Fr Paddy: Lent – a time to be uplifted by brighter mornings and longer evenings

    Lent can be a time of hope

    Ash Wednesday – which is this Wednesday, March 1, marks the beginning of Lent. Traditionally, Lent brings with it a time of cutting back, which includes fasting and alms-giving.

    Lent in the Northern Hemisphere coincides with the season of spring. This is a time when the colour and fragrance of new life suggests to us “all will be well”.

    Lent is a time to prepare over 40 days for the joyful celebration of Easter. Traditional Lenten practices such as fasting and penance can only find a purpose when, at a personal level, we receive the gifts of hope and renewal. This is what Lent is all about.

    Each year, Lent provides an opportunity for each one of us to experience a sense of healing and to embrace a real opportunity to begin again. I was greatly taken recently by the tragic deaths of people whose lives ended by suicide.

    In ministry, so many have shared with me the dreadful reality of living with depression and mental illness. Losing hope and an appetite to live is both a painful and a frightening reality. While there is no magic wand or instant quick fix to the why of human suffering, openness to the spiritual life can offer healing and, indeed, hope.

    There is an innate goodness within us all that our God wants to awaken and celebrate. The season of Lent rightly brings with it the new spring – a time when we are uplifted by brighter mornings and longer evenings.

    There is a crisis of hope, a desperate need for renewal in so many structures and institutions within our society. But perhaps the greatest challenge is for our own lives to be renewed. In her wisdom, Mother Theresa once remarked: “The only life we are capable of changing is our own.”

    The story of Cinderella speaks volumes, again regarding the season of Lent. This is a centuries-old wisdom tale that speaks about the value of ashes. The name itself already says most of it. Literally, it means “the young girl who sits in the cinders”.

    Moreover, as the tale makes plain, before the glass slipper is placed on her foot, before the beautiful gown, ball, dance and marriage, there must first be a period of being humbled. In the story of Cinderella there is a theology of Lent. Often, before we get the chance to put on the ‘glass slipper’, we first have to wear the heavy boots of burden and, indeed, mountain climbing.

    The good news of the Lenten story is that our God actively wants to heal each one of us. Life is worth living. Life is a wonderful gift, especially when we are fuelled by confidence and renewed hope. The spirit of healing taps into this deep well of wisdom when it puts ashes on our foreheads at the beginning of Lent.

    Lent is a season for each of us to sit in the ashes, waiting while some silent growth takes place within us, and simply being still so the ashes can do their work in us.

    The beginning of lent also coincides with our annual Novena to our Lady of Perpetual Help, beginning on Saturday, March 4. This nine-day Novena is a wonderful way to grow in faith during this holy season. Petitions are available in our Parish Church.

    These petitions are personal prayers often burdens that are felt in all our lives. These petitions will be remembered at all Novena masses. I personally invite you to partake in our annual Novena.

    Lent is a time of true recovery to embrace a wonderful love that heals our wounded lives. May this Lent be a time of rich blessings.

     

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    Fr Paddy is a curate in the hugely vibrant Portlaoise Parish. From Carlow town, he was educated in Carlow CBS and studied Business and Politics in Trinity College Dublin before training to be a priest in Carlow College. He is the youngest priest in the Kildare & Leighlin diocese and writes for a number of media outlets. He has almost 14,000 followers on Twitter.