about preparing for and really experiencing Lent,
which begins with Ash Wednesday on February 26.
At one summer barbecue with friends and family, a neighbor sat down to chat with me. It was generally known that he was “antireligion.” Although I had met him a few times, we had never had a real conversation. People like him either avoid me completely, because I’m “the nun,” or they seek me out for the same reason. He began to share with me about his childhood in a very strict Christian Church. There was no drinking, women wore very modest attire, and there was no openness to other religions or their adherents. He found the faithful in his family’s church harsh, cold, and judgmental. As soon as he was old enough, he left his church and his Christian faith and did not look back. His wife is agnostic, and they chose not to raise their children in any faith tradition. They’re both good people—altruistic, reflective, and highly ethical—and, after all these years, they seem to be seeking God, or at least a higher being.
He told me, as I’ve heard many times before, that the people in his church experience did not live faith; it was all about the rules, giving up worldly things, and the fear of hell and damnation. This description of a Christian community is so opposed to the biblical view of the movement that Jesus initiated! How do good, well-intentioned religious people get so far from authentic Christian worship and living? It is the human thing to become self-righteous and judgmental, not the God thing. I tried to just listen and not become defensive—which is not easy for me. I obviously believe organized religion is essential, but I also know all churches including the Catholic Church, sometimes fall short of Jesus’ vision. I, too, am angered and frustrated by the way we sometimes fail God’s people and ultimately fail God when we are merciless and unwelcoming. Pope Francis exhorts us over and over again to be a Church that is merciful, listening, and accepting—to meet people “where they’re at.”
The ongoing challenge for all of us is to live faith and to embrace the call from Jesus to love God and neighbor. Lent is an opportunity to spend 40 days focused on becoming more authentic lovers of God and followers of Christ—to live Lent with the resolve to make real change in our lives. This year, we strive to Live Lent! so we can live faith more authentically each and every day—to make God real and present in our hurting world through our loving actions.
by Sr. Theresa Rickard, OP, President of RENEW International,
© 2019 RENEW International
Live Lent! contains daily meditations and weekly small-group faith-sharing sessions beginning on Ash Wednesday. It includes prayers, reflections on Old and New Testament readings, questions with journaling space, and action prompts to help us Live Lent! in our daily lives. Learn more and order Live Lent! at www.renewintl.org/livelent. Use Promo Code TRLENT20 to save 25% on your order of Live Lent! or any of RENEW’s Lenten resources.
Please share this with anyone who might be interested in making the most of this season of preparation, renewal, and transformation. Don’t just observe Lent—live it!
Sr. Terry Rickard is a Dominican Sister of Blauvelt, NY and President of RENEW International.