We may see the approach of Lent as a time of stirring up old flames of devout living for Jesus, a time of shedding the cold routines of “ordinary living” which have settled over us like thick dust the past months. If, however, at the end of Lent, the desired results do not take place, do we shrug our shoulders and put off this devotional urge until “next year”? Could it be that this emerging pattern gives evidence our devotion is unreal? Why is it we cannot cause a turnabout in our lives? For one thing, we may need to consider that we are not the ones who can cause anything of this nature. It is the Lord who begins, sustains, and concludes in us every good thought and act. Secondly, if we look a little more closely, we may discover with a jolt that some of the devotional spurts we experience are simply the result of childhood conditioning. One sign is the swiftness with which our fervor ends; another, our motivations. None of this is meant to criticize such stirrings, but merely to point out the need to examine our unexamined motivations and ways of doing things. How many times have we been present at a celebration of the liturgy simply to please some member of our family or to avoid the worry of “what others will think” since this is expected of us? Do we keep up a favorite devotion—daily Eucharist, a novena, the rosary—out of routine or with a secret belief that if we just do it God must bend to our wishes because of our fidelity? Perhaps we have become superstitious almost imperceptibly. Have we ever felt good about a rousing, impeccably performed liturgy only to be uncivil to the next person we meet? The well-known retreat director Anthony de Mello once said, “The enemy of faith is belief; real faith means believing in the incredible” If we become aware of the stirrings from within the depths of our hearts where God dwells and bring these to consciousness, there is no telling what incredible things will happen in our lives.
–Sister Mary E. Penrose, OSB
|Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.|