A friend of mine recently commented that she’s weary of the Church calendar this year.
I thought: If she’s weary of it then what I’m feeling must be nothing short of malice.
Lent? Already? What awful timing.
See this past week my long-suffering wife and I began sleep training our seven-month old.
Now I know, I know, we have one child, it’s our first go around this particular block, and if I’m going to choose to complain about the sleepless nights our one child inflicts upon us I’ve possibly chosen the wrong blogosphere—seriously, you say, come back once you’ve had nine more—but truly, Rebecca, we’re still losing sleep with one!
In any case, our foray into sleep training seems to coincide perfectly with Lent this year. The season of penance. Our holy preparation for Easter.
In addition to Lent being extra penitential this year it’s also a particularly momentous Lent: my first as a Catholic.
Last year, as I prepared to join the Catholic Church I wrote feverishly about my last Lent as a Protestant. This year, on what feels like the other side of a fantastical journey—maybe more like a dream—I can write about my first Lent as a Catholic.
Sleep deprivation and all.
For the better part of the last decade Lent was something I chose. Myself, along with a good number of the folks in the Evangelical church I belonged to, chose to celebrate Lent. If celebrate is the right word (which it’s not). We chose Lent. In the same way we chose to follow the Lectionary and chose to celebrate Communion once a month and chose to baptise adults only.
As a Protestant my spiritual growing up took place within a paradigm of choice. And I chose Lent.
As a Catholic it’s something I’ve inherited.
And that’s kind of … cool.
As a Catholic I’m a card-carrying member of Club Lent. I’m joining, lock and step, with a tradition two-thousand years old. A tradition which isn’t added, piecemeal, to my customized faith but a tradition which I’m bound to embrace, for better or for worse, and that circles us back around to the sleep training because this year Lent lands on our front porch at a particularly harried time.And Lent is met somewhat begrudgingly like a door-to-door salesman who knocks, rouses the dog to barking, and wakes the baby.
But that’s the thing. That’s the beautiful, wonderful thing of it. Because as much as we might begrudge the Church calendar this year and Lent, falling as it falls, we embrace it all the same. Weary and worn out. Because another friend, this week, wrote something quite remarkable.
For all its warts (and, lo, its awkward timing) the Catholic Church has something going for it that I never knew, or really understood, all the years I spent as an Evangelical. Even as an Evangelical giving Lent an honest go.
As an Evangelical I could, in a large sense, choose my own adventure. In a weary world driven, without question, by the consumer, I subscribed to a faith that was exactly that: egocentric. Me-centred. Tailored to suit.
But I did.
As a Catholic, now on the cusp of another Lenten foray, I become but another cog in the machine. Another soul in Christ’s Holy Catholic Church. Another sojourners in this sacred pilgrimage and the difference is night and day.
The difference is I don’t choose what’s good for me—what to do or when—but it is chosen. And Lent is still Lent, whether I’m ready or not. The Church, planted by Christ and nourished by His Spirit, knows what’s best for me and in that, even when it’s difficult, I take some great solace.
And no, by no means do I mean to diminish the Evangelical tradition I came out of. In the great scheme of things we’re all bound for the same place; and we all have our merits, and warts. But the honest reality is that my Protestant faith—by very virtue of its origins and perpetuation—was a faith in which I chose the pieces. I put them together how I liked; how I best understood. It wasn’t until I began to take tentative steps towards Catholicism that I understood the lofty expression “the fullness of the Church.”
But, truly, here you have it all.
And you cannot choose.
As James Joyce famously opined of the Catholic Church, “Here comes everybody.”
The whole lot of us: Embarrassing aunts, criminals, hypocrites and the like.
And we’ll take it all: the god-awful hymns, poorly done Liturgy, and Lent.
The good with the bad (and the bad with the good) and there’s a certain comfort in that. Of not being in total control.
And as another Lent sets to sink in its tendrils, in the midst of our already hectic existence, we submit, resigned, to its lulling rhythm. Mercifully, the Church knows what’s best for us, even when we don’t know ourselves. And, mercifully, the whole sleep training thing is actually going surprisingly well.