Rosemary January Blog
February marks the start of a new semester, the winter exams are finished and Christmas is a well and truly distant memory. At the start of each new semester I like to reflect upon which that has just passed and consider what I can become involved in to broaden my experiences at university, as well as considering areas that I could improve upon. The second semester is particularly enjoyable, as routines are already well-established and the famous ‘Re-fresher’s week’ commences. ‘Re-fresher’s week’ is similar to Fresher’s week, in that clubs and bars alike have many student promotions and themed nights that attract students from far and wide. Re-fresher’s week is always great craic, and what better way to meet up with new and old friends alike to bring in the start of the new term, especially after the stressful month of January and its exams.
The month of February marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is an important time in the life of every Christian. It is the period of forty days before Easter when Jesus rose from the dead. Christians get themselves ready for Easter by a period of preparation and reflection. Traditionally preparation for Easter involves a sacrifice of some sort however; it can also involve enhancing ones faith, perhaps through attending Mass more frequently or becoming involved in voluntary work. Christians replicate Jesus’ time in the desert by resisting temptation and demonstrating self- discipline to mirror Christ’s example.
Although the ‘sacrifice’ of not eating chocolate or sweets for 40 days may seem trivial to some, it is a concrete representation of the faith that Christians have in Christ. Although I choose to give up the luxuries of chocolate and sweets each year I also aim to develop my faith. Last year I attended morning Mass three days during each week, a challenge for someone who enjoys their sleep. I also attended prayer vigils expositions of the blessed sacrament. Attending these vigils brought home to me the true importance of Lent. It is a time to think of others and perhaps reflect on ourselves and consider areas of our lives that we would like to improve upon.
There is currently a culture whereby people are using Lent as an excuse to diet and lose a few pounds; this takes from the spiritual importance of Lent. It’s about so much more than weight or proving a point to a friend that you can go without chocolate for a few weeks. Lent is about spiritual, as well as self renewal. It’s important during Lent to not only reflect upon Jesus’ sacrifice in the desert, but more importantly that we reflect upon his ministry in its entirety. Jesus’ life, from start to finish, was a sacrifice for humankind, as he dedicated his life to healing and liberating those who were both deserving and undeserving of his mercy. If we fail to understand this then Lent will fail to impact upon us as it ought to do. It is important also that we adopt the attitude during the period of Lent, of being kinder, more considerate and more patient with others, and to maintain this mindset throughout our life. The sense of satisfaction one gets from resisting chocolate is not at all comparable to the feeling that one receives from being closer to God.
At Queen’s University Belfast, throughout the season of Lent there are many opportunities for students to develop their faith; through a series of extra Masses and courses. It can be difficult to truly immerse yourself in the season of Lent when those around you aren’t bothered, and that’s why the Christian chaplaincies play such an important role. They create a prayerful and peaceful environment, where people who are similarly minded can gather and help one another with their faith development. It’s all too easy to put God to one side and to live a self-centered existence. People today increasingly claim that they ‘like’ Christ and believe in him but aren’t too fussed on going to Church, and most choose not to do so. However, without any concrete expression, faith lacks foundation. It is impossible to demonstrate faith without action and this is why I believe it’s crucial to use the available opportunities that are laid before us. It’s never too late to make a difference in your life by embracing Lent as a faith enriching experience. ‘Life without Limits’.