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Let Lent change you

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, February 23, 2006

Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. For 40 days, Christians around the world will prepare to celebrate and remember worthily the great events of Holy Week culminating in the proclamation of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter.

During the days of the Lenten season, we try to remind ourselves of the importance of what it is we are preparing for: to deepen our love for Jesus Christ. Traditionally, we try to do this by engaging in extra moments of prayer, by showing more concern and attention to the poor and to those in need and by engaging in small sacrifices which remind us that these are not just normal days.

But the deepest meaning and purpose of Lent is to joyfully embark upon a journey of personal conversion. It is a time for us to examine our attitudes, our habits and the priorities we place on different aspects of our lives, in order to conform our actions more to the life and the teachings of Jesus we read about in the gospels.

Lent is a time for us to enter into a deepening of our personal call to holiness. It is the time when our best efforts will be assisted by God’s grace.

Conversion is a change of heart that leads to changes in our life that affect our behavior because of a reordering of our priorities and an examination of how we live out our values in the course of our daily lives (even on weekends).

Many of our Notre Dame undergraduates are serious about deepening their spirituality during their years at Notre Dame. You only need to attend a hall Mass, spend time at the Grotto, participate in a Campus Ministry-sponsored event, among other things, to understand the truth of this statement.

We are susceptible to the amoral and immoral tendencies which surround us and create much of our culture. Many Notre Dame undergraduates have developed well a value system that is solidly based on Catholic values and principles, and on the teachings of the Church. It is not easy to “swim upstream” against our secularizing culture, with shallow and passing relationships. It is not easy for us to hold ourselves to a higher standard when it comes to Christian sexual ethics. But many of you do because it is the way shown to us by Jesus.

Other students begin to discover that part of themselves that only God can satisfy and fill as their days under the Dome lengthen. And they are grateful for the opportunities they find here to practice their faith.

Yet conversion begins when we are aware of our relationship to God, of God’s presence in our lives, of our need for God and an honest self-assessment of what keeps us from eliminating from our lives those obstacles which hinder our spiritual growth.

May the grace of these days be a time when we practice virtue through prayer and almsgiving. Let’s take advantage of the season to shore up our deepest Christian convictions. Let it also mark a period in our lives when we try to be as aware as possible of who we are in God’s sight and question the values that hold us back while affirming and strengthening the convictions which lead us in the direction in which we want to go.

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence. This means that we should abstain from all meat, eat the equivalent of two meals rather than three and refrain from eating between meals.

Fridays in Lent are days of abstinence when we should refrain from eating meat.

Father Richard Warner, CSC, is the Director of Campus Ministry. He can be reached at [email protected]

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