Lent: From the Desert to the Mountain

Lent. A time to repent, but we don’t do bad things, so what is it all about? Marlene DeNardo, long-time friend of Sisters of Notre Dame, led California Associates, Sisters, co-workers and friends into a retreat day of discovery to answer this question.

Drawing on her years of experience, study and insights, Marlene showed retreatants how the original Hebrew meaning of “repent” is about transforming one’s life into a conscious life of awareness, compassion, kindness, and peace in heart, mind and action. Jesus’ wounds were wounds of shame, of abandonment, of betrayal, just as ours are. The day’s journey helped us see that suffering and death are a life-long spiritual practice that leads into new life. “The most beautiful people we know,” Marlene told us, “have found their way out of suffering, out of death.” She reminded us that it was as she led a group in reflection on the Beatitudes, in this same chapel setting, with many of the same people, that we received word that Dorothy Stang had been murdered.

Looking back to the day, Associate Esther Hilferty said,“When you go to the desert, you find yourself a different person.” This brief retreat has given her a new perspective on pain and the meaning of the desert. Chenna Bonequi, also an Associate, appreciated the practice of Lectio Divina. “The tools she gave us were so enriching. For a few minutes, I became Mary Magdalen at the Resurrection. I could feel Jesus’ presence, like I could touch him. It fills me with awe.” For Sister Ann Stubbe, “repent” necessitates listening. “In the desert, I hear the dry breeze,” she says. “It reminds me of God’s breath, God’s gentle breath of compassion, kindness and peace.”

Lent necessarily leads to resurrection, for Jesus and for all, but did the resurrection really happen? Is it important? Yes, definitely, and Marlene quoted from a recent book by Sandra Schneiders, IHM*, “Christian faith is centered in Jesus who is here and now alive, and who is a very specific human being who is not reducible to his role or functions in salvation history…nor simply is he a disembodied immortal spirit…Death no longer has dominion over him.” Nor does it have for us. A closing suggestion: get the book and read it!

*”The Resurrection: Did It Really Happen and Why Does That Matter?”, by Sandra Schneiders, Marymount Institute Press


The retreat was sponsored the Associate community of the Sisters of Notre Dame who invited Sisters, family and friends.

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