Chaplain’s Corner: An Opportunity to Begin Anew in Lent

Bridget Power

Nearly a decade ago I bookmarked an essay by Omid Safi, Professor of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University, entitled “The Disease of Being Busy.” Nearly three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I now possess a different understanding of the term “disease,” yet I still find Safi’s choice of words to be provocative and apt. 

Safi explains his concern about this way of existing, writing: “This disease of being ‘busy’ (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.”

At this point in the semester, busyness is the norm. Midterms are imminent. Spring sports seasons have begun. Research needs to be completed. Papers need to be written. Problem sets need to be submitted. Summer plans are in development. To have demands on your time is not unprecedented, nor is it surprising that the College expects its students to manage commitments in a climate of academic rigor. But I wonder if we are all too busy with things that are really just distractions. One of Safi’s complaints is that “We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time.” I am busy because of all the mindless scrolling, refreshing, and browsing that I allow to captivate me. 

The liturgical season of Lent is an invitation to reflect upon what is captivating us, and where and to whom we are giving our time. During this forty day period of repentance and preparation, Christians are invited to make a concerted effort to spend more time in prayer, fast from the diversions that separate us from Christ, and give more of ourselves to others. These three pillars are not meant to add to our busyness, but they will require us to slow down. We may need to get off our apps and power off our devices so that we can be ignorant, at least for a bit, of the notifications that insist on filling our screens.

We who observe Lent began it last Wednesday by receiving ashes on our foreheads with the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Ash Wednesday is a day when we explicitly and collectively acknowledge our own finitude and mortality. It is sobering. For Christians, this also involves making a connection to our dependence on Christ. But even if you do not believe in God or are unsure of what you believe, this can be an opportunity to reflect upon the preciousness of life.

As Fr. Frank Clooney, S.J. preached during his homily last week in Thompson Memorial Chapel, God loves us like a father who waits with hope that his child will come home, and rejoices when he does (Luke 15:11-32). Just as the prodigal son was reborn when he returned to his father’s house, we are invited to begin anew during this season of Lent. We will need to leave some of our busyness behind.

Bridget Power is the College’s Catholic Chaplain.