By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY, Archbishop of Atlanta | Published February 14, 2008
The last time that we celebrated Easter on March 23 was in 1913, and it won’t fall on March 23 again until 2160. So, needless to say, we will celebrate the earliest Easter in our lifetimes this year. Easter is established with a calculation that was fixed by Pope St. Victor I near the end of the second century and then ratified by the First Council of Nicea, which set Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox. All of that means that the earliest that Easter can be is March 22 and the latest that it can be is April 25.
Our early Easter this year means that Ash Wednesday was also quite early. We may not have begun Lent in the most restrained fashion because two very happy events have given our hearts reasons to rejoice at a time when most of us should be thinking about penance and prayer. Our newest deacons were ordained on Friday after Ash Wednesday, and our elect and candidates celebrated their election the first weekend of Lent—certainly two joyful moments for this local Church happening in the opening moments of Lent.
Twenty men from our parishes are now deacons for us. They and their families and friends packed our Cathedral with joy last Friday. I congratulate them and their loved ones as they begin their ministry as deacons.
The ordination culminated five years of study, prayer and formation. But even before they began their preparation for the diaconate, they were men with a heart for the work of the Church. Our deacons represent a fine group of men who love the Church and are willing to work for the Church’s mission, both in their parishes and throughout our territory.
These men as deacons have a special love for the poor, and like the first deacons from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, they are destined to focus on the needs of those who may have gone unnoticed or unattended. They are fortunate to have wives and families who support them in the tasks that lie ahead for them. May these new deacons enjoy a long and fruitful ministry.
Then in four separate ceremonies, the Archdiocese welcomed our catechumens and candidates for full membership over this past weekend. This Rite of Election is always one of the happiest moments for the Church throughout the world because we can glimpse at what the future will bring to us at Easter. The witness of these wonderful folks reminds us that the Holy Spirit still guides the Church and that our Faith continues to inspire people in so many life-giving ways. I am particularly grateful for the directors and coordinators of our RCIA programs throughout the Archdiocese of Atlanta for the faithful service and careful encouragement that they provide for our catechumens and candidates.
While Lent began early this year, it started with the joy of these two special events and somehow caused all of us to rejoice greatly in the Lord’s goodness and fidelity to His Church. May all of us pursue the grace of these 40 days with intense confidence in God’s grace—even if the sobriety and restraint that usually describes Lent for most of us was a bit tardy this year.