What was your “best” Lent ever?

The most recent issue of the (Archdiocese of Oklahoma City) Sooner Catholic had an article in which the author asked and answered this question. It made me think for a moment, but only for a moment. My answer was easy.

My best Lent ever was the Lent in which I came into the Catholic Church. I didn’t know that Catholics used the phrase “Welcome home” to congratulate new members, so when it was addressed to me, I was a bit bemused. The bemusement was minor because “Welcome home” seemed exactly right for the way I felt.

In the words of John Denver, I had come home to a place where I’d never been before. I had come home to the Church.

Around 1.2 billion people call themselves Catholic. With that many people, it is inevitable that there will be rockin’ and rollin’ among the faithful from time to time. The idea that 1.2 billion people can agree on anything is fantastic enough, but that they can shape their behavior and way they live their lives along a set of beliefs and teachings that are themselves 2,000 years old is incredible.

Yet that is what happens. For instance, despite the many differences between and among Catholics, we — all 1.2 billion of us — are right now engaged in the thing we call Lent. Some Catholics may be blithe or even indifferent about the whole thing, scarcely noticing it and not really changing their lives because of it. Other Catholics may be eating bread and water for the 40 days and praying on their knees for hours each morning.

The rest of us lie somewhere between these two examples, with our daily devotions, giving ups, and confession twice a year, whether we need it or not. People do Lent differently, and that’s as it should be.

There is a lot of latitude in being Catholic. The demands of work and family vary greatly between people and at different times in each of our lives. One of the gifts of being Catholic is that we can practice our faith sincerely and devoutly within the constructs of daily life.

This latitude operates within the unifying action of the Catholic Church. Whether Catholics are going all-out with Lenten penances and activities, or just dipping their toes in ever so slightly, they are all Catholic and Christian. They are, each one of them, following Christ along the road that the Church has laid out for them.