FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 23, 2009
Four years ago I shared this letter with many friends. As we again approach Ash Wednesday on Feb. 25, I would like to remind my fellow human beings what Lent represents in our lives and of the story within my letter.
When my staff and I attended Ash Wednesday noon Mass on Feb. 9, 2005, at the Catholic Diocese of Austin, the Reverend Michael Mulvey gave a moving Homily that inspired me to share his words. Father Mulvey explained the act of fasting and prayer during Lent as an opportunity for conversion of our minds and hearts. He recounted a beautiful story of forgiveness and love for mankind.
Father Mulvey had recently returned from Pakistan, where he had held a retreat for 25 seminarians preparing to be ordained priests. One of the seminarians he met bore three very noticeable scars on his right cheek. During the five days of the retreat, Father Mulvey came to know the seminarian and the story of the scars.
During the summer months the seminarian had worked in a marmalade factory in his hometown. He filled glass jars with marmalade on an assembly line. One day a supervisor, who was very opposed to Christians working in the factory, discovered that the seminarian was a Catholic Christian studying to be a priest. The supervisor approached him and said, "Your presence contaminates this food." He then took a glass jar from the assembly line and threw it at the seminarian, breaking the jar on his face and causing deep cuts. The seminarian was then fired from his job.
After the summer the seminarian left home and returned to the seminary to continue his studies. The incident which had left the scars continued to disturb him, but he realized that the gospel required reconciliation and forgiveness. Through his struggles to forgive, he met with a spiritual director who encouraged him to write a letter of reconciliation to the former supervisor. The timing of the letter also coincided with a festive season of the supervisor's religion. The seminarian wrote in his letter, “If I offended you in any way causing you to be angry with me, I apologize.” To this he added a sincere greeting for the season.
When the seminarian returned home to his family for the Christmas holidays, he heard a knock on the door one day. Upon opening it he discovered the supervisor from the factory with his letter in hand. The supervisor asked, “Why did you write this letter?" The seminarian replied, “Because according to my faith, we are all brothers, and I must be reconciled with everyone.” With a tear in his eye, the supervisor responded, "I should be the one to ask you to forgive me, which I now want to do."
He then offered the seminarian a gift of two jars of marmalade from the factory where he used to work. They embraced one another, and the supervisor asked, “And what about the scars on your face?” The seminarian replied, “Whenever I look at myself in the mirror and see them, I will remember the love you have shown me, and also that you are my brother."
After telling this inspiring story of reconciliation and the conversion of two hearts, Father Mulvey challenged those in attendance to look at our own need to be reconciled and to also change our minds and hearts. He told us not to approach the Eucharist filled with resentment, revenge and hatred in our lives.
The ashes placed on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday are a visible sign of our commitment to live the gospel of Jesus. While the ashes are not visible on our foreheads every day of the year, our neighbors must still see signs of our love, forgiveness, and patience through our actions.
Can we all learn from the seminarian's story? I believe so! We must!
Yours in Christ,
Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr.