The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) called for the renewal of Lent, recovering its ancient baptismal character. This recovery was significantly advanced by the restoration of the catechumenate mandated by the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (1972). As Catholics have increasingly interacted with catechumens in the final stage of their preparation for Baptism, they have begun to understand Lent as a season of baptismal preparation and baptismal renewal.
Since Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, it naturally is also beginning to recover a baptismal focus. One hint of this is the second formula that is offered for the imposition of ashes: "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel." Though it doesn't explicitly mention Baptism, it recalls our baptismal promises to reject sin and profess our faith. It is a clear call to conversion, to that movement away from sin and
toward Christ that we have to embrace over and over again through our lives.
As the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday calls us to the conversion journey that marks the season. As the catechumens enter the final stage of their preparation for the Easter sacraments, we are all called to walk with them so that we will be prepared to renew our baptismal promises when Easter arrives.
Renewing our sense of who we really are before God is the core of the Lenten experience. It is so easy to forget, and thus we fall into habits of sin, ways of thinking and living that are contrary to God's will. In this we are like the Ninevites in the story of Jonah. It was "their wickedness" that caused God to send Jonah to preach to them. Jonah resisted that mission and found himself in deep water. Rescued by a large fish, Jonah finally
did God's bidding and began to preach in Nineveh. His preaching obviously fell on open ears and hearts, for in one day he prompted the conversion of the whole city. From the very beginning of Lent, God's word calls us to conversion. If we open our ears and hearts to that word, we will be like the Ninevites not only in their sinfulness but also in their conversion to the Lord. That, simply put, is the point of Ash Wednesday!
Ash Wednesday is taking away the broken, damaged, and hurt in our lives and bringing forth the good. I use the 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter as a way to renew myself through others. I find a great sense of joy and accomplishment when I spend my time helping others. Like most I find the year to go by in a blink of an eye, I want to help others but I find that I can never find "enough" time to help. I believe during the weeks in between Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Easter give me the time to be able to give to my community. I make an obligation to myself and an organization during those 40 days to give back.
Organizations such as Cabrini Connections are always looking for volunteers and regular donations. If you are looking for ways in which to get back involving students please visit our website at www.cabriniconnections.net. If you are not from Chicago and would still like to find a Tutor/Mentor program near you please visit