By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published March 31, 2011
It may seem strange for someone to say they love a season of repentance, but, in fact, I look forward to Lent every year with great enthusiasm. In many ways, I see it as a time when the rubber really hits the road for Catholics, as we put aside excuses and really get serious about our faith.
10. Lent is a purely Christ-centered season, one that thankfully has not become tainted by consumerism. You don’t see newspaper ads touting Lenten specials or after-Lent clearance sales, nor do stores feature Lenten decorations, gifts and cards.
9. I love the physical quality of Lent, which opens with a smudge of ashes on our foreheads, and the ominous proclamation that we are dust. Fridays include genuflecting and praying as we walk spiritually with Christ during the Stations of the Cross. During Holy Week there is the washing of feet—and that stirring moment on Good Friday when we venerate the cross.
8. When I tried to figure out what to give up for Lent, I realized how blessed I really am. In truth, I’ve never gone to bed hungry, and my pleasures are many, including ice cream, chocolates and wine, plus ordinary things that many in the world consider great luxuries (hot showers, a dishwasher, air conditioning). Lent calls us to remember our less fortunate brothers and sisters, and to dig a little deeper in our pockets to help them.
7. Nature tends to move in step with the season of Lent. As the days process toward Easter, the trees start budding out and the dead landscape of winter is transformed. Nature’s gradual awakening from the bleakness of winter echoes our Lenten attempts to snuff out our dark habits—and clothe our hearts with the light of Christ.
6. Lent gives me a chance to create a do-it-yourself retreat at home. I try to spend time each day in silence, reading morning and afternoon prayers in “The Liturgy of the Hours” while sitting on the front steps, accompanied by robins gathering in the bird bath.
5. Now is a time to re-read Lenten classics such as “Taming the Restless Heart” and “The Pain of Christ and the Sorrow of God” by Gerald Vann. He reminds us that in Lent we are asked to “share in a particular way in the Passion of our Lord,” by choosing love over selfishness.
4. There was once a day when it was obvious who the Catholics were because you could walk into their house on Fridays and detect the aroma of fried fish. At our parish the Knights of Columbus revive that tradition by serving fish dinners on the Fridays during Lent. I love attending these events to see friends and to support the Knights, who donate to many good causes in the name of Christ.
3. Every Lent I read the Gospels, poring over a few pages each night. I am always stunned by the realization that no matter how many times I read the Gospels—or hear them proclaimed—they always reveal something completely new and remarkable—and something I desperately need to hear.
2. I’d be lying if I said that I just love going to confession, but at least during Lent I can dispense with my usual excuses. After all, if I plan to clean the entire house to prepare for the Resurrection, shouldn’t I step into the confessional, throw out the junk in my soul and pray that the Lord will “create in me a clean heart”?
1. And my number one reason for loving Lent? Predictably, I will try to do too much. I’ll vow to stop online shopping, for example, as well as cutting out tempting treats. I will promise the Lord to pray more, attend the Stations of the Cross and give generously to the poor. But there’s no question that I will fail, and fail miserably. Still, there’s comfort in the fact that our failures reveal how much we rely on the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And that’s what Lent is really about at heart.