In my religious congregation, the Ursuline Sisters of the Roman Union, we have circle groups comprised of different members across our various provinces. These circle groups communicate monthly with each other through shared prayer and conversation on various articles, books and life events. Just the other day, my circle group met via conference call and we discussed Lent and our reactions to it.
Our circle facilitator provided us with some Lenten thoughts by Joan Chittister. The following words really struck me, "Lent is not a series of behaviors; Lent is a series of questions, that, year after year, is designed to measure our progress toward the fullness of life." As one of our members shared, we don't do Lent, rather Lent enters our life and we live it.
All of my ministerial life has involved education and teaching; I have taught elementary school, special education, middle school, college and graduate school and now I am a principal of an all girls high school. When Lent occurs, discussion often takes place about what are you giving up for Lent and sometimes what extra good deeds are you doing for Lent. Often people perceive Lent as a time when you must do something as a sacrifice or an extra action in our life.
Joan Chittister's words made me think though how Lent is a time for asking questions -How best am I living my life? What things or habits do I have that are not needed in my life? Why do I do that certain behavior or why don't I do something more regularly? Am I living a life centered on God? I should be thinking more of how my life is progressing toward the life God wants me to have; rather than focusing on what am I giving up or doing just during these 40 days? It is meant to be a time where I am turning from sin and trying once again to live the Gospel.
Isn't living the Gospel the goal of every Christian's life and as a women religious shouldn't I be truly living the Gospel every day? Women religious today are exploring questions about their congregations, ministries, properties and the world in general. We are studying and working on activities related to the Earth, the environment, ecology, climate change, cosmology, human trafficking, and immigration-just to name a few. We are out there working to make the world a better place; but we are also asking questions about why certain things have happened and what can we do to fix them or change them. In my almost 20 years of religious life, I continue to be awestruck with all the different topics and arenas that religious life exposes me to daily. These cause questions in my soul and heart. However, I am learning that these questions cannot always be answered but rather they should be lived and reflected upon always. As members of Giving Voice, we too have our questions about the world and religious life. It is important that we continue to ask those questions and live our lives to the fullest. Getting an answer might cause us to stop living and living is what God has asked of us. So keep on living and asking those questions, my friends!