It’s pretty hard to believe that tomorrow begins Lent! It has come very early this year. I anticipate that my girls and I will probably be wearing heavy sweaters over our Easter dresses this year.
This is the second year that I’ve observed Lent as an active Catholic engaged in the faith. Last year was an intense one for us as my husband finished up his discernment to conversion and ultimately prepared for Confirmation on Easter weekend. Very few folks knew of our intention to become Catholic “officially” and we kept it that way on purpose. To be absolutely sure that no external opinions would affect my own decision-making, I totally deactivated my Facebook account and lived rather “off the grid” for those blessed forty days. I immersed myself in some of the most anti-Catholic theological works and apologetics titles I could get my hands on, primarily to challenge the weak spots in my doctrinal understandings and secondarily to prepare myself for the onslaught of negative reactions I was expecting (and surely did receive!) in the months to come. It was mentally debilitating, spiritually exhausting, and quite possibly the most upsetting, frustrating academic exercise of my life. I highly recommend it to all “almost Catholics” during Lent or anytime before formally embracing the Church. You’ll be grateful for every exasperating minute. ;) When Easter finally came, Shannon and I described our joy as being similar to how we felt on our wedding day. Oh, what peace! We were finally home.
This year, my plans for Lent are a bit different. Due to the impending papal conclave and the fact that history is playing out in rapid fashion (some of which is being efficiently reported in my Facebook newsfeed, of all places!), I don’t anticipate taking much of a break from the internet. This Lent, I plan to re-examine the documents of Vatican II. This seems like a very relevant and practical exercise for the Year of Faith, and also for this unusual time in our Church’s government. Perhaps if time permits, I’ll share some insights from the experience in future blog posts. A foreseeable obstacle to getting this task accomplished is my love for reading blogs (Catholic, parenting, or otherwise). On a daily basis, I will “give up” my Google Reader until my archived Holy See documents are studied for the morning.
Many people grossly misinterpret the concept of Lenten fasting. In my short adult life, I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of disparaging remarks like “How does giving up (chocolate, soda, television) even remotely compare to what Christ did for you?” Well it certainly doesn’t, and the person making such claims not only misunderstands Catholic Lenten disciplines but Christian fasting in general. Pope Benedict says it beautifully:
“Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.”
–Pope Benedict, Lenten message, 2009
What we sacrifice during Lent should not be flippantly chosen out of piety, routine, or “to lose a few pounds.” What we sacrifice through fasting should allow us more time for prayer, for spiritual growth, and for conforming our minds to the things of Christ.
I actually really enjoy Lent. Making sacrifices and fasting can be difficult and even undesirable at times, but the natural conclusion should be a closer relationship with Christ, all culminating in the joy of Easter celebration. And as I learned last year, there’s really no joy quite like that.
And now to end this serious post on a note that is both comical and unrelated to the topic at hand, here is my favorite meme from yesterday’s news of the papal resignation: