by Sr. Julie Myers, OSF
We have officially journeyed through 40 days of Lent and our fasting and almsgiving are complete, right? The various ways we’ve stretched ourselves and reached out to others is finished, right? We can all go back to our ordinary ways of living….right? So, how was your Lenten experience? Did you give up something that holds importance to your daily life? Were you able to extend extraordinary efforts to do good through random acts of kindness toward others? In what ways did you empty yourself to be more like Christ?
I did something very different this year for Lent. I was invited by my Franciscan Sisters to participate in a seven-week faith formation program called Lent 4.5—Christian Simplicity. The program “educates and guides Christian communities on how to use the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to protect God’s creation, embrace Gospel justice, and nurture spiritual fulfillment. It offers practical opportunities for people of faith to make a difference in the world by applying the values of Christian Simplicity to their everyday lives.” Lent 4.5 received its name from this concept:
Imagine the Earth divided equally among all of us; each person would receive 4.5 acres. Now imagine that everything you need—food, energy, home, clothing, appliances, gadgets like the best drawling stylus,—must come from those 4.5 acres. But the reality is that it takes 22.3 acres to maintain the average American lifestyle. [Visit: www.lent45.org]
I had the privilege of joining three of my Franciscan Sisters in a discussion group that met Friday evenings during Lent; we focused on a different topic each week supported by A LOT of reading. The topics were: Christian Simplicity, Food, Consumption, Water, Energy, Transportation, and Gratitude and Generosity. The information about human effects upon our earth was mind-blowing and the statistics staggering. We, as a created people, take creation for granted. We assume Mother Earth will always be here and always produce for us. But our lifestyles are knocking her off balance and damaging the very foundation of this land we call home. Our Earth is holy ground, yet we have lost a sense of the wonder and gift she is to humanity.
Lent 4.5 has stretched my mind and my heart, and has made me so much more aware of how far I’ve yet to grow to obtain true Christian simplicity. It has provided me time to reflect on how my choices and lifestyle impacts the world and the people I share this planet with. My little choices, my simple behaviors, do matter—and they do make a difference—for better and for worse.
The sacred season of Lent might be over, but our efforts to grow in prayer, fasting and almsgiving is not. The extra time we made for daily prayer and the efforts we extended to show kindness and to do good must take root in our very souls! This program has taught me that my Lenten efforts and actions have only just begun!
So, I offer you a challenge! Use these 50 days of Easter to reflect upon your Lenten season and the many ways you stretched yourself. How have you been transformed? How can you live your ordinary life in extraordinary ways?
Lent 4.5 is a program of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center. www.earthandspiritcenter.org Please visit their website for more information.