In preparation for Lent Family Fast Day, we asked Fr Nicholas Crowe some questions about Lent. He told us what fasting means to him and why fasting this Lent is a real opportunity for spiritual growth and love of neighbour.
What does fasting mean to you?
Let’s start by thinking about why fasting in a Christian sense is different from dieting. It is because Christian fasting comes from an act of faith. It is our faith that things can be different, that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are called to be a new creation.
So often our cravings and routines can become selfish and block out God and the needs of others. So we need Lent as a time to turn back to God, to make a special effort to let Jesus be the centre of our lives. I see Lent as an invitation to renew and deepen our conversion, a spiritual gym work out. However, in our Lenten gym, God’s grace lifts the weights and causes the real change in us. All we have to do is turn up.
Taking part in Family Fast Day is our way of turning up, of saying yes to God. Yes God, cause great change in me this Lent. Be bold enough to join the fast and let Jesus show you the injustice, the marginalised and the unloved that need you today.
Chris Bain is CAFOD’s Director. Here he reflects on what CAFOD’s Fast Day means to him and why it is important to come together as a Catholic family this Lent.
Here in Romero House, our Ash Wednesday Mass is rather special. There is a strong sense of community – we stand together, we pray together and we take Communion together. The Mass ends and many of us begin the first fast of Lent by sharing a simple lunch together. And unlike Carol Monaghan, the SNP MP attending a parliamentary committee just after her Ash Wednesday Mass, there is no awkwardness about wearing our ash crosses in our offices.
CAFOD Writer Mark Chamberlain collects three recipes from his colleagues to share with you in case you need inspiration for your Friday fast. Thank you to everyone involved!
Simple soups are all the rage here at CAFOD this Lent. I sat down with a colleague on Monday and we each shared some. If food was music, his was a clever symphony of kale and spinach. Mine was a panicked free-jazz improvisation on the theme of black beans and veg.
In advance of our fast on Friday together, here are three recipes from my wonderful colleagues’ families, just in case you needed inspiration.
CAFOD was founded when women from the National Board of Catholic Women, the Catholic Women’s League and the Union of Catholic Mothers organised the first CAFOD Family Fast Day in 1960. Mildred Nevile, who was involved at the time, shares her memories of this key moment in CAFOD history.
When Fast Day first took place, many families saw it as an opportunity to practice giving something up – voluntarily – and for the sake of others.
In the early 1960s, the Catholic community was much less affluent than it is today. Many people had known hardship and poverty and had sympathy for those who were struggling to survive.
Susanna Webb, CAFOD Candlelight Funds Officer, talks about some of the special families who remember a loved one with a Candlelight Fund
I’ve worked in CAFOD’s Legacy and Remembrance giving team for nearly 8 years and without a doubt the real privilege is hearing from so many families who are creating hope amidst their grief.
Candlelight Funds are a way of paying tribute to someone special while also raising money for men, women and children living in poverty around the world. Over the course of the last 10 years, more than 600 people and families have decided to remember their loved one with gifts to CAFOD’s work.
Here you can read about how some of those families have paid tribute to their loved ones while also building a brighter future for our brothers and sisters around the world.
Bea Findley travelled to Peru with CAFOD as part of the Step into the Gap programme, and in this blog explains how our partners are working on human right issues.
I’m writing this blog today because the political conflict in Peru feels like more than just history to me now; I have a real understanding of what the people went through and the difficulties of the recovery.
CEAS are the social action group of the Peruvian Bishop’s Conference. I met two women, Bernadina and Clotilde who receive support from CEAS in response to their suffering during the internal political violence which ended in 2000.
During that terrible time, approximately 70,000 people were killed or disappeared. 75% of these were from rural areas and 73% were speakers of the indigenous language, Quechua. A terrorist organisation called Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) began the violence and the army responded with more violence.
There were horrific mistreatments of people and breaches of human rights: people were tortured, killed, displaced and disappeared. Both the Shining Path, the army and other armed groups were responsible. Nobody could be trusted.
Mark Chamberlain is a communications officer with CAFOD. He spent time with refugees in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in December 2015. On International Families Day, he writes about meeting some of the families there.
Razir is a 40-year-old mother of five. It was just after 11 in the morning when I visited her tent.
She offered for me to sit down on the only blanket the family had. I declined, blew into my hands to keep them warm and chose the bare floor instead. It was like sitting on ice.
Yadviga Clark is CAFOD’s Gender Coordinator. Today, on International Women’s Day, she shares the story of Dawi from Ethiopia whose community is coming together to tackle challenges faced by women and girls.
Today is a day to honour the achievements of women and girls across the world. Very often I think how privileged I am to be born and live in a society where as a woman I feel safe, protected and have an opportunity to develop my full potential. I can freely exercise my rights to education, family life and a career. At the same time, on this particular day my thoughts are with thousands of women and girls who are deprived of their childhood, have no voice, no rights, are hungry, exhausted from hard work and are physically and emotionally abused.
Our Lent Appeal this year tells the story of Proscovia, a 14 year old girl who nearly had to stop going to school because she had to spend so much of her day collecting water. Our partners in Uganda repaired her village borehole and now Proscovia is able to continue with her education.
For CAFOD, International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate the vision and bravery of women who are fighting for equality, their human rights and an end to poverty. The women we work with are trying to overcome the social, economic and political barriers which stop them reaching their full potential. In Ethiopia, our partner organisation HUNDEE is working with women, men and local leaders to empower women at home and in the community, with the aim of reducing harmful traditional practices and achieving greater gender equality in the community. The project supports women’s self-help groups and has set up community conversation forums to engage with the wider community.
Nana Anto-Awuakye is CAFOD’s World News Manager. She recently met families living in the Bekka refugee camp in Lebanon as part of CAFOD’s Lost Family Portaits project.
Last Christmas, various family members snapped away on their latest mobile phone cameras, and we all dutifully posed for the camera. I asked for the unflattering photos of me to be deleted, my sister refused saying, “It’s Christmas, and we are all together.”
Only a few weeks earlier I was in Lebanon’s Bekka valley, just nine kilometres from the Syrian border. I was working with our partner Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre, the photographer Dario Mitidieri, and the creative agency M&C Saatchi to photograph family portraits of Syrian refugees inside some of the informal camp settlements in the Bekka.
Dario Mitidieri began his career as a professional photographer in 1987 working for The Sunday Telegraph and The Independent newspapers. In his long and illustrious career, he has travelled to Tiananmen Square in Beijing to witness the army repression of students. He has also photographed the conflict in Northern Ireland, the Iraq War, the 2005 Tsunami in Indonesia and the Kobe Earthquake in Japan. He recently travelled to the Bekaa valley, Lebanon, with CAFOD and creative agency M&C Saatchi where he worked on studio-styled portraits of twelve families who have fled the conflict in Syria.
It is early – just before eight, but winding through the steep hill side roads of Lebanon’s capital Beirut, there is a frenzy of building work: hotels and luxury apartments going up. This ancient, open city is alive.
Once we leave the concrete landscape behind us, the undulating hills of the Bekaa valley – Lebanon’s agricultural pulse and once the ‘breadbasket of the Roman Empire’ – come into view. Overnight there has been a first dusting of snow on the hills.
Just over the mountain ridge, some nine kilometres away is the border with Syria.
I’m heading to a Syrian refugee camp, with CAFOD and its partner, the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre.
Just before Christmas, I came together with CAFOD, the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre and the creative agency, M&C Saatchi, to work on a unique project to highlight the plight of Syrian refugees: Lost Family Portraits.