St. John’s is pleased to offer a series of articles through which faculty, staff and students share their Lasallian experiences. This month, religion teacher Jonathan Navas shares his thoughts on the season of Lent.
When the Lenten season comes around I, like most Catholics, think about giving something up. Every year, I’m asked by students, friends and colleagues, “So, what are you giving up for Lent?”
Before receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, I may have hesitated or put on an air of confidence only to respond with a futile remark: “Maybe I’ll cut my coffee intake” or “I might just give up bacon and red meat.” But I did not understand the implications of my remarks then. I could not understand, because I did not know what I was saying. I was disoriented. Why we celebrated Advent, Lent, Easter or Pentecost at all — and in that particular order — was always a mystery to me.
Everything changed in the months leading up to my Confirmation in the spring of 2011. Though a Catholic my entire life with a bachelor’s degree in theology from Loyola University Maryland, I did not take the steps to be confirmed. I sought freedom by finding solace in Scripture and in my theology books: deepening into the life of the mind rather than the life of the heart.
It was in speaking to my classmates and professors during graduate school at Emory University that I sensed my faith journey was at a crossroads. My classmates nevertheless supported me in all aspects of the faith. They would ask me: “How’s your prayer life?” “Where do you see God in your work?” “How do you plan to serve God after graduation?” Their questions and conversations led me to discern why I was studying theology in the first place.
A big supporter of mine at this time was Father Bryan, who taught RCIA at the Catholic Center at Emory. We studied the Liturgical Calendar together and discussed many personal topics, often about reconciling matters of the heart and matters of the mind. In short: understanding my vocation. Father Bryan made me see my role beyond books and beyond libraries, and to focus on the impact I could have being Christ to others in my community.
I went forward with my confirmation and took the name St. Ignatius of Loyola.
My classmates and friends from diverse faith traditions — African Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, Presbyterian and Lutheran — joined me at the Easter Vigil Mass when I was confirmed. They supported my journey toward renewing my identity before God. That evening felt like a homecoming. During the Litany of the Saints, we sang “St. Ignatius of Loyola...Pray for us...” and I knew without a doubt that I was home. Lent is less a season of “giving up” and more a season for re-orientation and renewal. It is a time to grow into a more mature faith in the Risen Christ.
May this Lenten season be one of discernment, renewal and homecoming.