Lent: A time of repentance and resurrection

During Lent, we remember God’s faithfulness and appreciate the gifts we have been given. Ellen Teague, JPE team member, explains how the the Columbans, in this season of Lent, have engaged in mission to promote justice, peace and a sustainable future for the whole Earth community.

Lent offers an invitation to take time to stop, consider and repent. Like the call in Joel 2:12, ‘return to me with all your heart,’ it calls for us to return to God with our whole lives. And Romans 8 reminds us that the pain and suffering we experience is not just a human experience but one shared by God’s wider creation.

We live in a moment in history where poverty and war afflict many countries and the planet is heating up – with species and habitats being lost – at shocking rates. Humans – particularly in richer contexts – are too often living lives disconnected from nature and desensitised to the suffering of the poor and God’s creation. We seek God’s forgiveness and call upon God’s grace as we live in anticipation of that day of renewal – Easter Day – when resurrection is assured.

This Lent, Columbans in Britain joined Pax Christi for the annual Ash Wednesday Christian peace witness outside the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, London. Around 50 Christians gathered for a procession and prayer vigil. We called for the UK government to repent holding nuclear weapons and to supporting the arms trade which fuels violence in many countries. We supported the call of Pope Francis to be peacemakers and remembered particularly the Holy Land / Gaza, Sudan and Ukraine.

Columbans also supported the launch on Ash Wednesday of a Lent ten-day, 240-hour vigil at the Westminster parliament with the theme, ‘No Faith In Fossil Fuels.’ The Christian vigil urged “bold climate action” by the Government, including banning new UK-based fossil fuel projects, reparation payments for damage caused by climate change in the Global South, and investment in green policies. The lead organiser was Christian Climate Action and other agencies involved included CAFOD and Operation Noah. The vigil ended with prayers at Downing Street on Saturday 24th February.

James Trewby, Fr. Kevin McDonagh, myself, and Columban friends led the vigil on the evening of 21st February, standing right outside the gates of parliament. Our group was quiet and prayerful. We took it in turns to read the ‘Father, forgive us’ liturgy which ended: ‘Restore, reconcile and equip us to live in harmony with all creation, and to be signs to each other and to the world of your kingdom come on Earth.’

We read out the prayers of children who have participated in Columban environmental workshops and prayers from Columban colleagues internationally.

Columban Ordained and Co-workers lead a prayer vigil outside Parliament.
James Trewby with Ellen Teague and Fr. Kevin McDonagh led part of a Lent ten-day, 240-hour vigil outside the gates of the Westminster Parliament in London, Britain

From Japan: “That political leaders will understand the seriousness of the situation and respond accordingly, that Catholic leaders will understand the seriousness of the situation and respond accordingly, that national and local government and industry will stop all nuclear power plants as soon as practical and build no new ones.”

From Pakistan: “We pray that peoples of different faith traditions in Pakistan, inspired by their respective faiths, will work together for the protection of our Common Home to ensure future generations, and all of Creation will have a safe and healthy planet to inhabit.”

From Australia: “In the midst of painful and overwhelming realities about the harms brought to bear on all of life, we pray that we be renewed in God’s mercy and direct our love and concern to becoming restorers of life in local communities of practice.”

From China: “China has become the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. An unfortunate record, it happens while hundreds of millions of Chinese people still live in poverty due to migrating to the cities to work on construction projects and in huge factories. We pray for changes at every level of Chinese society so that the natural world, God’s creation, will be protected and all Chinese people can live with dignity and remain close to their families.  Also, China’s vast frozen reserves of water at high altitude are a vital source of water during the dry season. A rise in global temperatures would seriously deplete these  reserves. We pray that these reserves of water and all areas of our Common Home will be protected by wise decisions taken by national leaders.”   

The vigil saw a Rosary being said at noon every day led by Columban Sister Kate Midgley. Over the 10 days, Salesians from Battersea, a Laudato Si’ group from Sheffield, and Horsham Eco Churches were amongst more than 200 people signed up on the rota to participate in the vigil. And more than double that number simply turned up.

During Lent, we remember God’s faithfulness and appreciate the gifts we have been given. How beautiful are the Spring flowers and blossoms at the moment! Let us reorder our priorities and hold onto the new start God has provided to us with courage and excitement. We have a mission to promote justice, peace and a sustainable future for the whole Earth community. God makes all things possible.

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