CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Speaking Out: Time to reap lessons of Lent

By  Kathleena henricus, Youth Speak News
  • March 16, 2022

For all Catholics, the Lenten season holds a particular significance. For schoolchildren, the season was perhaps marked by pancakes in the school gym on Shrove Tuesday and worksheets on what kind of candy we wouldn’t eat for the next month and a half.

My birthday also falls during Holy Week, so Lent has always been the final stretch before a birthday cake.

Yet, over the past two years, Lent has become something different. The pandemic began right at the precipice of Lent 2020, and the season was overshadowed by near-total societal shutdown and feelings of fears and anxiety.

Then Lent 2021 rolled around, in a time when things seemed to get worse, without a “better” in sight.

We’re taught that Lent is a time for a symbolic struggle to parallel Christ’s journey, for some semblance of sacrifice, but after the last two years, there doesn’t seem like a place for that in my understanding.

So then, what is Lent in an (almost) post-pandemic world? And what does it look like knowing the world might be returning to “normalcy” here although the pandemic still rages in many parts of the world?

I think about how much the world has changed over the past two years. I think about how much was lost, destroyed and exposed.The world is different, so maybe our commemoration of Lent should be too?

Growing up, Lent was a time of surface-level sacrifice, but maybe it’s more about introspection. We have been, or will be, doing a lot of reflecting as the places we live begin to operate at full-capacity, with little semblance of the world we are leaving behind. Maybe Lent is a spiritual clean slate, a time to let go of what feels unresolved through meditation, silence and minimalism — which can look a lot like giving up your favourite candy in the search of something more.  

COVID-19 has forced us all to look at the life we live more closely. To embrace what we have, and make what was lost count. It means using Lent to bring us back to what we most value and cherish, outside the deafening noise of COVID case statistics, viral outbreaks, growing fits of anger on social media and experiencing the world through a screen. Lent can be a turning point, if truly embraced, a chance to come home to the places we have been led astray from.

I guess Lent is more than the final stretch towards a birthday cake, or it can be, if taken with the gravity it deserves. Lent can bring us back to the joy of life, the joy of the Easter season, through the hard work that brings the greatest personal satisfaction.

As we embark on the Lenten season, I urge you to reflect on your life, and what it has become, to find your peace. Maybe that means giving up a bad habit, or maybe it means enriching your life with something greater, something rewarding and something wonderful. It’s a very personal choice, but one integral for this period. If anything, it’s the reason for the season.

As we look forward to Easter, don’t forget to reap the lessons of Lent.

It could give you more meaning, more peace, and more joy than you ever bargained for.

(Henricus, 18, is a first-year student at Western University in London, Ont.)

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