by John Fitzgerald
Talk about a day of confusion. Valentine’s Day is celebrated on Feb. 14 and this year, Lent starts on the same day. I picture a young couple with ashes on their heads at a restaurant with no food on the plates. While Valentine’s Day lasts only 24 hours, Lent will continue for 40 days. And now is the time to think about how we will observe this season in the Church.
To build a house, a solid frame placed on a firm foundation is necessary. It is the same for building a community. The spiritual renewal process known as ARISE Together in Christ (LEVANTATE in Spanish and LEVE KANPE in Haitian Creole) is the solid frame needed to build a small community of people looking to do something special for Lent.
ARISE is a six-week program that starts at the beginning of Lent and will continue until Holy Week. So, how will it help me?
There are times when we have something to say about the Church. We are confused about some of the rules or frustrated by those who complain constantly about the Church. But we have no way to express what we want to say. ARISE provides a small community that will listen to what you have to say and not judge what you believe. The following challenges might help you decide.
A challenge to those who have forgotten how to pray: ARISE will help you restore your prayer life by praying in a small group. Even Mother Teresa had dark moments where she felt removed from God but kept on going.
A challenge to men: While we concern ourselves with the plight of the Bengal tiger, we forget that men are the “endangered species” in the church. Be not afraid of ARISE – no one is forced to talk or pray. We need more men to be courageous and participate. In a few parishes there will be groups made up solely of men. If your parish does not have a men’s ARISE group, ask for it. Also remember that the group needs one or more facilitators. The community is self-lead by the individuals, so the role of facilitator is very easy role.
A challenge to youth: Simply stated, you are the present and future of the church. Please come and tell us what you think and what you need from the Church. You can’t say no one listens if you don’t say what you think.
A challenge to pastors and parish administrators: If you don’t have ARISE, consider giving parishioners the option. If you have ARISE, have a priest or deacon bless participants at the first meeting. We need your support.
A challenge to those who have previously participated in ARISE: Share your experiences with fellow parishioners. Tell them how safe the environment it is. Invite them to join you in the next session. If there is a fee in your parish, you may want to gift someone a place in an ARISE community.
If you are not sure you want to participate, sign-up anyway. You can decide to join at any time in the six weeks.
It would be unfortunate if on Easter Sunday you find yourself asking why you didn’t take advantage of ARISE while you had the chance.