Lent - the Tale of the Stuggle of Devotions vs. Distractions
While our Lenten plans and intentions seemed ordered on Ash Wednesday, distractions came up pretty quickly. Our first mistake was probably in thinking that our plans were fool-proof. As they say, “The best laid plans of men and mice often go awry.”] How about you? How is your Lent going? It’s barely two weeks into Lent and the distractions have started. So, my job is to re-group. Even if I have to re-group multiple times this Lent, may I have the will and the discipline to do so. Fr. John Burns [Author of Renew] writes that “When we live at a strictly sensory level, the goods of the created world loom too large and grow so attractive as to claim a majority of our efforts and initiatives [to just say no]! In other words, we have to try and live within a fairly strict spiritual level. That includes our personal devotions; prayer group involvement; spiritual reading and meditation, Confession, and Eucharistic adoration. It was a mistake for us to go on a vacation at the very start of Lent because we are not able to just say no to all the beautiful goods of the created world while paying for a trip to a man-made paradise. We did go to Mass on Ash Wednesday, and fast during the day, however, we probably ate the best fish — ever — that evening. Chilean Sea Bass. Another mistake. It’s clear why the Church doesn’t perform marriages during Lent. Imagine the goods of the world looming large and attractive for young couples trying to plan their perfect wedding during Lent. Why add unnecessary trappings to our Lenten journey — right? Life will deliver up enough trappings without us adding to the list.
We toured the Mission Basilica San Buenaventura founded in 1782 by Saint Padre Junipero Serra [Located in Ventura, California.] Pastor Fr. Tom Elewaut toured us around the facilities and regaled us with history, religion, and personal anecdotes. The old Church is currently being refurbished but Fr. Tom let us take a long peak inside to see more artifacts. A beautiful, crucifix hangs above the altar. [ see image insert] The 500 year old cross was carved in Mexico and then gifted to a Church in the Philippines when it became a nation. Fr. Tom said: “That’s why they know its over 500 years old.” The cross was returned to the Americas and found its way to Mission Basilica San Buenaventura two hundred years ago. Father Tom attended the canonization of Fr. Serra by Pope Francis, September 23, 2015, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. We were also blessed to visit with long time friends. [Dave was in their wedding and Mark was in ours.] Fortunately, the years-gone-by haven’t changed our fundamental connections - faith, values and beliefs. But their gift of the box of chocolates did unravel a few more of our Lenten pledges. While Sue reminded me that God still loves me if I eat chocolate during Lent, she may have failed to realize that chocolate’s sensory attractiveness made it impossible to eat just one. The whole box was consumed in very short order. After all, we couldn’t take the candy back on the plane; and so it became just one more diversion from our Lenten goals.
Lent is a very real Battle of Distractions vs Devotions. Just as Jesus’ forty days in the desert was his battle, Lent is ours. We are called to Almsgiving; Fasting; increased Devotions, and Sacrifice. Even the Bishops seem a bit ‘overly accommodating’ this year by giving us permission to eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day even though it falls on Friday. It seems that we are all disaffected by this sensory world that we live in. The created world looms too large and grow so attractive as to claim a majority of our efforts and initiatives! We have trouble saying no — not today. The good news is that Jesus calls us to reform ourselves — in and out of Lent - time and time again until we are united with him. Until then, “God never tires of forgiving me [and you] It’s us who grow weary of asking for forgiveness for the many occasions where we fail to live virtuous, faithful lives. [Pope Francis]
So, let’s pick ourselves up when we fail. Hit the restart button with me if you need to do so. Let us together Pray, Fast, Give Alms, Forgive, Love, and Confess our sins while pondering Jesus’ Mercy and Love.
Have a Blessed Lent!