This year, Lent (and Easter) happen late. Last year at this point on the calendar, we were almost bumping up against Easter. I found it difficult to do reflections last year because the Lent reflection period happened so tight after the Advent reflection period. Even though each had a different focus – Advent is about the Journey towards faith. Lent is the spring cleaning of my soul. In the throes of it, those can feel like the same thing sometimes. Creating a space where faith can thrive; space that I’m proud to offer as a tabernacle for the Divine. One is joyous – we’re preparing for the Child and contemplating what gifts we have to share; the other is penitent – making amends for the ways things have gone sideways in my plans to Be The Best Me.
Lent has some practices built in to help me in that aspect: Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I have always (except when I am calendar-challenged and forget what day it is) fasted and abstained from meat on Friday during Lent. I pray often, and I give time and resources to several causes. So what’s a girl to do to spool that up to a more meaningful practice then, during this time when those things should be more front of mind than they already are?
I know many people – RC kids or not – who use Lent as a time for the betterment of their person in mind and body. Sometimes that means a mulligan on New Year’s resolutions. Sometimes it means a renewed commitment to something you want to achieve. All are good uses of the time Lent provides. Maybe it doesn’t matter if it’s spiritual growth or not – sometimes a time-boxed effort toward your mental health, relationships, bodily health, and habits (giving up bad ones and taking up good ones) are what you need for personal betterment – whatever that means to you.
Still, almost a decade ago, I decided that a single focus was not what I wanted preparing for Easter to be for me. JC probably doesn’t care if I’m gleefully biting the heads off chocolate bunnies, so unless I could tie that to an opportunity for Faith in Action, then what was the point?
I did some research on what other people do in the big wide RC world. At the back of my church there is a booklet of reflections for Lent. There were calendar sheets you could print out with good intentions and ways to make them tangible. But I happened upon a website that created a list of practises that users had submitted. The list contained means that readers had employed to have a meaningful Lent. They ranged wildly: pray the Divine Offices, forgive a grudge, pray while the teapot boils, practice socially conscious investing, go on a pilgrimage, go on a carbon fast, eat only what your sponsored child from a third world country would be eating, listen only to spiritual music, walk a labyrinth… Many appealed to me, many did not. Some just weren’t practical for me – I couldn’t just decide to not wear shoes in Canada in winter. But the idea of daily Good Intentions did appeal. I started using ideas that others provided, and grew it to my own mental meandering with an intention to improve myself as a last thought. Even the juggernaut of Pinterest can provide hundreds of suggestions for a successful Lenten practise. Throughout the year, I gather things into an incubator file, which still contains some of the original ideas as well. On slow news days when I’m staring at a white screen, I have some ideas to get me inspired. But mostly, the reflections come from when I realize I haven’t been the person I want to be. Or sometimes, ‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’.
The Lent Project is the whole reason why I started Sweary Parent Chronicles, too. I got such great support from my friends when these projects lived on FB that I decided (with a significant push from Child and a stretch goal from our People And Culture peeps at work) that I should reflect more. That was a scary jump, because the Lent Project is working on my weak parts. The angry bits. The uncharitable bits. The grudge-carrying spiteful white-hot-furious parts. The not flattering bits.
So I thank you, once again, friends, for encouraging me to get this far. I like that Lent can be so many things to so many people. So, to the Chocolate-avoiders, and the Alcohol-abstainers, and the good-deeders, and the closet-and-kitchen-drawer purgers, and the personal growth-ers, here’s to us. This Lent, may we find our inspiration to come out of the process better people than when we started. May our efforts teach us good lessons, and may our good intentions inspire others.