I’m at Aleteia today to talk about picking small sacrifices for Lent, and staying open to unplanned, unanticipated disciplines (all of which is hard for me as a big scheduler and organizer!). Here’s an excerpt:
I wanted to find something to give up, or some rule to follow, because as a (still fairly new!) convert, I can have a tendency to feel somewhat unsettled in the faith. Sometimes it’s a long stretch from Sunday to Sunday, and even though I’m keeping up with some daily prayers, it feels more like I’m being Catholic on the side, like I’m not really inviting God into the whole of my life.
In truth, I wasn’t attracted to Fr. Schmemann’s prescriptions because I thought they stood a good chance of opening my whole day to Christ; I liked them because they were a little extreme and a lot emphatic. They felt like they might be enough.
Trying to make sure I’ve done my duty by God is, of course, the opposite of cultivating openness to him and what he might ask of me. For me, seeking out an aggressive prayer rule is usually a way of compartmentalizing my spiritual life, reducing it to something I can accomplish every day, in the same way I check off my daily French practice or anything else on my to-do list.
And I know that I’m talking about taking the wrong lessons from The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983 in this essay, but the actual collection has a lot I found fruitful to meditate on. (And, I mean, making a mistake and noticing it also counts as fruitful). But I’m not sure if I should have made it the first thing I read by Schmemann. I’ve heard wonderful things about Great Lent: Journey to Pascha from my friends.
Update: A friend who’s actually read several Schmemann books says the one he’d recommend first to Catholics is: For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy