In my most recent effort to sort through files and papers in my study (occasioned by an inability to find something I needed), I came across a column from a 2007 issue of America magazine, written by John Kavanaugh, S.J.
Calling the culture in which we live a depersonalized one, by which he means a culture that erodes personal life because of its emphasis on productivity (stemming from its being a capitalist, consumerist, and individualist culture), Kavanaugh suggests that Lent offers a subversive opportunity. Instead of a Lenten discipline focused on practicies of asceticism, self-control or punishment, he suggests Lent as “an opportunity to learn…about being related to a personal God and becoming more zealous disciples…of God made flesh in the person of Jesus.”
He suggests the we incorporate several disciplines in our lives during Lent as a menas of “reclaim[ing] ourselves as persons for a personal God.” although, as he notes, these are all disciplines about which much has been writtten, I thought a reminder of them in these early days of Lent would be helpful. The five are:
-spending some amount of time – even 10 minutes – of solitude each day, getting in touch with “Who or what am I when I am not producing, pretending, plannign or filling myself with noise.”
-taking a weekly one-hour walk with someone you care about, which helps us understand that “allowing ourselves to be known more deeply is the only way to feel more deeply loved.”
– taking a public stand on some issue of justice, whether by speaking, writing or marching, taking a stand “against all forces that treat human beings as expendible things.”
– living more simly, perhaps by giving away something you haven’t used in a while, recognizing that simplicity helps “make more time for solitude, friends, and service.
– spending time walking with the marginal, walking “humbly into the life-world of the handicapped, the terminally ill, those in nursing homes, peopel in jails or hospitals, learning from those who cannot pretend that “we are all handicapped, terminal and in some ways captive.”
Think about how you might incorporate one or more (or all) of these practices into your Lenten observance. All would be ideal – and Kavanaugh talks in his piece about why we all need a little bit of each. But if you can’t do all, I encourage you to at least try for some.