Lent starts this week and many busy Catholics might be struggling to figure out what to give up, do extra, or even do. Take it from one who often decides in the eleventh hour on Tuesday night, it’s overthought. At least, I overthink it. I’ve been collecting articles about Lent and how to observe the season well. I’ve been meaning to read them, I have, but life seems to keep getting in the way. Then I saw a meme (originally shared by The Catholic Company) that sort of helped and I realized it doesn’t have to be complicated. While committing to something overall is great, no belittling of that for sure, there are so many small things we can do to observe this season of waiting.
St. Therese of Lisieux was a Carmelite nun known for her ‘little way’ of sacrificing for the Lord. As a child, Therese was known for her hot temper. In fact, her family didn’t think she could handle religious life. Stubborn, she joined the Carmelites anyway after her sister and proved them wrong. In everything she did, she would think of Jesus and sacrifice all her small sufferings to Him. She would sometimes go without lunch, or tolerate a fellow sister annoying her, and in these things she would offer up each suffering to Christ.
St. Therese was ill and died at the young age of 24 in 1897. She promised to spend her time in heaven doing good on earth. Her final words proclaimed her love for God. The Carmelites began receiving favors shortly after her death. In 1997, St. Pope John Paul II declared her a doctor of the Church, the second Carmelite nun to receive the honor after St. Teresa of Avila.
While we search to find a good Lenten sacrifice, like giving up chocolate or doing extra push-ups, we should remember the goal of sacrifice. We must draw ourselves nearer to Christ in all things. This isn’t just for Lent of course, but during Lent we may find more focus. We may find the commitment of giving of ourselves more tolerable with the joys of Easter coming.
St. Therese once said, “My heart was filled with charity. I forgot myself to please others and, in doing so, became happy myself.” Perhaps if we forgo self in order to find Christ, we will find a greater love for others and thereby fulfill our own joy. Lent is about denying self as Luke 9:23 tells us, in order to take up our own cross and follow Jesus. Everyone may find a different way, big or ‘little,’ to do this.
Let’s look at Lent as a way to evaluate our whole perspective, not just a few weeks to give up an earthly pleasure. Let’s find a daily effort of focusing on our love for Christ, His children, and His way.