Thoughts from the Prioress on Lent: a time to change

Thoughts from the Prioress on Lent: a time to change

“You must change your life.” — Rilke

As we begin Lent, we use ashes, a sign of death, to mark our journey to new life. In the words of Thomas Merton, “The cross, with which the ashes are traced upon us, is a sign of Christ’s victory over death.” As we receive the ashes, we hear the words, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” The marking on the outside of the body is a symbol of the call to inward transformation. Our dying to self, our sacrifices, our disciplines during Lent are for spiritual growth and for embracing more life-giving ways.

Lent calls us to pray, fast and give alms. It is a time to nurture our relationship with God, a time to “Return to God with your whole heart.” (Joel 2:12) Our fasting includes more than refraining from food. It is a time to think about our words and actions, a time to change attitudes. It is more challenging for some people to refrain from unkindness, criticism, judgment, impatience and inflexibility than to limit food intake. In the words of the psalmist we sing, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,…sustain in me a generous spirit.” (Ps 51: 10, 12).

Lent invites us to share what we have with a generous spirit. It calls us to give up seeking comfort, security and control and to seek justice and dignity for all people.

Mary Oliver expresses it in these words:

Someday I am going to ask my friend, Paulus,
the dancer, the potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.

And if I come to you,
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,

will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.

Richard Rohr reminds us that the Scriptures during Lent call us to contemplation, to an inward journey and yet, at the same time, the social implications are also undeniable. As Christians we look to Jesus during these forty days of Lent and we imitate his care for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. Jesus calls us to change our lives and to change life for others. “Now is a very acceptable time.” (2 Cor 6:2a)

Lent is about transformation. It is a time to change. It is about walking through the real life experiences of daily deaths to encounter new life. Lent is the time to deepen our relationship with God and with others, to transform who we are and how we live.

“To grasp God in all things—this is the sign of your new birth,” wrote Meister Eckhart.

Sister Anne Wambach, OSB, the twenty-first prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania is a native of Philadelphia. She moved to Mount St. Benedict Monastery in 1992 to respond to a desire to experience the monastic way of life. Previously a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Chestnut Hill, Sister Anne began the formal transfer process to the Erie Benedictines in 1993 and made her monastic profession in 1997.

Sister Anne has served the people of the Diocese of Erie as a teacher at St. Gregory's School in North East, Pa., from 1992-1995, and at the Neighborhood Art House in Erie, beginning as program director in 1995 and as executive director since 2005. She served on the Monastic Council from 2006-2010.