From giving up alcohol to writing term papers to attending Monday night meditations, Lent is a busy and challenging time for all students. Boston College’s Campus Ministry and affiliated student organizations provide myriad ways to celebrate the Lenten season, no matter what busy schedule students are juggling.
Annie McEwen, president of the Liturgy Arts Group (LAG), co-leader of Cura Council, and A&S ’14, is an active participant in most of the Lenten programs Campus Ministry has to offer. “The best part of the season is getting to celebrate it with your peers,” McEwen said. “There is something different about getting to talk about all that is going on in an environment where everyone is the same age as you.”
Because there are so many programs taking place for Lent, many of them provide flexible meeting times to make sure students can attend as many as possible. For example, the Lenten Busy Student Retreat has “no requirements or prerequisites,” according to the Campus Ministry website. The retreat takes place throughout the season and serves to encourage students to incorporate prayer in their everyday lives.
There are three components to the retreat. The first is a call for participants to commit to 20 minutes of prayer each day. The second is three hour-long meetings with a spiritual companion-usually a campus minister or faculty member-who will discuss issues relating to the student’s faith and life experience throughout the semester. The third is optional gatherings that provide the opportunity for everyone participating in the retreat to gather for community prayer and reflection.
“Everyone loves the Busy Student Retreat because it lets you work at your own pace and gives people the chance to set their own schedule instead of setting aside a whole weekend for a retreat,” McEwen said. “What many people may not know is Campus Ministry does the same retreat in the fall, too.”
In addition to participating in a retreat, many students seek opportunities to receive the Catholic sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent. Campus Ministry provides three services during April at the various chapels around campus. A small group of LAG members provide the music for each service. “The services are always intimate and pretty,” McEwen said.
For students who do not wish to participate in Reconciliation, there are several other options for quiet Lenten prayer and meditation. Taize Prayer, a service that takes place once a month during the spring semester in Gasson Chapel, provides a less formal outlet for prayer than the sacrament of Reconciliation.
“If I could sum up Taize in three words it would be singing, silence, and candles,” McEwen said. “Most people come in their pajamas and bring pillows.” The services include traditional chants that originated from a Catholic establishment in Taize, France. McEwen described the experience as a “spiritual movement” that takes participants from prayer, to mediation, to peace. “The services only last about 20 minutes, so it is a great way for students to take a quick study break, relax, and then get back to work,” she said. LAG and Cura Council sponsor all of the Taize Prayer services, and the next service will take place at 8:30 p.m. on Monday, April 28.
Students looking for more informal ways to reflect on the Lenten season can attend Theology by the Slice, a weekly program held by the St. Thomas More Society on Monday nights in the Gasson Commons. Preceded by a more formal holy hour, Theology by the Slice allows students to reflect in a more casual setting with friends and ministers. “It’s one of those programs that I recommend everyone try at least once-plus, it’s free pizza,” McEwen said.
Perhaps the most challenging program that Campus Ministry initiates during Lent is Give it Up, Live it Up. Due to the prevalence of the drinking culture at BC, students are encouraged to give up alcohol in some capacity during the Lenten season. Students can pledge to give up alcohol for the entire 40 days, one week, or one night each weekend.
“The great part about this program is that students can chose their own level of commitment-what they personally feel comfortable with,” McEwen said. “Also, students can stop by the Campus Ministry office to pick up the purple bracelets that remind you and let others know that you are participating.”
McEwen explained that due to all of these services and programs, it is the busiest time of the year for LAG. “Right now, we are preparing for our Arts Fest performance, but in addition to that, we are all over campus because we co-sponsor a lot of these events,” she said. “We also have to learn new songs for the different parts of the Mass during the Lenten season-but Lent music has always been my favorite.” LAG is open to all singers and musicians, regardless of talent level, time commitment, or religious affiliation.
McEwen’s involvement on Cura Council requires extra hours during the Lenten season as well. Cura Council is a Christian life community that provides students with a weekly meeting to build lasting friendships that “challenge the deeper questions of meaning and faith operating all of their experiences,” according to the Campus Ministry website. “My group meets on Thursday nights, and we really have a lot to discuss at this time of year,” McEwen said.
Throughout the year, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) provides students with services so that they may gain full participation in the Catholic community. Easter is the culmination of the RCIA’s hard work, as the sacraments of Baptism, First Eucharist, and Confirmation are administered for the first time. “I’m lucky to get to be a part of those students’ journey, as LAG sings at the Masses during Holy Week,” McEwen said.
Although it’s nearly impossible for students to participate in every event Campus Ministry and its affiliated organizations have to offer, McEwen encourages students to try. “Everyone should take advantage of the season and the sacred spaces around campus,” she said.