This St. Patrick’s Day, Don’t Give Up But Give of Oneself in Ireland

Irish Advice on Making the Most of Time of Preparation

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Image - Archdiocese of Dublin

To many Catholics in Ireland, Lent means sacrifice. In these challenging pandemic times, it may seem like there already has been enough sacrifice. But the real question may be not what to give up for Lent but how better to give to others.

In Ireland, the past year has been a time of lockdowns, travel restrictions, closed businesses, remote learning for schools, and loss of loved ones to Covid-19. The simple pleasures of visiting family or stopping by the pub for a pint with friends were lost.

Archbishop Martin: Feast of St. Patrick

Pope Calls Lent a Time of Hope

But this also can be a time of hope, as Pope Francis said of Lent during his February 14, 2021, Angelus address: “It will be a favorable time of giving a meaning of faith and hope to the crisis that we are living.  And before, I do not want to forget: the three words that help us understand God’s style. Do not forget nearness, compassion, tenderness.”

Archbishop Dermot Farrell
Archbishop Dermot Farrell

Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin recalls questions Catholics ask of themselves during Lent – perhaps not at first the most obvious.

“The first question we should ask ourselves is: what is the purpose of Lent?” Archbishop Farrell told Exaudi. “Simply put, the season of Lent is meant to clarify our vision of what is genuinely important in our lives, that is, our conversion to Christ in the community of the Church.

Advice from Irish Archbishops

“If we take the 40 days of Lent seriously it re-establishes our priorities so that we may live in harmony with our identity, as people called by and converted to the Lord. Christians celebrate Lent every year to deepen their faith, to re-evaluate, and, if possible, with the grace of God, to change their life.”

Of course, in the days leading up to Lent, many Catholics ponder what they will give up during the season.  Archbishop Farrell isn’t sure that is the best question to ask.

“Very often people ask: What will I give up for Lent? The drink or sweets, bring on ‘Netflix’ or taking to social media to vent their grievances,” he said. “Lent is not just the yearly launch diet date! All of these practices are fine, but not particularly Christian, hardly in the image of Christ.

“This Lent to not think just about giving up something; simply give,” Archbishop Farrell urged. “Not something; someone. Give yourself. Imitate the compassionate Christ. Be honest and humble with one another. Listen when someone asks you for a few minutes of your time, for the compassion in your heart.

“This year I will put a renewed focus on my prayer and spend more time daily developing my relationship with God. I will pray for a deeper faith amid all the uncertainly that the pandemic has brought in my life.”

In his 2020 Lenten message, Pope Francis called for this to be a time of renewal, remembering it is a season of faith, hope, and love:

“In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who ‘humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the ‘living water’ of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. At the Easter vigil, we will renew our baptismal promises and experience rebirth as new men and women by the working of the Holy Spirit. This Lenten journey, like the entire pilgrimage of the Christian life, is even now illumined by the light of the resurrection, which inspires the thoughts, attitudes, and decisions of the followers of Christ.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin
Archbishop Eamon Martin

Putting Pope’s Words into Practice in Ireland

In Ireland, the Pope’s words are being put into practice during Lent, according to Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh, Apostolic Administrator of Dromore, and Primate of All Ireland.

“I encourage families to experience Lent as a period of faith, hope, and love,” Archbishop Martin told Exaudi. “Let us make time and space to sacrifice indulgences in our lives so that we can pray more earnestly, fast more, and give more.”

Archbishop Martin noted that Trocaire, the Irish bishops overseas aid and development charity – and Caritas member – continues its near fifty-year-old tradition of providing the “Trocaire Box” to parishes across the island so that families can, at home, contribute money during this Lenten season.  Trocaire’s 2021 Lenten campaign focuses on humanitarian support for the conflict in South Sudan, with the theme “Supporting people trapped in long-running wars”.

Social media also can be a source of inspiration during Lent. Archbishop Martin pointed to an especially inspiring source from a young person:

“I was inspired by a short Lenten reflection video just posted by secondary school student, Caoimhe, from Saint Louis Grammar School in Ballymena, Co Antrim.  Caoimhe’s positive approach to Lent 2021 can help us all, as she suggests that ‘we should give up: complaining – focus on gratitude; give up pessimism – become an optimist; give up worry – trust in God; give up bitterness – turn to forgiveness; give up hatred – return good for evil; give up negativity – be positive; give up anger – be more patient; give up pettiness – become mature; give up gloom – enjoy the beauty all around you; give up jealousy – pray for trust; give up gossiping – control your tongue; give up sin – turn to virtue; give up giving up – hang in there!’.  I encourage you to view Caoimhe’s uplifting reflection on Twitter on @SLGBallymena.”

The archbishop also encourages the faithful to engage with the Irish Bishops’ #LivingLent initiative on Twitter and Instagram.

“My hope is that #LivingLent will help people grow closer to God during this sacred season.,” Archbishop Martin said. “As detailed on this initiative offers suggestions for fasting, prayer, and charity.  Our site also offers assistance for spiritual preparation with prayer and Scripture reading so that we can fully embrace the joy and hope of Easter

“As we are restricted from gathering together due to the public health restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, I encourage people to engage in Spiritual Communion by participating in online Mass and in other liturgies online, as well as by arranging family prayer and devotions.”

Faith Discussions Live from Knock Shrine

In keeping with the Irish tradition of sharing the Catholic faith around the world, the Knock Shrine is hosting a series of faith discussions during Lent. They are broadcast live on the shrine’s website Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. Knock time and last about 30 minutes. They also can be viewed on Facebook @knockshrine. (If you missed a program you can see a replay on the website.)

Patrick and Linda Treacy featured in first Knock conversation for Lent
Patrick and Linda Treacy featured in first Knock conversation for Lent

Chaired by Father Eamonn Conway DD, Priest in Tuam diocese, and Professor of Theology at Mary Immaculate College, the conversations will explore a different theme each week and guest speakers will discuss some of the important questions we all face in living out our faith. The schedule includes:

Thursday 18 February ‘Living Christian Faith in the Family’
Saint John Paul spoke about how the future of humanity passes by way of the family. Patrick and Linda Treacy, who have four children and run a center for domestic spirituality called Integritas from their home, will speak about the joys and challenges of living Christian Faith as a family today.

Thursday 25 February ‘Living Christian Faith as Young Adults’
A group of young Irish adults, for whom Christian faith is of great importance, will discuss the strength it gives them and how we can better communicate the joy of the Gospel today.

Thursday 4 March ‘Living Christian Faith in the Classroom as Young Teachers’
Three recently qualified primary teachers explain how their religious faith is important to them and how it influences their work as teachers in the classroom.

Thursday 11 March ‘Living Christian Faith in Public Life’
Baroness Nuala O’Loan, Senator Ronan Mullen and discuss their own faith, how it informs their public service, and the challenges people of faith encounter in the public sphere today.

Thursday 18 March Proclaiming Christian Faith as a priest or religious today’
Sr Ursula Lawler, lecturer in Christian Ethics at Mary Immaculate College, returned missionary and editor of the Africa Magazine, Father Sean Deegan SPS; Ballyhaunis Parish Priest Father Stephen Farragher and Father Eamonn Conway will discuss living priesthood and religious life today in conversation with young Irish Catholic journalist Jason Osbourne.

Thursday 25 March ‘Studying Christian Faith’
Máire McDonald is Vice-Principal of a busy secondary school in Dublin. Judith King is an internationally recognized psychotherapist and Margaret Naughton is a busy hospital chaplain. Yet they have all found time to fulfill their passion of doing a Ph.D. in theological studies. They share with us how their theological studies enrich their faith and their work.

Archbishop Martin also shared some of his personal thoughts and plans for Lent, especially insightful during these pandemic times.”

“I have reflected deeply and asked myself what does Lent mean during a time of pandemic, especially as we are all sacrificing and exercising self-denial every day at this time.  The Covid-19 restrictions have been like a prolonged Lent.

“Pope Francis suggests that the world is crying out for faith, hope, and love during the Covid19 pandemic.  For me, every Lent is like ‘spiritual spring clean’, a chance to renew and refresh my faith.

“I sense God calling me to conversion and inviting me to change my life for the better.  In 2021, God is inviting me – indeed all of us to find new ways of deepening our friendship with Him.

“Let me suggest three ways in which we may able to do this:

“- Get away from the daily rush,- including for me to minimize screen time – and create quality time for prayer by reflecting on a few verses from, or on a story in, The Bible;

“- Offer up a real personal sacrifice such as by undertaking a dedicated period of fasting so that we would miss food, and thereby feel what hunger is really like.  In this way we can truly express solidarity with the poor and suffering of this world who have no choice but to go without;

“- Be an ‘Ambassador for Christ’ and thereby be a kinder and more charitable person this Lent.  Show an interest in others, lend a listening ear and speak words of comfort, strength, and consolation, and avoid harsh words which demean, sadden or anger or show scorn.”