Show of hands: how many of you have fallen short on your Lenten practices? Eaten a piece of chocolate? Skipped reading the Bible one day when you said you would do it every day of Lent? Gone on social media? Or any of the millions of other Lenten penances we vow to do every year?
Me. I can raise my hand. I am not proud of it, but I have not been very good at my promised fasts for this Lenten season.
I love Lent. It is a great time of spiritual renewal and freedom. It is a time to look deep into our hearts and figure out those things that we place before God in our lives. What things are we addicted to? Anything that we cannot eat, drink, watch, read, etc. in a temperate manner, is an addiction.
Temperance is moderation or ordering something properly. Can I go a day without a cup of coffee? The answer should be “yes”, but for many of us, it is “no”. Perhaps we struggle with sloth, so we are trying to up our prayer life or we are working on anger and not getting mad at people. The possibilities are numerous.
Temperance is not a virtue that I have mastered. For me it is coffee. Not just any coffee: sugary mocha style drinks that cause me to have a double addiction of sugar and coffee. They are not good for my waistline either, but they taste so good in that single moment, until I realize that I failed again.
I also spend way too much time on Facebook. I will give it up for a few months and then get sucked right back in. I stay home all day with my wonderful two-year-old daughter, but I do get lonely some days, especially when my husband is traveling a lot. The problem is that I will mean to go on for 15 minutes and I will look up and an hour is gone. What could I have done with that hour? Oh yeah, worked on my novel.
So there are many of us who are falling short in our Lenten promises. I was excited about this Lent. I was ready to tackle some of my MANY vices. I was recently received into the Lay Dominicans (Order of Preachers). I was pumped and ready to grow in holiness.
And then..I fell flat on my face. First, because I tried to do it under my own power, rather than give it over to Christ. Second, I underestimated my addiction level. Third, I am weak. Fourth, I am a saint in the making. I am not there, yet. Not even close.
My tendency is to throw in the towel. I throw my hands up in the air and say, “Lord, I can’t do it. Why can’t I give these things up?”
The path to holiness is not an easy one. We all have sins and addictions that we need to conquer (check out Elizabeth Scalia’s book Strange Gods for more on that). In order to do that, we need Christ. We need grace. That is why I am such a frequent visitor to the Confessional. “Lord, I fell again. Please help!”
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is credited as having said, “We are not called to be perfect. We are called to be faithful.” That means picking ourselves up and continuing on the journey in the face of obstacles. The meaning of life is to be a saint. That does not happen overnight. In fact, it takes a lifetime, and even then some of us may need a stint in Purgatory.
What I am saying is do not give up because you cheated. Start again tomorrow. Wake up in the morning and ask Christ for the grace to persevere in the face of temptation. Ask Our Lord to make you a saint, and he will, but it will take sacrifice and endurance on our part. It will mean continuing on the path when we want to quit.
There are days that I want to quit. I want to sulk, but Christ made me to become holy, to be a saint. So tomorrow, I will once again ask for the strength to continue on and overcome my addictions during this holy season of Lent, and every single day for the rest of my life.
Lenten blessings to you and your family!
Copyright 2014, Constance Hull