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A pre-Lenten challenge

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A chilly Saturday morning Feb. 15 did not deter more than 70 Leesburg men from gathering for a pre-Lenten challenge by Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde to discover a deeper awareness of God’s love for each of them.

“We’ve often heard ‘God loves you’ from our childhood and understand it in kind of an intellectual way,” said Bishop Loverde at St. John the Apostle Church in Leesburg. “Are we convinced, are we convicted in the depths of our being, that our God really loves us?”

Bishop Loverde shared that while he was a Catholic “from birth,” he struggled through the decades with a sense that God’s love was somehow not as direct as he desired. “There was always a kind of glass wall in terms of experiencing his love,” he recounted in his pastoral letter “Go Forth with Hearts on Fire” and shared in his talk. “It was as if I could see him through the wall, and he could presumably see me, but I did not experience his love to the depth that I so desired.”

This experience is common among men today, the bishop said. “We doubt that God really can love me now,” he said. “We think, maybe he’ll love me when I’m better, maybe next year, maybe when I do more penance, maybe when I get older, but not now.”

But on a retreat decades into his priesthood and ministry as a bishop, Bishop Loverde said, “The glass wall shattered.” While praying through the words of Isaiah 43:2, 4-5, in which the Lord says, ‘You are precious in my eyes,’ the bishop said, “The Lord allowed this glass wall to suddenly and unexpectedly shatter. … I knew without a doubt that he loves me. I was grateful beyond words.”

“I want to say to you the absolute truth is that God loves us beyond our wildest imagining now,” he said. “Now. I’m convinced that you and I need a conversion, yes from our sins, but a conversion to the conviction — to be convinced that God loves me, and desires that I love him back. This conviction is more than awareness; more than acceptance; it has to be down in our gut.” The bishop encouraged each of the men to deepen their conviction this Lent. 

The Men’s Mornings of Recollections was founded by Bill Atwill in 2005 at St. Francis de Sales Church in Purcellville as the “Fellowship of a Modest Proposal,” a men’s group based on a nine-point challenge that includes daily time in prayer, a daily examination of conscience, spiritual reading, Adoration, regular confession, and more. Now in its eighth year at St. John the Apostle, the group meets on the first and third Saturday mornings of the month for an hour that includes a talk, time for discussion and prayer. 

“You are witnessing to a truth, a reality,” Bishop Loverde told the men, “that so many of our brothers don’t yet grasp — that we can be truly men, and yet, be spiritual. Sometimes, in the ethos we live in, spirituality doesn’t go with manhood. But men can relate to the Lord in a very personal way: They can share their deeper lives with each other, their struggles and their joys, and they can develop deep friendships.

“It rejoices my heart to see a group of men,” said the bishop, “who understand this reality.”

Johnson is co-founder, with his wife, Ever, of Trinity House Community.

For more information

Go to soundcloud.com/user-71545942/mmor-bploverde-talk to hear Bishop Loverde's talk. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020