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"A Lenten Journey, Rerouted" by Monica Portogallo (CatholicMom.com) Image credit: Pixabay.com (2015), CC0/PD[/caption] Normally, by the time Lent starts, I have a clear idea of the sacrifices I will observe and the prayer practices I will adopt. This year, for some reason, I drew a blank as Lent approached. On Ash Wednesday, I quickly decided on a few simple penitential practices that I thought would help me grow in virtue and self-control: no sugar/sweetener in coffee and tea, not using Q-tips to dry my ears after a shower (wet ears are a personal pet peeve), no social media on days of abstinence, and daily spiritual reading from the Lenten devotional reader. Not super challenging, right? By the following Wednesday, I had lapsed at least once with every single one of those plans. I had forgotten about the expensive sweetened chai latte mixer that needed to be used within seven days that was sitting in my refrigerator, and didn’t want to waste it. I found myself using Q-tips out of habit before my conscious mind realized what I was doing. I forgot it was Friday and went on social media. I misplaced my Lenten reader. In short, I was failing miserably at my Lenten plan. That day, a priest I follow on Twitter mentioned that we need to invite God into each effort to pray, to sacrifice, or to love. I had not done that this Lent. I said a prayer, asking God to guide me in my Lenten practices. I was thinking about this the next day when I went to my usual weekly support group meeting for the loved ones of alcoholics. For some time, I have been considering the suggestion the group has of doing an examination of conscience of sorts, and thought maybe this could also be a good Lenten practice for me to adopt. The organization has a self-examination workbook to go through, but at this particular meeting place, they usually don’t have any books available for participants. That day, out of the blue, they were available. I smiled at the little sign from God that I was going in the right direction, and took the workbook home. That night, as I filled out my first section, one fact became clear: I let fear heavily influence my decisions in what I say and do. And, for me, the flip side of the fear is failing to trust God and wanting to be in control. Then, God, just to make it abundantly clear for me, made sure the priest mentioned in his homily the following Sunday that “Do not be afraid” is the most common command in Scripture. I now see that my original Lenten path was more self-centered: I was trying to build character and grow in holiness alone. No wonder I hit so many dead ends so fast! Once I let God show me where I needed to focus, the path opened before me. Perhaps as I examine my life more this Lent, God will show me more spiritually effective Lenten practices to add on, ones that will help me trust Him more and let go of fear. For now, though, I am simply trusting God to show me the path on my Lenten journey.
Copyright 2020 Monica Portogallo