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For Lent Let’s Give Up Negativity and Replace It with Positive Action

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For Lent Let’s Give Up Negativity and Replace It with Positive Action

Commentary by Julie A. Ferraro | FāVS News

It was kind of odd that Ash Wednesday — the beginning of Lent — fell on Valentine’s Day this year. But, since Lent is a season where Catholics — and other Christians — spend 40 days (not counting Sundays) recalling the depth of Jesus’ love for humanity by his willingness to die for our salvation, that blend of ashes and hearts sort of makes sense.

When I was a kid, the Catholic Church’s rules about Lent seemed a bit harsh. Going to Catholic schools, our teachers — mine were Franciscan sisters — urged us to “give up” something for those 40 days. Such sacrifices and little sufferings were meant to remind us how Jesus suffered.

Most years, I tried to give up chocolate. It didn’t always work, as I would find myself digging into the candy bought for our Easter baskets well before our parents hid them on Easter morning!

When I was 13, after being nagged by my mother about the arthritis looming in my future if I kept cracking my knuckles, I stopped during Lent — and haven’t done it since!

Other, broader restrictions for Lent include abstinence — not eating meat — on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays, and fasting — eating just one full meal — on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Fortunately, attitudes about Lent have changed over the decades. Instead of “giving up” something for Lent, the approach is more about growing closer to Christ in more meaningful ways.

To this end, Pope Francis came up with a list of ways to “fast” that have nothing to do with food.

We are invited to fast from hurting words, from sadness, anger, pessimism and worries, filling the void those negative thoughts occupy with more positive actions, such as speaking kind words, nurturing patience, hope and trust in God.

Be Silent and Listen

If we feel like complaining, we can contemplate simplicity, as Pope Francis wisely advises. Our tendency to dwell on the pressure we feel when situations overwhelm us can be dispelled by turning to prayer. Bitterness and selfishness can be replaced by joy and compassion.

Most importantly — especially for those familiar with the Rule of St. Benedict, as we are here at the Center for Benedictine Life in Cottonwood — is the last recommendation to fast from words and be silent. The first word of Benedict’s Rule is “Listen.”

In the silence of the many acres at the monastery, accented perhaps by a gentle breeze, the call of a raven — a Benedictine mascot, so to speak! — assorted other birds, squirrels, and even a cow now and then, it is possible to listen to the voice of God speaking through creation to our souls. We come to tangibly see how much God loves us through every blade of grass, every flower (thinking ahead to the coming spring) or the unique flakes of snow that blanket the hill in layers of white.

Working Together Toward Peace

We can see and hear God’s infinite diversity by merely pausing along a path to take in our surroundings. That same diversity is present among human beings, all loved by God for their very uniqueness, and all connected on the journey of life toward eternity.

During this Lent, may we open our eyes, our ears and our hearts, so that our souls may be nourished by these special types of fasts that Pope Francis has shared with us. Let us pray and work together for peace, in our homes, our communities and our world.


The views expressed in this opinion column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FāVS News. FāVS News values diverse perspectives and thoughtful analysis on matters of faith and spirituality.

Julie A. Ferraro
Julie A. Ferrarohttps://stgertrudes.org/
Julie A. Ferraro is director of communications at the Center for Benedictine Life at the Monastery of St. Gertrude, Cottonwood, Idaho. Originally from South Bend, Indiana, she is a mother and grandmother. She has been a journalist for more than 35 years and continues her studies of both Benedictine and Franciscan spirituality.

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2 COMMENTS

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Jeannette Kelley, Obl.S.B.
Jeannette Kelley, Obl.S.B.
1 month ago

Well written, encouraging article. Thanks to Julie for sharing her insights. She is a blessing at the Center for Benedictine Life at the Monastery of St. Gertrude and that community.

Mary Marge Goeckner
Mary Marge Goeckner
1 month ago

Thanks Julie, I so enjoy your writing and your many pictures and stories.

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