US Catholic Faith in Real Life

More than giving up brownies

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Her attempt to resist sweets may have been futile, but an unexpected event taught Kathleen Hockey why we bother with Lent.

Guest blog post by Kathleen P. Hockey 

As we move rapidly towards the Triduum, where the despair of death is conquered by the hope of new life, I can honestly say that giving up sweets and brownies has paled in significance to my experience of Lent this year.

Lent began with the struggle to refrain from sweets after the brownie lapse, as I wrote about toward the beginning of Lent. I failed miserably. My self-defeating thoughts of “what’s the use” won. Praying regularly was a different story. For the most part I was able to set aside 15 minutes early in the morning to reflect on the day’s scripture. Worrying about money suffered a bit of a setback when our son’s college financial estimate came in the mail. But generally I was able to refrain from worrying for Lent.

But the spiritual awakening of Lent this year did not come through any of these forms of penance. This Lent a former client died in his sleep. Client is a cold and dispassionate word used by counselors to describe people, people we try to help. I happen to work with low-income teens a few miles from the city’s war zone. As you might expect drugs, lack of proper food and housing, and gangs with their subsequent violence pervade that area.

This teen suffered a gunshot wound last year. He was 13 when he was shot and had remained in a lot of pain throughout the year. His death a few weeks ago was due to the residual effects of brain damage, so they say.

I still feel sad about this event. Many of the kids I work with have told me about their lost friends, parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles to death, drugs, or jail. But this was the first time a violent death came to a child I had worked with, a child I knew well, a child I had sat with for hours to quell his anger. So I struggled with the seeming uselessness of my work.

“Why bother” reared its ugly head in full force. I even applied for two less stressful jobs in a valiant attempt to run from the emotional pain.

The apostles must have felt this way. You think you are making a difference and then a tragedy strikes that makes you question your beliefs, values, and sense of purpose. Yet, God is present in all the events of life, comforting and sustaining us.

I was blessed with a resurrection moment after this one of “my other children” died. It came in the form of this deceased child’s friend who I am working with presently. He said, “Miss (they all call me, miss), I’m not going down to the war zone anymore. I’m tired of watching my friends die (he had lost five). I’m going to finish school.”

Those simple words ended the “why bother” words that kept popping in my head. We bother because we have hope. We hope because Jesus rose from the dead.

Guest blogger Kathleen P. Hockey is a social worker, author, and speaker from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She blogs at

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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.