Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Take This Annual Opportunity for a Spring Clean of the Soul

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Take This Annual Opportunity for a Spring Clean of the Soul

Article excerpt

Byline: GEORGE HEPBURN

JULIE is giving up chocolate. Hugh is following his annual practice of managing without alcohol. Denise tells me she will stop nagging. It seems everyone around me is giving up something for Lent.

I confess to a lifelong sweet tooth and so I find all this abstinence very difficult and wonder what on earth I should give up this year.

The season of Lent - the 40 days in the run up to Easter - has become an opportunity for everyone to indulge the latest health fad, and there's nothing wrong in that.

It was depressing to read in last Friday's Journal that there are more operations for obesity in North East hospitals than anywhere else in the country so any excuse to lead a healthier lifestyle should be welcomed.

Overeating can be a compensation for love and comfort and so there is no harm in some introspection during Lent to find out true sources of self containment.

As the mornings get lighter and winter comes to an end, Lent is also a time a spring cleaning of the soul.

In the Christian faith, we seek repentance and ask forgiveness both in the eyes of God and also of our family and neighbours.

It is a time to understand ourselves better and mend our ways.

I buy a Lent study book (the best seller this year is Hilary Brand's 'Finding a Voice' which is based on the story of The King's Speech). I join a Lent discussion group at church and commit myself to more time in daily prayer.

I find that approach to Lent much more helpful and something that would benefit us all of whatever faith or belief.

Lent is also traditionally a time for almsgiving. I imagine this was originally penitential but can also be a way of talking stock of what is important to us.

Do we store up our treasure on earth or in heaven? We are exhorted (in Matthew's gospel) not to beat our breasts in public but to go quietly to our room to pray. There is greater dignity in not seeking the headlines for our gifts or boasting about our diets.

Last Friday, we held the first of a weekly series of Quiet Days in Lent at Shepherds Dene. Our guests listened to the addresses by Bishop Stephen Pedley and then took them selves off to find an armchair or walk in the grounds with their own thoughts. …

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