February 18 was Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season.
When I was a child, it was the custom to give something up for Lent, usually candy! As an adult, I remember giving up other “creature comforts” (like TV or dessert) or bad habits (like smoking). Over the years, the emphasis changed from giving up things to doing something, like attending daily Mass during my lunch hour or praying the rosary or reading scripture. I discovered that those Lenten seasons when I did something every day rather than give up something had a more lasting effect on me and my relationship with God.
Since becoming a Lay Carmelite, the 40 days of Lent are more of a retreat than a time of sacrifice and deprivation. Lent has become a time to go into the desert with the Lord. A time to embrace the cross and join him on his journey toward Calvary. A time to reflect on — and intensify the work of — dying to self so that I might live in him. Our Carmelite spirituality has so much to offer us to help us on this journey, not only during Lent, but throughout the whole year: Lectio Divina, the Eucharist, Community, and the Liturgy of the Hours.
For Lent this year, in addition to these four “pillars of Carmel,” I'm going to begin each day by attending a program of Lenten readings and reflections at Holy Spirit Church. When I read the following notice on page 5 of the January 25th bulletin1.9MB, I knew this was God whispering an invitation to me to come closer to him:
Please join for daily Lenten readings and reflections with Fr. Mat and Dn. Rigo. It will be held from Monday through Saturday from 6:25 to 6:45 a.m. at the Fireside Room during the entire Lenten season. “The Magnificent Lenten Companion” will be used as a resource and all the participants will get that booklet free. If you participate in this short 20-minute program for 40 days, your life will be forever transformed. No registrations required; just show up.
So this Lent I'll be combining the two penitential customs that are traditional for this season: I'll give something up (that last hour of sleep every morning!) and I'll do something fruitful (spiritual reading and reflection in a community of my fellow Catholics).
What are you doing to make this Lenten season different from “ordinary” time?
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