By Seán Rose
As an Education Projects Officer at 3FF, I get to visit Secondary schools weekly – sometimes daily – to facilitate interfaith workshops. In one of our workshops, called Encountering Faiths and Beliefs (EFB), we bring trained guest speakers into the classroom to share some of their personal experience of their faith or belief community, and to answer students' questions.
In recent weeks I have been asked lots of questions about the season of Lent and Easter. Some students want to understand the signs or symbols they might have seen – a splodge of ashes on a forehead, a palm shaped like a cross, an Easter egg.
Others are interested in how I prepare for Easter, whether I give anything up for Lent. This year, as I have for the last two years, I have been fasting from all drinks except tap water. This idea was influenced in part by a friend of mine who practices Engaged Buddhism, who introduced me to the idea of 'mindful consumption'. Not being able to buy a coffee on the train or meet friends for a drink after work has made me more aware of how privileged I am to live in a society where free, clean, safe tap water is readily available. Come Easter Sunday, I'll donate the money I've saved from not buying drinks to a clean water project in the Global South.
I have been conscious this year of Lent being an interruption – to my daily routine, to my consumption, to my outlook. And sometimes it's been a real struggle! One of the reasons I love running our workshops in schools is the opportunity to give young people an honest insight into what it is really like to live out and to practice a faith or belief. The difficulties and questions, as well as the positives.
Last Sunday was Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter and traditionally the most solemn week in the Catholic Church's year. A Jewish colleague joined me at Church for Mass, and we had a wonderful conversation afterwards about the signs and symbols, the Jewish roots of the liturgy, and the contrasting ways in which other Christian denominations prepare for Easter. I was thankful for the chance to learn more about her preparation for the Jewish festival of Passover, which this year falls on the same weekend as Easter. One of the communal prayers shared during Mass was for 'our Jewish brothers and sisters as they celebrate Passover'.
For me, Lent this year has been an opportunity for questions, for dialogue, and for reflection. I'm looking forward to another term of school workshops after Easter. And to that first cup of tea on Sunday morning.