First Sunday of Lent
"He fasted for forty days..." (Mt 4:1-11)
Our gospel today shows our Lord fasting on this first Sunday of Lent. Fasting is necessary for strength and discerning God's will when beginning or doing ministry work.
In the 1940s, as a teenager full of exuberant joy, Bertha Bowman felt her vocation to join the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Since Bertha's Protestant parents rejected the idea, she fasted for strength and discernment on whether to enter this particular religious order. Mr. Bowman said, "They are not going to like you up there, the only Black in the middle of all the whites." Bertha responded, "I'm going to make them like me." Sadly, her father was right, as a Franciscan nun told Bertha, "Black people go to nigger heaven together with dogs and other animals." Abusive language and other offensive behavioral practices were attempts to make Bertha into "a southern Wisconsin white woman." How could anyone endure this incomprehensible formation method to become a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration?
Fortunately, Bertha fasted and prayed about this vocation. At a young age, the Holy Spirit prepared this Black girl to be a woman of faith who accepted a divine call to religious life. Like Jesus, Bertha, when hearing offensive language towards her, said, "One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God" (Mt. 4:4). Some said she would break out in song when she was down and out until her superiors disapproved. Bertha still sang her songs with "inexpressible groanings" (Rm. 8:26). The Spirit strengthened her soul to finish her formation. Today, Bertha Bowman is Servant of God, Dr. Sr. Thea Bowman. Her canonization is next.
" ... when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you." (Mt. 6:17-18)
Are you planning a spiritual practice for fasting this week?
Author: Evang./Prof. Michael Howard, MACS,
Facilitator, University of Dayton, VLCFF,
The University of Notre Dame, McGrath Institute, STEP Online,
Lead Faculty and Course Designer "The Presence of Black Catholics in the Church Today and Tomorrow" Loyola Marymount University,
Founder of Eat the Scroll Ministry
**Sr. Thea Boman's quotes are taken from Subversive Habits. Author Shannon Dee Williams.