The Long Retreat Begins

The forty days are counted from this coming Sunday through sundown on Holy Thursday. I often tell people that this week’s four days are a prelude, a practice period, and preparation space to get accustomed to the Lord’s voice and where he is leading us this coming year.

Perhaps Lent has come up on your soul unawares. No problem. You have this coming week to get things ready. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a few supplies, rushing out the door, and then dealing with details on the journey out. (Really: how many of us have found ourselves on Ash Wednesday and then thought, hmm … what can I give up?)

We always have our three pillars: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. If we’re not sure what to do, there’s always skipping a meal. In the time saved, pray as you read the Bible (maybe one of today’s readings) and give the money away to a local charity.

After many years, I find a mix of one old practice and one new resolution works for me. On that first point, I’ve read many commentators criticize the automatic “giving up” of things for Lent: candy, soda, chocolate, alcohol, etc.. We can and should do better, they say. Give up something you’re willing to give up for the rest of your life (like smoking or sweets between meals, I suppose). Lent is not a diet time. It’s for the greater glory.

I have found that annually silencing the car radio and cd deck has been an “anti-soundtrack” for my Lent. Yes, it’s easy. And no, I’m not tempted by the pleasures of noise even for long road trips. But it is like settling into a bed my first night on retreat. Different from my bed at home, yet comfortingly familiar. That one familiar practice isn’t the point of my Lent. The point is to pack a familiar traveling bag and take the same route to a different place. If that spiritual geometry makes any sense.

For my other practice this season, I’ve been bouncing back and forth these past several weeks between praying a Bible book in sequence for my daily lectio, and going deeper with events in the life of the Lord in the deep weeks of the Ignatian online retreat. So I’ve determined to get out of bed when I wake up and pray from the book of Wisdom this season. And look to the Gospels during a break later in the day. Twice a day will be difficult. Sometimes personal pleasure will have to be set aside. Sometimes work will be postponed.

Happy journey, Christian companions. Anybody heading out into exciting lands this Lent?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to The Long Retreat Begins

  1. Liam says:

    A late entry by way of a cross-post (H/T to Rod Dreher):

    Love, love, love this line: “ . . . I finally lay aside my sin management program long enough to allow God to be God for me.” And this: “What’s depressing is to insist that I can free myself I just haven’t managed to pull it off yet.”

    Reminds me of the beautiful and lucid Act of Hope, which of the four traditional “Act” prayers Catholic children for generations had to memorize for First Communion and Confirmation (Act of Contrition, Act of Faith, Act of Hope, Act of Love), is the only one that doesn’t sound like it was written by a lawyer – it’s elegant in what it says and what it doesn’t say:

    O my God, relying on Your almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of Your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen.

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