A group of Oregon's Catholic spiritual thinkers say Lent is a time to rediscover the commitments of baptism and grow closer to God.
Abbot Gregory Duerr, spiritual leader of Benedictine Mount Angel Abbey, points to a section on Lent in the 1,500-year-old Rule of St. Benedict. Recommending Lenten practices, the father of western monasticism puts the season into the perspective of Easter: ". . . look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.”
"Easter is the great celebration of the dying and rising of Jesus through which we were saved," says Abbot Gregory, "and it was in our baptism that we entered into that very mystery, into that fundamental dynamic of dying to sin and rising to new life in union with Christ. And that lets us say that Lent is all about baptism."
Lenten observances, the abbot explains, are really efforts at getting serious again about baptismal commitment to dying and rising.
Down the hill in the town of Mount Angel, the Benedictine Sisters observe Lent with simple meals, silence, special times of prayer and Lenten-theme conferences.
"Lent has always been one of my favorite seasons," says Sister Jo Morton, assistant prioress at Queen of Angels Monastery. "It's a quiet fresh air time. We had a lot of excitement, a whole Christmas season, and now this is a space of time when you can be quiet, look into yourself and get ready."
The Sisters from the Carmelite monastery in Eugene live a penitential life to begin with. Lent, says the prioress, is a time of purification.
"You go into yourself and see how God is working there," says Mother Elizabeth. "It's a time to be open to what he suggests. It's our Lord calling us to see where we need to be more in tune with him."
Difficulties, including those encountered during Lent, are opportunities for grace. "We see where we need to change," says Mother Elizabeth.
While they work on their own spiritual lives, the Carmelites pray for everyone else. At Lent, the intention is that all grow in their faith during these difficult times.
Mother Mary of the Angels, leader of the Sisters of Reparation in Portland, says Lent emphasizes that Christians are a pilgrim people with heaven’s eternal happiness as their goal.
"As we participate in liturgical celebrations, reflect upon the season and strive to complete our Lenten intentions, we will be more open to the touch of the master’s hand," Mother Mary says. "Give to him your disappointments and trials, your pain and sorrow, your woes and tears, but remember to also give him your joys. Let Christ be everything for you that you may become his instrument in the lives of others."