My First Lent

My first Lenten recollections center on St. Ignatius School in Winnipeg, and the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.  They taught us catechism and over the years, with the help of the Baltimore Catechism, turned us into mini-theologians.

As altar boys, we learned the ins and outs of liturgies, important to guide our Jesuit pastors through complicated rubrics.  Of course pious practices were high on the Sisters’ hierarchy of instructions.

Lent comes when we’ve all had enough to Winnipeg winters. The snow refuses to melt and is no longer shiny white.  The wind from the north continues to keep us indoors when it is too cold to skate.  Then comes the Lenten command:  “Give Up . . .!”

We let go of some of our little perks, but the Sisters teach us more: to do some things better:  get chores and homework done, be more cheerful, be polite, say and record extra prayers.  Our Easter greeting cards to parents were a record of Lent’s extra devotions.

We enjoyed escaping from the classroom to practice extra devotions in church.  Finally Holy Week came with the fanfare of liturgies, and especially the chance to get friends together on Holy Thursday to visit seven churches – great cycle rides in the slightly warmer spring weather.

Life changed in my high school years, but the Sisters’ training, along with family support, kept me focused on the positive side of Lent.  Early Jesuit training built on this, thanks to guidance from superiors and spiritual directors.

Over the years I’ve continued to enjoy the Lenten challenge to let go of selfishness and to enjoy sharing life in community and in schools.  This can be a challenge for an introvert!

Over the last couple of decades I’ve enjoyed following the Spiritual Exercises in daily life from late September through Pentecost – similar scripture passages from year to year, but always new as I try to grow in the Spirit!

There are always negative habits to be given up during Lent, but so much to be gained as I walk through life with Jesus and my companions, enjoying life with both!

Bill Robins, SJ, is a Canadian Jesuit living at Godavari, our original school at the south-east edge of the Kathmandu Valley. He lives in a community of six Jesuits and teaches 11 and 12 English.

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 01:09h, 16 March Reply

    Thank you Bill!

  • Vicky Chen
    Posted at 05:26h, 16 March Reply

    It warms my heart to read a very positive down to earth narrative of Lenten experience. I can relate to the cold Winnipeg winters and the marathon exercises of annotation 19. Thank you for sharing.

  • Kathy stewart, R.n. and Msw.
    Posted at 09:07h, 16 March Reply

    THANK you for your article. I found it to be very helpful in understanding the three tempations.

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