TheCrockery

A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

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Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

These Forty Days: Lent Begins

First of all, let me apologize for the title. As a child, I thought and spoke as a child, and I believed that Lent literally lasted a precise forty days, to match the forty days that Jesus was fasting in the desert. Today, I am grown, and I know that "forty days" is an approximation- and yes, apparently Sundays are a part of Lent, despite rumors to the contrary. (See Jimmy Akin's Annual Lent Fight for a round-up of his prior posts on the subject; they make for informative reading even if you think you already know all about Lent.)

This year, the fact that Lent is a little more than forty actual days may work in my favor. What I'm "doing for Lent" is reading the book of Job, one chapter a day. Job is 42 chapters long, and Lent is approximatly 43 1/2 days long. ( I confess, I did not know that until I read
Jimmy's Basic Lent information; I thought Holy Thursday wasn't part of Lent at all.) so that leaves me a tiny margin in case I fall behind in my reading, which I might. But I might not: part of why I chose this discipline is that a chapter a day is very doable. Sadly, I have not yet finished my through-the-Bible-in-a-year, but I hope that by reading a chapter everyday, I can nudge myself back into the practice of daily Scripture reading.

You may ask: "Teresa, aren't you giving up something for Lent?" The answer is yes: I've given up Starbucks. But let me stand up on the soapbox now and say that for me personally, I have found that adding a devotion for the duration of Lent does me more good than giving up something. I know that this is not true for everyone. I've heard of people whose lives were literally changed forever when they used Lent as an opportunity to give up television, cigarettes, or some other daily habit which they found that they really didn't need. I, on the other hand, tend to give up Coke, only to legalistically assert that Pepsi didn't count. Lent would then become my forty days of pretending to be a Pepsi drinker. Or maybe I'd give up coffee, in which case I just drank a lot more tea. Last year, I gave up my message boards except on weekends- and found myself playing Solitaire a lot more often, rather than working or praying more, as I'd hoped I would.

None of these abstentions (read: substitutions) have changed my life in any noticeable lasting way. I don't deny that the disciplines themselves had a good effect on me. I believe that they were good. I just feel that the disciplines of reading a daily chapter of The Introduction to the Devout Life or of praying every day for someone in need who *wasn't* me had more lasting effects. If the goal of Lenten penitential acts is to draw us closer to God and improve our lives in a lasting way, it seems to me that taking on additional devotions may be the "easier" way for some us spiritually lazy types. I'm not saying it's the better way. . . but to me it makes more sense. Many of us are not mentally or spiritually disposed so as to really make the best spiritual use of minor sacrifices. We should, ideally, be seeking to develop a sacrificial mindset, I'm not convinced that giving up chocolate for forty days will best help everyone to do that.

If giving up something for Lent helps you, by all means, do it. But if your Lenten sacrifice never seems to have a lasting effect, try something different. Try giving up a little piece of your time -just 10-20 minutes a day- in order to do something.


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