I'm so confused right now. Every time I think I've concluded something helpful and practical about Lent, a new realization occurs and throws me back into a tailspin. Perhaps it's just hormones; the Lord knows mine are going crazy right about now. But regardless, some reflection is certainly in order.
When Septuagesima rolled around, I became excited for Lent, and looked forward to offering my penances for specific people or causes, though I was yet lacking good ideas for what to give up. My thoughts tended toward self-discipline over self-denial, because I find self-denial easier than self-discipline (if only achieving balance were easy).
Despite two and a half weeks of Pre-Lent, Fat Tuesday still caught me off guard. (I mean, I was wearing the appropriate colors and all, but the knowledge that my mortifications would begin the next day left me still wondering what exactly they might be.) Then J posted this note explaining how and why he's effectively fasting from the internet from Lent, which caused me to rethink my whole set of ideas. There's something extremely attractive about anything that's intensely hardcore like that, and such a fast tugged at my heart-strings, but I also felt that this was not really something to which I am called this Lent. At lunch that day, one supervisor asked the whole table what we were giving up for Lent (knowing full well that I'm the only practicing Catholic - it's just how she rolls), and my prepared answer was "sweets and comfortable work shoes" (I never reveal all my Lenten mortifications, as it gets in the way of the "secret gift to my lover" aspect that I love so dearly).
Ash Wednesday arrived, and with it came the discomfort of the fast imposed on me by the Church, with no wiggle room. This discomfort was particularly striking in light of previous years when I felt the official imposed fast to be too lenient, and felt almost guilty eating the food that was provided for me by those with whom I was staying. But I discovered I did have a fairly well-rounded program of fasts, prayers, and alms that I had pulled together, and I was pleased.
This afternoon, I discovered this post on L's blog (I know, I'm a few days behind. So sue me.) and her discussion of freely chosen detachment caused me to realize - there's not a single thing I'm giving up this year that isn't good for me in some way. No sweets = fewer calories (i.e., easy diet). Limiting my time on Google Reader at work = renewal of my work ethic. The shoes are a bit tougher, as they're both awesome and harmful - I do love how they look (and the attention is usually a plus, too), but they're actually bad for my body (whoops). So I reembarked upon my quest to find another penance, and considered I would probably blog as soon as I got upstairs from doing my laundry (if I'm getting a self-improvement kick out of Lent, I might as well stick with it, eh?).
As I was doing said laundry, I reflected upon the fact that I do want to offer my Lenten sacrifices for a particular intention (or maybe 3 or 4), but have been unsure where to begin. Well, the Institute gave me a starting point by organizing a spiritual boquet for the Holy Father, which I found in my bulletin this past Sunday - so I could offer Lent for the pope. That's wonderful, and I will, but it has felt like my fervor for fasting, largely composed of having other pressing intentions for which to pray, as L also expressed, has diminished as my prayer intentions remain largely the same. I was then reminded of a conversation last night in which a peer whom I hold in great esteem asked my prayers, and detailed a struggle he's been having - not the most intimate of conversations, but he certainly gave me more detail than he needed to, and I was humbled by his trust. Yes, I could offer up my Lenten penances for him. Too, perhaps adding a new face to my familiar list of prayer intentions would rejuvenate me a bit.
I was not three paragraphs into this post when I heard Mom's very angry voice yelling for me - I'd forgotten the change of lifestyle that comes with having no kitchen, and had started laundry with dishes still in the sink the washer drains into. Oops. I already felt negligent that I haven't done dishes all week (largely because I simply haven't been home - my formerly slim social life has exploded lately).
So I have resolved: Yes, my prayers, alms, and self-denial will continue as planned, and I will offer them for several specific people's intentions. But I think my focus needs to be on my family and the household's needs (something I always conveniently forget, living at home. I can already clearly see many of the crosses of being a mom).
You know how I often say that I used to try to be weird/unconventional, until I realized I didn't have to try? My primary penance this Lent needs to be doing chores around the house. Who would have ever guessed?
The Eucharist and Spiritual Battle
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