You’ve heard of the “The Lost Weekend?” Well, think bigger – the Lost Week and a Half, perhaps. All that weather we had early this month means that we dig out to daylight only to find that suddenly it’s late February, and more shocking, Lent.
Besides having to reschedule everything that we were supposed to have accomplished during those snowbound days, we also find ourselves having to reorder our days into Lent Mode. What Are You Giving Up, and all that. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, --- who, me?
I can’t be the only one who does not yet have a clear resolution of my Lenten plan even as the ashes settle on my forehead. You all know well my annual admonitions to identify our “”comfort zones,” and step away from them; this year, I want to accentuate a different angle.
For years, I have declined to declare my Lenten intentions to curious parties, on the perhaps cynical grounds that such information only sets me up for failure, either because I make myself vulnerable to taunting and tempting, or because it would be so obvious when I drop the Lenten ball. I usually encourage others to keep their resolutions private as well, to increase their chance of bearing fruit. Call it the “Go to your room and pray to your Father in secret” approach.
Not to abandon that, I would humbly suggest something else, as well. Of the prayer, fasting, and almsgiving triad, this would be Prayer. But instead of going off to your room alone to pray to your Father, get together with someone, or several someones.
Make a prayer commitment with your family, your team, that other Catholic in the office, or even the neighbor. It doesn’t have to be long – five minutes a day? – or overwhelming -- Mass together one day during the week? It should have a focus: maybe one prayer of thanksgiving and one of petition from each member of the family (one “please” and one “thank you”) and a fixed time (Before bed? Before dinner? Lunch break?). And it should last forty days.
Maybe it will be the start of something beautiful and you’ll keep going longer, but don’t worry about that now. In fact, don’t worry if you didn’t start on Ash Wednesday. This weekend we celebrate the First Sunday of Lent, followed by what is officially called the First Week of Lent. So you still have time to start at the beginning, even if you weren’t ready during the first four days of Lent.
But that’s my recommendation to you this year: get together and pray. Getting together will help you remember to pray, and praying will help you remember to get together. You will find that having someone else involved will bring not only additional motivation to follow through on your resolution, but it will bring a richness to your prayer that would not be possible on your own. Even, and perhaps especially, the simple “please” and “thank you” prayers of a child can touch us profoundly, and shape our own prayer.
I guess that is the good news of the day, after all. Even without being able to blame it on the snow days, no matter how far behind we are in our relationship with God, no time is lost, nothing is lost, we are not lost, precisely because we have Lent.