Columnists Mark my words

I hope this column will see you through Lent

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

The older I get, the more I realize how much I don’t know. For example, I had no idea that March was National Save Your Vision Month.

According to the website, March is “dedicated to promoting the significance of regular eye checkups, understanding the risks of digital eye strain and adopting habits that ensure optimal eye health.”

Among its practical suggestions are to limit screen time using the 20-20-20 rule (every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus on something 20 feet away) and to use protective eyewear to mitigate potential hazards while playing sports, at work or doing chores at home.

In a sense, Lent acts as our Worldwide Save Your Spiritual Vision season. It’s our annual checkup to evaluate the state of our mind, soul and heart and to adopt again the habits of prayer, fasting and almsgiving that ensure spiritual growth and health.

We would do well to ponder this ritual of the Babemba tribe of South Africa:

Although antisocial or criminal behavior is infrequent within this tribe, it does occur.

When a member acts irresponsibly, he’s placed in the center of the village. Work stops and every man, woman and child gather around the accused, forming a large circle. Then, one at a time, each individual — including the children — call out all the good things the person in the center has done in his lifetime.

All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths and kind acts are recited carefully and at length. No one is permitted to lie, exaggerate or be facetious. This ceremony often lasts for several days and doesn’t stop until everyone is drained of every positive comment he or she can muster about the person in the circle’s center. Not a word of criticism of his behavior is permitted. At the end, the circle breaks up, a festive celebration begins, and the person is welcomed back into the tribe.

Apparently, this overwhelming, positive influence strengthens the self-esteem of the accused and makes him resolve to live up to the expectations of the tribe. For that reason, this ritual is quite rare. (Adapted from Father Brian Cavanaugh’s “Sower’s Seeds of Encouragement: Fifth Planting.”)

Can you envision this happening in the world outside the Babemba tribe? Suppose a family decided to do this when one of the children misbehaved? What would happen in parishes if conflicting groups tried this? Or imagine members of Congress engaging in this ritual!

A great Lenten exercise might be to try this ritual first on ourselves. Obviously in this season, we look to our sinfulness and seek God’s forgiveness and grace through the sacrament of reconciliation to transform our lives.

But do we ever consider the fact that God “delivered me, because he delighted in me” (Ps 18:19)? What would happen if we took time to sit down and write out our “positive attributes, good deeds, strengths and kind acts.” We could add an item or two to the list during these remaining days of Lent.

When we run out of ideas on our own, we might sit down with a close friend and ask him or her to do the Babemba ritual on us. I suspect that reflecting on these positive comments will inspire us to better live up to God’s expectations — namely, to be ever more like Jesus in our daily life. When Easter rolls around at the end of this month, may our spiritual vision be sharpened to see all that’s right and good with the people around us and in the world.

But first, I’d better start with something practical: scheduling an overdue appointment with my eye doctor, a parishioner that I “see” all the time in church!

About the author

Fr. Mark Goldasich

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