I'm a little scared but I'll admit it.
By yesterday I was already feeling tired of hearing about Lent. It could be the February. Or the tired and pregnant. Or the subzero crazy-making temperatures. Or the too much time online. It seemed like Lent was everywhere on the internet and all I could hear and feel was more, more, more. More ideas, more activities, more inspirational quotes, more clever fasts and prayer ideas. Here's what you should do, here's what you should fast, here's how you should observe, here's the way to have THE BEST LENT EVER.
It was almost overwhelming and I felt the tease of pressure coming down upon my soul. Wait, what is my big elaborate Lenten plan this year? What novel thing must I do to beat last year? How creative can I be with my penance? Which of the many many creative activities out there will I do with my kids? How will this be my best Lent ever???
It's wonderful indeed that there is a renewed love for the liturgical year within the Church and beyond and that that is being shared online more than ever. So wonderful. Ideas are wonderful and sharing is wonderful. Integrating that liturgical life more fully into the home is wonderful and the ideas keep coming. It's all wonderfully wonderful. Heck, I've got a whole lot of that here on these pages.
But there is a danger in missing the point and a danger in relying too much upon the opinions of others to form our Lent. And a danger in throwing out the ages old and time tested methods of the Church for what feels new and exciting. I felt better today after the quiet Mass in our little church and realized the simplicity of it all.
I needed to remember where to find my Lent.
The heart of it is not going to be found through that blog or that charismatic Catholic celeb. It wasn't going to be found by pinning all the activities or asking everyone else what creative penance they are doing.
My Lent? The one that is tailored just for me and will draw me deeper into the mystery of His Passion and give my heart that oh so necessary rending?
It will only ever be found at His feet.
Those many many ideas and resources are all wonderful, hear me right, please. They provide inspiration and God can speak through them, too. He speaks through our conversations and the sharing. But the only place to find peace and true growth in Lent is when our resolutions and activities are founded upon what HE wants. When time is given before Him to honestly seek His will. When He is given an open heart and when His opinion bears the most weight. It is only when He is asked - what He would like left behind, what He wants given, and where it is that a heart may be too attached - it is only then that Lent will bear the fruit it is supposed to. And I needed to remember that.
All I should do is what HE wants me to do.
His desires may not be flashy or Pinterest worthy. They might not be clever (or maybe they will be something completely unique and creative). But the only place to find out those desires is at His feet and listening to Him first. And really, there is still nothing that can replace the Liturgy of the Church and the centuries old traditions that have been passed down to us
Sometimes, oftentimes in fact, I think maybe it's okay if your Lent looks a little boring. What God wants to do within your soul is not. But what it looks and feels like getting there? It may not be novel or unique or flashy. It may not be blog or Pinterest worthy. But it will be based on centuries of tradition within the Body of Christ which maybe should hold a little bit more weight than that catchy idea we saw online. Right now, for me, I need to be wary of the ideas that are novel for novelty's sake or that will tempt me toward busyness for little spiritual benefit. And perhaps we should all be even more wary of people who throw off those centuries old traditions and sneer at fasting and the wisdom of the ages as petty or outdated.
Prayer, fasting, almsgiving.
Living in the Liturgy of the Church.
The only description the Catechism has of Lent is:
By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.
and the only thing in the Catechism about how we do that, outside of the required days of fast and abstinence, is this:
The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).
The preceding paragraphs of that description are worth reading about the expressions of penance in the Christian life (and thanks be to God, there is not a mention of Pinterest worthy crafts or activities anywhere). I'm feeling the need for a simple, back to the basics Lent this year. One focused on what He wants first and that is rooted in a (hopefully) humble submission to the wisdom of the Church and the beauty of the Liturgy. One (hopefully) rooted in repentance and growing in virtue and one that will turn my heart a little bit more into what He wants it to be.
So outside of the required practices of the Church, what is the rest of your Lent supposed to look like?
I have no idea.
But I do know Who does.