“It’s a real gift”: Margaret Devine on Lent

DSCN3696Margaret Devine, a volunteer Chaplain at Durham Cathedral, explains what Lent means to her this year:

Every year, Lent is different. For me personally, this is the first quiet, reflective Lent in many years. I made the decision last year to concentrate all my time here at the Cathedral, so I won’t be presiding at services in my parish. It’ll be nice for me to go to Cathedral service anonymously and sit amongst everyone, contributing as a participant rather than a leader.

Another difference this year is that I won’t be running a Lent group, a scripture study group run in parishes. Although these groups are wonderful, they can be quite wearying as they require so much preparation, so I’m looking forward to taking this opportunity to step back and reflect. I’ll be going to a service every day, alongside other things, to focus on the exciting spiritual journey that Lent offers – it will be an illuminating change to be in charge of my own Lent, rather than being in charge of other people’s, for once!

Myself and some other Clergy found a fabulous idea for Lent on Twitter from Reverend Sally Kitchener. She suggests doing #gratitudeforlent, where you use the 40 days to write a little note to someone each day, thanking them for things both big and small. The idea of giving to instead of giving up is very compelling for me personally. I was brought up in a Roman Catholic family where Lent was a very penitent time, with lots of fasting. Whilst I recognise the value of this kind of Lent, I’ve personally moved away from it now. I prefer to be more of an active doer during Lent, giving money to good causes and making a positive difference to my community. Lent is all about being grateful for the life you’ve got, so showing gratitude to others, for me, perfectly encapsulates the spirit of this time of year.

I came across something similar when I used to work with children in my Parish. We read a book called ‘Love Life, Live Lent’, filled with ideas for little things to do each day: tidy your room, buy someone a plant… That phrase has always stayed with me, and it’s something I keep hold of to guide me: love life, live Lent. To me, Lent has a simple message. It’s not about complaining or gaining recognition, but about making ourselves better people in preparation for the celebration of Easter.

My young niece phones me every Sunday – she is a sweetheart and very good at telling it how it is, and this last Sunday she rang me up to talk about Lent. She told me that she’s decided not to give anything up this year, but instead she wants to do something really kind every day and become a better person. When she told me that, I thought that if we could all do that, the world would be a better place.

If, at the end of Lent, I can say that I’m a better person for having spent this time in not only prayer and reflection but also positive action, then I will have really achieved something. Bring it on!

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