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When you hear the word “Lent” what comes to mind?

February 28, 2017

We asked six young adults- at various stages in the relationship to the Catholic Church to tell us What Lent means to them.

Jordan: When I hear the word “Lent,” I think of preparing myself for the death and resurrection of Christ. I think of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lent to me is an especially appropriate time to spiritually prepare myself to grow closer to Christ. Whether I am “giving up” something for Lent or adding something extra, whatever I do during Lent is intended to help me grow closer to the Lord.

Juliet: I think of a time of rejuvenation, refreshing and cleanliness. Almost like a new start and a chance to refresh my goals.

Patrick: As an agnostic, lapsed catholic, Lent is a loaded word. Lent reminds me of a lead up to Easter, which I have fond memories of. Bringing the extended family together. Sharing a meal. Lent reminds me of disciplined sacrifice of one thing or another, usually in a pursuit of self-improvement. Lent reminds me of ritual, especially Ash Wednesday, one of the few truly public rituals for Catholics. You truly know who is practicing on Ash Wednesday. Its right there, on their face. Lent also reminds me of a lost part of my personal culture. I sometimes enjoy that I made a choice basedon my beliefs that separate myself from it, but I also miss being connected to it. It’s not easy.

Michael: When I hear “Lent” I think of the Passion of Jesus and an opportunity to draw close to God.

Michelle: When I was younger I used to think that Lent was always about giving something up; fasting in a sense. But what I gave up usually included homework or chores (not the most productive fasting). I have grown to understand that Lent is about more than giving up something you don’t like. It is about fasting, prayer, and almsgiving and the opportunity to deepen yourself spiritually through all three.

Now, as someone who is agnostic, I simply go through the motions of Lent, mainly for my dad. As a devout Catholic himself, my dad was raised in Catholic school, says his daily three Hail Mary’s, and always attends Church on Sundays. Every Lenten season it is expected that as a family we play the part as well; going to mass each week with extra services on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Never was it discussed, it was simply known that if it was Sunday morning, you were waking up early, putting on your ‘Sunday best’ and going to sit in a pew for an hour. And of course, the reward in the end was the candy in the Easter basket at the conclusion of Lent. So now, every spring I have ashes put across my forehead, abstain from eating meat on Fridays and spend 40 days focusing on bettering myself or my relationships (although not necessarily with God).  This year for Lent I have decided to keep with the idea of doing something to better myself. Although that can sound egocentric and selfish, I think it is better in the long run. I plan on spending more time eating healthy, reflecting through exercise and reading, as well as volunteering. By better serving myself I am more able to serve the people around me.

John: Preparation and sacrifice.  If you want to be physically fit, you need to plan your routine, dedicate the time and be mindful about your diet and exercise.  I view Lent as the spiritual preparation, mindfulness and sacrifice that you would need in order to be ready for the emotional trials and tribulations the rest of the year would have to offer.  Enduring through bouts of weakness and distress allow us to approach the bigger challenges with vigor and enthusiasm instead of a knee jerk emotional response that could cause us even more long term pain and suffering.  Just as being sore from the gym or skipping that extra slice of pie is a mindful decision that prevents me from huffing and puffing over a couple flights of stairs, Lent is the preparation of the mind and spirit to not focus on not the immediately gratifying, but rather God’s unveiled larger plan for me

We also asked them:

“Where do you go in life when you need reflection and solitude?”

Jordan: When I need reflection or solitude I try to find a few moments of silence. I also journal to some extent every day and that is a great way for me to reflect.

Juliet: I spend a lot of time in my car for work so I generally reflect and think as I drive. I don’t seek it out but I try to take advantage of the quite to sometimes just reflect on my rides home when I am done commuting for work.

Patrick: Great question. I don’t have such a refuge. I find the closest thing to it is, for me in Colorado, traveling to the mountains. Camping and being out in nature is the most spiritual, centering, refreshing part of my life. Rock climbing with a good partner brings me a sense of real reflection and connection. There is solitude when you are climbing, and community when your partner meets back up with you.

Michael: When I need reflection & solitude, I go to the Trinitarians of Mary in West Covina (Perpetual Adoration), the Chapel or the Stations of the Cross in my home parish, my back yard, or Mater Dolorosa retreat center in Sierra Madre.

Michelle: In terms of solitude, location is simple; I live alone in a studio apartment. As an introvert, living alone as really given me the seclusion and space I need to unwind and recharge at the end of the day. I find it easiest to reflect on life with either words or actions. Some days I will reflect with a good book or set of poems that I can sit down with for a couple hours and find some way to relate them to my life. Other days I need to move around in order to get completely out of my own head; that tends to include yoga, hiking, running, or dancing.

John:  I am blessed to have a giant back window that looks out into a small garden outside my apartment.  It’s completely solitude and I’ve found myself looking out that window for more than an hour during trying times praying or just watching the birds and squirrels play

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