US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The "L" is for Lent

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Commute your way toward God this Lent.

Guest blog post by Kevin Patrick Considine

I live on the South Side of Chicago. Most days of the week, I take the famous Chicago "L" (elevated) train system to school. I ride to the far North Side where I am a doctoral student at a Jesuit University. As I traverse the cityscape of Chicago, I notice the vast chasm between the predominantly poor and African American South Side, the yuppie, multicultural South Loop, the white, affluent Near North Side, and the relatively diverse Far North side. I see a cross-section of Chicago on a daily basis.

As I ride the L, I am surrounded by the noise, the smell, and the grime of the old train system. I share a train car with business people and day laborers, high school students and homeless people, gangbangers and yuppies. L riders come from all walks of life and reflect every class, race, and ethnicity one can think of.

On the 40 minute ride, I often pray the rosary. Not to separate myself from everyone, but to become closer to them and to God’s presence on the L. It’s a difficult discipline. It often is not easy to acknowledge that God is everywhere, even in the noisy, hectic, L car. This is particularly true when we’re all packed in like sardines, the person next to me smells like alcohol, a teenage couple is having a loud fight behind me, there are old french fries on the floor underneath my feet, and everyone hides their eyes behind books and newspapers.

My commute on the L has brought up a challenge this Lent: Where do I look for God? Only in the Mass, sacraments, and holy places? Or do I also look for God’s presence in the messiness of the world? 

As Karl Rahner observed, we are always already in the presence of grace. And grace is nothing more than God’s continuous offer of the divine self. So, we are always already in the presence of God, whether or not we realize it.

As many of us reflect on finding and returning to God this Lent, do we dare look for God in the ghetto or in the faces of the homeless? Do we dare look for God in the plight of day laborers or sex workers? Do we dare look for God on our commutes, in our jobs, or in our beloved but imperfect families? Do we look for God on the L?

This is a great challenge and a spiritual discipline: believing that God’s grace and presence is always and everywhere already present. And then accepting God’s call to open our eyes to finding God’s presence in strange, boring, and sorrowful places as well as at Mass and in the sacraments. In short, learning how to find God in the church and in the noise and messiness of the world. Encountering God on the L both in the rosary and in the faces of a multitude of strangers from all walks of life, all who already carry the image of God.

Guest blogger Kevin Patrick Considine is a Ph.D. Candidate in Theology at Loyola University Chicago.

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Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.

Photo by Daniel Schwen