A very thoughtful reader sent me a note today about my last post. In that post I stated that I did not want to disclose my Lenten disciplines for fear of becoming proud or sounding judgmental. Reader S. reminds me of an old phrase. We ought to “Keep it secret, keep it safe.” I would add to that, “Keep it simple”, as far as Lent is concerned.
This reader agreed with me that there are some who have a right to know what our plans are. As I mentioned, it would be grossly unfair to my wife and children (not to mention bizarre and out of character) were I to suddenly adopt a completely different way of life and not bring them up to speed. I also use this as an opportunity to teach my children how to pray, fast, and give alms, following the example I lay forth.
I add the bit about keeping it simple because I have found (and many excellent sermons and the writings of the Fathers confirm) that trying to be heroic (aka: going overboard) is a recipe for failure. There is a balance to be struck. Don’t try not to be heroic because saints are made of heroic virtue and we should always be striving to become saints. Also, men in particular desire to outdo each other to show how manly we are. It’s kind of a thing. But don’t forget also a most important thing – your state in life. A husband or wife with care of small children, a police officer, a construction worker, any other member of the Village People – we all have obligations attached to those states in life. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Fasting should hurt. Fasting should be difficult. I would say, whatever you’re thinking, go for it and then dial that back based on your obligations. Similarly, I as a dad – though I may desire to do this – cannot devote as much time to pray as the Carmelite nuns do because it would interfere specifically with the raising of my children. So thank God the Carmelites pray for me. But I will definitely sacrifice any and all personal time during Lent to dramatically increase me prayer time.
Today, for instance, after listening to a talk about how men, through the offering of their prayers, sufferings, and good works merit grace for their wives and children; I asked Our Lord to give me more good works to offer. He did not neglect me. No details needed. He simply gave me opportunities to be charitable. He also gave me several moments during the day where I found myself in the vicinity of my parish church. Mercifully, the church is open all day. He gave me several times simply to come in and be with Him and to pray to Him in His presence. That was much needed and much more appreciated. I was able to tell Him my plans for Lent and wait for Him to laugh at me. He didn’t laugh, at least not that I could hear. But I did spend those moments lapping up the “intimacy with the Divine” of which Malachi Martin spoke in one interview and for which, he said, Catholics have always been distinguished. I could speak with my Lord in His presence about anything and everything and know that He hears me. I pray He continues to give me such opportunities as I make my way to Easter.
Speaking of Martin, it’s back to Windswept House. I’m making headway.
Only 38 more days…
St. Brendan, pray for us!