by Father Mark Goldasich
How serious are you about Lent? Before you answer, ponder this little story:
Before Ash Wednesday one year, a school principal said to her teachers, “Let’s all write down our Lenten resolutions about how we can become better Christians and I’ll post them on the staff bulletin board.”
The teachers agreed and, when the resolutions were posted, all gathered around to read them.
One of the young teachers suddenly went ballistic. “Hey, the principal didn’t put up my resolution!” he said. “It was one of the first handed in. She doesn’t care about me. This just shows what it’s really like around here!” On and on he ranted and then stormed out of the room.
The principal overheard the teacher’s diatribe from her office. Mortified, she quickly shuffled through the mounds of papers littering her desk and uncovered the missing resolution. She immediately went to the bulletin board to pin it up.
Smiling to herself, she noticed that the irate teacher’s resolution read: “I resolve not to let little things upset me anymore.” (Adapted from a story in Paul J. Wharton’s “Stories and Parables for Preachers and Teachers.”)
Are you serious enough about the upcoming Lenten season to post your resolutions in a public spot? If we truly want to change our lives for the better this Lent, there’s no better way to keep ourselves honest than letting others in on exactly how we plan to change.
The church reminds us that there are three traditional disciplines in this season: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Since they go hand in hand, a better Lent involves us doing something in each area.
Since I live alone, posting my Lenten resolutions on my refrigerator would be pretty meaningless, as my cat has yet to become literate. So, what better place to share my resolutions than here, where some 51,000-plus households can keep me in check?
With that in mind, here goes:
As for prayer, my focus this Lent is on the meditative reading of spiritual books, taking my time with what I’m reading and marking passages that make me think. I‘ve picked four to start with: “Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship,“ by Gregory Boyle, SJ; “Hanging onto Hope: Reflections and Prayers for Finding ‘Good’ in an Imperfect World,” by Melannie Svoboda, SND; “Vesper Time: The Spiritual Practice of Growing Older,” by Frank J. Cunningham; and “A History of the Church in 100 Objects,” by Mike Aquilina and Grace Aquilina.
As far as fasting is concerned, I’m trimming TV time to one hour a day. There are much better ways to spend my time than staring at that screen, such as reading those books I mentioned above or doing the almsgiving resolution below.
In the almsgiving category, my focus is to reach out to the people I neglected during Advent. Because I never get completely through my Christmas card list, I’ll be dropping a note to those “ungreeted” folks — one a day — during Lent. Almsgiving is about bridging gaps between people. I hope that these notes will accomplish that.
Now that you’ve seen my resolutions, what will make this Lent meaningful for you? If you need help deciding, or a daily reminder in the season to keep you going, then look no farther than your smartphone, tablet or computer.
There’s no shortage of websites that can serve as a reliable Lenten companion. For example, dynamiccatholic.com promises the “best Lent ever,” while loyolapress.com offers “Living Lent Daily” and other magnificent resources; both are free and will send you a daily reminder email.
Of course, the U.S. bishops’ website — usccb.org/lent — has a daily Lenten calendar, as well as many other inspirational seasonal links. As far as I know, you have to go to the site to get them — no automatic emails — but it’s worth the trip.
Let’s take to heart these words of Benjamin Franklin: “How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.”
This Lent, let’s resolve to be those few.