Image by Gini George from Pixabay

Listen closely to the heart of Lent

  • February 29, 2024

Fr. Michel Cote is a voice for those seeking to be understood — literally. He is a Dominican Friar who has worked for decades as an interpreter. His small business has served virtually every multi-lingual Catholic entity in our country, from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to my own beloved Development & Peace - Caritas Canada. In his great service, it is likely that no other single person in this country has done more to help Catholics understand one another. Global Solidarity is near and dear to his heart. To us he is more than an interpreter, he is our beloved friend and spiritual elder. A humble man, he would balk at the idea of me writing a column about him. So instead of enumerating his many accomplishments, I would like to share the spiritual invitation that I have received from him in the form of a short Lenten reflection.

Since our first ever Share Lent campaign in 1967, Lent has been a time where Catholics in Canada have melted our borders and invited us to include the poor and oppressed from the farthest reaches of the planet in our Lenten journey. This year the campaign, “Reaping our Rights,” focuses on the struggles of peasant farmers in Bolivia, Nigeria and Indonesia.

Most Catholics know the three pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving. Because Share Lent invites people to donate to our work throughout the world, many associate the campaign with the last pillar only, Almsgiving. But Share Lent is also an invitation to Prayer and Fasting. All three, Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving, are needed to embrace the true nature of the campaign. Those who do this will not simply “give money to the poor.” They will enter the heart of our mission, which is also the mission of the Church. As Christians, we all share the vision of one human family living in our common home in justice, dignity and peace. This vision is why our mission is to address the root causes of poverty, injustice and oppression in our world. That is the only true way to God, revealed to us by His son Jesus.

Prayer: Without prayer, in its many forms, we cannot begin to properly know in our deepest spirit why fasting and almsgiving is necessary. We cannot begin to understand why we should care for anything but our own selfish desires. Prayer is at the root of it all. Through prayer we open ourselves to an encounter with the radical and transforming love of God. Share Lent offers many spiritual resources to facilitate this encounter. Through retreats for our members and staff, contributions to our educational materials and especially as an editor of our prayerbook We Dare to Say, Fr. Michel himself has constantly invited us to discover the power of prayer and of being followers of Jesus in our mission.

Fasting: Lent is a time to be reminded that God gave us enough for our need, but not for our greed. The road to justice, dignity and peace for all of God’s children is blocked by the overconsumption of the few at the cost of the many. No amount of almsgiving, by Catholics or otherwise, is going to bring about the world Christians dream of all by itself. The rules of the great economic game we all belong to need to be changed and it will necessarily involve fasting for those of us who have found ourselves born into lives of comfort. It’s more than giving up chocolate or candy. Share Lent has always sought to educate Canadians about our own role in the western world in perpetuating poverty and encouraged different forms of fasting that reduces the cost of our consumption on the world.

Almsgiving: When we give to Share Lent by first engaging in prayer and fasting, we are no longer simply “giving to the poor.” We are now giving to a truly Catholic vision for the world, where everyone has a seat at the table and enjoys the bounty of the gifts of creation.

None of these things are easy to understand and live. This is why we need interpreters. If you listen closely to the beating heart of Share Lent, you will hear the voice of Fr. Michel Cote, speaking to you in your own language.

(Stocking is Deputy Director of Public Awareness & Engagement, Ontario and Atlantic Regions, for Development and Peace.)

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.