Hello there, peacemakers and friends!
How are you today? Lent begins this week, ushering in my favorite season in the liturgical year. Not that the rest of the year isn’t sacred in other ways, but the Lenten Season prepares us for the entire basis of our faith, hope, and redemption: the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Everything that we believe in and how we worship God relies upon this holy time.
But another reason why I favor Lent over Advent (not that I’m against caroling and all that jazz) is the great depth to which we contemplate Jesus’ triumph over death. Life is infused with suffering - that fact is unavoidable. This season challenges each of us to not only acknowledge our pain, but to transform it to bring about the greater glory of God. Jesus foresaw the indescribable pain awaiting Him and chose to endure it for our salvation. Easter is the greatest love story there has ever been and you and I each belong to this narrative
In order for suffering to be transformative, we must engage with and act upon it. Jesus did not evade the Garden of Gethsame or the cross and neither should we dodge our afflictions. Rather, we are called in our own ways to take up the fight and act. Want an example of a modern-day warrior? Allow me then to introduce to you, Sister Helen Prejean!
Sister Helen has been a member of the Congregation of Saint Joseph since 1957 and has served faithfully through her ministries of teaching high school, serving as a Religious Education Director, as well as a Formation Director. However, her mission detoured in 1982, when she moved into the St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans. At that time, Sister Helen started corresponding with Patrick Sonnier - a man who was living his final days on death row for the murder of two teenagers. After witnessing Sonnier’s death and those that followed, she wrote her book Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States to expose the realities of capital punishment.
At the time that her book was published, national support for the death penalty was hovering around 80% and closer to 90% in certain Southern States. Dead Man Walking launched a national debate over the death penalty and was even adapted into an Academy Award winning movie. Sister Helen has met with both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis and as a result of each audience, the Catholic Church no longer tolerates the death penalty under any circumstances.
But for Sister Helen and the many who await their fates on death row, this fight is far from over. She continues to dedicate her time educating the public, campaigning against the death penalty, counseling death row inmates, and working with murder victims’ family members. Sister Helen is not satisfied merely praying for respect of human life, but recognizes the scourge capital punishment has left on our society and has planted herself among those who are fighting against this injustice. She is offering herself for those who cannot save themselves. Does this not ring of Christ’s love and the Lenten message?
As you progress through your Lenten journeys, what are those things that you wish to amend in your lives? Pray on them and then abandon yourself to the cause. Prayer is only complete when words are supplemented by action. Peace is accomplished in the same way.
Peace to you.
Kelsey Rode, Saint Rita Shrine Office Administrator