Thursday, April 14, 2011

Refining Dreary

Paul Gustave Dore, A Midnight Dreary
Having arrived nearly at its end, I am just now getting around to talking about Lent.  I haven't any profound meditations on the theological and liturgical meanings of the season.  Rather, I offer some insight into my own Lent.

Historically speaking, I don't like Lent.  It is long, and it comes at the most dreadful time of year when the snow has been around interminably, the skies remain a consistent, brooding, dull gray, and people having grown weary of the cold become listless and sulky.  Moreover, for the ten years during which I was in formation, Lent hailed the arrival of Seminary Evaluations.  Though a necessary evil, no one enjoyed the process.  "Dreary", I suppose, might describe how I have known the season of Lent.  This year was different.

As far as my own penances go, I adopted two principally.  First, I would get out of bed by 7:00 AM or earlier.  While this does not seem a sacrifice to most people I suspect, it was a major sacrifice for me.  I hate morning.  It is a deeply painful experience for me to be required to communicate with parishioners in the sacristy as I prepare for the 7:00 AM weekday Masses.  I am generally much better by the end of Mass, but prior, I am best left undisturbed.  This penance has proven a nearly total failure.

Second, in keeping with a months long argument I have been having with the Lord and the revelations I wrote about on the occasion of my thirtieth birthday, I decided it was time to take up arms against my vanity, swallow my pride, and ask for help in losing weight.  In the first week of Lent, I saw my dietician for the first time.  Though she forbade me from eating nearly everything I like most, this resolution has proven enormously successful.  Thus far, I have lost around twenty pounds, my mood (even before the early Mass) has improved tremendously, and I find a new joyfulness.

Likewise, I redoubled my commitment to my prayer.  My reflections the last time I wrote are connected to this action.  I find that the Lord is taking me more and more into the mystery of his own pierced heart.  There are times when I hang with him on the Cross, knowing full well his presence, but crying out with him, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"  These are what I can only describe as a hard consolation; they reveal the depths of love and are filled with a simultaneous experience of agony and joy.  My heart has been pierced, and to be a good priest, I must allow it to be pierced over and over again.

Arising from my prayer have come both a new and insatiable desire to be holy and a longing to sacrifice.  The latter of these is connected with my celebration of the Mass and with what I wrote in the previous paragraph.  Such sacrifice, I believe, will lead me to holiness.  For my people who read this, please remind me to be holy.  Don't let me off the hook.  I can do nothing for you if I do not attempt to be holy myself first and foremost.

In a new way, the Lectionary readings for the season of Lent have had profound meaning this year.  I have preached repeatedly on the need to use Lent as a time to tame our wills.  All that I have preached has been equally applicable to myself as to my people.  I seem to be listening to myself in a way that I had not always done before.

Holy Week and Easter now loom before me.  I will sing the Exsultet for the first time at the parish in Custer this year before baptizing (and confirming) my sister-in-law and my niece.  Easter promises to be especially glorious.

All in all, the Lord has been doing tremendous work in me this Lent, and it has been a joyful season full of hope, gratitude, and gladness.  These adjectives, I find, are much more satisfying than is "dreary". 


  1. Good for you!Lent has been especially satisfying for me also this year. I am doing things I never thought possible!

  2. Poetic, funny, and touching as always. Praise God for your latest experiences of grace. Have a happy Holy Week.

  3. This Lent has been good for me too; I have also embarked on a weight loss program, successfully; and the best thing about that is that it has taken away my fear of fasting; given me some inner fortitude you might say. Also I completed the St. Louis de Montfort consecration to Jesus through Mary which I started on Ash Wednesday and completed on Passion sunday.

  4. In Minnesota, too, it has been a good Lent, and Easter promises to be better still! Your honesty in these posts in beautiful, Father -- thank you for sharing.

    Also -- not sure where I've seen that illustration before, but I knew it immediately as taken from Poe's "The Raven"...

  5. Thankyou for the insight into the life of my brother, childs god parent, sometimes inspiration, friend and oh yeah my priest somtimes as well. Big job that is filled well.


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