Observing Lent – A Time of Reflection and Renewal

Lent, a 40-day religious observance leading up to Easter, began on March 3 with Ash Wednesday, a phrase that references the practice of a priest rubbing ashes on one’s forehead in the sign of a cross. The Lenten season is a period during which Christians remember the events leading up to the death of Jesus Christ.

To commemorate the start of this holiday, Father Chris Collins, vice president for mission at the University of St. Thomas, sat down with the Assistant Dean of Students Marlon Blake to discuss the Lenten season, how students can best observe this holiday, and how faculty and families can support their students. 

Collins said Lent is a time of reflection and renewal. This can be done through fasting, praying and working on a relationship with God.

“It’s a sign of ‘I know I need change; I know I need a conversion of heart,” Collins said.

Collins emphasized the importance of practicing Lent as a community. He says it helps address physical, emotional and intellectual needs of students, which are needs holistic to their well-being and educational performance.

A student joins in song and prayer during Ash Wednesday Mass in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas on March 2, 2022, in St. Paul.
Liam James Doyle / University of St. Thomas

“We want to try to do everything we can to encourage students to explore faith, whether they’ve grown up religious or not,” Collins said. “There is a huge benefit to experience the seeking of God together, not just individually.”

In his conversation, Collins recommended that students let go of the unnecessary things they’ve gotten attached to in order to become more aware of those who need assistance. He added that this is a crucial part of the “conversion of heart” that takes place during Lent.

Collins also mentioned interfaith practice. He said that learning about religious practices from other faiths can help strengthen one’s relationship with God, with their community, and serve as a learning opportunity. 

“It’s also a good time for a community that has people of different faiths to learn about ‘why does this group do that,'” Collins said. “This can intensify ‘how am I thinking about my faith’?”

For parents and families who are looking to support their students during this time, Collins recommends getting connected with Campus Ministry and other services at St. Thomas. He also suggested that students build community with others who are observing Lent.

Father Larry Blake provides a blessing of ash during Ash Wednesday Mass in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas on March 2, 2022, in St. Paul.
Liam James Doyle / University of St. Thomas

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