Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Four Images for Living Lent

The reflection for Thursday after Ash Wednesday (Channel Tunnel, England) asks me to see my life as a garden that needs to be watered and weeded but cannot be forced or controlled. I always used to see Lent as a project, one of the major projects of the year in fact. But the image of myself as a "watered garden" that cannot be forced but only nurtured has changed my outlook on many aspects of my life: for instance, my high school sophomores are not projects that need controlling but gardens that need nurturing; and Lent is no longer a carefully calculated project but rather a chance to let the Lord nourish me.

Ash Wednesday's reflection suggests the metaphor of Lent as "The journey with Jesus into the truth about yourself," while Friday's visit to the La Paz Witches' Market suggests "Lent is a good time to … take a careful inventory of the things you tend to rely on when God is not enough, or when God is not answering as quickly as you would like." Saturday's reflection on the Rue de Sèvres, notes that Lent is a time for growing closer to God through acts of charity toward others, especially those in need.

Each of these images has been helpful to me personally at one time or another over the years, and they have certainly influenced the way I celebrate Lent. What about you? Does one of these images strike you as particularly helpful for observing Lent?


  1. I think many of us have perceived Lent as a time to repent - making up for what we have done wrong throughout the year - a time of "giving up", atoning for sins, etc., rather than viewing it as an opportunity to grow in our relationship with the Lord. We focus on the negative rather than the positive opportunities Lent can afford us. I appreciate the idea of seeing and experiencing it as a chance to be nourished, to consciously turn towards God, and to let Him lead in improving my relationship with, and reliance on Him. Perhaps that is what He's been asking all along, but I've been so busy with my head down, I missed His call.

  2. That's a great point Anonymous 1. I was taking a group of kids to a local college Wednesday, and the conversation drifted to what each student was giving up for lent, as if it were the reason for the season. I'm looking forward to this journey.

  3. I was once told by a very wise priest friend of mine that if you were going to give something up for Lent, especially because it's "bad" for you, then you should take something good up in it's place. He also said that if you gave up that "bad" thing for 40 days, then you should be able to continue on without that thing for the days after Lent ends.

    It's hard to find a balance between being penitential and going over board (hair shirt anyone?). Benedict is all about helping us find that balance. I am just really thankful that there are things like the Rule of St Benedict and Pilgrim Road to help us understand and strike this ever wanted balance.

    Philadelphia, PA