Hello. My name is Heather. And I have a problem with Lent.
Before you sharpen your pencils to compose a blistering letter to our esteemed editor recounting my heresies, I humbly implore you to please hear me out.
I know all about the regulations and practices and have heard countless suggestions for having the BEST. LENT. EVERRR. I understand that the Church, in Her wisdom, provides us with this designated time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as an opportunity and a gift. As one who enjoys opportunities and gifts, I am totally on board. Goodness – I actually like Lent, in theory, and often in practice – especially when I can continue consuming bacon and gelato and social media. I’ll even go on record as being pro-Lent. And yet, I have struggled with discerning and maintaining my personal Lenten observances.
My theory is that my difficulty with Lent was rooted in a skewed notion of what the season is actually intended to accomplish. As an example, let’s look at my approach to fasting.
Over the years, I’ve attempted to give up just about everything – sweets, screens, sanity – you name it. And I think I knew, at least in the back of my mind, that I was sacrificing something I enjoyed to become closer to God. But I don’t think that half-praying, half-crying, “Dear God, when will it be Easter so I can eat chocolate/drink coffee/indulge myself?!” several times a day for 40 days straight is what our Lord had in mind.
In all my years of voting, I have never once cried about it. I am extraordinarily grateful to live in a country and a time in history where I am allowed – and encouraged – to vote. But I admit I cried when I took up my mail-in ballot earlier this month. I cried for our nation. I cried for my children. I cried because I am just so exhausted by the moral wasteland that is current American politics.
Once I stopped crying, I ate two cookies, even though I wanted to eat 10 cookies, because old habits (emotional eating) die hard.
With sugar from the chocolate chip cookies still surging through my veins, I wiped the tears from my eyes and the crumbs from my mouth and I decided to do the only genuinely constructive thing I felt I could do: I decided to pray.
You’ve heard about Blessed is She, right? If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know it’s a ministry near and dear to my heart and has brought thousands of women closer to Our Lord through Sacred Scripture. Well, my friends – something super exciting is now available for you and your friends through this amazing apostolate: the very first Blessed is She study guide!
Intended for personal or small group use, the guide contains Scripture, devotions, questions for study/meditation, space to journal, pray, reflect, and dream … it’s beautiful, and it’s totally free! And check out this sweet line-up of contributors:
I realize it’s been a while since I’ve disciplined myself to fill this space with anything meaningful. Lots going on, lots going on.
These days, it’s easy to be tempted toward discouragement. There’s so much darkness in the world – even in our own backyards – yet at each turn I’m reminded that, in and of myself, I am powerless to fix any of it. Still, we are reminded by St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians in today’s First Reading that we can truly live if we “stand firm in the Lord.” Stand firm … what does that mean for us as Catholic Christians living in modern society? How are we bringing the light of Christ into – and despite – the darkness of the world? Truly, are we that much different than members of the early Church, forging our identity as Christ-followers in the face of a culture that mocks and despises him?
Our Gospel reading from St. Matthew tells us that we do not know the day or the hour that the Master will come. We are called to be watchful and ready for Him. Are you ready? I can honestly say that I’m not there yet, but I am really striving to be! Some days it’s all I can do to be sure that my shirt isn’t on inside out and the kids are fed. But I keep forging ahead, one flip-flopped foot in front of the other, one imperfect prayer at a time.
I do sincerely believe, though, that we often underestimate the power of our humble prayers, faithfully offered. Isn’t that what God really wants? For us to return to Him time and time again in the quiet conversation of our hearts that says, “I’m not perfect, Father, but I am here – I keep showing up – and I offer You all that I am, warts and all”? St. James tells us that the prayers of a righteous person are very powerful. So, are my prayers enough to help change this world I live in – to change myself? I choose to hope this is true.
Speaking of powerful prayers, today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Monica, a notorious intercessor whose son, Augustine, was brought back to the Faith in large part because of her steadfast prayers for his conversion. I am honored to share my thoughts about today’s readings and Monica’s life over at Blessed is She today. I hope you’ll ponder and pray with me, for nothing shall be impossible for God. Not the messiness on my kitchen floor or the brokenness of my life … not even my eternal salvation, found in Him alone.
Originally published after Edel ’14, the truths and sentiments behind this prayer are timeless. While Edel’s impact on my life resonates so much more deeply than these few sentences can convey, here’s my offering of support for my sisters once we’re back in “the real world.” The best, my friends, is yet to come. <3
The Catholic Mom’s “Drop-Kicked Into Reality” Prayer
Dear Lord Jesus, King of rowdy, stubborn children, Redeemer of questionable smells and short tempers, Savior of misplaced shoes, boo boos, messy kitchens, blowout diapers, endless dishes (and laundry and more laundry), double-booked activities, practices and lessons, burned food, cold coffee, clogged toilets, and uniquely depleted Moms, I earnestly pray that the grace received through our Edel experience sustains me as I build my domestic cathedral in the hidden recesses of my home. May I reach out to my Edel sisters for unconditional support and encouragement because, after all, they *know.* May I please, dear Jesus, not allow my sister to drown in plain sight when I sense she is in need. But most importantly, Lord, may I seek You, before and above all else because, when everything is said and done (or necessarily left undone), YOU’ve got this, Lord – You’ve got me, my family, and allllll the beautiful messiness that is my life in the palm of Your hand because You love me as if I were your one and only. I offer all I say and do for Your glory through the intercession of the best Mom around, our Blessed Mother Mary. In Jesus’ Name – Amen!