BEYOND GIVING UP SWEETS:
PREPARING FOR LENT
A friend of mine posted this meme on social media this morning.
I had a good laugh because I think it sums up well how some people feel about Lent. Recently, I heard a conversation among students gathered just outside of my office: "So...what are you giving up for Lent this year?" In some of their voices, I sensed a begrudging tone as one decided to give up chocolates, another social media, and yet another alcohol, among other vices. This is not to say that what they are doing - making such sacrifices - is not a good way to mark Lent. But when it feels like it's some sort of endurance test of will and discipline, I think that we may be missing the point of Lent altogether. Rather than thinking of Lent as a something that must be endured, what if we were to think of it as an invitation of grace and renewal in our lives and in our relationship with the Lord?
Lent is an opportune time to press the reset button. It may mean reflecting and reassessing our priorities - are we putting God and those in need on the back burner? In the video below, Todd Pickett of Biola University addresses this very point.
An Introduction to Lent
Put another way, to use a gardening analogy, Lent is a time for pruning back those "branches" of our lives that are our day-to-day tasks and appointments that really get in the way of real, spiritual growth in our lives. Perhaps this idea of pruning may lead to producing vital "fruit."
This "fruit" can take the form of engaging in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy in being the face of God's mercy to others. This Lent could not be a better time to reflect far more deeply on this, as Pope Francis has declared this year as the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Think of ways that you or your students can engage in these works in concrete and meaningful ways. Ask yourself what are the crosses that we encounter in our lives and how do we help bear the cross for others? How can we act in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need?
Through praying, reflecting, and giving of ourselves (time, money, energy) even in small ways, we begin to open ourselves to who we are really called to be - followers of the Christ and a living witness of God's love in the world. It is then that we can walk this Lenten journey, not with a sense of dread and obligation, but rather with a radiant joy in anticipation of the glory of Easter.
ONLINE RESOURCES FOR LENT
There are a countless number of online resources that you can use for your own prayer and reflection or to share with the teachers and students in your school community.
Here are a few sites that are packed full of activities for children and families:
Websites that offer excellent resources for prayer and reflection:
Word On Fire
When you sign up online, Bishop Robert Barron will send you his daily meditation for each day of Lent, so that you can deepen your experience of Lent.
Running throughout Lent, this Lent Calendar app features stories of hope about our sisters and brothers around the world who are creating a climate of change. Development and Peace invites you to join in a Climate of Change pilgrimage. You can use this app to guide you through the Lenten season with three simple steps each day: Learn, Pray and Act. Available on the App Store and on Google Play.
Here are two songs that you can use for your own prayer time or to share with your students. These songs reflect our hope and trust in the Lord as we enter Lent.
|"Beyond the Days" by Ricky Manalo, CSP
In this reflective and peaceful song, the words form a prayer asking the Lord for guidance and grace to walk the Lenten journey.
Beyond the days of hope and mystery,
we see a light of faith renewed,
and in our longing we thirst for guidance
to walk with you day by day.
Forty days and nights you guide the steps of our journey.
May your presence be felt in the whisper of your voice.
Not on bread alone are we to walk on this journey.
Speak the words that give life to the yearnings of our hearts.
In your hands, O God, we feel the touch of your guidance.
Keep us safe in your care: may your gentleness be there.
On our Lenten path we see the dawn of a new day.
Be our vision of hope; be the promise of our lives.
|"Deep Within" by David Haas
This song reminds us that the Lord invites us back over and over again, no matter how far we have strayed, to return and be renewed in God's love.
Deep within, I will plant my law, not on stone, but in your heart.
Follow me; I will bring you back. You will be my own, and I will be your God.
I will give you a new heart, a new spirit within you, for I will be your strength.
Seek my face, and see your God, for I will be your hope.
Return to me, with all your heart, and I will bring you back.
|"Lent in Two Minutes" by Busted Halo
And finally, here is a video produced by the website
that summarizes the meaning of Ash Wednesday and Lent - from the history of wearing ashes dating back to the Old Testament to the practices of Catholics and Christians during Lent.
In his Lenten message for this year, Pope Francis wrote, "Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion!" I hope that this holy season of Lent may be a favourable time of prayer and contemplation that leads to spiritual growth and renewal.
Campus Minister/Director of Chamber Choir
King's University College