What are you doing this Lent? Or what are you not doing this Lent? Or perhaps, what are you changing/giving/praying/(insert your own gerund here)?
I've always felt that Lent is such a "big" time of year. And, of course, it is. After all, it's an entire season filled with prayer, fasting, almsgiving, preparation, reflection, and repentance. When we take a step back and reflect on the nature of Lent - on the cruel temptations our Lord endured in order to reveal His divine mercy to all the world - it can sound downright harrowing. In a way, Lent is the solemn bridge we must traverse in order to arrive triumphant over the grave at Eastertide.
Because of this, I think many of us find the entire concept of Lenten sacrifice to be daunting. I mean, how do we choose the "right" thing to do? Is it enough? Is it too much? What if we "fail" to uphold any Lenten promises or fall short of reaching a particular goal? How easily we forget that the only "goal" is to work hard at becoming holy!
Striving to become holier looks completely different from one person to another; likewise, the paths to holiness can look like Big sacrifices - or perhaps an array of faithful, small actions. Regardless of the specifics, Lent is a liturgical season that seeks to refine and edify us in preparation of what is to come.
In the past I used to dedicate a great deal of thought and/or prayer to finding the "right" Lenten sacrifices for myself. I spent unnecessary amounts of time second-guessing my choices and/or failing to follow through on my plans. Nowadays? Not so much.
To be sure, I still make an effort to consciously choose specific things to put into practice or work on throughout Lent (because it's difficult to follow-through on anything if I'm just winging it without a concrete list to refer to)...but I honestly don't worry too much about it.
That might sound flippant, but I do not mean that my decisions lack thought or discernment; I literally mean that I choose my Lenten focus then do not let myself worry about it. The temptation to second-guess, to do more, to add or delete items on my Lenten list of things to do/focus on/improve was very much a struggle for me in previous years - which I can only see now thanks to the clarity of hindsight.
Truly, I think the perspective I gained in becoming a wife and then a mother has caused me to shift my priorities in manifold facets of my life - including spiritually. Now that my time is consumed by caring for little ones I no longer have the luxury of attending daily Mass (at least not without some major hurdles!) or enjoying uninterrupted, peaceful prayer time on a consistent basis. As my children and I grow I hope to get back to that place someday - but for now I must be content with a prayer life that largely consists of quick petitions for patience (or grace or energy) to get through the day or offering up the monotonous task of washing dishes or clearing a path on a floor strewn with toys as an act of my love for my family and my God. When this is what my daily life consists of, my approach towards Lent must adapt accordingly.
And so it does.
I have chosen a few, tangible things to do this Lent...and I will humbly trust that He will accomplish the rest within my heart or through me.
The fact of the matter is that motherhood offers us a continual Lent of sorts; every little deed that we offer up out of love for others has the ability to refine us. Still, I feel that I'm at a point of being able to do a bit more this Lenten season beyond simply being a mother (and if that's all you can muster up this Lent, then by all means please be merciful on yourself and don't force yourself to do more! After all, it IS the Year of Mercy).
To be clear, I'm not suggesting that mercy is a pardon for laziness. It would be naive (at best) for me to think that I can grow in holiness without putting in any honest effort. However, I think many of us spend too much time seeking the "right" things that are holy enough, deep enough, challenging enough, etc. At some point I think we need to recognize that all of that second-guessing or feeling as if what we are offering to the Lord is not enough...really is enough.
So what am I hoping to do this Lent? God-willing, I will:
- Attend the Catholic Conference 4 Moms (done!)
- Read Come, Be My Light (the private writings of Blessed Mother Teresa) and discuss it with my girls Emily and Stephanie (more on that to come!)
- Complete the "Pray More Retreat" alongside my husband
- Go to Confession
And that's mostly it! That list is essentially the bare minimum of what I would like to do this Lent (because I'm open to doing more should the Holy Spirit inspire me to do or learn other things), but if I "fail" I will not allow myself to be disheartened. Instead I will just trust that He has other, better plans in store for me.
Jesus, I trust in You. And that's what Lent is REALLY all about, is it not?
"I am Love and Mercy itself. When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls."
-Jesus speaking to St. Faustina, Diary (1074)