Lent arrives Wednesday. One of the nice things about blogging is that you can write out your own thoughts or bring others directly to articles or direct passages by others. Lent makes me want to search out writers who can inspire me to cooperate with the great grace of metanoia that the Lenten season may bring, a prelude to Easter. From two yellowed and marked up books by Pope John XXIII (Journal of a Soul and Prayers and Devotions) come these exhortations. College students and other 20-somethings may discover a tone and depth of spirituality in the Good Pope's writings:
Lent: this means seriousness, temperance, mortification, recollection, prayer. Such is my life these days. O Jesus, I join you in spirit as you fast in the wilderness for forty days and with prayer prepare for your public life. May I learn something from you at this time, so that Easter Day may mark another step forward in the path of virtue, of union and glorification of the spirit with you. (Journal of a Soul)
Many of us are inclined to think of all the physical sufferings of this world as evils, absolute evils. We have forgotten that pain is a legacy we have inherited from Adam; we have forgotten that the only real evil is sin, which offends the Lord, and that we must look to the Cross of Jesus as the Apostles, martyrs, saints, teachers and witnesses looked to it. For in the Cross we find strength and salvation, and in the love of Christ there is no life without suffering.
Thanks be to God, not all souls turn rebellious under the burden of pain. There are some infirm people who understand the meaning of suffering and are aware of the opportunities they have been given to contribute to the salvation of the world--and so they accept their life of pain as Jesus Christ accepted his, as most holy Mary accepted hers on the Feast of her Purification, and as her chaste and faithful husband Joseph accepted his.
We entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says: At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation (II Cor. 6. 1-2).
This entreaty is particularly precious and timely during the forty days of Lent. Every one of us, looking into his conscience, must find out how far his own life is ruled by faith, in what way and to what extent he indulges in acts and words contrary to the Christian law, and in what measure he practices the virtues, particularly those of patience and self-denial. And although our fond Mother the Church has softened the former severity of the laws about fasting, no one can consider himself dispensed from making voluntary compensating sacrifices for the good of his soul. (Prayers and Devotions)
Angelo Roncalli (now Blessed John XXIII) brought varied life experience as stretcher-bearer in World War I, intense diplomatic service in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, and France, as well as archdiocesan administrative experience as Patriarch of Venice to the papacy. His writings have an immediacy in that he frequently examines his own life very carefully without excuse-making or description of extenuating circumstances/situations and hence are good material for Lenten reflection. I hope readers will note some of their own Lenten reading recommendations below.
William Van Ornum