Lent… An Anti-Racism Perspective

By Sister Marilyn Pechillo

Ah or, more honestly, aaww—it’s Lent. I always have mixed feelings about Lent. Honestly, I would rather skip it, but as a good Catholic, I can’t. I like Lent’s call to a deeper relationship with Christ, but you can keep the fasting part. Well, I should give up something, maybe candy or, preferably, celery.

Actually, Lent is about much more than penitential practices and almsgiving although it calls us to both. The crux of Lent is a call to conversion, metanoia, a change of mind and heart. Each Lent has its own peculiar call in the context of our world. In the USA in 2021 Lent demands a response to the injustices revealed by the pandemic. Lent calls us to confess the sin and the reality of systemic racism. It urges us to admit our complicity in this sin and to work against it.

Working against racism is a daunting challenge. It can overwhelm us, preventing us from doing anything because we can’t do everything. The ads for Nicorette gum offer some wisdom here. Start with small steps, and you’ll get the job done.

Some small but effective Lenten practices might include educating ourselves about Black History and the history of racial oppression, talking with someone who has a different perspective on racial justice, praying a psalm or favorite prayer from an anti-racist view. We might also challenge ourselves to imagine how a news item might affect people in different circumstances from ourselves. Such musing could nourish our prayer, calling us in some way to conversion, nudging us to the beginnings of metanoia. Maybe at Easter we will see ourselves changed in some way, perhaps more open, more aware of injustice, and more willing to work for a just world. We won’t be alone on this journey. We have each other; we also have the Spirit of the living God. Happy and fruitful Lent!

Sister Marilyn grew up in Baltimore, Md. and in Stratford, Conn., and first met the Sisters of Notre Dame at Notre Dame High School in Bridgeport, Conn. She had been interested in religious life and was attracted to the SNDdeN charism. She entered after graduation in 1961.

Click here to learn about Sr. Marilyn Pechillo!