By Sister Sue Scharfenberger, OSU

Did you have that experience on Ash Wednesday on February 17? They said Lent was beginning. To me, it felt more like a prolonging of what we had been living for a year now. Prayer, penance, almsgiving. Nothing new, really.

I struggled to find meaning in this “new” season of Lent. I think I felt fortunate not to have to receive ashes. (Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church.)

 I was grateful for a seminar in which I had just taken part where we revisited the evolution of the universe and were reminded again that we came from stardust. That’s it! “You are stardust and unto stardust you shall return”.

Hearing that did help change and alter my perspective. A smile came to my face. A connection came to my heart. And that, it seems, is what I had been longing for—a way to be connected even in this time of quarantine, even when we cannot accompany friends and neighbors to the cemetery, or visit in the hospital, or stop by their home to see how they are, to encourage, to animate, to support, to share an embrace. That is and has been the eternal penance: the separation, the distance.

I feel it with my family, the teachers and students, the Associates. No hugs from the little ones in the school patio.

Sorry, Zoom does not cut it for me.

So as in every “new Lent,” I began to take stock of how I am doing. I discovered a strange and new frown embedded on my face, not completely due to aging!

And so, my number one resolution is to smile more, even when on the inside I am not feeling that way. Smile, yes, even behind the mask. It is an outer sign of an inner grace. And even in spite of the mask, a smile becomes contagious.

Number two: is to exercise. As we exercise, we increase our stamina, becoming conscious more than ever before, that our lungs can take in what I have learned to appreciate is the marvelous gift of air.

Number three: to remind others with words, gestures, smiles, affirmations, that they too are stardust.

My hope is that in writing this, I will remind myself to be faithful to my Lenten resolutions, and perhaps you will be inclined to share yours. Being stardust together may just brighten this Lent that millions are facing . And I have a feeling that this Lent will continue far beyond what we believe to be “Easter.”