Lenten Season, 2017


It always seems that as soon as Advent is behind us, it is time to start preparations for Lent.  This year, the Lenten season falls a couple of weeks later than it did last year, giving us more contemplative time to examine our lives, and the state of our souls which guide our behaviors.  Beginning March 1st, we will all embark upon a 40 day journey to give specific thought to what truly lies in our hearts as Christians, to turn our struggles, sorrows and doubts over to God, as we pray for fortitude to walk in His light daily for the rest of our lives; having the strength to “die” to ourselves, every day, and “rise up” with Christ on that perpetual journey.  


Each year, the Catholic Church calls upon its faithful believers to “give up” something for Lent.  Too often, over the years, I have been content with my success of having been able to “cut out” an indulgence from my daily life, patting myself on the back for actually "making it" past Easter —to have survived 40 days without one specific pleasure, such as carbonated drinks, fast food, candy, television (other than news), or Facebook.  Regretfully, once finished with a Lenten season, I never quite feel spiritually cleansed, and progress with my life in much of the same fashion as I normally would.  


This year, I want to take an entirely different approach to Lent!  Some extremely devastating events have taken place in my life this past year that have kept me trapped on a spiritual and emotional “roller coaster ride” that I am PLEADING to God to bring to an end; events that I am having a difficult time grasping and understanding how and why they are controlling my behavior toward others, and the mixed feelings I am experiencing spiritually.  First, not that it’s really “devastating,” but I have decided to move away from Las Vegas and settle in the Midwest, where I can get a fresh new perspective on life and, hopefully, find a position as a high school guidance counselor in Missouri.  My house has been on the market for nine usuccessful months, placing negative anxiety in my way, as my plans have been indefinitely delayed.  During this time, I have been serving CCSD as a substitute teacher and counselor, which is FAR FROM fullfilling in terms of what I want to be doing professionally.  As frustration builds with every single-day assignment I take on, I am short tempered with myself, and others, as I attemp to put my best foot forward in a scenario that is unpredictable from day to day.  Second, not that the outcome effects me directly, but I have allowed it to dominate every thought in my head, and conversation with others; our nation has elected a new president, who I vehemently disapprove of!  What makes this extremely challenging is that he represents my own political party!  I have always been quite vocal with my political views and enjoy a substantive discussion with people who can understand them, if not comply with them.  Unfortunately, civil discussions don’t occur!!!   They turn into hateful exchanges of juvenile name calling such as, “moron,” “idiot,” “Neanderthal,” “ignorant,” etc., and I’m as much at fault as everyone else!!!   This has to stop if my soul is to survive!  God calls us to love one another, turn the other cheek, and to be the instrument of the light of Christ.  To behave in such a manner is clearly the inluence of Satan, trying to pull me farther and farther away from God.  Third, like a thief in the night, my dear cousin, Cathy, passed away within four weeks of being diagnosed with an agressive form of cancer.  Of the several cousins I have, NOT ONE has ever expressed an interest in having a close, family-like, relationship with me!!!   As an only child, this was always  a heartbreaking reality for me to come to terms with, however by the time I reached the age of 30, I had accepted it and learned to love these people on a slightly lower level than one would embrace a brother or a sister.  Cathy was the exception!  Although separated by twelve years of age, Cathy and I shared some common traits, and situations, that helped us to grow closer in a family bond.  Both remained single with no children throughout most of our lives, both were dedicated to the success of our careers and, both were left in life with our widowed mothers who were, and always will be, the most OVERPROTECTIVE entities one could ever encounterand I say this, a bit, humorously!  Although not identical, the close and loving relationships we held with our mothers, beared many similarities.  Over the years, and especially those most recent, I have always felt comfort in knowing that when the "life-shattering" day comes when my own dear mother passes over, I would have Cathy as my only source of family; the one person who would be there, taking me under her wings comforting me, with the complete understanding of what I felt.  Since Cathy’s passing last September, an overwhelming wave of fear, sorrow, and guilt has laid heavy on my heart, especially as I continue making plans to move away.  As these feelings continue to haunt my heart, the very last thing I can concentrate on is putting my trust in God’s mercy and grace.  Considering the combination of these stresses that I have been struggling with, I hardly believe that denying myself of an “inviting” pleasure in my daily life is going to give me that spiritual renewal I am yearning for.   I must navigate toward a different path this year!  A path that will help me know and appreciate that I am not alone in my daily struggles — that regardless of how much doubt I feel at times that my prayers are not heard, unless I totally let go of the earthly snares that keep me in a world of fear, I can never totally feel the warmth and love of God.  


The primary pillars of the Lenten season are repentance, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  This year, I intend to spend time with  each" of these virtuous practices, in an attempt to discern what God is calling me to do with my life; what He wants me to become more detached from so that I can focus on loving Him and others in my life.  I have come up with a “plan of action” which I hope will help direct, not only the 40 days of Lent, but my entire life.  First, the most important aspect of my plan is what to GIVE UP.  After giving the matter much consideration pertaining to positive influences this would have on my life, I have decided to give up FACEBOOK!  For several years, I have recognized my weakness to Facebook in that I become so absorbed with the political pages.  With the least concentration of Christian charity, I make posts and comments that stir up controversy, which sometimes leads to embroiling conversations with friends and strangers.  Nothing constructive results from these conversations and it is time I let go of those strings keeping me connected to them.  Not that Facebook is ALL negative, but I find myself addicted to it; checking while driving, keeping my phone next to me every minute of the day, checking it while visiting with my mom, upon waking in the morning and before turning in at night.  I spend far more time serving Facebook than I do God!!!  In addition, there are several other practices I will make an earnest effort to accomplish during this time of spiritual reflection:

1)  Eat one small meal only each day, with much water.

2)  No meat on Fridays

3)  Attend Stations of the Cross each Friday during Lent

4)  Attend daily Mass, 2-3 times per week.

5)  Visit the church daily to say the Rosary

6)  Listen to my Rosary audio tapes in the car each day

7)  Focused prayers each morning and evening

8)  Listen to Mass music each day in the car, specifically; “We Are Called,” “Dust and Ashes,” “Be Not Afraid,” “Blessed Are They,” “Abba Father,” “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman,” “I Am The Bread of Life,” “We Are One Body,” Regena Coeli.”


As each day of Lent progresses, I plan to keep a journal noting ways I have tried to be more generous and loving to those around me, and ways that I have felt successful in giving of myself to God.  My greatest prayer is that I can sustain these sacrifices throughout my entire life’s journey, so that someday I will rise again in God’s glory for all of eternity!


.© Mary Darby 2016