Have you checked up on your spiritual health this Lent? Parishioners of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Fairless Hills gathered on Thursday evening, March 12 for a dose of encouragement and a shot of faith.
The event, “Baptized and Sent: The Saints of Lent” was hosted by the Pontifical Mission Society of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in collaboration with Dr. Antone Raymundo. A dynamic speaker wearing many hats, Raymundo serves as a medical doctor, anesthesiologist, retreat leader, father of seven and lay evangelist.
Connecting his work in the medical field with God’s mission for the church, Raymundo called for a return to Christ, the Divine Physician — a timely topic, given the heightened awareness on health and staying well over the past few weeks.
Fitting for an anesthesiologist, Raymundo began the evening promising to “wake up” the audience from their “spiritual sleep.”
Drawing on the witness of four saints in Lent as well as glimpses of his remarkable personal testimony, including healing from a serious back injury, Raymundo reminded the faithful that all have been called by God at the Great Commision to go out and serve him (Mt 28:16-20).
During this especially graced time of Lent, the church offers three prescriptions to power up our soul to do God’s work — prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Combining these three remedies with the already powerful medicines of the Mass and sacrament of reconciliation, we are touched by our loving Father and healed — we are baptized and sent.
How does God call us? Raymundo reminded the audience that many times a doctor arrives when the patient is suffering. Examining the lesser known life of St. Vincent Ferrer, who received his call from Christ at 46 years old amidst a life-threatening fever, Raymundo said, “God comes with his mission when we are suffering because you are partaking in suffering with Christ.”
The Lord spoke to Vincent alongside St. Dominic and St. Francis, saying, “Arise then and preach against vice; for this I have specifically chosen thee.”
Vincent, also known as the “angel of the apocalypse,” was born in 1350 in Spain during the bubonic plague. The church celebrates his feast day April 5, providing a powerful saint today to intercede in prayer as we remain faithful during the current pandemic.
Raymundo also taught that Ferrer is remembered as a powerful preacher. As Catholics, it’s important to be reminded that faith is largely shared by what we say and hear.
One’s spiritual health also depends on what we are listening to, and we can turn to St. Katharine Drexel, another saint whose feast day is celebrated during Lent (March 3). Both miracles leading to her canonization are related to hearing and curing illnesses of the ear.
Raymundo suggested that when one pays attention, God is always at work writing a beautiful story with our lives. With so much distressing news this Lenten season, Catholics need to take time to listen to the Word of God to stay well.
St. Katharine’s whole life points to the practice of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Raised by a faithful father who prayed for 30 minutes every night, Katharine was an heiress who gave up her fortune for missions educating African Americans and Native Americans. She also founded a religious order, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, committed to praying before the Lord in the Eucharist and serving the poor.
Finally, this week the church celebrates the lives of two great saintly men — Joseph and Patrick. Both of their lives are characterized by great acts of deference and humility.
St. Joseph, quiet but strong, is the protector of the church and families, and known as “the terror of demons.” St. Patrick, after spending several years as a slave in Ireland, returned to convert thousands and perform many miracles.
Catholics, Raymundo suggested, can take time this Lent to be transformed quietly by the power of God into the likeness of Christ just as these two holy men did.
No matter what means we choose, Raymundo said “we will accomplish spiritual feats” if we commit to working on our spiritual health. Just as physical strength depends on activities like visits to the gym, one’s spiritual health grows stronger by seeking Christ in the sacraments of the church. Christ and his church are the foundation of our mission for personal and communal health.
Michele Meiers, assistant director of the Pontifical Mission Society, explained the inspiration for the event came from the success of a similar series that took place during the Extraordinary Year of Mission last year at the parish of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.
There was a strong desire to share that success with the rest of the parishes of the archdiocese, with the intention that “we are missionaries, we have to evangelize,” Meiers said.
While the second lecture, originally scheduled for March 18 at SS Simon and Jude Parish in West Chester, has been cancelled due to health precautions, Meiers looks forward to hosting similar events in the future.
The Pontifical Mission Society supports 1,111 dioceses throughout Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands and Latin America with prayer, sacrifice and material goods.
While many people here are taking extra health precautions to keep ourselves and our homes safe and clean, the remainder of Lent is a good time to take care of our hearts, support one another and pray for the world missions.
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