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Lenten reflections

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Two important issues should be of special concern to our community at this time. The most important one is how we can celebrate the Lenten season well as a community of believers despite the fact that it will be interrupted by spring break and St. Patrick’s Day. But the Queer Film Festival and the production of the Vagina Monologues demand reflection on the part of each of us who are privileged to study at a leading Catholic university.

It is unfortunate the two seasons which prepare us to celebrate our two most significant moments, Advent, which prepares us to celebrate the Incarnation, and Lent, which helps us to celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, are cut short because of our academic schedule.

Each of the three great religions of the Bible set aside a time to celebrate central moments it is essential to remember through additional prayer, special concern for the poor and self sacrifice. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and St. Paul assures us that “God sees and loves in us what God sees and loves in Jesus” who “is like us in every way except for sin.” The first Lenten preface reminds us that each year we are invited to celebrate Lent as a “joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed.” Our mind is renewed when we study and understand more deeply our call to be a beloved son or daughter of God. Our purified heart rejoices in the realization once again of how much God loves us unconditionally and wants us to spend eternity praising his goodness and seeing God face to face in the company of family and friends.

The preface goes on to make a spectacular claim. “As we recall the great events that gave us new life in Christ, you bring the image of Christ to perfection within us.” As a result of our Lenten practices – our prayer, our fasting and our care for the poor – we not only become more like Jesus in our words and actions, but everything God sees and loves in us can be a mirror image of what God sees in His Son! This is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple. This is the essence of the moment of our baptism when we were individually set apart as one of God’s chosen ones, with the call to become one with Jesus during the course of our lives.

What is important is that we make our best efforts to maintain our Lenten practices for the next four weeks. We should never become discouraged if we give in to weakness or circumstance. And when we all come together in four short weeks in the Basilica for our spectacular 9 p.m. Mass on Easter Sunday evening, we will gather as a people renewed, individually and collectively, and we will surely celebrate with great joy the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus which changed the course of human history and the lives of each one of us.

Finally, just a few words on the Queer Film Festival and the Vagina Monologues, which I share with you as director of Campus Ministry.

I have worked for many years now with gay and lesbian undergraduate students at Notre Dame. For eight years, I have been a member of the Standing Committee for Gay and Lesbian Student Needs. I have listened carefully to our students, learned a great deal from them and come to be friends with more than a few.

Like many of you, I support the continual need for each of us to combat violence against women, whether in our residence halls and classrooms, on our campus, in our city or around the world. I realize that the face of violence in each of these places is strikingly different yet remarkably the same at its roots.

But I share Bishop John D’Arcy’s deep concern for the clear direction each of these events is taking, moving more in the direction of promoting an ethic in conflict with Catholic teaching and the lack of serious indications that their presence on our campus is truly a search for truth in an academic setting. I doubt there has been an effort to provide forums to discuss the Catholic Church’s teaching on topics related to what these two events basically pursue and promote.

In the search for truth, faith and reason do go hand in hand, as D’Arcy states. As Catholics deeply steeped in a multi-centenary intellectual tradition, we never need fear where our search for the truth will lead us.

I urge our community to think deeply about what we are doing and why we are doing it in these matters.

Neither the Queer Film Festival nor the Vagina Monologues will help us “to bring the image of Jesus to perfection within us.”

Father Richard Warner is the director of Campus Ministry. He can be contacted at warner.2@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.