Fires, floods and Lent are inextricably linked

Sr Patty Fawkner SGS (The Good Oil)

For the sake of humanity and the planet, we cannot allow ourselves – personally, communally, nationally or globally – to return to situation normal, writes Sr Patty Fawkner SGS. Source: The Good Oil.

It was early February 1984. The Grade 5 teacher came into the staff room harrumphing: “I’m trying to teach the kids about Lent and all they can talk about are last year’s fires”. I was the “newbie” principal having arrived at the Port Fairy school in south western Victoria, a year after the 1983 Victorian and South Australian catastrophic Ash Wednesday fires. The Western District had been hit hard and the locals who’d lost stock and property were still finding their feet and sense of equilibrium.

I didn’t share the teacher’s frustration. It occurred to me, then and now, that deadly fires and the season of Lent are inextricably linked.

“Lent” is an Old English word meaning Spring. In some languages it means 40 and in the Philippines, it means precious great days. St Benedict offers some wisdom for how we might “celebrate” these precious great days.

For Benedict, Lent is a journey of conversion from sin to love. The Greek word for sin is hamartia, an archery term for missing the mark. As a country we have missed the mark. We have sinned in our individual and communal contribution to a warming planet which, despite political obfuscation, we cannot deny is a major contributing factor to the current devastation caused by drought, fire and now flood.

Not only do we sin when we disconnect from our human community. Pope Francis describes sin as “our wilful ignorance of the holiness of our planet, and for anything we do to hurt or diminish the planet in any way”. Francis is unequivocal. It is sinful to diminish the planet in any way.

For Benedict, Lent is a journey of conversion from negligence to observance and from evil habits to grace-filled efforts. It is a journey from less of in order for more of. We’re used to that. For years we’ve gone without treats during Lent to give more to those in need. This Lent, might not we be more observant of our carbon footprint and make even more grace-filled efforts to care for our wounded earth as we stand in solidarity with those impacted by the fires and floods?


Fires, floods and the season of Lent are inextricably linked (The Good Oil

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