We’ve been hearing from so many people that they prefer to add something for Lent, that “giving something up” “misses the point.” The truth is, I think that it is easy to miss the point whether you add or subtract during Lent, because the point is to be INTENTIONAL in a SPIRIT OF SACRIFICE. As we proceed through Lent, checking our intention can help to make sure that whatever we do is truly meaningful.
Here are my reflections on a few of my Lenten plans:
40 bags in 40 days — is it LENTEN or just a spring cleaning exercise? For me I think that I will admit this year that it is the latter. Spring cleaning is good, but let me not fool myself in to thinking that I am pitching expired medicines out of my bathroom cabinet for God. I might be, if I remembered to treat this as work and to offer it up, but truly I am doing it for my own convenience and for a desire for order. I am not “giving up” possessions to the poor, I am really just throwing away the garbage that has accumulated in my house since last March. In fact, the tasks on this list could be a distraction from times when I really should be doing more contemplative prayer. I’m going to keep doing them, but I think it will help to see them for what they are for me at this stage in my journey.
Stations of the Cross — We did Stations at the parish with some other young families last Friday. I want to make this a priority, and yet I just said “yes” to TWO conflicting obligations. I need to remember that this act of piety is hugely important to my keeping of Lent, and that it can also be a SACRIFICE of TIME if I have to say NO to something I would rather do or move other things around in my week.
Spiritual Reading with the Kids — Our Tomie de Paolo Bible is divided in to 37 stories, which seemed to fit pretty nicely for Lent, so I have made that the read aloud choice for the little boys, and we are really enjoying it. It is easy sometimes to forget that my younger children have not been through all of this over and over again, as it feels that my older children have. I need to be more intentional about living the liturgical year with my little guys, and this has been a great first step, at least they will have the basic framework of salvation history leading up to the Easter Triduum. Now, I realized a little late that it would be great if my older children had some special reading for Lent. I am going to give that some more thought over the next few days. It’s never too late!
Giving Something Up — In the past we have given up meat fully throughout Lent, but that wasn’t going to work for me this year. Then, I just sort of dropped the ball on doing anything else concrete. As my kids sat around after lunch eating cookies and M&Ms, I was thinking about the way that my grandparents kept Lent. There was a real, simple 40 day fast — they did not have alcohol, they did not have snacks between meals, they did not have dessert. Life didn’t look all that abnormal, but they were eating just to fuel their bodies. This doesn’t have to be a monastic extreme of bread and water, but right now I think we in our house are proceeding as if nothing is different. I think that food is the most basic stuff of our life, and we have it abundantly, so this is an area where we clearly could benefit from simplifying during Lent. I think I would like to just get all of the sweets out of the house. This will make Easter that much more exciting.
The BIG QUESTIONS: At a meditation recently, the priest made such a simple, profound statement: The purpose of our life is sanctity, to grow close to God and be saints in Heaven. Wow. Okay, we know this, but do we really think about it often? Do we really check this purpose when making decisions? I am trying to use this very basic, very important point to check my intentions in whatever decisions I make. It is making some things which used to seem complicated rather easy. One problem that I have recognized already is the struggle between my worldly desires and what I know is right. Often, my worldly desires are not for inherently bad things but they are things which distract me from the greater good.