Catholics are people of great faith and activities such as pilgrimages and attendance at night missions or special prayer services are not expected to suffer from lack of participation despite the state of the country. As a matter of fact, such activities might even do better, because Trinidad and Tobago needs as much prayers as it could get, given the crossroads it is now facing.
It is difficult to imagine that as faith-filled Catholics, we would abandon our traditional penitential services and activities just because of our crime-ridden situation. We must be stronger than that. This year there should be an even greater effort to encourage more active participation in all Lenten devotions. We should not settle for going through the season simply promising to abstain from some of the activities we enjoy.
Usually, Lenten activities see more of the older crowd in attendance with a smattering of the younger generations. Greater attendance at the Lenten missions in our churches is sorely needed, so recruitment is necessary. Let us all make serious attempts to bring out our families, friends and neighbours to take part in these penitential services, so vital to our faith.
The fact is, Carnival notwithstanding, that increasing crime is wreaking havoc with the population in more ways than one. It affects night life in the country; it affects the elderly; it affects local travel; and it makes people afraid and uncomfortable. It can make for limitations this Lent.
But in this season of repentance I would like to suggest, in spite of everything, that we heed the words of Matthew 6:1 when he says, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.” Not necessarily sack cloth and ashes but do penance in quiet and solace.
When Mark Neilsen wrote in Living Faith, “Motives are seldom, if ever pure, and they don’t need to be. Let God look into our hearts and sort it all out. Let God purify the best of our intentions and toss out the rest. Let God console us in our religious observances or not, according to whatever recompense is best for us.”
This might be a good time to reflect on Ash Wednesday not so much the cross of ashes we got on our foreheads but as Kristin Armstrong in a Living Faith publication reminds us, “It is a day to reflect inward, certainly, in preparation of the Lenten journey ahead….it is also a day to express our faith outwardly, to remind the world that each of us must carry our cross with compassion and courage – in the image of our Saviour.”
Let us look at fasting during Lent. A tradition which is as old as the hills but which still pervades today. Amy Welborn writing in Living Faith said “The fast of Lent is not about feeling better about ourselves, nor is it about losing weight. It is, however, very much about the connection between body and spirit.”
She added, “Self-denial teaches us that perhaps we do not need all the things we think we need. When we don’t look to things to satisfy us, we are forced to look in a deeper way to God for our peace, to see that He is really all we need and to seriously evaluate how much of our material and physical satisfactions are really obstacles on our journeys to intimacy with Him.”
And more from Living Faith when Sr Joyce Rupp OSM wrote, “I envision God’s grace as being a generous, energising movement of total goodness. This stream of love is always available to each one of us. It is free and it is powerful. Grace can change our lives.”
Back to Welborn who said, “Sometimes we make big plans for ourselves during Lent but maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe we should simply focus on the one thing that’s keeping us from flourishing as disciples and let ourselves be restored.”