top of page

Lenten Reflections

The purpose of Lent is to draw closer to God, traditionally through fasting, sacrifice, and prayer. As most American cradle Catholics like myself know, the observance is often minimal: sacrifice French Fries for forty days and try not to eat meat on Fridays. And even then, if St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday as it did this year, you can count on a bishopric dispensation so you can gorge yourself with corned beef!

I, for one, began Lent with a sincere desire to change my habits and reconcile myself with the Lord. Of course, I failed. And unlike Jesus on his walk to Calvary, I did not always get back up when I fell. Truly, truly, truly, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak!

But it wasn’t all for nought. I do honestly think I have grown closer to Christ in the past forty days. On Ash Wednesday, I walked with pride with the cross of ash across my forehead; I justified my pride with Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”, but in truth, it was out of self-righteousness that I was confident, not out of penance, as the rite is intended. I don’t remember exactly long I kept my promise to abstain from the habitual sin which vexes me (I won’t name the sin, but I’ll say it’s a pretty common one among young men—I’m sure you can connect the dots if you care to), but it was no more than a few days. And I fell, and I gave up, and I tried to forget.

I went home to New Jersey in March, and the Sunday before my birthday, I went to mass with my grandmother. It was a great time, and I do miss the Franciscan Friars. At the same time, I was reminded how often the Church, too, falls. There was a visiting priest, who was the pastor at my hometown church in the ‘80s, celebrating the mass and giving a homily. He reminded me of Father Kevin, the pastor when I was a child, who resigned in disgrace after a series of sexual abuse allegations. I didn’t always love Church as a kid, and I had a militant atheist phase, and these monsters masquerading as clerics do no favors for Christ—they certainly justified me in my unbelief. But the Spirit works in mysterious ways, and only God has the power to forgive. I pray even for Father Kevin, that Lord Christ will remember him when He enters His kingdom.

Skipping a few weeks and returning to Maine, on Palm Sunday, I forced myself to get up for mass, and I even learned how to make a cross from the blessed palm leaf, something my Irish Catholic grandfather always did when I was a child. This Holy Week (it is today the Saturday before Easter), I’ve partaken in the Eucharist every day besides Monday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, I drove to Portland for a mass celebrated by the bishop of the archdiocese, where he blessed the sacramental Chrism oil, in a beautiful Cathedral (by American standards, at least) with incredible mosaics depicting the Stations of the Cross.

I then went to mass on Maundy Thursday, and had an incredible experience as the congregation prayed the Lord’s Prayer. I’m not sure if it was one of the hymns during the mass, or just simply the work of the Spirit, but I was transported back to my home parish many years ago, hand in hand with a girl I grew up with. Her name was Dominique, and though we went through all of grade school and graduated high school together, I did not know her well. She was always very quiet, and we had only one mutual friend, but I have a vivid memory of holding her hand in mass, reciting “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” And the most poignant line, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. The Latin is “dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris”, and I prefer the rendering “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”. I mention all this because less than a year after we graduated high school, Dominique took her own life by driving her car off a bridge—I knew the bridge, it’s where my friends and I would sometimes drive early in the morning before school and go ice fishing. It’s a place I associated with fond memories, but now it inspires me with revulsion. The bridge itself is an accident, a coincidence, but I attach a greater meaning to it now. The bridge is life on Earth, which is gracious to some, and is cruel to others. It’s one of my greatest regrets that I was not friends with this girl. She was not ‘popular’ in school, and I considered myself better than her because I had friends, because I was going to parties and playing spin the bottle, and she was sitting alone in the library. I can never know why she took her life, but I do know I chose my own pride rather than consoling this meek daughter in the family of Christ. Lord, have mercy on me. And after holy communion, kneeling in the pew, I prayed fervently the Fatima prayer. O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Amen.

Good Friday was a good day for me. I used to think it was something of a misnomer, for how can the death of God be a good day? For the apostles, for the three Marys, and especially for Jesus Himself, it was the worst of days. But I had not a care in the world. I was out late on Thursday night at this bowling alley with a rooftop bar in Portland, and I slept in late into the morning. I stayed in bed as long as possible, only getting up to shower and then returning to bed to read some Tolstoy (It’s taken me nearly a month, but I’m almost done with Anna Karenina, only 30 pages of the monstrous 754 left). Around five o’clock I met up with some friends to pray the Stations and break fast together. The haddock was delicious! Then we left for 7 o’clock mass; the packed church was a wonderful respite from secular society, and it was my first time venerating the Cross. Jesus is dead, but unlike the blessed apostles during this day, we know the mission of Christ is not over.

Today is Saturday, and the King is asleep. I’m attending the Easter Vigil tonight, the highpoint of the liturgical year both in importance and duration. Christ is near, and today I am grateful for his endless glory. Lent is over, and life goes on. I hope you all have a blessed Easter ♥️

bottom of page