Looking Ahead to Lent

The Atacama Desert, Chile (2006)

Lent is a time of noticing, rather than being noticed. To stand back, sit down, empty out, and notice why and how I pray, where I am needed, who I should be. – Michelle Francl-Donnay, Not By Bread Alone 2018: Daily Reflections for Lent

I have not made Lenten resolutions for many years. And, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, either. Instead, I usually make annual resolutions on the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Church year. Lent is a time for me to recommit to those (now forgotten) goals.

Last November, I was trying to restrain my compulsions for lists and for counting. I had “bullet lists” for everything, and weighed and measured far too many things. So, instead of another bullet list of resolutions, I decided to focus on key words that would remind me of what would bring me closer to God.

There are four – OK, I just numbered them: gratitude, simplicity, generosity, and kindness in speech. I am committed to thanking more, needing less, sharing readily, and expressing only kind thoughts. Four may be three-too-many virtues to focus on in Lent, but I need some stretch goals.

The Judean Wilderness (2007)

At my church, twenty of us are studying Christian spirituality with a DVD series by Fr. Anthony Ciorra (Seven Great Schools of Catholic Spirituality, Now You Know Media, 2014). Last week, we explored desert spirituality – a timely topic as we look ahead to the Lenten season. The presentation and discussion prompted me to look for sayings of the Desert Mothers.

I would like to recommend The Desert Mothers: Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness by Mary C. Earle (Morehouse Publications, 2007). It is a collection of ten reflections, each beginning with a saying of one of four ammas (desert mothers): Sarah, Theodora, Syncletica, and Matrona. The reflections include suggestions for practice in our own lives, and a concluding prayer.

According to Episcopal Priest Mary C. Earle, the desert is a way of living, of learning to be fully human, of learning to love. Every day offers us the possibility of remembering and recognizing the presence of God in us, with us, through us, healing us and making us new. (p. 11)

I leave you with a few questions to consider as you prepare for Lent. May you find the solitude, stillness, and peace of the desert in your own life in the coming weeks.

The Arizona Desert (2012)

Q. What is my appetite for overstimulation? Is it television, social media, books, etc.?

Q. Am I a slave to my impulses, or do I take the time to be silent and discern the right choices?

Q. How might my Lenten practices let God be more apparent in me?

Q. Who is God calling me to become this Lent?

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