Young women and religious sisters pair up for spiritual mentorship during the Lenten Listening retreat. Photo courtesy of Faith Connections

Speaking Out: My Lent with a spiritual director

By  Jacklyn Gilmor, Speaking Out
  • March 29, 2018

Maybe it’s just me, but it’s so easy to get lost in the little sacrifices and traditions of Lent, forgetting what the real point is behind them.

One year I’ll give up junk food and my friends won’t hear the end of it, especially when there’s a plate of cookies out or they go out for ice cream. After an agonizing 40 days, I get excited to have sugar again and to celebrate with everyone else. But I think many of us — myself included — have been missing the point. 

This year, I signed up to do the Lenten Listening retreat, which was created by Faith Connections for people who are busy. You get a handbook that guides you through daily prayers and Scripture readings and you can take notes as you pray. You also get assigned a spiritual director, whom you meet with for a few hours throughout Lent to discuss your journey.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d have time for this retreat, but I’m so happy I did it. 

The beauty of this retreat was that it made me more aware of my spiritual journey and the little things in my daily life. It gave me a stronger sense of what Lent is really all about: repentance and growth. 

I was hoping to be paired with another woman, ideally a religious sister who could give me some wisdom on dedicating your life to Christ. There was an option to request someone by gender and occupation, but I chose to be neutral and leave it up to God. He gave me exactly what I was hoping for.

My mentor is a lovely religious sister who has been both honest and willing to listen to anything I have to say. I guess I thought that Lenten Listening meant constantly waiting for God to speak to me (which of course is important), but in fact being listened to has really helped, too.

I had no idea how much I needed someone to guide me in my faith life until I first sat down to meet with my mentor. We often talk longer than our allotted time. She understands me and I’m sure it’s God’s way of giving me guidance in order to grow closer to Him.

It was also a matter of discipline. Meeting with a mentor and reading the daily examen means committing to this spiritual time and putting aside distractions (which for me are definitely Netflix and pretending to do homework). 

Jesus fasted for 40 days. For most, if not all people, that’s not really possible. But if we do something different for Lent, I think it should be listening, understanding. Simply giving up junk food or coffee or social media is not really what makes a difference, it’s what we do with that sacrifice and the extra time it creates.

God wants our sacrifices, He wants us to commit time to Him and to offer up our struggles for His glory. Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” 

He wants us to talk to Him, because He always listens.

(Gilmor, 20, is a second-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto.)

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