Meditate on ‘Ubi Caritas’ this Lent

By Cassandra Palmer | Catholic News Service
Wednesday, March 16, 2022

As we approach Holy Week and look forward to the promise of Easter joy, we may look back on the last month or so and reflect on how the Lord has been present to us this Lent. Have we personally succeeded or struggled to meet our expectations for prayer, fasting and giving?

Before anyone gets caught up in self-criticism over perceived failures, perhaps there is a more compassionate measure of our Lenten journey: focusing on the love that has been shared this season. Have you taken stock in the love you have experienced this Lent?

I am friends with a married couple who I deeply admire. They are among the people that come to mind whenever I think of “squad goals” — role models in my own vocational living. Since they were married long before I met them, I got to hear stories and memories from their marriage prep and wedding.

One profound story was about a ceremonial washing of feet that they included in their nuptial Mass, in which the groom and bride took turns washing one another’s feet as a public sign of their self-giving and service.

The act of washing the bare foot of their beloved was symbolic of commitment to imitating Christ in their married life. I remember this about them every year during the foot washing at the Holy Thursday Mass, thinking of their example of Christ-like humility and devotion.

Years later when I got married, their wedding gift to me and my husband was a beautiful glass bowl and pitcher with a framed drawing of foot washing, to serve as a daily reminder to us of the theology behind our wedding vows.

No matter which vocation we are each called to live in our communities, when we respond faithfully and selflessly, we are reflecting the love of God to our world.

In this way we may relate to each element of the passion of Christ during Holy Week, and we also may reflect on where we can see a similar love in people living out their vocations faithfully and totally in love.

Lately, when I seek out time in prayer and reflection, my mind gravitates to the simple and repetitive words of my favorite Taizé hymn, “Ubi Caritas.” The words of the song in its entirety are “Ubi caritas, et amor, ubi caritas, Deus ibi est.” “Where there is love and charity, God is there.”

The simplicity of this song reminds me that God’s presence is not complicated, either. Scripture assures us that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). Whenever we act in love, we enter into a life of communion with Christ.

As boundless as God is, the love that has been demonstrated in our communities is limitless in variety. Have you seen love in action lately?

Some of us have welcomed a stranger with a hospitable smile. Some of us have fervently prayed for peace in foreign countries, in a spirit of Christian unity and human solidarity. Some of us have tenderly cared for elderly and disabled loved ones.

Love is evident in the expectant mother who sways through the aches of pregnancy. Love shines in the empathetic friend who quietly accompanies his grieving neighbor. Love is manifest in forgiveness and mercy.

This year, I allowed the words of “Ubi Caritas” to guide me in a Lenten journey of seeking God in the small things. As I tucked my children into bed each night, I sang “Ubi Caritas” as their lullaby, praying the words over them as we snuggled.

Soon, when we enter into the Easter season of new beginnings, I will continue to seek God in the smallest witnesses of everyday love.


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