Mardi Gras is in full swing here! It comes on parades and culminates its own season - beginning on the Epiphany and ending at 11:59 pm on the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. Not quite a liturgical season...but almost. I thought today that Father's vestments - green with gold accents worked well with the "season". There are King Cakes made in the shape of a crown, with a baby (the baby Jesus) hidden inside, decorated in the Mardi Gras colors of green, purple, and gold. There are balls, complete with kings and queens. There are beads - like things of this world - a cheap imitation of the gifts of great value.
Lent sneaks up on no one in South Louisiana, but for years, Ash Wednesday would appear, and I'd begin to think about what I might do for Lent. Kind of late at that point, and it usually led to some spur of the moment decision. Not all of those were bad, however. About five or six years ago, we were already immersed in Lent and I was still looking. Something (the Holy Spirit?) told me that I could probably make the 6:30 a.m. Mass that was offered at my parish 3 days a week. Just to make sure, I approached my pastor who was helping us with our preparations for the upcoming Mass with our Cub Scout Pack for Scout Sunday. "How long is daily Mass?" I asked. "It depends on if I've had my coffee or not," was the friendly reply. So I took a chance and showed up. The rest is history. It's not really a penance, but a joy, and something has had such a positive effect in my life.
Now as Lent approaches, I find myself considering what I might "do" for Lent. I hear people say that they don't give something up, but rather add something. It's all good. The giving up is a discipline - even with things like chocolate or television. There is some spiritual benefit just in denying self. Giving up things like foul language, complaining,and gossiping benefits many. Adding something is beneficial as well. Additional time spent in prayer, in worship, or in helping our fellow man.
I was reading something this morning, and it noted that we all seem to have some resolutions that we keep in the back of our mind to pull out for such occasions as Ash Wednesday. Last year, I had several things that were on my list for Lent. A little bit of the "more is better" mentality, maybe. And when Lent didn't turn out the way I thought it would - how dare God not follow MY script - I had to stop and consider why? Was it not enough? Not sincere enough? What went wrong?
Ultimately, I think I concluded that it was my expectations that went wrong. I had *my* plans for Lent, and God had His. There were many good things that happened in my vicinity, but I nearly missed them because I was wondering where God was. God doesn't work like a vending machine.
So this year, I've reviewed my mental list. I've sat in the dark church before school, and asked God to give me some idea of what HE might want from me. Strangely, I don't feel all that called to give up chocolate - a Lenten standby for several years. I happened upon a post in Jenny's blog a week or so ago about complaining, and think that might have been God guiding me in that direction. (Made even more clear when Jenny became one of my 'followers' the next day.... even though I hadn't left a comment). And the Rosary...that's been a developing "thing" the last year. I'm not sure where I'll fit it in, but perhaps that will be part of the journey. Today I got an email from Immaculee suggesting that we (I) join her in a Novena of the Seven Sorrows Rosary starting on Ash Wednesday until the retreat we are attending on April 15. God's suggestion?
Uncluttering was another of the things on my mental list. My house is so badly in need of it, and it is overwhelming. I am wondering if the grace of lent would help me accomplish what I can not/have not accomplished by myself. But I haven't felt too much leading me in that direction...
And so that's where I am in my Lenten ponderings. I will continue to attend daily Mass whenever I am able. That is a blessing. And Stations of the Cross on Friday evenings at my parish.
What about you? What is God asking of you during this season? What are you offering to Him?