by Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach
The month of March reminds us that, as the year goes on, we are truly marching forward. The month brings with it the beginning of spring on March 20, and the changing of the clock one hour ahead on March 13. This year March brought with it the beginning of the season of Lent on March 2 and brings us, as every year, the celebration of Saint Patrick on March 17, Saint Joseph on March 19, and the Annunciation on March 25. March possesses many reminders of our journey through life and the need to live in faith, in order to come to eternal life. And so, we march forward! As Emily Dickinson expressed in the title of one of her poems, “March is the month of expectation.”
The season of Lent is paramount in reminding us of our journey through life. Lent began fairly late on the calendar this year. Now is a good time for us to see how we are doing with the practices we have taken up for the season. We must always center our Lenten practices in terms of how they are assisting us in deepening our personal relationship with the Lord. As we march through life, we do so always in the presence of the Lord who goes before us and supports us along the way. Whenever we stray from the Lord, we realize that He never strays away from us. Through our Lenten practices, we try to deepen our relationship with the Lord. These practices are not ends in themselves but means to assist us. They must not become distractions to us, and we need to attend to them if we find ourselves falling away from them. Let us continue to move forward during Lent.
As we continue our journey during the month of March, the celebration of the festivals of the Saints, particularly Saint Patrick and Saint Joseph, give us inspiration for marching forward. Whenever we celebrate a Saint’s day, it is a reminder to us of the reality of the Communion of Saints. Saints are a living part of the Church who have achieved the fullness of what life is all about, eternal life. As they journeyed through life, they understood well the need for God in their lives. They journey with us to give us example of their lives of holiness and faith, and to give us support through their prayers and intercession. While they are no longer physically with us, they are with us in a more powerful fashion. The Saints remind us that life is a wonderful journey toward being with God, the destination at which they have arrived.
Saint Patrick is well known for his missionary activity, especially his evangelization of Ireland. St Joseph is known as the husband of Mary, the foster father of Christ and the patron of the Universal Church. Both of these Saints, in their own manner, speak to us of the need for a personal relationship with God in our lives. They beckon us, during the Lenten season, to continue our journey toward God and to cultivate a relationship with the Lord here and now. Saint Joseph and Saint Patrick lived different lives from our own and yet their lives were very similar to our own in so many ways. Saints are made on earth, not in heaven, and each of the Saints speak to the daily aspects of our lives. They lived life fully in good times and in bad because they cultivated a relationship with God which was the foundation of their lives.
As we reflect upon our journey through life, March brings us a culmination in the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary which we celebrate on March 25. Mary is the Queen of all the Saints and the one who is God’s perfect creature. She was chosen by God to be the Mother of His Son and lived each day in complete openness and trust in her relationship with God. She truly is the perfect human person and Saint and the one who is the model for all Christians. Like her husband, St Joseph, and like Saint Patrick, who followed her example, she too lived a life different from ours and yet in so many ways similar to our own. God gives her to us with a promise that we can be like her if we continue to cultivate a relationship with Him as a very foundation of our lives as we journey forward. When Mary said yes to the Angel Gabriel, she put aside everything except the most important, which was her relationship with God who not only created her but loved her and wanted her to be happy. Only by our saying yes to God, each and every day, in a similar fashion to Mary, can we be happy in our journey of life as God wants us to be.
As we continue to march forward during this month of March, may the season of Lent and celebration of the Saints help us on our journey, especially through our Mother, Mary. Time truly marches on and the only thing that matters is how close we get to God. March is a wonderful reminder that brings with it spring and the reminder of God’s life within each and every one of us. March is the month of expectation – the expectation that as we move forward in life, God continues to accompany us on our journey into eternal life.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
March 18, 2022