UDM community reflects on faith as religious observances intersect

March 28, 2024

This year brings an exceptional alignment of two significant religious observances: Lent for Christians and Ramadan for Muslims. As these two holy seasons intersect, believers worldwide and within our ϲʲͼ Mercy campus find themselves in a unique moment that emphasizes shared values and understanding across faith traditions.

For Christians, Lent symbolizes a period of 40 days leading up to Easter, commemorating Jesus Christ's 40 days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness. This period is seen as a time for introspection, repentance and spiritual renewal. Aimed to deepen one's relationship with God and personal growth, Lent includes the practice of fasting, prayer and acts of charity.

“Abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesdays and all Friday's during Lent is required for all Catholics age 14 and older and has no upper age limit,” said Anita Klueg, director of ϲʲͼ Mercy’s University Ministry. “Since Jesus sacrificed his flesh for us on Good Friday, we refrain from eating flesh meat in his honor on Fridays.” Flesh meat includes beef, pork, chicken and turkey.

“The idea of sacrifice during Lent is encouraged to bring yourself closer to God,” Klueg said. “We give up what leads us away from God and being a reflection of Jesus in our lives. We are asked to use this time to also grow in our prayer life, reading more Scripture, and giving of our time and resources to those in need.” 

Jessica Alah, a junior in the Nursing program, is observing Lent this year and said, “I have given up negative talk during this Lent season, in hopes of creating a more positive relationship between myself, God, and others.” 

Alah said she wanted to give up something that was not food because avoiding negative talk is more meaningful and beneficial for herself and society. “I hope to achieve a clearer head and have more optimistic thoughts in my life.” she said.

In the Islamic tradition, Ramadan stands as the holiest month, marked by fasting from dawn until dusk. This season, which is 30 days, commemorates the revelation of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad. During the Holy Month of Ramadan, Muslims engage in rigorous fasting, increased prayer and acts of charity, seeking closeness to Allah and purification of the soul. Serving as a time of heightened spirituality, self-discipline and compassion. 

“Every year, the MSA works diligently to produce various events within this holy month to demonstrate the importance of such activities while we bear the responsibilities as students,” said Sarah Awali, president of ϲʲͼ Mercy Muslim Student Association and fourth-year Biology major, “We also plan to assemble Sister and Brother (separate) group discussions in the beginning of the month, so we can have full mental and spiritual preparation as this month begins.”

A Muslim student herself, Awali believes that “This month can serve to be one that provides a sense of grounding. While it can be challenging, the month of Ramadan reactivates attributes such as patience, kindness and gratitude which can carry on throughout the year. I view this month as a refresh button that grounds me to focus on priorities as a Muslim, especially while balancing school, work and religion.” 

Mahya Mokhtari, a second year Chemistry major in the 5-year Physician Assistant (PA) program, spoke about Ramadan and said, “This season always comes around when it is needed the most. We fast for most of the day, 17-18 hours, but then get full after a few bites. This is a perfect analogy of how short the pleasures in this life are and how long they last.” 

Despite their theological differences, Lent and Ramadan share fundamental themes and practices that resonate across religious boundaries. Both emphasize the importance of self-discipline, humility and compassion. Fasting serves as a means of spiritual purification and a reminder of the blessings bestowed upon believers.  

— By Marketing & Communications student intern Zahra Albdair