Haitians say Lent means making room in hearts, time for prayer

Marie Yolene Andre prays during Mass on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18, at the archdiocese's transitional cathedral in Port-au-Prince. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Marie Yolene Andre prays during Mass on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18, at the archdiocese’s transitional cathedral in Port-au-Prince. (CNS/Bob Roller)

By Dennis Sadowski Catholic News Service

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CNS) — Marie Yolene Andre got an early start on Lent.

Andre was in Haiti’s new transitional cathedral at 5 a.m. — two hours before Ash Wednesday Mass — to begin her time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

“Jesus said you live to pray as much as you can within the room of you heart,” she told Catholic News Service after Mass, lifting her arms in prayer one more time in front of the main altar. “If you need extra room, then you can come to church.”

Andre, 61, called the Lenten season a very important interval in her life because she takes extra time to pray.

“For me Lent is already bringing fruits in my life,” she said. “I’ll be praying constantly.”

Andre was among more than 500 people who attended the early morning liturgy where Father Briere Aupont invited people to take the time to pray and get closer to God.

But Lent should not be the only time to pray, Father Aupont said.

“Pray all the time. For people, prayer is the only communication channel with God. If you are not praying it means you are not communicating with God. There is no other way of communicating with God but by prayer,” the priest said.

Father Aupont recalled how Jesus taught people how to pray and to thank God for the many gifts that they have. A life without prayer is empty, he said.

“You may think you don’t have to pray because you don’t have a room,” he continued. “But that’s not the case because the room is your heart. Don’t think Jesus said don’t pray because you don’t have room. Your secret room is your heart. Get in it and pray to God.”

The priest’s words resonated with worshipers.

Estime Francois, 67, was reading from his Bible after Mass as people made their way out of the church, located steps from the historic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, which was destroyed in Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake.

“This is the word of God,” he told CNS, holding up the Bible.

Francois called Father Aupont’s words “powerful preaching” and said he wished more people could have heard the priest’s words.

“People have to stop stealing and start living in the truth of the Bible and the truth of God,” Francois said.

Wilbert Gedeon, a member of the cathedral staff, said he would be praying “big time” during Lent because it is a time of power in his life.

“It’s your heart first and foremost,” he said. “The shell of the body is nothing. The heart is everything.”

Worshiper Isna Geffrard also said she would be making more time to pray to strengthen her faith, as Father Aupont encouraged.

“I’m going to be praying through my heart and with my heart,” she said.

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