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hope for the season

My favorite thing about Lent is what I learn about myself. This week? I don't need cookies and I don't actually miss candy. These, the two things I gave up for Lent this year. We're only 4 days in, yes. But arent those often the hardest hump? When faced with patterns of behavior--and all this hand-to-mouth eating I was doing was just a lack of self-restraint, that's all. And it's a potent charge to my spirit to know that I CAN do it.

If you couldn't give two squeaks about Lent and a new little black dress motivates you, then that is magnificent as well. Who cares what motivates you to be prouder of yourself? It's the BEING a version of self that you are proud of that actually matters.

Dan sort of joked about something once and I can't remember what it was, but I dismissed the joke, saying, "Please. I'm Catholic, if I wanted to be mocked I could go anywhere."

It isn't new. Nothing about mocking religion is new or revolutionary or clever. There are bad (horrible, disgusting, awful...) people in every walk of life, faith included. There are terrible bosses. Horrible parents who should be in jail. Terrible, terrible politicians. Ghastly husbands and wives. Hypocritical and bigoted examples of faith and of living everywhere.

Absolutely. But that doesn't make employment wrong. It doesn't make parents everywhere wrong. It doesn't make order wrong. It doesn't make marriage wrong. It doesn't make religion wrong everywhere, and certainly not faith.

I have said this before, should I go in the next 3 seconds and I find that this was all nonsense--Lent, trying to be a better person, faith, service, even Jesus, God, and the Spirit...I would still choose to believe it all over again in the next life. Because to be joyful in things instead of to be mocking has made such happiness for me. To be of service instead of to spend all of my time picking out where other people should be of service to me has made for me an incredibly blessed life. To give rather than to take has made me walk peacefully, more than I can say. And to know that I don't even need those cookies, even if only for a season of my life is an excellent thing to be able to know.

And, yes, maybe it is nonsensical--what does Heaven care about cookies? Nothing, that's what.

But I think about it like this: I have children on this Earth, just as Heaven has children on this Earth. And I love those children. And within loving them I would like them to know that they have a little bit of restraint. They're going to need it in their lives.

The reading the other day said (and I'm paraphrasing) something like, "Let us learn these lessons [during Lent] so that when we face temptation we can be armed with the weapon of self restraint."

"The weapon of self restraint." I thought that was beautiful. And isn't that the greatest of all weapons?

Isn't that why we meditate? To be able to see what actually matters.

Isn't that why we spend time in silence? To be able to see what actually matters.

To not be tossed around life by whims, and negative energy that gets piled on us, and knee jerk reactions, and emotions. Isn't that what we strive for in all of our things? Our yoga, our meditation, our little bible app memes that we share, our inspiring quotes. Aren't all of these things an attempt to focus on what actually matters?

And you could make fun of it if you wanted to. Who am I going to be attacked by? The cookie monster? So, that's why I need to give up cookies for Lent? Again, the jokes aren't new. The taking them out of context isn't ground-breaking comedy.

But, back to the kids. If there was a time for Maggie and Will to learn that they could become a version of themselves that felt less drag-ey and tired and controlled by THINGS. I would be happy for them. Not because I want them to do it for me. I want them to do it for themselves.

That's what religion is for me. Not some greedy deity who wants you to do things for him. But a loving deity who wants you to learn these great things about yourself. In the same way we love to see our own children learn great things about their own abilities.

On Fridays during Lent at Assumption we have Stations of the Cross at 2:30. Every Friday during Lent. Yesterday I was previewing Stations of the Cross with my students. We talked about the booklet, the kneeling, the responses, the little tiny song that goes in between every Station.

Now, the Stations take place in the Chapel, which is the old, stone Assumption Church. Likely 200 years old or so. We toured it earlier this week to get an up close look at all the carved, mosaic station inserts that line the chapel walls. We sneaky-peeked, while we were there, into the old confessionals with the old time-y screen and kneeler. No longer in use and so tiny, but we were amazed that the kneeler lifted up! Such an old-fashioned, mysterious peek into a world gone by.

The kids remembered that it was "so QUIET" in the Chapel. And it is. There is a profound, peaceful silence in the chapel. The pews are loud, wooden and old. The kneelers are squeaky and rickety... it is actually not a QUIET place. But it is a silent place.

"But," I said to them, "it is winter..." I reminded them. And they all "ohhhh..."-ed to remember.

"And when that heat kicks on..."

The heater is not much younger than the church itself. It does have some vaguely modern blowers, but somehow the radiant heating sometimes rears its ugly head. And I am not lying to you, it sounds like somebody is taking a wrench and banging on the radiators with it. It is THAT loud. I'm not even kidding.

One student said, "The first time I ever heard that sound I thought the church was being broken into and we were being robbed!"

So we all laughed a little bit about that. I just reminded them that that is a sound thing might hear... But they might not. And I just wanted them to not worry, should the heater rear its mighty roar.

I think a lot of times the experience of faith is like that Chapel. Many people can see past the squeaky bits, the rickety things, the parts not quite functional in this modern world, and still see the profound silence waiting to be of comfort.

But some people's experience of faith has only been startling, only been a mighty roar, a clanging bang that scared them. And I get that. I've been there too.

I told my students this week, "The season of Lent is like so many things in life. It is a Time to learn that you can be a version of yourself that maybe needs fewer things that you think you need. It is a time to remember that in this life all of us are going to be celebrated, like Jesus when he came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. And it is a time to remember that all of us in life are going to fall, all of us in life are going to be hurt by other people. But you will rise again too. Just like Jesus did. Lent is a time to remember that."

And they are in second grade, are they really going to remember that I told them that? I don't know. But if one person remembers. In the deepest, darkest part of their lives if one student of mine remembers that I reminded them that they will rise again--and that gives them even a tiny, tiny bit of strength... if I have managed to pass on the peacefulness of my personal faith to even one person, then I have done something I can be proud of.

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