Today we celebrate one of our American saints and a woman from Pennsylvania at that! St. Katharine Drexel came from a wealthy family in Philadelphia and dedicated her life to the formation of a womens' religious order that served communities that were neglected by many in the 19th century United States--Native Americans and African Americans. She spent her life to be with people that were abandoned by others and inspired countless others to do the same. The message from her is simple and clear--don't be afraid to go to the margins, don't be afraid to reach out to those who are forgotten, don't be afraid to bring Christ to the edges of society. We go to the margins, wherever they may be, not just out of a sense of charity, but out of a sense of justice. We do this not because we have pity, but because there is grace and wisdom and strength in the margins that can bring light into the world.
In a not completely unrelated note it is always so inspiring to me to see the huge crowds of people coming to Mass for Ash Wednesday or participating in Lenten practices. It's a sign that there are many out there who may not be completely engaged in the life of the Church, but still identify with their Catholic faith. We hear a lot about how the influence of organized religion is waning in America, so seeing hundreds and hundreds of parishioners at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and students at Misericordia take time out of their day to commemorate the beginning of Lent can be a great sign for our future. I hope we can all continue to nurture and encourage our brothers and sisters in their faith this Lent.