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Editorial: Maybe we need a new way to approach Lent: Surrender
There is an expectation among many Catholics that when the liturgical season of Lent rolls around, each of us will flip a switch and finally — blessedly — become the disciples Christ is calling us to be: dedicated and devout, selfless and sacrificial, prayerful and practically perfect. Perhaps this Lent, we will be miraculously transformed at some point between the time we fall asleep on the Tuesday of the Eighth Week of Ordinary Time and when we wake up on Ash Wednesday.
We’ve chosen how we will fast: This will certainly be the year that we stay off of social media, give up sweets or soda or wine or whatever other sacrifice we’re striving to make for the duration of these 40 days. This year, we will form strong prayer habits for ourselves and, perhaps, encourage our family members to do the same.
These are worthwhile goals, made with the best of intentions. It is wonderful to go into Lent with a plan that will help us grow closer to Christ and his Church, but we must ask ourselves: Are we trying to impose our own personal will on these next 40 days, or are we open to listening to what God has planned for us? Are we simply doing what we want — sacrificial though it might be — or are we inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives to move us to action?
Too often, our only criteria for gauging whether Lent has been successful is whether we’ve eaten that piece of chocolate or checked our Facebook feed. Worse, once we’ve broken our fast, we act as though we’ve failed Lent and there is no longer a reason to walk through the desert. In other words, we make Lent an exercise of our own willpower and not an opportunity to walk with Christ.
St. Francis de Sales, the 17th-century bishop and writer known for his gentle approach to faith formation and evangelization, once wrote: “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them — every day begin the task anew.”
It’s a fitting approach to Lent: “Every day begin the task anew.”
With this in mind, OSV is offering a perfect companion as we begin our journey together. “My Daily Visitor: Lent 2022” is a manageable, yet meaty resource that offers readers Scripture-based reflections, prayers and achievable actions to begin each Lenten day anew.
In his introduction to the book, Dominican Father Patrick Mary Briscoe, editor-in-chief of the English edition of Aleteia.org, writes about using Lent as a time to grow in relationship with God: “In the past, some Catholics called this relationship with God the interior life — that is, a life lived with God. … ‘The interior life,’ says Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, ‘is the deepest and purest source of joy.’ Little by little, if we renounce our own desires, we learn to stop making ourselves the center of everything. We begin to seek God, even to find him. We taste joy. To live the interior life, though, we must let go. To save our souls we must hear the word of God and live by it (see Lk 10:42), seeking his presence and allowing him to shape our lives. We must trust in him, do his will, and endure suffering patiently. We must surrender.”
This call to completely surrender ourselves to Christ is carried throughout “My Daily Visitor” — both the book and its accompanying website (MyDailyVisitor.com), which will feature daily videos to guide us on our Lenten journey. In the book, Father Briscoe writes: “Surrender to God consecrates us in friendship with him, and wherever there is friendship, there is joy. Surrender brings peace to the unceasing war within ourselves, with the world, and in our battle with the devil. Even now, on this side of eternity, we can know God and live with him. Surrender permits us to taste the beginning of the happiness of eternity.”
As easy or as hard as they might be, when we create our own Lenten obstacle courses — trying to avoid sodas and chocolates, social media and alcoholic beverages, etc. — we have a tendency to force God into the backseat while we keep a firm grip on the steering wheel. We want — no, we need — to be in control.
Perhaps this Lent, we try slowing down so that we can discern the will of God and let him lead us down the path he has intended for us.
Perhaps this Lent, instead of giving up the usual material things, we give up our need to be in control.
Perhaps this Lent, we surrender.
Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young