Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the forty day fast that carries us to Easter. It’s a wonderful period, a gift for which I am always grateful. The Church asks us during this time to practice the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. All three should be a regular part of life, of course, but during Lent we are invited to refocus, reevaluate our lives, and renew our commitment to those things that are truly important. It is a period for simplification and removal of the clutter that tends to grow up around and inside us without our noticing.
Every year during Lent – every year, that is, that I have observed Lent – I draw up a Lenten reading list. This year I have decided to read three things: St. John’s Gospel, The Confessions of St. Augustine, and T.S. Eliot’s poem-cycle Four Quartets. The first needs no justification; it has been several years since I last read the second, and this year I will read it together with my friend W (and anyone else who wishes to join us); the last has been my Lenten companion for several years now, simply because the poems have a Lenten feeling about them, at least for me.
It is also traditional to practice a modicum of asceticism during Lent, usually by abstaining from some good (or, naturally, bad) thing. I’ve not yet decided what I will give up this year, but am considering the following ambitious list: television, chocolate, coffee, and sex. (Those who know me know why this is funny.)
Since Lent is a time of prayer, I will occasionally post prayers to this page. There may also be other Lenten-themed posts; we’ll see.
If you, dear reader, will also be observing Lent, may I ask that you remember my good friend W in your prayers? For the past several months we have been attending the RCIA at a local parish, and God willing she will be formally received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. This decision, however, is not an entirely easy one, and she would benefit from the prayer and support of anyone willing to offer it. Thank you.
How are you planning to observe Lent this year? Let me know in the comments.