I am writing this article during a busy week – it is Ash Wednesday and we are on our mission week at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic College in Widnes. I had been told that this half-term, starting in the grey days at the beginning of January, would be the hardest period of the Animate year, a time when people's focus might blur.
Some of you reading this might agree with that suggestion yet I see it differently. Since we are given such a big opportunity do so something purposeful within the Animate team, perhaps this is why we feel challenged right now as we try to concentrate our minds on a new year with its new ambitions. We offer all these hopes up to God – and wait not so patiently for His reply. We want an answer, and sometimes we lose patience. Losing this patience causes us to lose our way and when we do not know the way any more, we can forget the path we are called to follow.
Today, while celebrating the first day of Lent, the following question popped into my head: am I forgetting the real reason I am here? I suppose answering this question honestly, I am. Yet I have been given a great opportunity to remember my real mission in this world, and there is no better time to acknowledge this than in Lent.
What is Lent all about? Jesus requests us to live out three things that will help us focus less on ourselves and more on others. These three things are called the pillars of Lent. The first pillar is almsgiving, whereby we are asked to give to others. It might sound like a simple task at first glance, but it is not about loving those who are close to us; rather, it means doing the complete opposite and looking at the vulnerable, the lonely and the ones we have turned our backs on in the past. This pillar affects the decisions we make: are we making these choices for our own selfishness or for the love of others?
The second pillar is the giving of self – that is, to not only accept and love others around us, but to be of service to them. I have realised the only way we can truly live out this pillar is to focus first on our love for God, who will then supply the skills and gifts needed to help us show humility towards others. In other words, we must realise the need to place our Lord in the centre of our hearts, allowing him to work through us in everything we say and do.
The final pillar is prayer. How can we give to our God? This Lenten journey leads to the Lord providing us with the greatest gift of salvation. He asks us to form a closer relationship with Him, yet a relationship requires two people working together, communicating and trusting, and so we are asked to work alongside Our Lord.
In this six-week period of Lent, therefore, we should look deep within our hearts and accept God as He reaches out to us. We have all been given the greatest opportunity. No matter who we are or what we do, there is one thing that remains true of us all. We can never be on the wrong journey if we let the Lord walk with us.
Dates for the diary
• 20 March – Palm Sunday Youth Alive Mass at Saint Basil's Church, Hough Green Road, Widnes WA8 4SZ. Starts at 6.30pm.
• 25 March – Good Friday retreat at Lowe House, St Helens WA10 2BE from 10am–2pm. For Years 7–9. A chance to think about what Easter is all about!
For future dates for Life & Soul, Nightfever and other events taking place, check: Twitter – @AnimateYouth and Facebook – Ani Mate.