Eunice Hii, Youth Speak News

Making Lenten sacrifices

By  Eunice Hii, Youth Speak News
  • March 22, 2012

I was recently speaking with a Jesuit priest about his work. The charism of a Jesuit priest is to go where there is the greatest need.

“What do you think is the greatest need in our city?” I asked him.

He told me that he thought that people didn’t seem to need anything. They have filled their lives with so many things. I thought this was ironic.

How is it that the greatest need in our society is that we have no need at all?

I began to think of myself: How true is this of my own life? I rarely let myself go hungry. I fill my schedule with commitments, I quickly run into new relationships and I consume more food than I need. I chase desires in many different directions all in efforts to satisfy my hunger. Everything is so readily available and easily accessible that I have never truly had to go hungry. My every whim is met instantly.

During Lent, I realize it is a time to do just the opposite of the ordinary. It is a time to leave our desires unchecked as it is a period to abstain from comfort. In Matthew, Jesus was “led by the spirit into the desert,” leaving all comfort behind.

For me, the chance to live out this belief came in the form of a unique initiative.

For five days this Lent, I left the comforts of my home behind. With a sleeping bag, pillow and the clothes on my back, I joined nine other students at the University of British Columbia as part of a national campaign called 5 Days for the Homeless. Together, we camped outside our campus bookstore in efforts to raise awareness and money for homeless youth in our city.

The past days have definitely pushed me outside of my comfort zone. It’s been cold and rainy and I’m beginning to dream of hot showers. We’re completely reliant on donations for food and basic necessities like toothpaste and deodorant.

Catherine Doherty, foundress of the Madonna House apostalate, is famous for, amongst other things, having brought the term “poustinia” to the Catholic Church. It is a term that refers to the cabins people go to for retreats of silence and solitude. Poustinia stems from the Russian word for desert. People spend time in these poustinia to encounter God more fully through prayer and fasting. Though far from luxurious, people often feel more fulfilled in the poustinia.

I have come to understand that fulfilment during my time without a home. Without the comforts of home, I have had to come to Jesus for that true fulfilment.

A Catholic Christian Outreach missionary once said to me, “We are afraid to wait long enough to feel that longing.”

What if this Lent, instead of reacting to every desire, you allowed yourself to go hungry? What would happen?

I urge you to be led by the spirit into the poustinia or desert of your heart just as Jesus was 2,000 years ago. See what happens. Allow your true appetite for something greater be restored. I know He won’t leave you thirsty.

(Hii, 21, is a human resources and international relations student at the University of British Columbia.)

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