On February 24, 2022, the armies of the Russian Federation launched an unjust war on the people of Ukraine; sadly, this invasion continues a year later.
To mark this somber anniversary, His Beatitude, Patriarch Sviatoslav, together with the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, proclaimed a solemn day of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving on February 24, 2023, for all the faithful of our Church. While that date has passed, the war has not, so I encourage you all to continue to lift the People of Ukraine in prayer, perhaps offering your Lenten sacrifices for peace in their country and the world.
In announcing that special day of prayer, His Beatitude, Sviatoslav declared: “Let this day be an opportunity for us to do good for someone: to comfort the afflicted, to clothe the naked, to warm those who are freezing, to feed the hungry…Let us offer our spiritual efforts and our prayers for the victory of the Ukrainian people in this unequal battle, as well as for our army.” I include these words in my blog today because they serve as a powerful reminder of our duty to share in the suffering of the entire body of Christ every day.
The Hierarchs of the Philadelphia Metropolia went on to add, “We must always remember that our strongest weapons in this battle are prayer, fasting, and good deeds, which we offer at the throne of our merciful Lord. May we always be encouraged and strengthened by the words of Our Lord: ‘For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them’ (Matthew 18:20). Therefore, let us never lose faith and hope in the ultimate victory of Ukraine over her enemies and the triumph of truth and justice.”
The USCCB has posted a video from Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, where he discusses his travel last year to Ukraine, the war, the enduring hope of the Ukrainian people, and their gratitude for American support. You can watch that video here.
Lent and Sharing in the Suffering of Others
As I mentioned in my Lenten Message, sometimes we take for granted the peace, freedom, and prosperity that we enjoy here in the United States. Lent is a season to recall all people are subject to pain and suffering, to loss and a cross at any time. Lent is a time for us to reflect and recognize how important our faith is in our lives and how important family is to each one of us; it is a time to embrace our faith and our family with generosity, faithfulness, and gratitude.
Lent is also a time to reflect and recognize all that Jesus did for us by dying on the cross and shedding His blood for our salvation. We are called to deeper reflection on the Paschal Mystery – Jesus’ suffering, death, and Resurrection.
It remains my prayer, just as His Beatitude, Patriarch Sviatoslav, that we open our hearts to this Lent, recognizing the needs of our brothers and sisters. May our prayers and sacrifices not only be a source of blessing for us and our suffering brothers and sisters but, more importantly, transform us—bringing true conversion. May we ever cherish our faith and be sustained by it, and may we never forget the suffering and crosses borne by our sisters and brothers across the world.
A Prayer for Ukraine
Pope Francis said a spontaneous prayer for peace during a Vatican event for the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. After a brief statement about the war in Ukraine, the pope invited those present to pray the following prayer with him.
“Holy Father, who art in heaven, look at our miseries, look at our wounds, look at our pain. Look also at our selfishness, our petty interests, and the capacity we have to destroy ourselves,” he prayed. “Heal us. Heal our hearts, heal our minds, heal our eyes that they may see the beauty that you have made and not destroy it in selfishness. Sow in us the seed of peace. Amen.”
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha