By Sr. Carlette Gentle, SC Federation Perpetually Professed
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The Gospel reading for the first Tuesday of Lent reminds us of a God of every season including a season of Lent, a season where we reap what we sow, a season where there is no need for distress or worry when what we do or seek is grounded in good and God. This is because our God is one who rescues the just. He seeks us not to babble like the pagans but a people who do. Read on to learn of a connection to trauma, and what I believe, we must do this Lenten season.
Trauma and our reading. As a current master of social work student at St. Louis University learning about trauma in an advance Human Behavior and the Social Environment course, I see the link to this week’s readings. There are continuous studies, which show that children, even babies in utero, can be impacted negatively from toxic stress. Toxic stress response according to Nadine Burke Harris is when a child experiences strong frequent, and/or prolong adversity – such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, caregiver substance or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship – without adequate adult support. This rather prolonged activation of the stress-response system can disrupt the development of the brain and other organ systems, and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, well into the adult years. Burke (2018) states that toxic stress affects:
· how we learn,
· how we parent,
· how we react at home and at work, and
· what we create in our communities
All of us are sufferers of toxic stress. Is there something that can mediate these risk factors?
Link to the reading. Trauma is an important conversation because as we venture into Lent, we are always looking for something to give up. In the light of the above knowledge, it makes more sense to add a Lenten ritual to help all people. Trauma interrupts the processing and receipt of love, hardening our hearts and how we see the world. Yet love is a mediating factor. Therefore, why not consider adding love, compassion, and care for the other to our Lenten season rather than giving up something random.
Closing. As we look at our world surrounded by daily stressors threatening the equilibrium of our society, remember God is continuously there. We should be too. God provides seeds for the one who sows and bread for the one who eats ... as the psalm reassures us that “From all our distress God rescues the just.” Our world needs LOVE. Karen Young (2019) states that the environment might continue to be stressful and deeply painful for a child, but research has shown that with the support of a loving adult, the physiological effects of the stress response can be softened, minimizing the risk of long-term damage. During this Lenten season, let us lessen our babbling and show more love to our brothers and sisters. Let us take to heart that as God gives us our daily bread that we share that bread daily with our others and surround ourselves in love.