Lent is traditionally a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is an opportunity to re-examine our lives and to reflect on our commitment to our faith and to our neighbours.
During Lent we remember the time Jesus spent in the desert, preparing for his public ministry. In this time of penance and repentance, we examine our lives and our faith, our priorities and our blind spots.
For the last several decades, Caritas and its predecessors have provided a Lent reflection/study programme which complements the Caritas Lent Appeal.
This year the programme takes the theme of the appeal: ‘For faith to be true, it has to be generous and loving’ (Mother Teresa) and asks participants to reflect on this in light of the Lenten gospel readings.
The programme has been prepared by Dr Anna Thompson, who formerly worked at the Wellington Catholic Education Centre, and is beautifully illustrated with quotations from Mother Teresa and New Zealand religious writers, and the reflective images of Wellington Catholic artist Trish Harris.
Using a simple but effective method of reading the gospel several times, and sharing insights and reflections, group members in past years have commented that the process brought them insight into the messages of the Lenten gospels for their own lives. In response to specific requests from the Catholic Samoan Community, Caritas will provide a Samoan translation of the programme for the first time this year.
For Caritas worker, Lisa Beech, who also worked on the programme, it recalls her teenage years when Lenten study programmes were the main input into her religious education.
‘I didn’t attend a Catholic school, so my parents ensured that we joined parish programmes, such as the Life in the Spirit seminars and bible study groups. We progressed from there to hosting Lent study groups in our home.’
Lisa says that at times, the study groups attracted wider support from parishioners.
At other times the Lenten study programmes provided the main opportunity her family had to discuss issues, and for children to hear from parents about their thoughts and reflections on their faith.
Many parishes use the Lenten reflection programme in formal groups in parishes, but others find it difficult to attract parishioners to weeknight meetings.
Caritas would like to encourage families and other groups to use the Caritas programme, as a way of reflecting on what makes our faith true in 2006.
Comments from the 2005 Lenten reflection programme:
Anna Thompson is to be congratulated. The series was full of teaching, but stimulating our own discovery of the spiritual treasures within each participant. Each session resulted in participants sharing their own real life experiences linked to scriptural triggering.
St Peter Chanel Parish, Motueka
We liked the system of doing the same gospel several times, at deeper levels. Our group has become very prayerful, and a lot of insights are generated.
Raglan Social Justice Group
All reported that they enjoyed the programme and found the material very good and easy to follow. It was found to link well with the Sunday readings and some, as a result, found their involvement at Mass improved.
St Mary’s parish, Blenheim
We found the material easy to adapt and follow and it was also ‘thought provoking’.
St Andrew’s parish, Tuakau.