Skip to comments.Give it up (making a Lenten sacrifice)
Posted on 03/18/2006 9:55:44 PM PST by Coleus
Such penitential thinking about sin and reparation, discipline and temptation, is considered embarrassingly retrograde by promoters of Christianity-lite, but nevertheless the penitential spirit is quite widespread in our culture. It is tied not so much to the good of the soul in view of the next world, but to the good of the body in this world. The great Catholic theologian Michael Novak once told me that if Catholic priests were to assign jogging as a penance in the confessional, it would be denounced as a barbaric from of torture. (For the record, not even the most anti-Catholic historians of the inquisition ever accused it of making people jog.) The penance-as-self-improvement theme is rather wittily treated in a new book by Mary Carlomagno called Give It Up! My Year of Living Better with Less. Carlomagno was living the life of a young Manhattan professional, always connected, always on the go, and always shopping. This last provoked a crisis. She was in her closet when "an avalanche of designer shoe boxes hit me squarely in the head." This brought her to her senses, as it were, and she began to question the hyper, but superficial, life she was leading. Too many soles; not enough soul.
"Would it be possible to live without a hundred boxes of designer shoes, costly microbrewed coffee, expensive handbags, or the ever-present cell phone that fueled my everyday existence?" she asked herself. That list may seem rather alien to a suburban family not in the New York City fast lane, but everyone would have one list or other. Think video games instead of shoes, and a typical teenage boy can relate.
Remembering the Lenten practices of her Catholic youth, Carlomagno decided to give something up every month for a year. In January, it was alcohol. In February, shopping. And then elevators, newspapers, cell phones, dining out, television, taxis, coffee, cursing, chocolate, multitasking. I demur from recommending sacrificing newspapers, but the rest is a pretty good list, with cursing being a commendable permanent sacrifice. Carlomagno is no deep thinker, and there is no spiritual wisdom here, but she does come to realize some important lessons, principally that her "attitude toward needs and wants has changed. There is a distinction."
Lenten devotions and sacrifices remind us that so much of what clutters up contemporary life is just that: clutter. We can do with so much less than we think we need, and in the space left by the clutter we rediscover again the joy of reading a book, cooking a meal for others, serious conversations not fueled by alcohol, going for a walk or drive without trying to rearrange the day's schedule by mobile phone. Cutting down on the television alone would leave most families ample time to rediscover each other, and probably most of their neighbours too.
Lent is not supposed to be spiritual athletics, a time to discipline ourselves for the sake of becoming more efficient or healthy. The spiritual purpose is to reduce the clang and clamor of daily life so that the still, small voice of God can be heard in the gentle breeze, as the prophet Elijah discovered. It is for that reason that many Christians actually find Lent more spiritually fruitful than Easter, paradoxical as that is. We don't say it, but perhaps we should: Happy Lent!
"I credit Pastor for the thought that we should commend one another to keep a good Lent. The Lenten season really does not have a greeting, like Merry Christmas or Happy New Year. So, he proposes, we should greet (and exhort) one another to keep a good Lent.
How then might we keep a good Lent? What follows are some suggestions often offered in sermons on the first Sunday of the new calendar year, but which hold no less urgency at this time of recommitment:
Keep a good Lent by coming to Worship one Sunday per month more than you presently do. If you have been in the habit of attending one Sunday a month, come two Sundays a month. If you have been in the habit of coming two Sundays a month, come three.
Keep a good Lent by supplementing your Sunday worship with weekday services. Wednesday Eucharist is not just for those who are advanced in years, but for any who seek to hear more proclamation of Christ in Word and Sacrament. And various holy days appear throughout the year on days other than Sunday.
Keep a good Lent by attending the Christian education program of the Church; Sunday School. Sunday School is not just for young children, but for any who seek to learn more about the the Bible and its meaning for daily life.
Keep a good Lent by increasing your giving--your financial support of the congregation--just a little. Dont feel that you must increase your weekly envelope by $5.00 or $10.00, or even by a whole dollar figure. If you write a check, why not make the cents 75" or 50 instead of 00?"
Most excellent, lightman!
Thanks for posting.
"Keep a good Lent by coming to Worship one Sunday per month more than you presently do."
I hope this isn't a Catholic church?!?
I would hope everyone would be attending Mass EVERY Sunday and coming to Mass additional days of the week. Maybe this recommendation was a typo?