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40 days to discover what needs transforming in your life 

By Timothy Johnston, assistant director for liturgical programs in Campus Ministry

Timothy Johnston, Marquette University’s director of liturgical programs, shares with Marquette Magazine how college and new friendships challenged him to find deeper meaning in the seasonal practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

When I was younger, I dreaded Ash Wednesday because I knew that I would have to give up something I really liked. My mom would constantly remind my siblings and me that we could not eat in between meals, a discipline she insisted on every year. Year after year, I struggled to come up with something to abstain from personally (chocolate, TV, gossiping), but I must admit it never really meant anything to me. I could tell you stories about how we used to try to sneak cookies or TV, but Mom always caught us! Easter stood for the day when we could overindulge on whatever it was that we’d given up, and our fast did not seem to change us in any way.

As I grew older, especially in college, I gradually started to find an appreciation for Lent. Being in a new place with new friends challenged me to rethink how I observed the season. Slowly, I realized I should not just give up something for the sake of doing it, but for a chance to reflect on what parts of my life are wounded and what is causing me to be sinful. I was blessed to have friends with whom I could celebrate Lent and seek the deeper meaning of the seasonal practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Lent came to be an important time for me as I found space for the prayer that could lead me to a deeper relationship with Christ.

Lent is not just the season of doing without. In this season, the church invites us to slow down and remove some of the clutter. What needs transforming in your life? Hopefully we will be able to see more clearly and reflect on the mystery of salvation. I hope that once these 40 days pass, our hearts are bit more free to receive the gift of Christ, a bit more vulnerable to him and are willing to share in his life. My heart yearns to celebrate Easter, to shout “alleluia” in praise for God’s infinite love and to join at the Lamb’s high feast. Fortunately, we have Lent to help prepare us for this feasting.

Johnston has a master of arts in liturgical studies from the St. John’s University School of Theology-Seminary, Collegeville, Minn.


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