Ash Wednesday is just hours away. I feel like a kid at Christmas. I know, kind of weird. It's just who I am, or how I am. I love Lent. Not in some masochistic way, as so many people think, but in a deep, reflective way. There is something so beautiful about spending this time contemplating darkness, sorrow, suffering, and knowing that it ends in light, resurrection, salvation.
That being said, I rarely live up to my Lenten goals and self-imposed challenges. Often I'm floundering around even before the first Sunday of Lent. But every year I give it another try, and maybe without even realizing it, I'm making some kind of progress.
So what am I hoping to do this Lent to make it special? I haven't nailed it all down yet. I know, I know. Time is running out. I want to get it right and for the right reasons. Noah, who is 12, is giving up meat for Lent. That's a pretty big deal for a boy who loves hamburgers and chicken nuggets and meat of every kind. He's a consummate carnivore. But, as he said when I asked about his decision, "It's supposed to be a real sacrifice, right?" Humbling. I'm trying to think of something that would be my equivalent (since I've already given up meat). I am so impressed with Noah's willingness to pick one of the most difficult choices when he could have taken a much easier way out.
Of course, Lent isn't just about giving something up. It's about doing something extra, making spiritual progress of some sort. I'm thinking of trying to pray with the kids during Lent -- more than our nightly grace before dinner, which usually ends up rushed or peppered with laughter or yelling or clanking forks or all of the above. Nightly prayer, other than what we do at Chiara's bedside each night and what the bigger kids do on their own, might be a challenge, but I think it would be worth a shot. We'll see.
And then there is our Rice Bowl and the accompanying literature, which always offers meatless dinner suggestions from Third World countries. I've tried that in the past, but it's never gone over too well. I think I'll bypass that for my own Third World-style entrees. Still the stories and the reminders of the abject poverty that so many people live in day after day is a powerful part of the Catholic Relief Services campaign. Now, if we can just remember to regularly put money into the little box so we're not just writing a check come Holy Week.
I'll be back tomorrow to continue our Lenten discussion. For now, here's a link to my Life Lines column from last Lent. Click HERE to read "Lowering My Lenten Expectations."