This Joyful Season of Lent

Preface 1 of Lent reads; “For by your gracious gift each year your faithful await the sacred paschal feasts with the joy of minds made pure…..  The previous translation read more simply;  “you give us this Joyful season . . . .”

However I must admit that lent is certainly not my favourite liturgical season nor does it spontaneously fill me with joy.  It is none the less a time that I do pray for the gift of joy.

Preface IV reads “for through our bodily fasting you restrain our faults, raise our minds, and bestow both virtue and its rewards . . .”   Personally I am no longer very good at fasting as I was as a teenager and young adult.

Even trying to lose a little weight so that I feel better physically and fit into my clothes better is a struggle and is not particularly virtuous.  I must admit that for me fasting can easily become a distraction that does not nourish my faith and my prayer.

When I was still living and working in Ignatius Farm Community (IFC), one of the persons we welcomed was a man named Frank.  Even though the IFC had to close in 2001 and Frank had to return to the State of New York where he now lives in a group home, we continue to keep in touch by phone and the occasional visit.

I like to call him my brother Frank.  He is the one person I know who thoroughly loves this time of lent.  I have never asked him why since from experience I know that Frank never answers why questions but one thing that’s evident is that it gives him the opportunity to manifest to others his Catholicism of which he is very proud.

What I desire to do is to prayerfully unite any fasting I do to some particular need or suffering in our world today.  There are so many people and even whole countries that are experience desperate poverty with children and other vulnerable people by the thousands even millions dying each day. It is shamefully little for me to experience a bit of hunger from time to time.

Perhaps my best Lenten prayer is first Lord be merciful to my suffering brothers and sisters and secondly, Lord have mercy on me a sinner.

I suspect that many of us go into this season with mixed feelings and mixed motives but my faith in the One who is Unconditional Love assures me that God just keeps on loving us just the way we are.

The more we can trust this fundamental truth the easier it is to loving, joyfully, generously prepare to celebrate the coming Pascal Mystery united with the suffering world that is held in the compassionate heart of Jesus .

Bill Clarke, SJ, is a member of the team of spiritual directors at Loyola House of Ignatius Jesuit Centre of Guelph and continues his commitment to L'Arche.

  • Vicky Chen
    Posted at 07:47h, 01 April Reply

    Thank you Fr Bill for this article. Fasting and many other actions are neutral. My intention can fluctuate between God-centered to self-centered from moment to moment. It is only if I pause and check in with our big Brother that I can sometimes see what I am doing. May God continue to accompany us with grace. Lent is made lovely for me personally through music, books and simple smiles, but most of all because of Easter. I don’t have enough discipline to make resolutions because I know I will break them.

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 09:30h, 01 April Reply

    Thank you Bill!

  • Charles Pottie
    Posted at 12:01h, 01 April Reply

    Bill,, thanks so much for this reflection on fasting linked with our suffering brothers nd sisters. very helpful.

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