On a recent morning, people pray before the Blessed Sacrament during Eucharistic Adoration at St. Catherine Laboure Parish in Wheaton. In his new Lenten pastoral letter, Archbishop Wuerl writes, “As we together enter this Lenten season and prepare to 	celebrate the joy of Easter, may this be a time of interior renewal and heightened Eucharistic devotion for each of us, and for the 	archdiocese as a whole, a renewal that will be deepened to the extent that we commit ourselves to God’s mercy, to the reconciliation that we all desire and need and to a heightened reverence and appreciation for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”
CS PHOTO BY MICHAEL HOYT
On a recent morning, people pray before the Blessed Sacrament during Eucharistic Adoration at St. Catherine Laboure Parish in Wheaton. In his new Lenten pastoral letter, Archbishop Wuerl writes, “As we together enter this Lenten season and prepare to celebrate the joy of Easter, may this be a time of interior renewal and heightened Eucharistic devotion for each of us, and for the archdiocese as a whole, a renewal that will be deepened to the extent that we commit ourselves to God’s mercy, to the reconciliation that we all desire and need and to a heightened reverence and appreciation for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.” CS PHOTO BY MICHAEL HOYT
This Lent, Archbishop Donald Wuerl has issued a new pastoral letter, God's Mercy and Loving Presence to the clergy, religious and laity of the Archdiocese of Washington. The letter notes that the archdiocese's popular Lenten campaign, "The Light is On for You," has been expanded this year to encourage Catholics to go to Confession and to participate in Eucharistic Adoration. Since being installed as the archbishop of Washington in June 2006, Archbishop Wuerl has issued a Lenten pastoral letter every year, encouraging people to go to Confession during Lent. The text of his new pastoral letter appears on pages 7-8 of this week's Catholic Standard.

The following is the text of an interview about the new pastoral letter that Archbishop Wuerl had on Feb. 11 with Mark Zimmermann, the editor of the Catholic Standard.

Q: Why do you think there has been such success for 'The Light is On for You' Lenten pastoral initiative, which began in the archdiocese and has spread to other dioceses across the country?

A: "I think at the heart of the response is the realization we do need to hear from God that we're forgiven. Deep in our hearts, we may be sorry, but there is something intrinsic to our human nature that calls out to hear the words, 'You are forgiven.' That is what Confession is all about.

"(During Confession, we are)...hearing from the priest the very words of Christ, 'You're absolved from your sins.' In our heavily secular culture, there's a tendency to avoid recognizing transcendent values... Foremost among transcendent values, is our loving relationship with a transcendent God.

"We're constantly being challenged by society and culture to step aside (from our values)... Confession makes that living relationship with God, in all its complexity, something very concrete.

"Lent is the time when the Church holds out for us the realization (that) we have here no lasting city... that some day we are going to die and come face to face with God. Lent says to us, Christ has already paved the way for that journey. We can look to His cross for our forgiveness and salvation.

"We begin Lent with ashes being made with the sign of the cross on our forehead. It reminds us of the ultimate reality of death, and in the cross, Christ has conquered death. That's why we go to Confession during Lent. It's the one time when the whole Church is focused on sin and forgiveness."

Q: Why are you encouraging people to participate in Eucharistic Adoration this Lent, as part of the 'Light is On for You' campaign?

A: "Since we are going to be in church Wednesday evenings for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it seemed an appropriate time to provide people with an opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration, and to remind people who may have drifted away from (Eucharistic Adoration), that we still have Eucharistic Adoration as a normal part of (the devotional practices of the Church)...

"What better place to say penance after Confession than before the Blessed Sacrament?"

Q: What advice do you have for people who haven't participated in Eucharistic Adoration in a long time?

A: "In all of the activities of Church life today, even for people who regularly go to Mass, there hasn't been as much emphasis on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist... as there once was...

"This Lent is a (special time to experience) the wonder of the quiet beauty of sitting in the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist, and reminding us that He is present."

Q: Why do you think there is increased popularity of Eucharistic Adoration, especially among college students and young adults?

A: "I think the increased popularity of Eucharistic devotions, including Eucharistic Adoration, is the result of a growing appreciation and appropriation of faith by young people. Many young adults today are finding that the real answers to life are given to us by Christ, and our secular and material society simply can't respond to all the needs of the human spirit. Young people are realizing this, and finding renewed strength and vitality in their faith."

Q: On a personal note, how have you found strength through Confession and Adoration?

A: "I continue as I have done all my priestly life to go regularly to Confession. I have a priest confessor in the archdiocese. I find it is an ongoing source of spiritual renewal. Confession is a time to do that examination of conscience... At the same time, it places you before the mercy of God.

"(For me, Eucharistic Adoration) is an ordinary part of everyday life. One of the blessings of the snowstorm, which shut down everything, (I, like everyone else, was) snowed in. It provided a wonderful opportunity for a lot more time before the Blessed Sacrament... I will always remember the blizzard as providing (me with) a time for a mini-retreat."

Q: What do you hope will be the fruits of 'The Light is On for You' program for people personally and for the archdiocese as a whole, if more people go to Confession and participate in Eucharistic Adoration this Lent?

A: "Since the goal of our lives individually and collectively as a Church is to draw closer to Jesus Christ, I believe if we take advantage of 'The Light is On for You' (program and go to Confession and Adoration), each of us individually and all of us as a Church will be that much closer to the Lord Jesus. We will be a stronger, richer, more vibrant body of Christ."

(As part of the 'Light is On for You' Lenten pastoral campaign, churches in the archdiocese will be open for Confession and Eucharistic Adoration on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 8 p.m. For more information, see the website, www.the-light-is-on.org .)