Now resuming our previously written post . . .
A friend posted this useful infographic on Lenten basics, but observed that the current norms seem like an awfully light penance. They are. At this time, the Church has, in her wisdom, chosen to throw out a little test: Are you in or aren’t you?
Are you so very intractable, so very rebellious, that you have to second guess everything?
On the lax end of the spectrum, we have Catholics who feel that even our very light communal penance is just not on point, and it would be more fruitful to do some other thing. On the scrupulous end, there are those who poo-poo easy penances. Go big or go home, they say. And then there’s the annual, “What about the vegetarians?!” As if people who spend all year long never, ever, eating any bacon at all need any help from the bishops on how to get penitential.
Americans are disobedient people. Question Authority is our national slogan. So our annual penance is to be asked to undertake something very simple. Our penance is written with the average, normal-person’s ordinary life in mind. The only question is: Will you do it or won’t you?
Here’s something exciting for my non-Catholic friends: Why yes, you may go get ashes at a Catholic church. That is, assuming you’re a wretched sinner who’d like to undertake a bit of public penance. You’re welcome to show up and get smeared same as the rest of us. Come on in, the dirt is wonderful.
Meanwhile, some Lenten links:
Tom Zampino gets right to the heart of Lent. Quick, short reflection to put your brain on straight.
Fr. Christopher Smith’s guide to Lent, Holy Week and Easter is linked here. It is excellent, don’t miss it.
Lisa Duffy writes about the Litany of Humility. I can attest to the goodness of this prayer. Try it, you’ll like it.
Julie Davis updated her list of Lenten movies. I see that Into Great Silence isn’t on there, but we can still be friends.
Tom McDonald has a review of the history of Lent and its affiliate observances. (Hint: Tom’s your guy for cool history stuff.)
Dave Armstrong writes about the Biblical Evidence for Mortification and the Biblical Evidence for Lent. I see more and more Protestant congregations going Lent-y, so that tells me he’s not the only one.
Melinda Selmys throws down the gauntlet. If your Lent is too easy it’s your own fault, and she’s available with a list of penances guaranteed to pull you out of your pit of self-indulgence. She’s not kidding, either.
Regardless of where you scourge yourself on the penitential spectrum, here are my thoughts on how to choose a decent penance for yourself.
If you are looking for books to read, I stand by this list. One of them has already been pulled back out again for the third or fourth year in a row. On that list is Father Longenecker’s Gargoyle Code, and since then I’ve also read Slupgrip Instructs and heartily recommend it as well, if you are the right reader.
Meanwhile, last year’s thoughts on penance:
If you want to know what you love, look at what you are willing to suffer for.
The suffering we accept willingly is the most honest of measure of who we are and what we are about.
Here’s my defense of Ashtags, which you shouldn’t indulge in if you are prone to vanity. But if you wish to assure you friends that yes, you’re aware of your wretchedness, there you are. When they hit the “like” button, you’ll all know exactly what it means.
That link also has the Dies Irae on it, which maybe they’ll play at your church tomorrow. If not, the Internet is here for you. You’re welcome.
And with that, I really must go put away my Christmas decorations.
What’s with all those very small boys with candles? I’m seeing a theme here. We make it tame by calling it “Light of the World.” But really, it’s about setting things on fire, isn’t it?