The new school year brings with it hope, joy, expectation for all of us, school staff, students, parents and guardians. New uniforms and shoes shine; new school exercise books with their blank pages hold the promise of engaging with new learning. The school itself is sparkling with freshly painted or refurbished areas. The new school year challenges us to put aside old habits that keep us from being our best. It also challenges us to become who we really are or want to be. We may want to become more resilient, more focused, more attentive, more mindful in order to be the best that we can be. We may want to be less anxious, less fearful of taking risks, less consumed by self-doubt, less focused on material possessions, less selfish. All of us are on a journey to growth: staff, students and parents alike. We journey together in truth and courage, as our College motto reminds us.
Lent is a summons to live anew
Like the new school year, Lent which starts next week, calls us to journey together in truth and courage. Pope Francis tells us that Lent is a new beginning, a path towards the continual conversion of heart. Sr Joan Chittister says that Lent calls us “to look again at who we are, at where we’re going in life, at how we’re getting to where we say we want to go,”.
Lent also traditionally calls us to prayer, fasting, almsgiving and reconciliation. Giving up things such as chocolate, cake and alcohol can be exercised in self-discipline, but they are not necessarily going to sustain our journey or create a mindset for spiritual growth. In fact, what we give up for Lent should be something that distracts us from God. A Lenten sacrifice should be something that, once removed, makes it easier for us to connect with God.
Our prayer, fasting, almsgiving and reconciliation can be expressed in more creative spiritual action. Joan Chittister says that Lent is a call to weep for what we could have been and are not. Lent is the grace to grieve for what we should have done and did not. Lent is the opportunity to change what we ought to change but have not. Lent is not about penance. Lent is about becoming, doing and changing whatever it is that is blocking the fullness of life in us right now. Lent is a summons to live anew.
The Franciscans in Ireland have given us the following advice, which challenges our views of Lent and promotes a positive mindset for daily living in grace and generosity and following this summons to live life anew, in the renewal of our hearts and minds.
FAST from judging others; FEAST on the Christ within them.
FAST from emphasis on differences; FEAST on the unity of life.
FAST from apparent darkness; FEAST on the reality of light.
FAST from thoughts of illness; FEAST on the healing power of God.
FAST from words that pollute; FEAST on phrases that purify.
FAST from discontent; FEAST on gratitude.
FAST from anger; FEAST on patience.
FAST from pessimism; FEAST on optimism.
FAST from worry; FEAST on trust in God.
Deep Reflection for Students
Lent calls us to deep reflection, something which Year 10s and 11s are engaging within their various Religion classes. We are challenged to see ourselves as we are. We must accept sometimes unpalatable truths about ourselves to reveal those areas that are preventing us from becoming the best that we can be. It takes courage and conviction to confront those areas of ourselves that need improvement. It is not an easy task, but Lent is a time for engaging with truth and courage.
The theme of truth and courage is something being explored in our Year 12 Ethics classes. Examples like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Franz Jaegerstatter who opposed the Nazis and died for their beliefs; Dorothy Stang, a nun, who was assassinated in Brazil on February 12 in 2005. She worked with the Pastoral Land Commission, an organisation of the Catholic Church that fights for the rights of rural workers and peasants, and defends land reforms in Brazil. For many years, she advocated for the earth and for the local people, earning the Humanitarian of the Year award from the Brazilian Bar Association and evading death threats and assassination attempts. In 2005 (15 years ago), she was stopped by two gunmen while she was walking to a meeting, and they asked her if she was armed. She pulled out a Bible and began reading the Beatitudes to them, saying, “This is my only weapon.” As she turned to keep walking, they shot her. But they could not shoot the truth of her work. Thousands of farmers and peasants turned out to march in the streets after her funeral, chanting “Dorothy vivé!”
Lent challenges our sense of belonging, a theme being explored by our Year 9 RE classes. Are we prepared to journey with our faith community towards Easter? Are we prepared, as we pray in our College prayer, to stand up for the beliefs and values the Gospels promote? Are we prepared to more fully engage in prayer, almsgiving, and reconciliation? Are we prepared to fast, avoiding those activities and mindsets that prevent us from fully participating in our community of faith?
Lent can help us overcome our inadequacies and anxieties. We can learn to be humble and accept the gifts we have been given that allow us to flourish. Gifts that can restore relationships, gifts of prayer, fasting and generosity of spirit.
May you experience the absolute love of God,
May you hear the voice of God calling you to live in love,
May you experience the deep peace of living in the presence of God,
May you have the courage to confront those things
which distract you from living in the love of God,
May you seek to restore relationships
acknowledging the need for reconciliation and truth telling.
May you begin to become the person you were meant to be.
Religious Education Coordinator
- https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/lent/ Ignatian resources for Lent
- https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/liturgical-year/lent/articles/articles/looking-at-lent-through-the-lens-of-grace Looking at Lent through the Lens of Grace
- https://www.lentreflections.com/ Bishop Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflections
- https://lent.caritas.org.au/ Caritas Project Compassion Website – there are 6 wonderful stories here that can inspire us to deal with the negative aspects of our behaviour.
- https://www.huffpost.com/entry/beginning-again-always_b_830218 Sr Joan Chittister Ash Wednesday and Lent: Beginning Again Always
- https://www.franciscanmedia.org/blessed-franz-jagerstatter/ Franz Jagerstatter
- https://faithandleadership.com/why-dietrich-bonhoeffer-relevant-today Dietrich Bonhoeffer