Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Apostles, Sister Kathleen McGarvey OLA, reflected on the holy seasons of Lent, and Ramadan for CatholicNews.ie.
Sister Kathleen said, “Ramadan and Lent are similar in so far as for both Muslims and Christians these are special times set aside in the year to place a greater emphasis on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In themselves, these ‘activities’ express deeply rooted human as well as cultural values, basically a need for deeper spirituality or centredness (prayer), a need to be concerned for and generous towards other people, especially those in need (almsgiving), and a need to make some sacrifice/effort to lessen self-indulgence and give up unhealthy habits towards a healthier life-style (fasting).”
Sister Kathleen, who was re-elected as Leader of the Irish Province in February 2019, continued, “in terms of cultural values which we share in Ireland, whether Christians or Muslims:
– a community spirit is strong in Irish culture and people are concerned about those in need and are generous in responding to these needs in whatever way they can. This generosity is especially encouraged during Lent such as through the Trócaire box, which is advertised on national television especially during Lent;
– spirituality, or a sense of God (the transcendent), in our lives is deeply rooted in Irish culture, even among those who may have abandoned religion. During Lent, the participation of Irish Catholics at daily Mass increases greatly, just as Muslim participation in the Mosque increases during Ramadan; and,
– during Ramadan, quite a number of Mosques invite Christians and others to join them for Iftar. Fasting or ‘giving up’ something for Lent is still appreciated and lived by many Catholics in Ireland, including those who don’t attend regular Mass. People do this because they realise the value of a more healthy life-style, both in terms of food or other habits, and they appreciate this time of Lent as an opportunity to seek to do that.”
Sister Kathleen concluded, “As part of the Synod consultations, conversations with people of other faiths were held in the four corners of Ireland. Here it was agreed that, as people of faith – as well as responding to social justice issues – we have the opportunity to speak of the religious dimension of life as people search for meaning and purpose in their lives at this moment in history. There is therefore a shared spiritual role for our faith communities in Ireland: to accompany people in their spiritual journey and to help build identity, family and community. Undoubtedly, both Ramadan and Lent are key opportunities to intensify this shared mission.”