My Own Private Unorthodox Lent


Recently, I went to Niles with my friends to have tea and lollygag in the antique stores. One of the treasures I departed with was an 1888 Sunday School Companion with an actual literal imprimatur from an Archbishop! That gave me an idea.
I wasn’t raised Catholic, but from my years at a Jesuit university I gained a greater awareness of the enormous scope of Catholicism, many pieces of which I now see as valuable for me. Even Lent which had once seemed an unpalatable and needless mortification of the flesh to achieve social control through self-degradation (or possibly because by early spring, people were running low on food) suggested meaningful possiblities. I read a few works whose names I wish I could remember which made me think some Lenten practices might be helpful psychologically and spiritually.
I’m not denominational. When I told my husband, an ex-Catholic, that I was going to use the Sunday School Companion as a source of prompts for my own Lenten practice, he said, “You can’t just cherry-pick the parts you like.”
“But that’s exactly what I want,” I said. (Any readers who agree with him can stop reading now.)
What Do I Hope to Get Out of it?
Guidance. Discernment. After that terrible, traumatizing election, my friends, and other interested progressive women in the arts came together at two Days of Discernment, four-hour pot-luck gatherings where we introduced ourselves and our history of activism (or not), so far and did a few writing exercises to elicit help from the unconscious about where, in the overwhelming mass of possibilities, we might best play our part. I attended two such days and found them simply wonderful on both a practical and personal level. But later I realized I needed more than two Days of Discernment. That’s when the idea of Lent came to me. Could I use that period to undertake a more continual and committed discernment? We shall see.
This Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, is the first day of Lent. No, I won’t go to church and get ashes put on my forehead though I no longer scoff at ritual. I shall pick something from that 1888 book, old and ridiculous as some of it is, and respond to it, searching for what I should prioritize, where I might best serve.
If you want to join me by making your own responses, I’ll be sure to post at least that day’s prompt if not my response. (Some of my responses might not be suitable for public consumption, but I’ll share the ones I think people could find useful). So, let me end with these unorthodox words: Happy Lent, everyone!

5 thoughts on “My Own Private Unorthodox Lent

  1. I’m already cherry picking! Went to my new church and had ashes on my forward and a rainbow, Lenten prayer bracelet on my wrist (It’s a very cool church). What good reminder for me to be vocal and visible. Much love!

  2. Thanks, Lita, for this lovely reminder of why we do the spiritual practices we do and the need for refueling to keep them going. That day when I hosted the gathering pictured above, through our time of discernment I came up from feeling overwhelmed with all that was wrong with the political climate and system. I thrust away feeling helpless and resolved to be active in two specific areas: global warming and immigration/refugee concerns. I hadn’t connected these political concerns with the beginning of lent which I observed yesterday with a wonderful 7:30 AM service – thanks for giving impetus to do so.

  3. What a lovely plan! And does your dear husband not believe that Catholicism is, itself, a cherry picked mash-up of that which came before ? πŸ™‚ I look forward to seeing what you share. xoxox

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