The last week of Lent had me thinking really hard, not just because Holy week was fast approaching and I needed to decide which Mass to attend on Palm Sunday, but because this past weekend I was giving a talk at my fourth and final Catholic Daughters of the Americas retreat. My talk was going to be about Lent (obviously) but more specifically, giving things up for Lent.
I ended up writing a thousand words on the last 12 years of my life—what I gave up for Lent each year and what I got out of it. I talked to my friends in Catholic Daughters about my lack of understanding when it comes to Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice, and how lent is a time to strive to understand that and to strengthen our relationship with Christ. My talk culminated in my revelation that adding something to my life during Lent, rather than giving something up (I had tried giving up soda and peanut butter cups) helped me to understand Jesus’ sacrifice for us and to strengthen my relationship with God. I shared with them my experience doing community service and how I my attempt to added more prayer to my daily life as an attempt to do this. I found that daily prayer was ultimately the best way for me to strengthen my relationship with God and when I walked into church on Sunday I felt more at home because I had never ended the conversation I started with God the week before—I had continued it every night while fulfilling my Lenten promise to pray. I asked my fellow Catholic Daughters what they had given up for Lent and how this might strengthen their relationship with God. What I did not realize until after I shared my own Lenten experience with them is that finding what works for me during Lent is only the first step.
Yes, I had graduated from giving up soda and candy for forty days in the Spring and grown to making a personal commitment to talk to God more, but why? What was it for? I realized this Saturday as I sat among my friends who I’m about to leave (springtime and looming graduation fills me with a large dose of nostalgia) that I strengthen my relationship with God so that I can help them strengthen theirs as well. Sometime we don’t realize the impact and influence we have on those around us.
Lent is a time to reflect on our faith and how we practice it. Many people do to intensify their practice of the their Faith during Lent, whether it be attending daily Mass, going to Confession or simply getting back in the habit of going to Sunday Mass. In the beginning, I added daily prayer to my life during Lent for myself. But, I now see that in strengthening my own relationship with God I have acquired the tools and experience to help my peers grow closer to God as well—and I should do that! As Lent comes to a close and Holy Week begins, I challenge you to find a way to use your personal growth during Lent to help those around you. How can you be a positive presence in the lives of those around you?
Eileen Welch is a senior at The Catholic University of America and the Regent of Catholic Daughters of the Americas, Court Catholic University.