The Blessings of Lent

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One real blessing is the opportunity to practice intentionality. The Rule for the Associates of Holy Cross contains these words:

Balance —Our ordinary life is our spiritual life. We plan for a balance between prayer, work, study and recreation, keeping an inner balance even in the face of life’s contradictions and complications.

Mindfulness —Since all life is holy, we don’t want to let it pass by unnoticed. Being present here and now helps us to be mindful of the continuing presence of God.

This describes a major aspiration for associates and all Christians, that of shaping our lives so that we may exemplify Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Our own personal Rule of Life gives us an ongoing stability as we follow it but Lent provides us with the chance to renew our efforts.

I write this from the context of my own present situation. Two years ago my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and I became his 24/7 primary caregiver. As the disease progresses, his memory fails more and more. He can no longer read and recalls little about his 59 years of ministry as an ordained priest.

All the things I formerly took on or gave up for the Lenten season are no longer relevant. I can no longer attend evening Study programs or Soup suppers. One of the things in caring for Alzheimer’s patients is to provide a stable environment, with a regular, simple routine where things follow a pattern day by day. I try to have meals at the same time each day; we walk our son’s dog each morning; and my husband enjoys listening to books on a portable CD player. Thankfully we are still able to attend the Eucharist each Sunday although even this is becoming increasingly difficult.

St Augustine in his study (Sandro Botticelli, ca. 1490-1494)I remind myself of those words from the Rule: “Our ordinary life is our spiritual life” and “Since all life is holy, we don’t want to let it pass by unnoticed.” During Lent this year I plan to be more intentional about this remembrance. As I carry out each activity—cleaning, laundry, cooking, attending to the requests my husband constantly makes because he cannot remember what to do or where something is—I intend to offer each thing as a token of praise or thanksgiving, or an act of intercession for someone in need, or simply as a way of turning to God and recognizing His presence with me. As I practice being present here and now maybe by the end of Lent I may be a little more mindful of the continuing presence of God.

St. Augustine wrote: “To God one journeyeth not in ships or in chariots or on foot; for to journey thither, nay even to arrive there, is nothing else but the will to go.” I commend to you the concept of intentionality, the will to go, as a practical way of observing the Lenten season when it is not possible to be in Church.

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