Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, of course, and today is Shrove Tuesday, aka Fat Tuesday, so let’s take a look at the wealth of excellent posts and articles that the internets put at our disposal about these vital, and vitally important days. I suspect I am not the only one who is feeling grateful that this season of repentance, quiescence and discipline is upon us. Personally, I feel like I need it. But it feels like the whole world needs it too, doesn’t it? I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve had from Protestants and Evangelicals, sending me articles and links on ashes, confession, lenten reading. The sense out there, I think, is that we need to really open ourselves up to God’s correction and graces, and the cross of Christ, over these next 40 days, for the life of the world.
And so we begin, again, the forty days of finding our way back to the God who says, “even now, return to me with your whole heart . . . rend your hearts, not your garments and return to the Lord, your God.”
I have always appreciated that idea of “rending” the heart. Take your hands and tear it open, and expose yourself to God, willingly, needfully, humbly. Open wide the heart; let the poisons that have hardened it or fouled its workings drain out. Make room for God, who will replace our stony hearts with flesh, and renew our spirits.
Rose Castorini has a few words to say to you, about Lent:
‘Cosmo, I just want you to know that no matter what you do, you’re gonna die, just like everyone else!’
“And so is everyone in this church. You’re going to die. And no matter how well you think you’re doing, you’re screwing up, and I don’t need to tell you where you’re screwing up because you know where you’re screwing up.
“Later in the film, Rose warns her daughter . . . Cher . . . ‘your life’s goin’ down the toilet!’
“So is yours. You only have the one life in which to make the right choices and do the right thing, and no matter how well you think you’re taking care of it, you’re falling short, and I don’t have to tell you where you’re falling short, because you know where you’re falling short.
Admittedly, many might very much prefer Deacon Greg’s homily:
The first thing the priest or deacon does in the ritual for baptism is make the sign of the cross on the forehead of the person about to be baptized. In that way, that person is claimed for Christ.
At that moment, the sign of the cross is invisible. But this day, we make it visible. And we do that with something that is a mark of our humility, and our humanity.
We mark ourselves with ash.
Make no mistake: this is a radical act. In the age of Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan, we aren’t supposed to do things like this.
Something to bear in mind: for the next 40 days, and especially in the Holy Week leading up to Easter, expect to see an increase in Christian-denigrating rhetoric, programming, headlines, etc. It happens every year, so don’t let it shake you. It’s just the way the world rolls.
Small Things: Mark Shea looks at Grace and Sin in the small things, and it strikes me that pondering how small acts can yield large effects can be helpful through Lent.
A Lenten Conference from the 16th Century
Why we must fast
And whether fasting need only be about food; what about fasting from technology?
Julie Davis links to her three traditional Lenten Links, and they’re worth the tradition!
Brutally Honest: Tiber Crossed
Archbishop Chaput: This Lent, accept God’s love, reflect it to others
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection
The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena
Introduction to the Devout Life
The Autobiography of Saint Therese of Lisieux: The Story of a Soul
The Gargoyle Code
God and the World: A Conversation With Peter Seewald
Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper
Abandonment to Divine Providence
The Practice of the Presence of God
The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass
The Sacrament of the Present Moment
The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day
The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming
Breakfast with the Pope
From 2005: There’s something about ashes
Lisa Graas; Happy Birthday to Jesus in Me
From 2010: Because I am Dust and So are You