LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez invoked the memory of slain Auxiliary Bishop David O'Connell Wednesday during his Ash Wednesday homily -- ushering in the 40-day season of Lent, when the faithful prepare for Easter by doing penance for sins and seeking spiritual renewal through prayer, discipline and good works.
"Today, once again, we enter the beautiful and holy season of Lent," Gomez said during the Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
"And our hearts are heavy today. It has been a very sad time for the family of God here in Los Angeles. As we know, we have lost a beloved friend and a holy priest, Bishop David O'Connell. We continue to pray for the repose of his soul, and for the consolation of his family and for all of us in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. But even as we grieve, we give thanks for his life."
O'Connell, 69, was shot and killed at his Hacienda Heights home on Saturday. His accused killer was charged Wednesday with murder.
"Bishop Dave was a man who loved Jesus Christ, and he gave his whole life to following Jesus, to being his friend, and to helping others to find Jesus, too," Gomez said.
"... So as we begin this holy season, we ask Bishop Dave's intercession now from heaven. I know that he is as eager to help us from heaven as he was eager to help us here on Earth. We ask him to pray for us, that during this Lent, we might open our hearts and reflect on our lives, and on our relationship with Jesus Christ."
Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of penance. A minister or priest marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes in the shape of a cross.
In the Roman Catholic church, individuals are told as the ashes are applied to their foreheads, "Turn from sin and live the Gospel."
Catholics observe Ash Wednesday by fasting, abstaining from meat and repenting. Other Christian denominations make fasting optional, with the main focus being on repentance.