By Sr. Karen, O.P.
I can’t believe Lent is almost here. I have always loved this liturgical season — even as it challenges me with its prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Somehow Lent awakens a deep-seated desire to let go of all that keeps me from being the person God graces me to be. It offers time to take a long, loving look at what is genuine and true in my life and relationships — and to be grateful or sorry. Lent nudges me to be more attentive to Scripture, to make room for quality time to meet God in prayer. It motivates me to decide what I want to give up and to let my conscious fasting (not just from food) actually support and integrate the rest of my Lenten journey.
But while all these plans and musings of mine are very important, Lent is not just about me. It’s about letting the Spirit of God — already dwelling in me by grace of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist — be heard in my busy life. It’s about being drawn more deeply into the Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It’s ultimately about recognizing and attending to Christ in hidden and unexpected places within and around me.
For a long time I have thought of holiness and wholeness as synonyms. Growing in either one is a lifelong process that people of faith know will not be complete until death. A vibrant life of faith is developmental, just as is our growth toward human maturity. And yet by God’s grace, body and spirit are woven together in ways that help, support, strengthen, and establish each other. Whole persons (holy persons) are fearfully, wonderfully made.
Somewhere in my religious education, I had to write a paper on how the seeds of faith got planted in me. As you might expect, two big communities stood out as influential. One was my family, and one was my parish. For better or for worse, these two communities continue to form each of us today. Our roles in each of them change with the years. But by faithfully living out our call to holiness within family and parish, we extend the mission of Jesus to the people and places around us.
This year, the churches in our diocese are participating in Bishop McKnight’s pastoral planning process, “Better Together.” It is an opportunity for parishes to break open Church teachings, especially those of the Second Vatican Council and Pope Francis. The Bishop’s hope is that each parish in the diocese will come to be known as a place of charity and mercy, where clergy and laity work together, and steward the varied gifts of grace God has given each of us. How wonderful to be part of such a process.
Providentially, our Lenten day of reflection dovetails with our Bishop’s vision. On March 14, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sr. Joanne Delahanty, O.P., from St. Benedict the African Parish in Chicago, will engage us on this very ideal — A Parish of Compassion and Hope. (Google St. Benedict the African Parish, Chicago, IL to view a beautiful church whose motto is, “There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place.” Enjoy their lovely artwork and music.) In her 20 years of ministry in this inner city parish, Sr. Joanne has fostered hopes and dreams similar to our own, but with challenges that reflect their specific reality. I know she will bring insight and depth to our parish here at St. Thomas More. And words of wisdom from Fr. Rich will conclude our day. Please help us plan for seating and lunch by registering here!