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Area Christians focus on the somber elements of Lent

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Lent, a season of spiritual sacrifice, often gives us a gritty picture of death and darkness. However, days before this year’s season begins on Wednesday with many Christians receiving sprinkled ashes, we found local believers who find the time a source of light and life — and a good occasion to draw near to a God who uses pain to bring healing, and a tomb to highlight resurrection. In just a few words, here are their thoughts.

Becky Smith

Age: 37

Church: Columbus’ St. Bartholomew Catholic Church

The most powerful part of Lent for me is: Holy Thursday. At the end of Mass, Father puts on the humeral veil (a type of shawl that covers the shoulders) and carries The Blessed Sacrament through the church to the place of reservation. The procession with the cross, the darkened church lit only by candles, the choir singing “Pange Lingua,” and (with) Father very closely guarding the Blessed Sacrament — the reverence — it is incredibly moving. When I experienced it for the first time, it was the moment when I really understood the true meaning of the Eucharist. Every year, it has a profound effect on me.

Giving up and adding to: From the time I was very young, I remember giving up things at Lent — candy, pop, ice cream, and no meat on Fridays. I still do those things, but, in recent years I have tried to not only focus on giving things up, but also adding — in the form of more prayer time, and doing more reading to help me to delve deeper into the Lenten season. Every year I read Max Lucado’s book, “Six Hours One Friday” before I go to the Good Friday Liturgy. I feel that I have the day off of work to observe Good Friday, so my attention should be focused on the significance of the day, and the sacrifice he (Jesus) made for us.

Favorite Lenten Scripture: Matthew 7:7-12 focusing on Jesus’ words about asking and receiving, seeking and finding.

What first made Lent come alive for me: Growing up, I always knew I wanted to become Catholic. I finally went through the Rite of Catholic Initiation for Adults to join the church in 2006. Lent is about preparation for Easter. We really delved into that preparation — learning about Lent, and the significance of Holy Week. Going through RCIA, preparing to get baptized, confirmed, and receive my first communion at the Easter Vigil — that is when Lent really came alive for me.

Betsy Hundley

Age: 47

Church: Ogilville Christian Church in Ogilville

Lent before and now: The past several years, Hundley coordinated the church’s elaborate “Journey to the Cross” quiet Lenten meditation on Christ’s passion and suffering — an event that drew people from various churches. This year, she is coordinating a program, “The 40 Days Journey to the Cross,” a daily prayer and Scripture plan focusing on resting, reading and reflection.

Making Lent special for me: Watching the Mel Gibson movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” nearly every year. “I sit there with a box of Kleenex, crying. I think we sometimes can forget the extent of his sacrifice, and we can get complacent.”

The most powerful part of Lent for me is: “Always the days leading up to remembering his suffering, torture and crucifixion — and trying to grasp that Jesus loved me that much.”

Favorite Scripture passage for Lent: Romans 12:1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.”

When Lent first came alive for me: About four years ago, listening to my Lutheran friends talk about it and doing online reading and study. ... In our Church (of Christ), traditionally we come to the service on Palm Sunday and we’re celebrating. Then, people come back on Easter Sunday and we’re celebrating again. And a few years ago, I thought, ‘What about all the rest of the time (of Lent)?’”

Bill Kennedy

Age: 71

Church: St. Bartholomew Catholic Church

Little Lenten sacrifices: When I was growing up, Lent always was a time for giving up something — candy, movies or maybe television, though some of us didn’t even have television. After Vatican II (changes in the Catholic church), it became more about things like reading a half-hour of Scripture per day or maybe volunteering at a soup kitchen.”

Lent coming alive in childhood: “I knew there was something different during the time of Lent even when I was only 7 or 8 years old. I noticed a difference even in the general, somber tone of the Mass.”

The most meaningful part of Lent: “Anything to do with Holy Week, from Holy Thursday to Easter. And the Easter vigil Mass now has an extra special meaning for me.” He referred to the fact that his wife, Jane, was baptized and confirmed as a Catholic at St. Bartholomew’s Easter vigil service three years ago. “I might have teared up a little bit,” he said of the emotion of the occasion.

Favorite Scripture with a Lenten connection: The story of the prodigal son and its symbolism of Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy. “It just strikes home with me,” he said.

Steven Vermillion

Age: 17

Church: First Baptist in Hope

Discovering Lent: I knew about it because my mother had a Catholic upbringing.

His definition of Lent: For me, it is essentially a remembrance (of Jesus’ suffering), much like communion is a remembrance of his sacrifice that has saved us. And I see Lent also as a means of showing him respect.” He is careful to point out that observing Lent is never a salvation-related issue.

How he will weave Lent into his faith: With more solitary, contemplative prayer, probably outdoors, where he finds God’s inspiration. “A big barrier to that for some people, of course, is the busy culture and the sense of materialism,” he said.

Favorite Lenten Scriptures: “I would say all of the passages from the Crucifixion through the Resurrection. Upon those hinge the focus of our spiritual lives. The cross is a constant reminder to us. And there’s a powerful humility when you realize Christ on the cross. It helps me to realize my place in this world compared to him.”

Elizabeth Monette

Age: 70

Church: St. Paul’s Episcopal in Columbus.

Background: She was a Presbyterian who attended an all-girls Catholic high school and an all-girls Catholic college. “So I definitely know about Lent,” she said with a laugh.

Making Lent special privately: She follows the Episcopal daily office of prayer and reflection, sometimes stopping as frequently as four times per day to consider Jesus’ sacrifice and related topics. The books she uses were a gift from her daughter, an Episcopal priest. “You have to learn to slow down to even do the readings,” she said.

Making Lent special with others: Spending time in midweek Lenten prayer gatherings beginning at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday at St. Paul’s, followed by a simple soup supper. The theme of the get-togethers is “Embracing Spiritual Awakening.”

One of the early times Lent came alive: Monette sustained a broken hip and pelvis in an auto accident at age 12. “I immediately identified with some of Christ’s sufferings because I myself was suffering. So his suffering was very comforting to me then, because I realized that he knew what I was going through.”

The most powerful part of Lent: “For me, Ash Wednesday really is important, and the reminder of ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.’ We are here only for a short time. And we must make good use of the time we are given.”

Favorite Lenten Scriptures: “I know this would be considered more Easter, but I would have to say all of those about the Resurrection. They’re so poignant that I can almost feel what Mary Magdalene must have felt (at Jesus’ tomb).”

On the lighter side of Lent: Monette always participates in St. Paul’s annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper celebration the day before Lent begins midweek. “It’s our little Mardis Gras,” she said with a laugh.

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