It may seem strange to say that I love a season of repentance, but in fact, I look forward to Lent every year with great enthusiasm.
In many ways, I see it as a time when the rubber really hits the road for Catholics, as we put aside excuses and get serious about our faith. And here are the reasons why I cherish Lent:
- Lent is a purely Christ-centered season, one that thankfully has not become tainted by consumerism. You don’t see newspaper ads touting Lenten specials or after-Lent clearance sales, nor do stores feature special decorations, gifts and cards.
- I love the physical quality of Lent, which opens with a smudge of ashes on our foreheads, and the ominous proclamation that we are dust. Fridays include genuflecting and praying as we walk spiritually with Christ during the Stations of the Cross. And during Holy Week there is the washing of feet –and that stirring moment when we kneel down to kiss the cross.
- When I try to figure out what to give up for Lent, I realize how blessed I am. In truth, my pleasures are many, including ice cream, chocolates and wine, plus things that many folks would consider great luxuries (hot showers, a dishwasher, air conditioning). Lent calls us to remember our less fortunate brothers and sisters, and to dig a little deeper in our pockets to help them.
- Nature tends to move in step with the season of Lent. During the 40 days, the trees start budding out and the days grow longer. Nature’s gradual awakening from the bleakness of winter echoes our Lenten attempts to snuff out dark habits–and clothe our hearts with the light of Christ.
- Lent gives me a chance to create a do-it-yourself retreat at home. I read morning and afternoon prayers while sitting on the front porch, accompanied by the little peeping sounds of robins gathering in the bird bath.
- Lent is a time to re-read classics such as “The Pain of Christ and the Sorrow of God” by Gerald Vann. He reminds us that when we choose love over selfishness we are sharing “in a particular way in the Passion of our Lord.”
- There was once a day when it was obvious who the Catholics were because you could walk into their houses on Fridays and detect the aroma of fried fish. Lent revives that wonderful tradition! And in many parishes, like ours, the Knights of Columbus host weekly fish dinners, where folks gather to see friends and help support causes funded by the Knights.
- Every Lent I read the one of the Gospels, poring over a few pages each night. I am always stunned by the realization that no matter how many times I read the stories, they always reveal something completely new and remarkable – and something I desperately need to hear.
- I’d be lying if I said that I just love going to Confession, but at least during Lent I can dispense with my usual excuses. After all, if I plan to clean the house to prepare for Easter, shouldn’t I also throw out the junk in my soul?
- Predictably, I will try to do too much. I’ll vow to stop on-line shopping, for example, as well as cutting out tempting treats. I will promise the Lord to pray more, attend the Stations of Cross and give generously to the poor. But there’s no question that I will fail, and fail miserably. Still, our failures reveal how much we rely on the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And that’s what Lent is really about at heart.
Lorraine is the author of “The Abbess of Andalusia: Flannery O’Connor’s Spiritual Journey” (St. Benedict Press). Lorraine’s web site is www.lorrainevmurray.com
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