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State Chaplain 2022 - 2023

Picture of Rev Kenney St. Hilaire

Rev Kenneth St. Hilaire

March 2023

My Brother Knights,

 The season of Lent is a season of great opportunity. It gives us time to prepare our hearts for the renewal of our baptismal promises at Easter. It helps us develop greater self-mastery through the penances we embrace. It urges us to increase the good we do for our brothers and sisters in need. Lent really is a season of tremendous grace and growth.

It also highlights for us the distinction between our external observance and our interior reality, and the harmony or disharmony that characterizes their relation. We will see that this is a principle that applies far beyond the context of Lent and reaches into the entirety of our spiritual life.

One of the temptations that arise during Lent is that we allow ourselves to be satisfied with mere external observance. We make some kind of prayer commitment, we choose some form of fasting, we resolve to give alms, and we dupe ourselves into thinking that if we can just remain faithful to our “program” until Easter, we will have done a noble thing.

The Lord makes known to us, however, that it is not the sacrifices in themselves that He is interested in, but in the transformation of heart that should be brought about through those sacrifices. Our Lenten practices are not ends in themselves, but rather means to an end, namely, the increase of the love of God in our heart. Even the practice of almsgiving is carried out not only for the benefit of others, but also in the hope that our own hearts might be “stretched” to a greater capacity for generous self-gift throughout the year.

This is why, in our preparations for Lent each year, we ought to ask not so much, “What am I going to do?” but “What does the Lord want to accomplish in my heart in this season of grace?” The answer to that question then guides our discernment about what our Lenten observance might look like in practical terms.

As I mentioned above, this is a principle that guides us not only during Lent, but also for the whole of our spiritual life. It’s all too easy to get caught in routines of external observance that fail to effect an internal transformation (i.e., conversion of heart). I can go to Mass every Sunday – or even daily! – and say my Rosary and all my other prayers consistently, and not allow those experiences to penetrate any deeper than my mind.

God wants more than just the good we do with our bodies and voices. He wants more than just our mind. He made us for love, and in pouring His love out upon us He invites us to give Him all the love of our hearts.

All this doesn’t mean we should halt our external observance if we don’t feel an interior change! Truly, it’s more about what we intend than what we feel. What I am recommending is that we be more intentional about what we are doing, both during Lent and in the context of our day-to-day spiritual practices. That’s another way of saying that there is always work we can do to ensure that our hearts are more thoroughly engaged in what occupies our mind and body.

Let’s all pray for one another, that our Lenten observance might be more than a surface-level engagement. May we respond to the Lord’s invitation to “put out into the deep” this holy season and always, opening our hearts to the healing and transforming power of His love.

Vivat Jesus!

Fr. Kenneth St. Hilaire
State Chaplain