As Lent Approaches

IMG_5734Whew, does “this shelf” need dusting! Last week, I threw open the curtains and cracked the window … and, boy, did it reveal how neglected this space has been! My own home, husband and children have been less neglected (if not necessarily perfectly attended), however, so I really can’t regret the time I’ve not devoted to writing!

Incidentally, do you agree with my dear Auntie Leila that a woman ought to devote herself first and foremost to her Lord, her husband, her children and, ahem, her home, whatever else she chooses to do with her remaining free time? She created quite a dust-up (no pun intended!) with what I thought was a fairly innocuous, self-evident suggestion!

Carrying on …

As the meme goes, the first half of 2018 promises to be a bit bizarre for Catholics: Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day and Easter falls on April Fool’s Day. Goodbye to the secular celebrations, I suppose! Given how rapidly Lent is approaching, though, it seems good to give a bit of thought as to what spiritual disciplines and sacrifices we plan to assimilate.

Among the many ideas that have popped into my head as possible new devotions to attempt are also some that beloved family members and friends already regularly model, but I’ve yet to do successfully for any extended length of time:

  • The daily rosary
  • Daily Mass (or, failing that, a daily spiritual communion — a recent suggestion from my sister-in-law that I just love!)
  • Weekly adoration
  • A daily Chaplet of Divine Mercy during the hour of mercy
  • Proper fasting on every Wednesday and Friday of Lent

While I’ve not yet committed to a Lenten regimen, I do hope, above all else, to be faithful to the little practices I’ve already begun, chief of which is the modified version of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer contained in Magnificat. This isn’t the first I’ve mentioned that publication, but, even though I’ve been a subscriber for nearly four years, this January was the very first month I’ve not missed a single morning or evening of formal prayer. This is not a boast (too few people will read these words for it to be that), but it is a self-conscious attempt to hold myself accountable to continue in this vein! Maybe, if I write that I do this, it will become a thing that I just do!

The January issue was a treasure box of riches. I especially appreciated the introduction to this painting, Madonna of the Rose Bower. Mary as Jesus’ throne, Mary and Jesus mediating heaven and earth — just breathtaking! I love it.

Of the various meditations, I particularly appreciated a passage from Servant of God Madeleine Delbrel on Jan. 23. As I’ve considered more and more what it means to be “on the shelf,” I’ve concluded that it means to be a person whose aspirations in the eyes of the world are — admittedly — low. When it comes to the spiritual life, though, it means to aspire to nothing less than to glorify God in every thought, word and deed … in humility, hiddenness and silence (with all of which I really struggle, but more on that in a bit!). Delbrel captures this aptly:

Not only does he fight without glory, but that God may be glorified, that his name may be made holy and that his kingdom may be on the way.

Not only does he accept the fact that he will not seem like a hero but that he will not be one {emphasis mine}. Not only that he will not be admired but that he will not even be noticed. Not only that he will not be valued by others but that even in his own eyes he will seem to have no value.

Not only that he will put all his energy into a task, but he will not know the point of the task; not only will he be unaware of who started the job and who will finish it but he will know nothing of the work of God in which it plays a part.

To even write or speak of this publicly (or quasi-publically, as a personal blog might more aptly be termed) is to yield, in a certain sense, to hypocrisy, to be proud of humility, to show forth hiddenness, to speak of silence — and thereby mar and destroy those precious, beautiful goods. It’s only with hesitation that I even bring these up, especially because I know so little of them.

Yet, I do know that, as time has passed and as I’ve found myself more and more at home, my desire for these goods has increased — and my desire to proclaim them as goods has also increased, even as I want to be clear that I don’t think I possess them. Maybe I just want to spare some other ambitious girl who grows up to marry, have children and stay at home from the season of grief I endured when I first quit my career and thought I was “giving up” more than I could ever possibly receive “on the shelf.” Then again, perhaps the grief is a necessary part of it.

Either way, absolute silence is the newest of the spiritual disciplines I’ve adopted for myself. Practically, this looks like getting up very early and sitting quietly with a cup of coffee in front of our fire. Interiorly, the process is far messier and I’m progressing very poorly. Nevertheless, I’ve been encouraged to realize that it is only in silence that I am able to read and write, so I know that I do like it, however imperfectly I practice it!

At any rate, it is far better for both you and for me if I cease now on this subject and simply endorse instead The Power of Silence by Robert Cardinal Sarah, one of the best books I have ever read (and I’ve read a fair few) and about which I would like to write thoughtfully sometime. For now, here is my review: Read it!!!

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