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Mar 5, 2012
Many people in the world, including many Lakota and other tribal people, are now observing the Lent season. Lent began with Ash Wednesday, a day many Catholics received a mark of ashes on their foreheads.
This year, Ash Wednesday brought memories of my mother and grandparents who were all good Catholic people. I still vividly remember eating fish sticks or salmon patties every Friday for Lent when I was a child. My mother was very knowledgeable about the rituals of the Catholic Church. I grew up learning all of those rituals from her.
Even though I am pretty rusty on my Catholicism some of the teachings are hard to forget. Being raised in the Catholic Church taught me how to pray. I still remember and can recite the prayers of the Catholic Church. But sometimes I look around and see many people who do not know how to pray.
The Lent season commemorates the 40 days Jesus Christ spent wandering in the desert. It is said he was tempted by demons during those 6 weeks. In order to show repentance to God, modern day Catholics also abstain from certain foods or give up something they enjoy doing during Lent.
I have always admired the figure known as Jesus Christ. He was a role model in many ways with his message of peace and love. For sure, fasting in a desert for 40 days is no small feat. In my opinion, staying alive in a barren desert with limited water sources for that long had to have been one powerful Hanbleceya (vision quest). This year, Lent lasts for about 46 days and concludes with Easter Sunday on April 8.
Lent is also observed by the Native American Church (NAC). Many NAC members observe all the restrictions of Lent, such as fasting on Fridays and attending prayer services on a weekly basis. Lent is a sacred time of the year for many of us. It is a time to practice self-discipline, which is lacking in many of our people today.
Lent can also be a time to reconnect with our spirituality. Prayers can be said anywhere and on any day of the week. Many of us pray every single day of the year. You do not have to wait until Sunday or until you are sitting in your church or tipi to pray.
Prayer can be as simple as reciting the Lord’s Prayer, singing a prayer song or saying Mitakuye Oyasin. It doesn’t take much to learn how to pray. Even burning sage or cedar with a good thought can make a difference. Life is sacred. Sing your prayer song today and every day. Say your prayers. You will feel a whole lot better.
Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Her columns were awarded first place in the South Dakota Newspaper Association 2010 contest. She can be reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org