A Lackluster Lent

I had a more cheerful piece intended for today, but then I recalled that it will run on Good Friday, which seemed to me a less-than-appropriate time to run it. “OK smart guy”, I said to myself, “what are you going to write in its place?” Which is when I was forced to confront something – that I have had a singularly un-fulfilling Lent.

Lent is a significant season for we Catholics – it is the more-or-less 40 day run-up to the celebration of Easter. Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and alms-giving that is meant as a time for purification and a general spiritual l clean-up to get us ready for Easter. Spring cleaning is not just a thing for the house. In years past I have attacked this season with gusto and at its conclusion have felt quite accomplished and ready for the Big E. But not this year.

I don’t know what it has been, but Lent this year has been anything but intentional for me. Yes, I have followed the rules like avoiding meat on Fridays and such, but as to the rest of it, I have just been drifting. Like the practice of giving up something – that particular something has been kind of chameleon-like this year. Some days it is sweets, some days it is alcohol, and other days it is, well, um, I’m not sure. Actually, I think I can say that I have not had any ice cream, so that’s something. This is what can happen to a guy who doesn’t make a decision and commit to it up front. Is it a post-Covid dullness that I am still trying to pull out of? Am I allowing myself to float and react rather than to plan and execute? Am I too pre-occupied with things like work and some of the household projects that have been going on? Or am I just in some sort of spiritual funk that I need to work through? Maybe there is some of all of them here.

It is like exercise – yes, I should do it. Tomorrow. Working on the faith life is like working on the treadmill or the stationary bike – if “tomorrow” somehow becomes “yesterday” without the needed thing happening, it is probably the “today” part of the sequence that needs work.

As this goes live, pretty much all of the time for the hard work that should have gone into Lent has passed into a significant collection of yesterdays, and experience tells me that my Easter joy will be more muted than it should be as a consequence.

All of these things are fixable, of course. More prayer, less indulgence. More focus on others and less on my own wants. And all of them closer to “now” than to “later”. These things make for a better person, whether in a Catholic context or otherwise. I think I may mark my calendar for the start of Lent next year for me to come back and read this. I think maybe it will give me a kick-start that will put me in the right frame up mind. But until then, there is no reason I cannot make these changes right now. Prayer would actually pair quite nicely with push-ups, given my current state of conditioning.

Photo Credit: Man walking in desert – free photo from pexels.com

11 thoughts on “A Lackluster Lent

  1. It seems despite all the intentions, not every Lent is observed with equal effort. Perhaps this realization is part of the purpose, so one remains aware throughout the entire year? Marie and I have had some less than stellar years with Lent, although this year has been one of our better ones. We have focused on the organization of our house, particularly the excess stuff. There is more to go; I’m hoping the momentum continues.

    One ongoing joke I have had with Marie is how every Lent I quit chewing tobacco. Marie says I don’t touch it any other day of the year, so that doesn’t count.

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    • Haha – I give up fish every year for lent. But then I give it up pretty much every other day of the year too.

      As a longtime Cubs fan, I am used to saying “Wait till next year.”

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  2. Lent always seems to catch me by surprise, JP. I’ll wake up one day and realize, “whoa, tomorrow’s Ash Wednesday”. It often feels like I’m not prepared or focused enough at the start of the season, even though the season itself is designed for that purpose. I do better with Christmas, where I anticipate the first Sunday in Advent pretty much the day after Halloween. I have to agree with you and this year and its distractions, however. I usually anticipate Holy Week. I usually attend the Maundy Thursday service but didn’t go last night (no excuse). Come Sunday, Easter may feel like little more than the family meal. Maybe the message is we’re meant to find focus in another spiritual season instead?

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    • Lent took me by surprise this year too, though it probably shouldn’t. I guess we can’t appreciate the times of bounty and plenty in our faith lives without having some desert-like times too. I recall reading that Mother Teresa experienced extended dry periods in her faith, so I guess I (or maybe we, if I read your comment accurately) have some pretty good company. I guess the secret is to hang in there.

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  3. We’re not Catholic but my wife and I usually try to find something to give up for Lent. It’s kind of a good jumping off point, like the New Year.
    Ressurection Sunday is the hope of all makind.

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  4. I was thinking about your blog on Good Friday when I passed a church with outdoor activities for kids, with a bouncy castle and trampoline, set up on the church grounds and a mass of kids playing outside….um…..pretty sure that was never part of church when I was young….

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    • That’s a pretty good plan, actually. Make them for New Years then give them up at Lent, then feel exceptionally holy when you continue to abstain for the rest of the year.

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