Restarting the Lenten Journey
by Deacon Thomas Frankenfield
The Ongoing Journey
So, here we are not quite halfway through our Lenten Journey. It seems that those with whom I share ministry are living a sizable variety of experiences. Some are having radical interior changes of spirituality; others are struggling from day to day and some have faded from their Lenten practices.
For me, I am sitting squarely in the middle of the pack. Some of my Lenten days have been powerful experiences (generally when I totally let go to having God lead my life) to days that fly by without any notice of it being Lent (oh yes, those are the days when everything but God is the center of my life.
To those who are experiencing success, I commend you and pray that you keep going. For the rest of us, I would like to share some practical advice for continuing the journey and for returning to the discipline of the journey, if things have not gone well.
The "Tuning Up" or Even "Restarting" the Journey
In spite of our best intentions, some of us let our Lenten sacrifice fade. We could probably fill a book with all the many reasons that we have these "bumps in the journey." Let's look at three common causes for slippage and I'll offer some advice.
- Other Priorities. Some of us are so busy with family, hobbies, work and friends that we prioritize our Lenten sacrifice away. Lent calls us to make a turn from the ordinary and embrace the cross. When I say my night prayers, I try to remember to look at my daily failures. Also, I would recommend using a journal to set daily goals.
- Making Impractical Choices. The Lenten sacrifice many chose may not be practical for any number of reasons. Maybe you said that you would stop smoking for Lent. A great idea but many people spend years trying before they actually find success. Others choose options that may not fit into or disrupt the rhythm of their lives. One year I announced that I was giving up meat for Lent without talking with my family. In actuality, is caused stress at mealtime with the planning of my alternate menus. Some may decide to go to daily Mass but their personal schedules change and make it impossible. Many other reasons exist but I hope you get the idea.
- One Failure Means the Sacrifice is Over. Missing one day is not the end-just start over! Although many are very scrupulous (and it is a gift that I pray for) we have a loving God who wants to be in a total loving relationship with us. It is my personal opinion that if I miss one day of sacrifice that our unconditionally loving God is rejoicing for the 5 days that I achieved my sacrifice. As my friends in recovery live, we need a motto of "One day at a time."
In fact, Our Holy Father Benedict XVI said in his Message for Lent 2007, "May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God's love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must "re-give" to our neighbor, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need."
As the Holy Father says, we are called to re-give each day and for many that is starting anew every day. The person suffering may be you! I recommend prayer as the means to making each day successful. Meditating on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and knowing that His loving heart is pouring out love and graces to help along the journey.
The Realistic View of Your Journey
Because most of our life's lessons are learned from failure, we can learn from our Lenten disappointments, too. They may be an opportunity to take an honest look at our relationship with God. I recommend we take the disappointment to prayer and reflection, possibly along the line of an Examination of Conscience. In this process, ask yourself reasonable questions. Some follow: Was this sacrifice doable? Did I aim to high or low? What were my motivations for selecting the sacrifice? Was I growing in relationship with God or maybe doing something to impress myself or others?
From these questions and the honest answers you can reset your Lenten goals. I highly recommend quietly sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament and allowing the Spirit of God to help re-form your goals with you. Try it-it works!
The Role of the Catholic Community in Supporting Each Other
Finally, we are a Catholic Christian Community and I would wholeheartedly advocate using the power of this community to support you with your struggles. Find a friend, family member, parishioner, or even a spouse to help you. For many it might mean a moment of awkwardness when actually asking the question. However, most of those asked will be flattered to help. What would you do if someone came to you and asked you?
You can even send an email to me, I will help you!
For Your Reflection
From a Ministry Perspective:
- Where are the "bumps" in the Lenten journey of my community? How can I reach out to assist others who may be struggling to with their Lenten sacrifice?
- How do I reflect …a renewed experience of God's love given to us in Christ" to my community. Do I see it in myself? How can I be there to help others?
From a Domestic Church Perspective:
- Where are the "bumps" in the Lenten journey of my Domestic Church's as parent, sibling, widow or single? How can we assist each other, especially those who may be struggling to with their Lenten sacrifice?
- How do we reflect …a renewed experience of God's love given to us in Christ" in our Domestic Church. Do I see it in myself? How can I be there to help others?
I would love your feedback, thoughts, stories and ideas. Please email me.
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