Lent is our time of preparation. We commit to disciplines that help us to separate ourselves from the temporal world so that we can be receptive to the saving grace of Christ. After two years of Covid, some of us might have been thinking about a more relaxed approach to lenten preparation. That is, until the terrible tragedy taking place in Ukraine forces us to witness how cruel we can become when focused solely on the temporal. If anything, we need to focus more!
A recent Vatican News article features Bishop of Plymouth, Mark O’Toole, who also serves as the chairman for Evangelization and Discipleship for the Catholic Bishops’ conference of England and Wales. Bishop O’Toole notes that we all may feel helpless as we witness what is happening in the war.
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” -- Ephesians 6:13
However, Bishop O’Toole reminds us that we have the grace of spiritual weapons. The disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are powerful tools that enable us to bring God’s grace into situations. Our participation in prayer brings us into unity: “With prayer, and especially the prayer of the Mass, the faithful are not just united in faith with those in the Church, but they are united ‘with a community of faith across the globe, and therefore, we can apply our prayers, our intercession, especially to this area which needs an outpouring of Christ’s redemptive love.”
The war in Ukraine amplifies the importance of acknowledging and honing our personal habits for prayer, alms and fasting. The shock that this could happen in 2022 after decades of relative peace forces all of us to revisit our assumptions. Catholics across the United States fasted on Ash Wednesday as a sign of solidarity with Ukraine. This was an admirable start if we can use it for real personal discipline.
Serve in Solidarity
As a society, we weary quickly of events and move on to other topics that vie for our attention. The situation in Ukraine will be with us for a while, likely throughout the 40 days of Lent. We can serve in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. “But as an act of solidarity and really of love for those people, Bishop O’Toole pointed out, ‘We too can take on some particular fasting, whether it be from food or maybe social entertainment, use of the internet, for those people.’”
This Lent we have the situation in Ukraine to bring intensity to our preparation. Our purpose must be that we use the discipline for our spiritual formation, beyond the current events. So as our attention is drawn to a new topic, we have gained strength that lasts. This is a great time to practice daily prayer, one of gratitude and one for peace. Attend Sunday Mass in person and be present in the celebration. Fast at least on Fridays, so that in some way you actually feel the impact of missing something. And give from your faith and love.
This coming weekend, the second Sunday of Lent, our Responsorial Psalm begins with: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid? Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call; have pity on me, and answer me.”
We must be prepared to place our trust in the Lord. And may Christ be with the people of Ukraine!
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Terry Poplava is a multi-disciplined executive with extensive sales, product marketing, strategy and leadership experience in supporting faith organizations. Terry’s professional experience includes organizational leadership, corporate development and growth, consulting with and training church leaders, and leading strategic and priority planning for churches and dioceses. He currently serves on the advisory board for the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine FL, as cantor at St. Andrew parish in Myrtle Beach, SC. and recently as Chairman of the Finance Council at St. Mary the Virgin Mother parish in Hartsville, SC.