Lent coincides with the arrival of spring, the lengthening of days and the appearance of crocuses, snowdrops and daffodils. They have all refused to give in to the weight of snow, the sharpness of the frost and the lack of light. They just grow despite everything. Lent is an invitation to us to do something similar. It’s an invitation to grow, to recognize that when all is said and done we are spiritual people and that we need to pay attention to that. What it means to be spiritual is beautifully summed up by the prophet Micah when he reminded people that God only asks three things of us
“…. act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)
So if we want something to do for Lent there we have it:
Act justly – reflect on the injustice around us and do something to change it
Love tenderly – forget myself and reach out to those in need
Walk humbly – talk time to pray, make a space for God and the Good News in our busy lives.
In our schools we can make lots of opportunities to turn the season of Lent into a time of vibrant growth: Lenten fasts, prayer times during lunch or before class, local campaigns to assist our communities and better our environment. What better way could there be to prepare for Easter and the triumph of love!
Resources with ideas for Lent focusing on both prayer and action
You came among us to show us how to live life to the full
and to prepare for that work you went into the desert for forty days.
During this season of Lent
Help us to set aside time to reflect on what it means for us to live life to the full.
Help us to see ourselves as we are and not to be afraid to make changes
Help us to be generous and open to your Spirit who prompts us to do the right thing
Help us to look at the big picture and to know that each of us has a part to play in making the world a better place
Lead us along the path to Easter and a true understanding of the depth of your love. Amen
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Lord, bless us as we gather to mark the season of Lent. We know that you call us to overcome our selfishness, to trust always in your goodness and to reach out to others with compassion. During this holy time may we rediscover the value of prayer, and the importance of caring for others. Teach us by the example of your Son who spent forty days in the wilderness that we need to take time to be with you and to rediscover the things that really matter. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen
A Reading based on the Prophet Isaiah (58:1-9)
(This reading offers a very important lesson on the kind of religious faith that God is interested in. It begins with the people complaining to God that even though they do their religious practices God does not pay any heed to them. God then answers them by telling them he is only interested in their prayers when they are matched by actions that show their concern for others.)
The People cry out: “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why do we humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
God replies: “Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.
You fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Fasting like this will not make your voice heard in heaven.
Is this the kind of religion I am interested in? Do you think I am convinced by you bowing down your heads, and lying in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
No, this is the kind of fasting that I choose: loose the bonds of injustice, undo the chains of oppression, lift up those who are suffering. Share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, cover them, and do not hide yourselves from those in need.
When you live like this then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your redeemer shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom will be like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places. He will make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
The Word of the Lord
The Stations of the Cross for Young People
The Stations of the Cross have a long history in the Catholic tradition. They probably originated with pilgrims who went to the Holy Land many centuries ago. There they tried to retrace Jesus’ last hours as he went to his death. On returning home they sought to recreate this experience by marking the journey in a number of steps or stations. Over the centuries the number varied but was finally fixed at fourteen.
The stations offered here are in three parts and may be more suited to students in the senior cycle. The opening Scripture reading relates to the Station either by describing the scene in the Gospel or thematically through a text that helps us to reflect on the meaning of the Station. The next part is a short reflection on the Station and the last part is a prayer based on the reflection.
The Stations may be done as a shared class prayer in a Church or prayer room, or they may be used as aid to quiet, personal meditation. They could also be adapted for use as a PowerPoint presentation in a classroom with images representing each station. Appropriate music helps with setting the scene.
It would be a valuable exercise to have the students share on the experience afterwards and indeed to write their own reflections and prayers for each station.
Life may be compared to a journey and along the way we learn from others who have gone ahead of us and whose experience can speak to us.
We also learn from those who walk with us, sharing the road.
As people of faith we trust that we are not alone on this journey and that, in fact, our closest companion is Jesus who has not only gone ahead of us but also still walks with us.
For many centuries now people have meditated on the last journey that Jesus made and from that they have learned much about him and about themselves. They feel encouraged to go on, to continue even when things are difficult and darkness threatens to drag them down. Jesus, the great teacher, gives remarkable lessons on courage and commitment, love and compassion, generosity and hope.
These are some of the reasons why young people all over the world still walk the way of the cross. There are other reasons but these you must discover for yourself.
I Jesus is Condemned to Death
“A third time Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has Jesus done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept shouting that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted and he handed Jesus over to be crucified. (Luke 23:22-24)
I sometimes wonder is it ever good when the mob has its way? But it is very hard to resist when everybody seems to be going the one way, it is difficult to set yourself apart, to do the thing you know to be right.
Jesus, sometimes I get angry at injustice, at the hypocrisy around me, at the failure of leaders to be honest and fair. But I also know that there are other times when I just do what suits me and I don’t think too much about the consequences. I need your help to be true to myself. Please let me follow your way and not the way of Pilate or the mob.
II Jesus takes up his Cross
“Then Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus who carried the cross by himself to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.”
Sometimes life does not make sense, especially when people are asked to carry burdens that are not of their own making and to live with things over which they have no control. Where is the fairness in that?
Jesus, I don’t understand why life is sometimes so hard. At times it seems as if God just doesn’t care. But you trusted your Father and never lost faith in his goodness. Help me when I have to face my cross. Let me know that you carry it with me and to trust that somehow good can come from it.
III Jesus falls the First Time
“I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.”
It’s not hard to imagine how people can feel completely overwhelmed by the problems that come their way: no job, family breakdown, ill health. Then young people have other pressures, school, exams, bullying, alcohol and drug abuse.
Jesus, I am concerned about some of my friends and the people I know who find it really hard to go on. In your love and compassion reach out to them and help them to take each day as it comes.
IV Jesus meets his Mother
“After they had presented their son Jesus in the Temple, Simeon, a just and holy man, blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many and to be a sign that will be opposed — and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Parents are amazing, most of the time! They do so much, they are there for you, and they just get on with the business of treating you as if you are all that matters in the world. It is very easy to take them for granted.
Mary, you loved Jesus with a mother’s love and your suffering on his way of the cross is unspeakable. Open our eyes to see your son as you see him and give us the courage to share him with the world just as you did.
V Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus to Carry his Cross
“As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry Jesus’ cross.”
Opportunities to help others come our way all the time. Often we don’t choose them and sometimes we would prefer if we could just be left alone. But we all know how good it is to be helped and how grateful we feel when someone is there for us.
Simon, we don’t know anything about you except that on this one day you found yourself helping a poor, beaten and abused prisoner. There is a lesson here for us about what it means to be a hero and it has nothing to do with fanfares and admirers. It is just about being there for others. Saint Simon, pray for us that we might follow your example.
VI Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
“And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Veronica is not mentioned in the Scriptures but her story is one of the many that appear in the tradition of the Church. It is a story of tender hearted love and compassion and it is repeated because we need to know that in the face of human cruelty and violence there are brave, good people to remind us that one simple gesture of love means that God is still in the world.
Veronica, thank you for being there and for having the heart to do something rather than nothing when faced with this scene of sadness and sorrow. Pray for us to the Lord that we too will always have the generosity and courage to do what we can to show our concern for those who suffer.
VII Jesus falls the Second Time
“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes waste away from grief, my soul and body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.” (Ps 31:10-11)
The prayers in the Book of Psalms are useful because they show us how Jesus prayed and they remind us that even if things are going well for us there are many for whom the struggle seems too much. As we imagine Jesus falling again we remember that we are all children of God and that it is good to pray in union with all those who are in need.
Jesus, I fall on my journey. Lots of things seem to trip me up. At times it is my pride, other times it is self doubt and lack of trust in you. The worst is when I feel I have been pushed and I am overcome with anger. Help me when I am down to get back up, to leave aside my hurt and anxiety and to move ahead, knowing you will always hear me when I call.
VIII Jesus comforts the Women of Jerusalem
‘My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for.” The thought of my affliction brings me down! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’ (Lamentations 3:17-23)
When Jesus meets the women who are weeping for him he speaks words of comfort to them. He reminds them that their grief must not distract them from paying attention to what matters in their own lives.
Jesus, it is very easy to lose my way; there is so much going on, so many people wanting me to go different paths, to try different things. When I become confused or uncertain and am troubled by doubts remind me that you are the Way, the Truth and the Life.
XI Jesus Falls the Third Time
“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint”. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
As Jesus draws near to the end it seems that he simply cannot continue. Why should he go on? What’s the point? What good can come of this?
Jesus, there are times when I just want to run away, when I can’t be bothered any more. I feel hassled and want to give up. At those times I need you to speak quietly to me about the value of seeing things through to the end and trusting that even when my efforts appear to fail you are there to lift me up.
X Jesus is Stripped of His Garments
“Then the Lord said to me ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness’. So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” (2Cor 12:9-10)
The people who want to kill Jesus think that having the ability to humiliate another human being means they are powerful. They are wrong. It simply means they are foolish and blind. Jesus in his life of loving service to the weak and the needy shows that the power of God is at work in ways we do not expect.
Jesus, every day all over the world there are people who suffer humiliation, torture, false imprisonment and even death simply because of their beliefs, their gender, their race or religion. As your followers may we always work to uphold the dignity of every person and may we never abuse the power we have over others.
XI Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
“When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
John Lennon wrote a great song called Imagine. Maybe we could add a verse: Imagine a world where people forgive each other and never seek revenge. For many that is just wishful thinking. For Jesus it was how he lived and died.
Jesus, forgiveness is hard work and at times it seems impossible. So we need you to help us understand that it is, in the first place, not something we do but something we receive; it is a gift from God who loves us totally. Maybe then we will be able to forgive others as you have forgiven us.
XII Jesus Dies on the Cross
“When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.
At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?…” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he had died in this way, he said “Truly this man was the Son of God ” Mark 15:33-39
Why was it dark when Jesus died, after all it was only three in the afternoon? And what does it mean that the temple curtain was torn in two. The symbols around the death of Jesus help us to think about it not just as an event in history but as something that spells the end of darkness as Jesus, the light of the world, returns to his Father and opens the way to God for everyone.
Jesus, you know what it is to feel abandoned, you have been through the deepest darkness we can imagine. When we are feeling lost and alone let your light shine upon us so that we can find our way back to you.
XIII Jesus is taken down from the Cross
“Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, went boldly to Pilate and asked permission for the body of Jesus to be taken down from the cross. When Pilate learned from the centurion that Jesus was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth and took the body down.” (Mark 15:42-46)
Joseph of Arimathea is a respectable man who risks his good reputation by asking for permission to bury Jesus. Everyday ordinary people show extraordinary courage and kindness in ways that never grab the headlines.
Joseph, you appear suddenly in the story and we find out that you are a person of great goodness who is brave enough to do the decent thing. Sometimes we know what we should do but we don’t because it mightn’t be “cool”. Pray to the Lord for us that we will always have the courage of our convictions.
XIV Jesus is Buried in the Tomb
“ They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.” John 19:40-42
Now the broken and bruised body of Jesus who gave hope to everyone who came his way is being quickly buried in a borrowed tomb by the few friends he has left. Our faith tells us this is not the end – no tomb will ever hold the one who came that we might have life in its fullness.
Jesus, as we come to the end of this journey make us understand that it is really only the beginning. Your rising from the dead on Easter Sunday teaches us that love never ends. You give us hope and joy through the power of your Holy Spirit that lives in us. By that same Spirit deepen our faith in you so that we may become the people you want us to be.