Lent always begins on a high note. Expectations are high, preparations done in earnest, and actual excitement for this season of reflection and renewal are welcomed with open arms. Careful deliberations are done to achieve the most benefit to self and soul; the very essence of sainthood is within reach. Our Gospel readings tell of all the possibilities to walk with Our Lord and become closer to Him. Parishes begin new Bible study groups, Stations of the Cross are recited on Friday evenings, and opportunities for Corporal Works of Mercy in our communities abound.
The road map towards the perfect Lent is issued to self; all is good … for five whole days!
The first week of Lent finds my mother very ill; trips to doctors and hospitals for testing ensue. My work schedule is thrown out the window, and morning Mass is no longer an option. Forgetting my plan to go meatless on Wednesdays, I grab a quick burger at the hospital. Rationalizing my lapse as age kicking in, I vow to try harder. Sadly, I miss my first Bible lecture because I fell asleep on the couch, too tired to set an alarm. Making Friday’s Stations of the Cross is my consolation.
The road map is becoming a bit congested.
Lent Week Two begins, even crazier than the first. A birthday celebration ends with an emergency ambulance visit and another hospital vigil. My asthma returns with a vengeance; exhaustion is a constant companion. By week’s end, the calendar is filled with appointment reminders, rescheduled work dates, interviews with home care services, and family obligations.
Attending Saturday Mass is a huge triumph!
Juggling life isn’t easy, as most of us know only too well. Energy reserves become empty and guilt for not following the well-intentioned promises made to oneself and others can become overwhelming. So beginning week three I took a step back and made a conscious decision to forgive myself, start anew, and find ways to follow the Lord slowly, thoughtfully, and with conscious deliberation.
Taking baby steps instead of leaping into my Lenten road map is easier and more fulfilling. Instead of the entire Rosary, I am meditating on one decade during my early morning walk before heading to work. During my first Bible talk, the third of the series, I gained insight into Saint Paul’s martyrdom and other facts about my faith. Pausing to visualize my many blessings amidst the chaos of life and praying for the ability to remain “calm in the face of turbulence” as Our Lady always managed to do has become a daily habit whether at work, home, or hospital.
I mapped out a specific pathway to achieve a closer unity with God on Ash Wednesday, and He in turn rerouted me. Hitting the pause button helps me see the edges of my faith in need of nurturing. Slowing down and walking behind Jesus, learning how to surrender to Him more fully is my new Lenten promise, my gift to Christ in atonement for my many shortcomings. Simply put, I am heeding the words of St. Paul:
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good (Romans 12:9).
After all these years, I am learning the secret to a successful Lenten journey.
We need to end on a high note.
Copyright 2019 Carol Bannon