Ash Wednesday will be upon us in just a few short days and the subject that many will ask is, “What are you giving up for Lent?”
In past years I’ve told people that I was giving up “giving up” things. Afterall what is purpose of all of this fasting. Is my fasting redemptive or helping me to grow spiritually or is another way to affirm the status quo. Last year I was in the middle of a “news fast” that eventually lasted for over a year. I actually abstained from watching or reading the news. Imagine going without CNN, Fox, MSNBC or even Google News for a year. It was quite rewarding actually and provided a lot of time for reflection. Lent was about a week old last year when I decided that I would say the Rosary each day for the duration.

I’m not a big Rosary prayer and so I thought that perhaps the discipline of doing something I really didn’t want to do would be good for me. I can’t tell if any souls were saved, but I can say that I did spend time each day walking near our home and praying the Rosary. I actually went out and purchased a couple of rosaries to accomplish this.

Some non-Catholics are put off by Mary. I’m troubled at times that some Catholics seem to put more emphasis on Mary and the Rosary than on some of the other aspects of Christian spirituality. One thing that has come to me in the six years since I came home is that Mary provides most Catholics with a way to express the feminine aspects of creation. I think that most of the other Christian churches tend to be exclusively male oriented with little or no real regard for women. Marian devotions give us an opportunity to embrace the feminine in our midst and come to terms with it in ourselves. Our western culture is obsessed with its male-ness.

Native Americans in our own hemisphere didn’t have all the hangups with femininity that our own culture does. I think that’s what has driven most of the fear of gay men.

Well, what am I going to do for Lent? Lent is really a call to conversion. It’s a time for awakening. What will be awakened this year. Spending time at Mt. Saviour Monastery awakened within me a desire to spend more time discovering who I really am.

I read “When the Heart Waits” by Sue Monk Kidd while I was at Mt. Saviour. I found it in their bookstore. I found it inspiring and thoughtful and just what I needed to read. The author got me to thinking about who I really am. There were lots of insights from the book but one of the most poignant for me was that time spent waiting is not a waist. “Be still and know..”–Psalm 46, continues to ruminate in me as it has for a number of years. Nearly everywhere in our culture and in my life I rebel from stillness and yet deep within me is a call to stillness. It’s that stillness that drove me to Mt. Saviour. It’s that stillness that drives me to Mt. Irenaeus. It’s that stillness that calls me to a Secular Franciscan life. Sue Monk Kidd spoke a lot about the Incarnation and how important that is to her spirituality. I needed to hear what she had to say. I needed to hear that deep within me is a divine spark. It’s always been there. Afterall, what caused my heart to begin beating in my mother’s womb. What has kept my heart beating all these years?

Luke 17:21 states very boldly, “The kingdom of God is within you.” I needed a book and some days in a monastery to be reminded of the truth and to absorb it into my soul. I don’t need anything else. The Kingdom of God is already within me.

Dona Nobis Pacem.