April 12, 2011

The Inevitable Lenten Question

The Inevitable Lenten Question

Mary in the Kitchen by Sarah Reinhard – CF112: Po-Boys and Penance

If you find yourself stuck in a fellow Catholic’s kitchen, chances are the small talk will turn, at some point, to how your Lent is going.

This question makes me laugh even as it makes me groan.

How’s my Lent going?

Well, where do you want me to start? My fast seems to be going well, and maybe I’ve distanced myself from my attachment to a few things. My prayer seems to be going well, too. Almsgiving isn’t a total loss either.

But before I give myself a gold star, I have to admit that I’m battling a sneaking suspicion that I took it a little too easy this year. Yeah, but…I have a new baby. Yeah, but…I have a lot of other things going on. Yeah, but…

Wait a minute.

Who said I can’t succeed during Lent? Maybe we should consider what, exactly, I’m trying to accomplish.

Do I want to impress others with my ability to subsist on only bread and water during daylight hours? Do I need to stop all interaction with outside people in order to commit my days fully to hours of prayer and contemplation? Do I need to empty my bank account to support a favorite charity or, hey, a family in Haiti?

Those things WOULD be impressive, wouldn’t they?

But…my family would be miserable and so, I suspect, would I. Lent isn’t about appearing to be perfectly devout. In fact, devotion itself isn’t about what anyone else sees.

That’s where Mary comes in and taps me on the shoulder. Her hands remind me, with their wrinkles and stains, that the hard work of life must still be done–dinner has to be made, kids have to be tended, dishes need done, laundry needs folded, the house needs cleaned.

Her smile reminds me that all of this can be FUN. In fact, as GK Chesterton reminds us in Orthodoxy, solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light.

In what’s left of Lent, I’m going to try to look to Mary to help me take myself less seriously. I’m going to ask her to help me leap and jump on my way to her Son’s arms, so that, while I’m there, I can giggle just like my daughters do when they’re in their Daddy’s lap. Care to join me?

Image courtesy of jangelo on Flickr.com.