for healing, peace and justice in their lives.” Our penitential act of fasting expresses “our desire for God’s reconciling and healing grace”. The Royal Commission has been a harrowing time for all involved. As we move forward we humbly seek God’s mercy for the victims and on the Church.
This year has been declared “Year of Youth” by the Australian Bishops and marks the tenth anniversary of the World Youth Day held in Sydney. It was a watershed moment for the Church and the bishops want to continue to promote its blessings. The Year of Youth was launched at the Australian Catholic Youth Festival held in Sydney in December. The event attracted 19,000 young people from all over the nation and was a great success. Tasmania was well represented by a cohort of 110 young people. There is a range of events being planned for this year, aimed at inspiring young Catholics to live a full Christian life.
This year will also see a program of Mission Evenings taken to every parish in the Archdiocese. Entitled, “Christ, our Hope and Joy”, it will be presented by a local team and during the evening I will preach. I hope that these evenings will be truly occasions of grace for each parish and those in attendance will be enriched and inspired in the living of their Christian life.
Finally, as you will be aware you will soon be faced with the important responsibility of voting in the Tasmanian state election. The Church does not endorse particular political parties or candidates. But Catholic social teaching does ask us to make an effort to carefully review the stated policies of those standing for election within our particular electorates and give preference to those candidates who will best contribute to the common good of our society, in both its material and spiritual dimensions.
In the light of the decision of the federal government to change the legal definition of marriage, the government has set up a religious freedom review panel headed by former Member of Parliament Philip Ruddock. Submissions are being sought. This is an important inquiry as the bill allowing marriage between those of the same sex did not provide any protections for freedom of conscience, freedom of speech or freedom of religion. I am deeply concerned about the movement across many western nations to try and limit the basic freedoms we have come to enjoy in our society.
In the challenges we may face, in the joys we experience, let us move forward with great confidence in the mercy of Almighty God. As this New Year begins to unfold, let us place ourselves, our families and the Archdiocese under the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Archbishop Julian Porteous
February 11, 2018