Ash Wednesday 2016

The life of a monk should always have a Lenten quality, says St Benedict, and whatever we offer up should be done with the joy of the Holy Spirit as we look forward to the holy feast of Easter with joy and spiritual longing. (RB 49 passim) So, why the sudden gloom, the slightly ostentatious switching off of Social Media, the corkscrew placed out of sight, the lentils and the chickpeas to the fore? There are three possible reasons.

One is, we have got it all wrong and actually enjoy being miserable, so we try to ensure we (and everyone else) is as miserable as possible. The second is, we may be using Lent to address some problem, real or presumed, in our lives, e.g. confusing dieting with fasting, or see Lent as some sort of endurance test, so the more awful, the better. The third is, we have got it all right, and these trifling little offerings are our way of saying, ‘I love you, Lord. This is my way of trying to show it and learn how to love you better. I may get confused and set off on the wrong track at times, but I trust you to lead me back.’

Lent is an opportunity we do not want to waste but, if my experience is anything to go by, it is not the penances we set ourselves that matter but the totally unexpected ones the Lord sends that will scour us out and prepare us for Easter. As we begin Lent, therefore, let us ask for the grace to be attentive, to be courageous . . . and to be cheerful.


5 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday 2016”

  1. Dear S. Catherine You suggested the letter of James for
    my Lenten book and your comments today are taken straight
    from it, no? “Whenever you face trials of any kind, consider them nothing but joy…” As Jeeves (I think) would have said: “Fine words, even in our own day.”

    Thank you for the book suggestion. It is perfect for me. God bless you.

  2. I worked through the first Lenten penance sent my way today. Father thought it would be nice for our parish to have a soup and bread supper before Stations of the Cross each Friday evening, so the first will be held at our church. Yours truly volunteered to make and serve soup as I enjoy cooking and often make soup for my husband and I and for neighbours.

    At first we thought we’d have about 6-10 people, then the number swelled to 16. Next count 20 were RSVP, as of last night 40 (what a Biblical number THAT is) had signed up to partake. How I wished I’d kept my mouth shut and not become involved, now experiencing a case of cold feet!

    Throughout the past weeks I’d worried about making enough soup as only three of us had agreed to cook, then there was the matter of whether the stove actually worked in the church kitchen. Father said he’d check it out, reported it did but then I had to double check because the cooking committee wondered whether it would heat above low, being an ancient stove. All was well in that area. No ladles in the drawer, so that had to go on the list.

    I have spent the greater part of today chopping, measuring, stirring, and thinking about the folks who will eat this soup, discovering how much I actually care for each of them, not wanting anyone to go without. I’ve produced two gallons and more people have volunteered to cook so God willing, we’ll be all right.

    Oh me of little faith, having a loaves and fishes moment. What a day of blessings it has been, thinking about our parish, our pastor, the new families with squirming little children now attending Mass with us. Though my hands are sore from peeling, chopping, washing up, I feel the deepest sense of gratitude and love for both God and neighbour.

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