This special issue has a theme of, “Where are they now?” in reference to the alumni of this university who have gone on to bigger and better things.
However, in light of recent extracurricular “controversies” concerning the university’s Catholic, Marianist identity, I think a better question would be, “Where are we now?”
This university was founded in 1850 when members of the Society of Mary purchased 125 acres of farmland to open the doors of St. Mary’s School for Boys, which then held just 14 students taught by Marianist priests and brothers. Over the years, it has served as a primary school, college preparatory school, novitiate, college and university. It has survived multiple fires and disease and has changed names a few times, but one thing has never changed: The mission and identity of this institution has always followed the Catholic, Marianist tradition.
The UD we know today may not be exactly the same as when it was first founded, but these underlying traditions still guide its existence. As such, it’s essential for us, especially at this time, to maintain those traditions; not only because of the coming change in leadership within the church, but also due to the significance of this time in the liturgical year. Specifically, we should be focused on the foremost matter at hand – Lent – and understanding its meaning.
Lent is a time for Christians to devote themselves to prayer, selflessness and generosity in remembrance of their baptismal promises. It’s a season that can be productive in orienting our minds and readjusting our lives to better condition our souls. Therefore, it’s important to set goals, or Lenten resolutions, by which we will strive to abide for the 40 days before Easter.
Such resolutions can seem to be somewhat trivial, and once we’ve made them, it’s easy to forget them throughout this season. In order to be consistent in our Lenten practices, we need to find an appropriate way to remind ourselves – hourly, daily, weekly, whatever our goals call for – of our commitment to those resolutions.
Even more crucial is that we approach our Lenten goals with reverence. Too often, Lenten resolutions are treated with the same admiration as New Year’s resolutions. They can easily follow a trite approach of serving our ideal dietary needs or the convenience of our daily routine, and in many cases fail to reflect the true meaning of the season.
That’s not to say there is a right or a wrong way to plan for Lent. Indeed, such commitments are made only after deeply personal reflection. But we should take care to find motivation in spiritual betterment rather than selfishness or convenience.
It’s also important to make sure we think of the Lenten journey as one that is non-linear. In other words, it can be hard to keep up with our goals for the season, and naturally, as humans, we may fail. But it must be remembered that Lent is not a one-and-done type of journey. It is a time for constant, consistent improvement, and it’s never too late to start over, even if in the final week or days of the season.
As long as we have our hearts in the right place, Lent can be a beautiful, spiritually productive time.
So as we address the question, “Where are we now?” let’s not forget the integral religious traditions of this institution, and, especially for Christians during this time in the church, let’s make sure we remember the importance of Lent as we go about our lives on this campus.