I have always waited expectantly for the Easter season. I love the whole Triduum - the beauty of the Holy Thursday liturgy with the image of washing of the feet; the simplicity and solemnity of the Good Friday service; the peacefulness and slow pace of the Easter Vigil with prominence of the images of fire, water, word and bread - and, of course, the abundance of flowers that adorns the whole Church. While there is a beauty in these images for their own sake, they take on new meaning, and can become more powerful images in light of our own Lenten experience that we have walked for 40 days.
At King's University College over 60 people participated in a Lenten Day of Reflection that focused on the three-fold practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Three women in the community led this day, each focusing on one of these aspects of the Lenten journey.
During each conversation it was evident that our Lenten disciplines are really not exclusively about Lent at all. Rather, our practices are to lead us into deepening conversion into life in Christ. Lent is a "practice" for the rest of our Christian lives. This moves us beyond Lent into the Easter Season and then Ordinary Time. Easter, rather than marking the time to end Lent and indulge/devour chocolate, popcorn or whatever, really marks a time of new or strengthened life because of our Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In these last days before Easter, through Holy Week we have the opportunity to reflect on how we wish to become better Christians.
As we celebrate the Easter Vigil and Christ's triumph over death we renew our baptismal promises. By this action we are claimed by God as a resurrected people. The world renowned Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister wrote a wonderful reflection on what it means to pass into a life of resurrection.
This ongoing reflection is known as mystagogy in our tradition. It is a deepening understanding of what it means to be immersed in Christian life following baptism. We tend to associate this period with newly baptized people but truly we all are in a period of mystagogy. We are continually called to reflect on what it means to be Christian and how we live this in the world.
Pope Francis gives us some clear direction on this question not only by the way he lives, and his daily reflections, but also in both of his encyclicals The Joy of the Gospel and Laudato Si. It is clear from both of these works that we live joyfully and in relationship to the world around us, both people and creation.
Pope Francis highlights "the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate, the serious responsibility of international and local policy, the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle."(LS, 16) "...We have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor." (LS, 49).
CAFOD, the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and part of Caritas International has created a short and entertaining video about Laudato Si. It is a
n engaging way of introducing the relationship between the earth, the poor and the North American lifestyle to young people.
North America's over-consumption is prevalent in many people's minds. John Oliver's rant on American food waste is a very entertaining and sobering way to begin this conversation with high school students.
It can be a daunting task to encourage young adults to engage in bringing forth the Kingdom of God. Development and Peace has created a retreat package for teenagers called On Earth As It Is In Heaven.
This package will engage students in thinking about why and what their mission is in the world and help articulate concrete ways of participating in it.
Ongoing formation is always important for those ministering to and working with young adults as well. Development and Peace has also created a Professional Development package titled Our Call to Caritas. It has been reviewed and endorsed by the Education Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario. This package includes
guides to prayers and reflections, experiential learning activities and group discussions, the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, information and resources to assist educators in speaking about Catholic Social Teaching, and a ready-to-use PowerPoint presentation.
If you are interested in receiving additional copies and/or for leader formation opportunities please feel free to contact the Catholic Schools Program Officer.
There are many questions we may have as we strive to be images of Christ in the world as participants in effecting change for the global South. With a seemingly endless list of organizations to work with, we need to discern which organization we are in closest alignment with. A relatively new movie, Poverty Inc. presents us with more food for thought.
This trailer gives a sample of the content that can be found in the movie. The movie is available for purchase at Amazon.
It is an excellent resource that has really helped me examine my biases, prejudices and the misinformation that I have received over the years from a variety of sources.
If you are interested in exposing your students to some of the turmoil in Syria and the ways in which Development and Peace has been working with partners in that country I would invite you to watch a recording of a livestreamed event that took place Monday March 14, 2016. Elias Sadkni, a Syrian solidarity visitor spoke of his experience in Syria to members from Development and Peace.
Of course, to engage in any action in the world one must be rooted in Christ. Richard Rohr, founder of the Centre for Action and Contemplation has a number of enriching videos available that offer insights to help each of us deepen our contemplative lives.
I wish you a blessed and graced filled Holy Week, Easter Season and beyond as you continue to deepen your relationship with Christ, the world and our sisters and brothers.
Annette Donovan Panchaud