Saturday, March 20, 2010



A week ago I conducted a Lenten day of reflection. Part of what we talked about was ways that each of us might expand Lent beyond our own private penances and practices. (See my blog for March 6, 2010).
We made a list of how “troubled times” in the widest sense affects various people starting with ourselves as individuals, then extending outward to problems and suffering affecting our family members and friends, then widening the circle further we included troubling issues in our town, our state, our nation and finally the world community. The exercise of naming suffering and problems in each of these groups took only a few minutes, but at the end of it I was truly struck by the sense that what we were doing in that little room in Xavier Center was somehow connected with our eight-and-a-half billion brothers and sisters around the world.
We went on to reflect on how our Lenten practices could and should open us out toward others whether in a practical problem-solving way by doing something to personally help someone or giving alms of some sort, to simply raising our awareness of certain problems and issues which are causing others pain but over which we have no control. (Again, the March 6 blog suggested some examples of how this latter aspect might work.).
This idea of expanding Lent way beyond my little penitential practices to include people at the far ends of the earth has really matured in my mind over the past two weeks.


Then last night I heard confessions during a penance service and found myself giving penances such as “In the next day or so do something around the house, maybe something you would ordinarily do anyway, but do it as your penance so that this sacrament will extend beyond this church building; in fact this way the members of your family will be part of your celebration of this sacrament without even knowing it.” There it was again, the idea of moving outside of oneself to celebrate spiritual connections with others, even when the others are unaware of your intentions. I had images of the graces of the penance service rippling outward in waves to touch hundreds and thousands of others. Millions even. Or even eight-and-a-half billion; why not?


During Lauds this morning I started to see with frightening clarity how connected I am with every one else on the planet. I hope this will make me a more charitable brother in the monastery, a more patient teacher in school, a more careful celebrant and preacher on Sunday mornings.
In any case it is making this Lent a time of growing for me.

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