Today’s Ash Wednesday – which in the Catholic faith signifies the start of Lent (the Season of Easter) and is a day fasting and prayer.
I grew up Catholic but haven’t been practicing for quite some time, but when I saw someone at work with a dark, smudged, cross drawn on his forehead I was reminded of the holiday.
Through St. Bernard’s CCD and St. Patrick’s Elementary School, I learned that Lent was a time of sacrifice. A time to give up meat on Fridays and any other want, luxury, or decadence for 40 days.
Growing up I often gave up candy. Some years soda. My parents almost always gave up alcohol.
And then…I can’t remember when, maybe when I was in high school, instead of giving things up, my Mom started prompting my three younger sisters and I to spend the 40 days in between Ash Wednesday and Easter doing more.
Sending more cards to relatives we didn’t see often. Spending more time playing games instead of watching television. Volunteering to coach for the rec. or help teach Sunday School for the church.
All suggestions were considered by one of us or another, and to some degree or another, all were acted upon as well.
I didn’t think much about Ash Wednesday through the course of the day – until in fact, it was almost over…and I found myself in a conversation with someone I love, hearing things that were difficult to hear.
And, after having some tea and finding some time to process, I actually started to feel grateful for having received the hard things on such a holy day.
Thankful for the reminder that hard things tend to lose their edge when met with quiet, mindful reflection. And that there is always enough time to give more, and to let go of whatever is not serving your ultimate good.