“QUARTADECIM DIE AD VESPERUM PASCHA DOMINUI EST; ET IN QUIDTADECIMA SOLEMNITATEM CELEBRABITIS ALTISSIMO DOMINO. FOURTEEN DAYS FROM NOW THE PASCH OF THE LORD WILL BEGIN, AND ON THE FITEENTH YOU WILL CELEBRATE THE GREAT SOLEMNITY IN HORO OF GOD MOST HIGH.”
(A Lent Sourcebook: The Forty Days, Book Two, p.112).
We are fast approaching Holy Week and Easter. Hopefully, we have used this sacred time of Lent to improve our relationship with God so that we can be better prepared to celebrate the Great Feast and Season of Easter. Last Tuesday, the front page story in the Star Ledger was about faith in New Jersey. There is an organization called the Pew Research Center that conducts surveys on various issues from time to time. This one showed that faith is important to the residents of our state. Half of the respondents say that religion is important to them, while thirty five percent claim that they worship at least once a week, with 53%reporting that they pray daily and 60% profess, with absolute certainty that they believe in God.
Also about 55% of residents were found to be “highly religious.” These results put New Jersey in a 3 way tie for 19th place, along with Kansas and Iowa. There are di fferent ways to gauge religious beliefs. These include worship attendance, prayer frequency, belief in God and the importance of religion in one’s life. These results how a decline in religious beliefs among Americans since 2007, with the percentage of respondents who are certain God exists dropping from 71% to 63% between 2007 and 2014, when this survey was done. Our state is 67%
Christian, with 34% claiming to be Catholic.
The question is: “what do these figures mean?” They mean that we as residents of New Jersey are pretty religious. Hopefully this religiosity translates into actions and words are consistent with our beliefs. This obviously includes those who attend worship services each week and those who don’t. Being religious means that our faith is consistent with behavior, so that we become examples to each other of what our faith means, regardless of what that faith is. Believing in God and attending worship services each week are not necessarily enough for many of us to be faithful to our faith. We are able to take the next step in responding to the needs of others that makes our faith come alive each day for the people we meet. In other words, faith has to become real in the way we live and how we treat each. The kingdom of God is about mercy, compassion, justice, equality and forgiveness, and if these qualities are part of our lives, then we are on the right track. If not, there is still time in Lent to improve on them.
In this Holy Year of Mercy, certain churches in our diocese have been designated with Holy Doors. When one goes through the doors, one receives an indulgence for doing so, along with celebrating the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance. Of course, the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, as the Mother Church, has a Holy Door. There are two churches in Union County so designated with Holy Doors: Divine Mercy, Rahway, and St. Theresa, Linden. Anyone is always welcome to visit these churches and go through the Holy Doors to receive the indulgence.