Lent as a practice of social change

Reblogged from The Daily Marinade, a daily devotional by a collective of wonderful, thoughtful, spiritual people.


Growing up in the Catholic tradition normally meant I at least knew when Lent was, even if I didn’t always observe it any particular way. I do remember we got to order fish and chips on Fridays at school, since pies were not available at the tuck shop. But beyond that, I never really appreciated the rhythm and flow of the church calendar until I became more involved in protestant churches that tended to ignore it. This year, however, our family has mostly given up meat in support of my ten-year old who decided to give up meat completely for Lent.

What I have found is that once we got into it, it has been relatively easy. We simply began serving mostly vegetarian food for dinner (well, almost vegan considering we have dairy allergies in the family) in support of her decision and to ensure she would eat well. In the end, it was just easier to plan for vegetarian meals for all of us. We did do a couple of years vegetarian about 4 years ago when I had some health problems, so we just pulled out the vegetarian cook books and added beans and tofu to the shopping list. I am really enjoying the feeling of lightness that comes with vegetarian eating, and also considering out lighter footprint on the planet.

I then went to a talk today by Nobel Prize winning writer Karen O’Brien. She spoke about the challenge of responding to climate change with individual actions, which, although important, we rarely see as world-changing. She offers her students the chance to do ’30 days of change’ as a taster to what it would be like to make significant life changes that affect their carbon footprint, or contribute to collective activism. Students might take public transport only for the month, or eat vegetarian, or give up plastic bottles, or commit to some other form of direct activism. The idea is, much like Lent, that we get a chance to experience life without our normal habits and to think more deeply about what is important to us.

In traditional Chinese medicine, autumn is a time of letting go, of grief, of breath and lungs. It is a time for paring back, setting boundaries, and rethinking our lives. Next week I lead my students through an exercise in autumn wellbeing for my class Understanding China, making space in our tutorial time for these thoughts and commitments for change.

As these three life events coincide in this second week of Lent, it became obvious to me how the wisdom of seasonal experimentation for personal and social change has actually filtered through into a number of different traditions. In meeting these traditions in this season of autumnal Lent, I have appreciated the chance to cut back, rethink my priorities, try something different. I love it how the God of social change speaks to me through these traditions, that others in this world have heard the same voice, and that change for a different kind of world *is* possible.


Kelly Dombroski is a writer, blogger, geographer, academic, mother and a some-time activist for social change. You can learn more at www.throwntogetherness.wordpress.com

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