One week until Lent. Who’s counting?

January 30, 2008 | Lent, Original NSS

This is it, the season I’ve been waiting for. Sure, I love Christmas and all the joy and wonder, but give me Lent any day of the week. There is nothing like a stark altar, a Latin-sung Agnus Dei and all that desert imagery to get me back on spiritual track. I love Lent, and I know I’m not alone. Come on, how many of you out there look forward to this season, not because you have to give something up but because you get to try again? Every year come Ash Wednesday, Catholics are given 40 days to whip themselves into spiritual shape through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We may not always succeed (See my recently posted Lenten column HERE), but at least we try.

I was a little disappointed that Lent was starting so early this year, but now that it’s almost here, I’m like a kid in a candy shop — even though candy is not typically something one associates with Lent. People on the outside think this love of Lent is weird, some form of Catholic self-loathing edged in guilt. What they often don’t get is that Lent is opportunity wrapped in self-discovery topped off with rebirth. Not to mention that I love the earthy feel of the season, starting with Ash Wednesday : “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)

At our parish you have a 50-50 chance of getting that Scriptural reference with your ashes. The alternative is “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” If I had my way, we’d all be reminded of our dustiness. Not that I have a problem with turning away from sin and all, but the dust thing puts me in my place — in a good way. It often comes as a shock to me that I am not the center of the universe. Ash Wednesday is an annual wake-up call: I came from the earth and I will go back to the earth, so hop to and do something good with your life right now.

Lent has come a long way since the days of my childhood, when giving up a favorite food and abstaining from meat on Friday seemed to be the focus. Lent is about the big picture now. Yes, the material sacrifices are still important, but there’s much more to it than that. It’s about getting closer to God, about living the Gospel in our day-to-day lives, about making sure we know who’s really at the center of the universe.

I will have more to say about Lent as we get on with the real deal next week, but for now I’d like to leave you with some links to some Lenten inspiration to get you in the mood as you figure out what you want to do with your 40 days.

HERE is Pope Benedict’s message for Lent.

For the basics on Lent and how to make the season more meaningful, visit Our Sunday Visitor by clicking HERE.

To get some ideas on how to incorporate Lent more fully into your family’s life, visit At Home With Our Faith HERE.

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