The following article is by Pat Cetera, OFS. How might you grow during Lent?
Lent: The major penitential season of the Catholic Church in preparation for the celebration of the Sacred Triduum.
Lent: Six weeks of patrons circling an overly filled parking lot at the local Red Lobster, eager to spend more than $50.00 on a meatless meal in “sacrificial abstinence” each Friday evening.
Lent: “Oh, no! … It can’t be! …Not already! But, I just put all the holiday decorations in storage!”
Sound familiar? Those were my own words many times as Lent approached. Why? Maybe because I feared the change I knew was needed in my life. Maybe because it was a time of prayer and sacrifice. Maybe because it demanded extra time each day—something I didn’t have enough of in my self-imposed “busyness” of life. Maybe because my priorities needed adjustment. Maybe for a reason I can’t put my finger on, and never will.
As I look at past Lenten seasons, I realize how much time and opportunity was wasted. I was so focused on my “to do” list that I missed the present. I started out with great resolve, but half way through the season, life got in the way.
Then the last week or two, Lent got in the way, as I tried to turn things around in a panic.
For many, those golden intentions of things to do, or not to do, are strictly followed. Maybe even schedules are made for each day to keep those good intentions ever before us. For some, no matter what we plan, life seems to change those intentions in various unexpected ways. We fail in our efforts time after time.
So, what do we do? Should we continue to set aside time and goals we probably will not meet, and become frustrated with ourselves again? Should we maybe take it one day at a time, rather than plan all six weeks ahead? Should we have a different plan for each week? Is it possibly just a change in priorities, or strictly following a rigid schedule? I guess we do whatever works!
For me, in addition to the recommendations of the Church for fasting, prayer and alms giving, and the Lenten regulations, I try to use the quiet times throughout the day. I leave the radio off in the car as I sit in traffic, and pray the Rosary. I try to turn my thoughts to God as I sit in the reception area of the office while I wait with a family member to be seen by the doctor. I look at the sunset, see the beauty of God and creation, and filled with gratitude, simply say, “Thank You.”
When something isn’t going well, or interrupts my precious plans for the day, I ask for help for that moment to do God’s will—not mine. And, when things do go well, sometimes there is a “Thanks, Lord. I didn’t do that, you did!”.
The times when I look and open open my heart to what I see and hear in the present moment, I find opportunities everywhere. So many new ideas and experiences have been born.
For me, a successful Lent is growing, even slightly, in my relationship with God. I grow when I am in frequent contact with Him throughout my daily activities. I grow when I work. I grow when I stop my “busyness” and celebrate evening Mass and receive Holy Communion. I grow when I recognize where I have not met the mark, should have done something differently, and am led to the Sacrament of Penance. I grow as I experience the quiet times, relax, and recognize the beauty and fullness of that quiet moment NOW. And, I grow when I take time to reach out and love.
Lent has become a journey for me—one without a schedule or itinerary, and is almost always a surprise. I hold the hand of Christ tightly, and allow Him to be my tour guide. It is always a great adventure