How is your Lent going? Are you keeping all of those penances and promises?
As I see the mid-point of Lent fast approaching, I realize that I have not been as faithful and consistent as I had hoped, with all of my Lenten resolutions. In fact, I can only remember one Lent when I felt I made it to the finish line, keeping all of my promises.
I call it my Lenten Springtime, or the Lent of flowers.
About 15 years ago, I met someone who had recently returned to the Church after an absence of over 30 years. He was very excited and on fire with his re-found faith, but was a bit intimidated by Lent, and had no idea what he might do for penance. He wanted to choose something very difficult…almost to punish himself, it seemed, for his years away from the Lord.
So, I suggested that together, we offer an extra 1000 prayers and/or sacrifices to Jesus throughout the 40 days of Lent. That meant a total of 25 offerings each day between us. He was delighted with the idea of one thousand sacrifices, and we decided to express each offering by a flower of our own choosing.
Making an extra holy hour for example, could be a beautiful long-stemmed red rose, or a magnificent white orchid, while saying an extra decade of the rosary might earn a sunny yellow daffodil.
My friend and I soon became ingenious at collecting our daily tally…..we left food unsalted,went thirsty for an hour, took cool baths/showers, etc. We scored gorgeous roses with sacrifices like holding our tongue when treated unjustly, or going out of our way to be nice to someone we didn’t especially like.
We thought up so many penances as well as good deeds to accomplish, that I’m quite sure our guardian angels must have gotten in on the fun.
Each night, we exchanged emails recording that day’s bounty of flowers. As Easter approached, we were filled with joy, seeing that our goal was in sight. We worked extra hard during Holy Week to be sure that we would not fall short at the last moment.
When Easter morning finally arrived, we printed out our very long list of well over one thousand flowers of all kinds, colors and fragrances. With great joy and excitement, I received Jesus in Holy Communion, and presented to Him this lovely spiritual bouquet.
It was a simple Lent, a joyful Lent, a Lent shared with a friend recently renewed in his faith. Yet, the prayers, the sacrifices and penances had all cost us….but we hadn’t felt it so much, since our focus was on gathering the most beautiful flowers for Jesus.
Like every season of life, each Lent is different. But that Lent seemed just about perfect to me. In a way, it reminds me of Therese who as a little girl, liked to count her sacrifices on a string of beads.
Sometimes when attempting all of those grown-up, demanding and challenging Lenten practices seems to weigh us down, burden and discourage us, it might be a nudge from the Lord to return to the simple things of a child….like gathering flowers.
So if your Lent is in need of a bit of “rescuing,” there is still plenty of time to assemble a truly gorgeous bouquet.
But you can be sure that even if you can only manage a bunch of wildflowers, He Who numbers the very hairs of your head will receive them with the greatest Joy! And one day in Heaven, you will see those very flowers, eternally fresh, fragrant and beautiful at the feet of Jesus.