By Steve Blaha, assistant director of Campus Ministry
The biting winds off Lake Michigan, the ankle to knee high snow pack and ice everywhere screams that it is winter. Yet daily, the sun rises earlier and shines longer. Spring is on the way. Ash Wednesday is this week, March 6, and marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is, in essence, springtime in the Church and within the hearts of all who await the celebration and hope of resurrection.
Signs of spring in the Church may be found right in our midst on campus. Students preparing for baptism, confirmation and first Eucharist through the “Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults” are eagerly getting ready to begin this 40-day retreat. Accompanied by the Christian community, these newly elect will spend Lent engaging in extra prayer, fasting and “almsgiving”—walking with the poor in order to deepen their relationship with Jesus, remove obstacles to a more fulfilling friendship with him and open their hearts to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the sacraments at Easter.
Like fields being tilled after winter, this opening of hearts to the Lord (Joel 2: 13), by the newly elect and modeled by fully initiated Christians provides space for new life in Christ to grow and take shape.
Lent, like spring in Wisconsin, does not always instantaneously look and feel like a new season; sometimes the works of winter linger. But, it is to the winter of our lives that Jesus enters (2 Corinthians 5:21), thaws and brings new life.
Trusting that our churches, friendships, communities and ourselves do not stand beyond hope and renewal, may Lent be a time to place friendship with Jesus at the center. Join the newly elect on this journey and in this spiritual regime of renewal (Mt. 6). Pray daily for 15 minutes, fast on Fridays, or through some other offering, and be generous in time and treasure with the poor. Let’s shake off winter together. A blessed spring!
Various Ash Wednesday services will be offered on March 6:
- “Ashes To-Go” | 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the AMU Rotunda
- Catholic Mass | noon in the Chapel of the Holy Family
- Ecumenical Service | 4:30 p.m. in the Chapel of the Holy Family
- Lutheran Service | 5:30 p.m. in the Multi-Religious Prayer Room at The Commons
- Catholic Mass | 9 p.m. in the Church of the Gesu