Preparing for Lent
Ash Wednesday is a little more than two weeks away. The joy of the Christmas season is fading as we prepare for forty days of fasting and penance. Not quite as exciting. The truth is, Lent isn’t gloomy at all. It’s like the Catholic New Year, an opportunity not to flippantly give up something, but rather to become better people.
St. Francis of Assisi was not the hippy that we make him out to be. He took an intentional, hard core approach to refining himself in the image and likeness of God. He did nothing half-way, and in fact, desired to endure humiliation and mortification than any of us would be willing to undergo. At the center of his belief, of his lifelong pursuit, was a spirit of constant renewal. He wanted to take each day and do the things necessary to make him a better follower of Christ than he was the day before.
We have two stumbling blocks in Lent. The first is perfectionism. Like at the new year, we set out a rigid schedule to radically reshape our spirituality and daily life. We plan out what we’ll give up and what we’ll add, only to fall apart by the first Friday. Then, having failed, we give up and let the opportunity of Lent pass us by.
Maybe we need a jolt, maybe we need to fix a spiritual sickness that we’ve ignored for too long. Far better to be focused and make progress than to overturn the cart under the weight of expectation.
The second stumbling block is the tyranny of the daily. Every Lenten observance should be practiced regularly, but not necessarily daily. If you never pray the Rosary now, setting a goal of praying it every day is going to be a real stretch. Making it a part of your regular habit of meditation or praying the Rosary with your family once a week might be a better fit.
The spirit of Lent is not the 40 day timetable with breaks on Sunday. The spirit of Lent is the same one shared by St. Francis, constant renewal. What is the one area of your spiritual life that needs a boost? Plan your Lent around that, and when Easter comes, keep renewing.