A few thoughts before Lent gets going.
Today I am enjoying a snow day and having a few treats. I certainly am enjoying a slower pace and only have to go out into the Philadelphia tundra once.
Typically, I want to do too many ambitious Lenten practices and sacrifices and burn out two days after Ash Wednesday. This year, I actually gave it some prayerful thought and came up with something a little different.
The overriding theme I want to pursue is to get clear, once and for all about guilt vs. conscience. I am growing weary of not being clear on my examination of conscience, so that by the time I reach the confessional, I have very little as far as well defined sins and lots of generalizations. I am very aware of my thought patterns, but not so confident about how they have translated into actions, and less sure still about what was definitely a sin. I can define what constitutes a sin, venial or mortal, clearly, but when it comes to my own inner life, things become muddy.
So, I am setting about doing some reading, praying and doing better, more conscious, examinations. Already I have come to a few preliminary conclusions.
1. God's voice does not cause confusion.
2. Generalized feelings of guilt are not inherently virtuous, helpful, or from God.
Certainly, I want to increase daily mass, adoration, Stations of the Cross, the Rosary and frequent confession.
Definitely going to unplug. This blog and doing some reading on my Kindle will be the exceptions. Looking forward to that. A little TV, not none, especially a certain PBS drama on Sunday nights. Ahem.
Anyways, that's it. I am already watching my dietary intake. Besides, I agree with the adage ," Lent is not a diet." I do try not to overdo anything during Lent, food-wise. But I don't plan to go into full monastery mode.
I DO hope to go to the silent retreat at the Carmelite Monastery though. So, Monastery mode for that one day.
I especially want to try to do one act of love for someone every single day. It could be something I do that I normally avoid because I don't like it. or something that comes across my path to do for someone that makes me go out of my comfort zone (read-anything that makes me talk to someone I don't know--eek). Whatever. And to do it as secretly as possible. To try to be generous with my precious alone time or with my (our) resources. Try is the operative word. This could prove to be more challenging than giving up all the chocolate in the world for the rest of my life. Because, if you know me, you know I love to sit and read. Love. it. I can get through many things in the course of a day if I know my book is waiting.
So, there is the plan. I will try and blog as Lent trundles along.
I recently read this, from Saint Scholastica. The brother she refers to is none other than Saint Benedict.
My venerable brother says that Lenten joy is the most important thing of all. Some would make of Lent a time of gloom and lamentation. Not my brother! When I asked him on my last visit to Monte Cassino how my nuns were to keep Lent, he smiled broadly and said, “Let each one spontaneously in the joy of the Holy Spirit make some offering to God concerning the allowance granted her” (RB 49:6). My brother is known for his gravitas, but to me he reveals a heart brimming over with joy in the Holy Spirit. It is true that he has no time for silliness, or giddy laughter, or talkativeness — he has always loved silence more than talking, even from the time we were children — but that silence is the seal of his joy. He pours out his joy like a fine wine, with discretion; but his joy itself is boundless.
A perspective we don't often consider. I often wonder at the passage, "the joy of the Lord is my strength." Nehemiah 8:10 God undoubtedly sees all that goes on the the world, and much of it is not joy-inducing. But, one must conclude that His joy is a constant, and not a reaction to the world. In fact, His perspective sees everything beyond time. He freely shares His joy, and though we cannot escape the bounds of earthly time, we can escape the bounds of earthly sorrows and worry.
I'd forgotten to include this article from Catholic Vote which I think sums up the spirit of the whole deal nicely: http://www.catholicvote.org/40-ways-to-win-lent/
Last year I wrote this post about the very thing I wrote about here. Sometimes I frighten myself.
Happy and Joyful Lent everybody!