I began my Lenten days shortly after noon, when I walked to the hospital chapel to have the ecumenical minister place ashes on my forehead.
I missed the more formal Catholic masses that I used to attend before medical school, before Boston, before a subinternship in transplant surgery.
I felt a little strange, just popping in to the chapel and then popping out again, newly anointed with ashes but otherwise the same- tired, grubby, scrubs sagging, hair frizzy.
For the last few years, I have given up animal products during Lent- becoming a vegan until Easter. As I follow a primarily vegetarian diet, this isn't too much of a stretch, but it is enough of a reminder to think about food, our environment, our choices, and the people who are forced to do without on a daily basis.
I am also planning to pray more regularly- something daily is my goal.
But I haven't figured out my third pillar yet, the "almsgiving" or doing-unto-others part. I want to make a realistic commitment that will maybe push me out of my comfort zone a little, but I'm coming up short on inspiration.
This year, I am also dating a man who really is interested in Lenten practice (he is nonreligious) and very supportive of my spirituality. We were discussing Lent last night, and he told me that he would like to try it, the idea of a 40 day period of abstaining from something, trying to grow spiritually, and doing something deliberately proactive and good for the earth/others. So in some ways, I have extra support to really try and stretch myself and open my mind and reconnect spiritually this year.
I would love some ideas/suggestions.
Would anyone else like to share their plans?
This advent, it feels like I am attending mass for all of the wrong reasons: superstition, fear, habit.
I had a rough 2009- and haven't felt terribly plugged in to a normally strng sense of spirituality. I belong to a great Franciscan Church, but it's me that's the problem.
I'm in a slump.
St. Francis Forgives and Blesses His Brothers
When St. Francis’s death was at hand, he said to one of his brothers, “Now God is calling me. I pardon all my brothers present and absent for all their offenses and sins; and insofar as I can, I absolve them. Tell them this, and bless them for me.”
-- Celano, First Life 109
St. Francis Blesses the City of Assisi
Lord, it is believed that in olden days this city was a refuge of evil people. But now it is clear that in your large mercy and at a time of your choosing, you have shown your special super-abundant compassion. Through your goodness alone, you have chosen Assisi to be a place of refuge for those who know you in truth, who give glory to your holy name, and who waft toward all Christian people the perfume of right reputation, holy life, true doctrine, and evangelical perfection. Therefore I pray you, O Lord Jesus Christ, father of mercies, that you not dwell on our ingratitude, but remember always the immense compassion you have shown this city. Let it always be a place of refuge for those who really know you and glorify your blessed name forever. Amen.
-- Mirror of Perfection, 124
A Brief Will and Testament
St. Francis said, “Because I haven’t much strength to talk, tormented as I am with the pain of my illness, I shall make three brief statements of my will concerning the brothers. In memory of the blessing and testament I leave them, they should always love and be faithful to our lady Holy Poverty; and they should always be loyal subjects of the prelates and priests of Holy Mother Church.”
-- Legend of Perugia, 62
His Last Illness
Brothers and my dearest sons, do not let my illness become a burden to you. God, in his love for me his servant, will repay you in this life and in the next, giving you the fruit of those works you cannot now attend to, because you are preoccupied with caring for me. You would not receive any greater recompense than had you done those works yourselves; for in helping me, you helped the whole Order and the very life of the brothers. You can even say to me, “We are spending a lot on your account, and the Lord will be in our debt because of you.”
-- Mirror of Perfection, 89
The Angels Our Companions
Francis venerated most affectionately the angels who are with us on the field of battle and who walk with us in the midst of the shadow of death. We should venerate these companions, he would say, who are with us everywhere, and we should call upon them as our guardians. He used to teach that we should not offend their presence by doing in their sight what we would not do before people.
-- Celano, Second Life, 197
From Tears to Inner Light
St. Francis had attained a wondrous purity of soul and body, yet he never stopped purifying the eyes of his spirit with a flood of tears, despite the fact that it was damaging his bodily sight. As a result of his continual weeping, he developed a serious eye disease. But when the doctor tried to persuade him to restrain his tears if he wanted to prevent blindness, St. Francis replied, “Brother Doctor, we shouldn’t, in order to preserve that light we share in common with the flies, refuse even the smallest measure of that eternal light which visits us. The gift of sight was not given to the spirit for the good of the body, but to the body for the good of the spirit.” He preferred to loose the light of his eyes rather than to dry up the fervor of his spirit by damming up his tears which cleansed his interior sight and rendered him able to see God.
-- St. Bonaventure, Major Life, 5:8