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Byzantine Forgiveness Vespers with Bishop Mengeling! From Catholic Times
Flushing, Michigan. Bishop Carl Mengeling joined Father David A. Hannes, pastor, parishioners of St. Michael Parish and guests with beginning Great Lent by the celebration of the Forgiveness Vespers and the anointing of forgiveness which marks in the Byzantine Catholic Church the beginning of the journey of Great Lent. This journey begins in the Byzantine Catholic Church on the Sunday evening prior to the Roman Catholic Ash Wednesday.

"I am no stranger to 'Hospodi pomilui' ('Lord Have Mercy') or the Byzantine Catholic Church," smiled and said Bishop Mengeling, a native of Hammond, Indiana. Bishop Mengeling was a member of the Diocese of Gary's first ordination class, being ordained a priest in 1957. Prior to being ordained the Fourth Bishop of Lansing in 1996, he served as pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Munster, Indiana. Bishop Mengeling said that he was very familiar with the numerous eastern Catholic parishes that are or were once in the Chicago area.

In his homily, Bishop Mengeling emphasized that one of the most striking warning words in the celebration of the Forgiveness Vespers, as this relates to our life long faith journey is the word "discouragement." "We should never allow the devil to discourage us or drive a wedge between our lives and our faith. When we stop practicing our faith, we lose it," said Bishop Mengeling. Bishop Mengeling also spoke of the Holy Father's faith despite his many physical sufferings and passed through the congregation his Episcopal pectoral cross that was given to him by Pope John Paul II for the congregation to touch and to venerate. Both Bishop Mengeling and Father Hannes anointed those who came forward to ask for forgiveness during the singing of Paschal stichera.

Father Hannes said that our Byzantine Catholic Parish has embraced the opportunity to extend a warm welcome to especially Roman Catholic clergy and laity to join in this special celebration in order to raise our spiritual awareness of the various particular churches in communion with each other within the Catholic Church. "Each particular church shares such spiritual treasures; our spiritual tradition happens to stem from Byzantium," said Father Hannes.

Forgiveness for the Eastern Churches is essential for the beginning of Great Lent and this is why the Byzantine Catholic Church begins Great Lent with this special service. "Forgiveness gives us peace and when we are at peace, we can pray," said Father Hannes. The journey of Great Lent shows us that we are all prodigals and that we choose many times to live in a far off land. The call of the journey of Great Lent is to bring us back to the warmth of the Father's embrace and to restore our likeness to him. The celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord is the goal of the Lenten journey and hopefully, the spiritual restoration of each person on this journey.

Father Hannes thanked Bishop Mengeling for his continued support of the Byzantine Catholic Community within the Diocese of Lansing, as well as the Eastern Catholic Churches in the United States. Parishioners and guests had an opportunity to visit with Bishop Mengeling at the conclusion of the Forgiveness Vesper service.

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