“Our freely chosen penances for Lent by now have begun to grow into virtues within us. As the Catechism reminds us: ‘Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1804). As Lent moves along in its final days, our penances may very well be with us after Easter, in the fruit they bear as the virtues of our life.”
— Father James M. Sullivan, O.P, taken from “The Last Days of Lent: Our Passions for the Passion”, Magnificat, April 2011
Most years I struggle with what to do about my Lenten sacrifices once the season has ended. When I’ve given up sweets, the answer was easy (clearly go back to eating sweets, ASAP!). But when I’ve added something new into my prayer life—time in a chapel each day or spiritual reading—it’s tough to give those things up, in a sense, and go back to “normal.”
The thought I’ve posted for today puts the transition into Eastertide, and then back into Ordinary Time, in a new and welcome perspective for me. It’s not the things we do that matter as much as what those things do to us. We can hold on to the lessons, the virtues, the new understanding of mercy and grace, without necessarily continuing our Lenten practices.
This year there will be some new moderation in our household, inspired by my Lenten observances. For one thing, John and I are going to attempt limiting dessert to only one night a week and weekends (note: attempt!). And for another, there is still some spiritual reading I’d like to do that wasn’t available during the season. But these practices are more about a change in my priorities, a new mindset that I’d like to pursue in the future, than about living by the liturgical calendar.
I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but one of my favorite quotes about prayer is this, “Prayer doesn’t change the situation, it changes you.” I’m not sure how to credit this, because whoever passed these words on to me told me they came from an episode of Dawson’s Creek. Go figure. But now I see that this is very much the case as Lent draws to a close. I am entering into the Easter season not only with permission for myself to catch up on seven weeks of The Biggest Loser, but more importantly, with a stronger realization of God’s love in my life every day and a new willingness to respond to it with all I have.
A blessed Triduum to you!