An early Easter this year means that four weeks after the closure of the Christmas season – with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on 10 January – we begin the Lenten season with the keeping of Ash Wednesday on 10 February.
Here in Rome, we will gather with our Bishop (who happens to be the Pope!) at the church of Saint Anselm on the Aventine Hill and then process from there to the ancient, Dominican-run church of Saint Sabina where the Pope will preside at Mass. He will impose the sacramental traditionally linked with the beginning of the season, the ashes, which will be either sprinkled on the crown of the head or – as is more usual in England and Wales – worn as a sign of the Cross on our foreheads.
That act of processing from one place to another, from St Anselm’s to St Sabina, stands as a symbol also for the whole journey of Lent; the season is about our desire for growth, change and development in our lives and yet we do this together. Indeed here in Rome, as in many other dioceses throughout the world, there will be a stational church for each day of Lent – a particular church (a different one each day) to which people will journey for Mass. This reminds us that we are a pilgrim people, always seeking and striving for growth and the deepening of our spiritual lives and our relationships, with God and with each other.
Perhaps you might be able to make a journey in pilgrimage during this Lenten season – very appropriate during this Holy Year when we are encouraged to make the effort and the sacrifices associated with journeying to one of the holy doors established around the dioceses (including on the Isle of Man!).