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Who Needs Lent in a Pandemic?

 Sister Diana Rawlings, ASC

By Sister Diana Rawlings, ASC

For the record, I am boycotting Lent 2021!

You probably have felt the same way if you are honest. Haven’t we all been in Lent since the lockdown of March 2020? Some say, “Well, what is another 40 days” to the sacrifices already experienced in the Covid-19 pandemic?

Each of us experienced the Lenten season last year through the reality of the pandemic. To experience it again feels overwhelming. I am boycotting Lent because it has been around for more than 365 days and there have been enough losses and deprivations already.

We have given up libraries and travel, in-person visits with family, visits with loved ones in hospitals and sitting with them bedside as they died.

We have not met together to celebrate graduations, birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. Most profoundly, we have had to give up receiving Holy Communion while attending Mass via YouTube.

I join my voice with the Psalmist crying out, “How long, O God, will you forget me? How long must I bear grief in my soul, sorrow in my heart day and night. Look at me, answer me, O God!”(Ps 13). “My God, why have you forsaken me? You are far from my plea and the cry of my distress. I call by day and you give me no reply; I call by night and find no peace.” (Ps 22)

What I object to the most is what Father Dan Horan calls “involuntary self-denial,” a new kind of Lent the pandemic has imposed on us.

It is one thing to choose how I will journey through Lent, choosing the sacrifices I will make. It is altogether different when those sacrifices have been chosen for me and I have to submit to forces outside myself.
I pause, take a breath and realize I might be experiencing Covid fatigue! Rather than claiming that reality, I might be taking out my weariness on the season of Lent. What a human thing to do.

I am blessed to be part of a religious community that lets me whine and wail against the pandemic and yet does not leave me there. My fellow sisters’ prayerful support and encouragement strengthens my weary spirit. They help me accept my feelings and be a bit more accepting of Lent 2021 as the pandemic grinds on.

My community witnesses the essential truth of Lent whether it is 40 days or 14 days in quarantine or 14 days in isolation: The invitation of consenting to the grace God may be inviting me to as I draw closer to God, to God’s People and contributing to building a just world.

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