The Long Lent


It's hard to believe that Lent is here, mostly because the past year felt like one long Lent. During this time of preparation for Easter, Christians are encouraged to renew and deepen our vigilance in prayer, fasting, and penance. Before His glorious Resurrection, Our Lord first had to pass through His sorrowful Passion. If we would be His disciples, each of us must take up his cross and follow Him.

It's a staple of most Lenten homilies, but in our consumerist age, it bears repeating: Giving up chocolate for Lent doesn't mean gorging on caramel instead. Pigging out at Red Lobster--a company which supports infanticide--violates the spirit of abstaining from meat. We are called to practice self-denial. If your Lenten practices are pleasant, they're probably not encouraging much spiritual growth.

Another oft-suggested but salutary idea for Lent is to take on a new spiritual devotion in addition to giving something up. Resolve to pray an entire rosary each day. Dedicate yourself to at least fifteen minutes of daily Scripture reading. Make a resolution to attend daily Mass or Eucharistic adoration.

And here's the key to spiritual practice I've learned firsthand: Once you adopt a new spiritual discipline, NEVER EVER STOP.

Christians need to adopt a nurse shark mentality to the spiritual life. If you're not constantly moving ahead, you're falling behind. There is no treading water. Stop swimming, and you die.

That's a fitting analogy for a day set aside to remind us of our mortality. The Christian should always stand ready to meet death, which as Christ graciously warned us, comes at an hour we know not.

Far from morbid rumination, Jesus' exhortation should encourage us to avail ourselves of the generous channels of grace He has established and made easily available through His Church. Though in Lent we deny the flesh, the soul can have its fill through the overflowing abundance of liturgies and sacraments on offer throughout this holy season. It would be a shame to mortify the body and starve the spirit.

If you've never observed Lent before, this one is the best time in living memory to start. It's a good time to go to confession if you haven't been in a while. Austerity may not be optional soon, but voluntary and involuntary suffering alike can be offered up for our and others' intentions.

For those living under lockdown who wish to have some experience of the liturgy, here is a high Ash Wednesday Mass, courtesy of YouTube:

When the going gets tough, the tough get holy.

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  1. I confess I made the mistake of not deciding ahead of time what I was going to give up and then working out how to do it. The result is that it's not going well. The good news is that yesterday morning, God put a spotlight on something I need to set right. Part of my work, I think, is to repent of that sin by praying for some people I know toward whom I've been failing in charity. That's not the same as practicing self-denial, I know, or adding a new spiritual discipline, but it surely needs doing.

  2. If you are under lockdown, it can still be worthwhile to get as close in terms of proximity as possible. Preferably you will be able to pray in Church in front of the Blessed Host, but if the doors are locked you can usually still pray in the parking lot or standing outside. Not only is this good for you in that it reminds you of thee reality of God's presence in the Eucharist (and hence there is benefit to being closer physically), but it also serves as a witness to others.