“Ashes fade, but our faith remains,” senior student reminds her Fenwick classmates.
By Preaching Team Member Natalie Poleszak ’23 (Burr Ridge, IL)
Did you leave your car running this morning? Did you take a second to remember you locked it? During this season, we are often so occupied with giving up a favorite soda or candy that we forget to slow down. So excited for Easter, we lose focus on what’s important.
Today, I ask each one of you to for a moment forget about the Spanish test you have or what you will be doing this weekend to slow down.
I know Fenwick students are sometimes unable to do this because I see it in the parking lot everyday. In a rush to get to their favorite parking spot or to even make it past the light, we often forget to look around. Similarly, how often do we think about an intention before we mindlessly pray with our peers before class. How often do we check up on our friends or tell our parents thank you? I am guilty of not doing these things myself.
Today I challenge you to practice patience. I challenge you to park within the lines. For even though your awareness fades, the impact remains.
You may be asking yourself, ‘Natalie why are you talking about the parking garage on Ash Wednesday?’ Driving is something we all experience in our lives. Likewise, everyone at Fenwick has to learn about faith in their theology classes. Why not incorporate it into the simple moments in your life?
Even with all of this preparation and growth in our personal lives, it’s not important unless we get out and actually do it. So today we are challenged to consider the other person in the car next to us. To not cut them off, or honk the horn, or to let them in front of us. Let the ash on your forehead serve as a reminder in your busy lives. For even as the cross on your forehead fades, our faith remains.
As we once again enter the beginning of another Lenten season, the all-important question of “what should I do for Lent this year?” more than likely has come to mind. Before you or I decide to once again abstain from cookies, candies, carbonated drinks, or coffee beverages for the season of Lent, it is worthwhile considering the purpose of the season of Lent. In doing so, we can gain a better sense of the purpose of these resolutions, and what they can do to help us with our spiritual journeys.
The season of Lent has its origins in the catechumenate preparation period for their entrance into the Christian Church at Easter Vigil. In the early Church (2nd-4th centuries), initiated Christians were encouraged to join in this time of prayer and fasting- recalling their own baptism, but also those preparing to join the Church. For catechumens, Lent was a long and rigorous period of examination, catechesis, and ascetical cleansing of body and soul during the forty days leading up to Easter.
As infant baptism became the norm, the number of new initiates decreased, but the practice of forty days of fasting continued.
It is worth noting that early on, Lent required the abstention from meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, wine, and oil. In other words, only fruits, vegetables, bread, salt, and water were allowed to be consumed during this time period. Likewise, only one full meal was allowed to be consumed during the day. As time went on, allowances for one to two small snacks (collations) for laborers was added. This time of fasting was seen as an opportunity to cleanse oneself of attachments to food and drink, but also to reflect upon one’s own baptism and need for continual repentance.
Following the Second Vatican Council, the requirement to abstain from meat on Fridays, to only take one full meal during the season of Lent and other ascetical actions were lessened. (Please see the bottom of this reflection for the list of guidelines provided by the USCCB for days of fasting and abstinence in the Latin Catholic Church).
This lessening of expectations over time is not true for many of our Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters who still begin Lent with a three week period of gradually removing certain dietary items from their meals in preparation for the Lenten abstention from meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, added sugar products, chocolate, alcohol, and vegetable oils for the full duration of Lent (including Sundays).
The practice of truly abstaining from food such as Orthodox Christian or our pre-Vatican II predecessors would be a very difficult task for me. It would make me uncomfortable, and mindful of my attachment to my favorite foods and beverages, and other things of this world. Our goal for Lent should be to replicate that experience today- seeking to make ourselves uncomfortable, and mindful of the need for conversion, and God’s help. This will make for a truly radical and transformative Lent.
If we choose to give up a certain food or drink during Lent, our call is to pray for God’s assistance when our stomach growls, or eyes see a desirable treat in front of us. We should pray for God’s help in growing more detached from physical goods so that we might be able to live a simpler life, one more dependent upon Him, and His generosity. As well it is a reminder to pray for those whom a meager diet like this is not a seasonal thing, but an everyday reality.
To assist us in better using Lent as a period of cleansing in anticipation of Easter, the Church calls her members to live out the prophetic call to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during the season of Lent.
How can we best embrace one or more of these facets?
Some questions to consider when planning out your Lenten practices:
What is it that you need to do in your life to grow in your awareness of your attachments to this world?
What are those things that distract you from being present to God and your neighbor?
What practices or actions should you undertake to better center yourself on what is truly important?
This Lent, Perhaps Consider Committing To:
Fasting: Don’t just give up candy, or junk food, but instead consider:
Fast from distractions use your phone or other electronic device less, and instead use that time:
Chatting with a relative, or other loved one.
Visiting an elderly neighbor to talk or help with chores.
Educate yourself about the challenges that many face across the globe:
Learn about the plight of Christians in Nigeria, Myanmar, Central America, China, and the Middle East.
Become aware of the challenges that refugees face throughout the world.
Learn more about the reality of hunger for many children throughout the world and in the US.
Fast from luxury goods: Don’t purchase fancy coffee drinks, or fast food once a week, and donate the money to a cause that is important to you.
Support Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl campaign.
Fasting from sleeping in: Don’t snooze your alarm clock for the season of Lent, and use this time to say some prayers for your loved ones, or do chores/kind acts for those you live with..
Fast from harsh words: Get off social media, or make the choice not to respond to the hurtful comments someone may have said to you, or wrote about you on social media, but instead offer a prayer for them.
Fast from apathy and complaining: Pick up trash that you might see around you, instead of walking by it, or do those little things that need to be done instead of complaining.
Fast from griping about those things outside your control: Don’t complain about what is wrong with the world, but instead give thanks for what is going well, and seek to encounter others with gratitude for those little things they do to help you. As well, offer your complaints as a prayer of supplication to God.
AFenwick Preaching Team Member shares his Ash Wednesday faith reflection.
By Will Chioda ’21
I would like to start off Mass with a small but encouraging note: The last time we had an all-school Mass was almost exactly a year ago today, on Ash Wednesday. This feels like a step in the right direction towards getting closer to normalcy.
If anyone listening has had the immense pleasure of getting to know me, you might know that I am not a person who forgives easily. I tend to hold a harsh and lengthy grudge against a person. Most of the time, this defense mechanism against getting hurt again prevents me from deepening relationships and trusting others. The irony in this is that I am far from a perfect person. I have wronged, hurt and offended many, including a number of our fellow classmates listening right now. However, Jesus calls believers to be forgiving, which is something that I plan on focusing on during this Lenten season.
In my research and reflection on the topic of forgiveness, I noted a subtle connection between the dictionary definition of forgiveness, and a personal favorite prayer of mine, the Peace Prayer. While the dictionary says that forgiveness is the willingness to pardon, St. Francis’s prayer reminds us that it is in pardoning that we are pardoned. In other words, the motivation to forgive others is that, in return, our own wrong-doings are forgiven. In my case, there is no way I can fully love others if, in fear of being hurt again, I focus my attention only on what another person has done wrong. My strongest, most loving and supportive relationships are those in which differences and misdeeds are mutually acknowledged and forgiven.
With the arrival of the Lenten Season comes a call from God. As students of faith, we are presented with the opportunity to foster personal growth and to create positive change. Lent is a reminder to repent, turn to the gospel and seek forgiveness for our sins.