February 25, 2022

An uplifting sacrifice and a joyful bond lead people closer to God during Lent

Patty Moore, left, and Benedictine Sister Carol Falkner will lead a Lenten retreat together called “Priest, Prophet and King.” (Submitted photo)

Patty Moore, left, and Benedictine Sister Carol Falkner will lead a Lenten retreat together called “Priest, Prophet and King.” (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: The Criterion is inviting our readers to share the approaches, sacrifices and acts of joy and love that have brought them closer to God during a Lenten season. We are offering their responses as a way of helping all of us have a more meaningful Lent this year.)

Part one (see part two and part three)

By John Shaughnessy

Considering all the reactions that Catholics get when ashes are emblazoned on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday, the response that Pat Babcock received from a non-Catholic friend may be the most unusual and uplifting.

The moment happened on an Ash Wednesday more than 20 years when Babcock was working as a registered nurse in the office of Dr. Sanjiv Aggarwal.

After receiving ashes that day, Babcock arrived at work where Aggarwal asked her about the telltale sign of the cross on her forehead.

“He is Hindu, so I explained to him the significance of the ashes,” recalls Babcock, a member of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus. “He said, ‘Do you give something up?’ I said I usually do. He said, ‘What are you doing this year?’ I kind of panicked because I hadn’t made a decision yet. He said, ‘Why don’t we both give up watching TV?’ That’s hard, but I thought if my Hindu doctor was willing to do it, I could do it, too.

“So more than 20 years later, my Hindu friend and I are still doing a Lenten sacrifice. It changes some years, but we always do something.”

This year, Aggarwal has decided to give up sugar during Lent while also adding yoga—which he doesn’t like—to his physical routine.

Babcock has made a commitment to attend Mass at least once more a week, to take walks—something she doesn’t like to do—several times a week and to refrain from eating after dinner.

She will add those choices to the other ones she has made since her retirement: praying the rosary daily and increasing her reading of Scriptures.

They all deepen her faith. So does the shared Lenten tradition with her friend.

“It makes me feel proud that a person from another faith has so much respect for my faith that we can do this together. He’s an inspiration to me.”

Reflecting on our blessings, our graces

A husband wanted to make a spiritual retreat with his wife. Reluctant at first, she then agreed and was moved by the experience, even drawing closer to her husband.

Two women—strangers at the beginning of a retreat—learned that each other were widows. Connected by that common experience during the retreat, they became friends and looked out for each other for years until one of them died.

Patty Moore shared those two stories to show the unexpected ways that spiritual retreats can sometimes lead to deeper personal relationships.

“Retreats can be extremely powerful,” says Moore, who has led a weekend Lenten retreat for several years with Benedictine Sister Carol Falkner at the Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center in Beech Grove.

“It’s all about the people who choose to come. People open themselves up. They become vulnerable in sharing their faith. People who previously didn’t know each other sometimes form a friendship that lasts long after the retreat is over.”

Of course, the ultimate purpose of a retreat is to create a deeper, lasting relationship with God. That’s the goal that Sister Carol and Moore have for their March 11-13 retreat called, “Priest, Prophet and King: A Lenten Retreat.”

“Lenten retreats are very meaningful,” Sister Carol says. “The people are really serious spiritual seekers who really want to have a deeper relationship with God.

“The retreats give people more time for reflection at a much more relaxed pace. That resonates with them. They want time to pray. They want time to reflect. They want time to discuss. Lent is a time of conversion—to reflect on our life, our blessings, our graces, on our relationship with God.”

Moore adds, “Sometimes being somewhere different lets us let go of the things that tie us down or distract us from our faith. It refreshes our soul to be away and spend that time with God.”

There’s also the blessing of sharing that time in community with others who are seeking to be closer to God.

“There is the overwhelming feeling of love that comes over you, that you’re allowed to be a part of something that touched another person, that they’ve been touched by the presence and power of God,” Moore says. “It’s like a communion of all of us together. You just feel your heart growing bigger.”

(If you would like to share an approach, sacrifice and/or act of joy that has brought you closer to God during Lent, The Criterion would still like to hear from you. Send your submission—and your story of how you were drawn closer to Christ—to John Shaughnessy by e-mail at jshaughnessy@archindy.org or by mail in care of The Criterion, 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46202. Please include your parish and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.)

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