Be open to Lent’s possibilities

By Mary Kaye Falcony

Connecting Faith and Life

I filed this column with The Message on Ash Wednesday, the day that we mark the beginning of Lent. In the day’s Gospel, Matthew speaks to the practices of prayer, almsgiving and fasting – giving instruction as to how we are to approach each.

He speaks of each in terms of something very personal and intimate. Even though these practices may benefit others, the exchange is between Christ and you alone. What we do in these 40 days are meant to be transformational and responses-in-love to what has been done for us in Christ’s sacrificial giving. I am reminded of this when reading the introduction to “Everyman's Way of the Cross” (later reprints are titled “Everyone’s Way of the Cross”) by Clarence Enzler. In the introduction, Enzler reminds us of this intimacy between each of us and Christ. He writes, in Jesus’ voice, “My way of the cross 2,000 years ago and your ‘way now’ are also one. My life was incomplete until I crowned it by My death. Your 14 steps will only be complete when you have crowned it with your life.”

I began praying this version of The Way of the Cross in high school. The impact and influence it has had is often hard to explain; but I share it because, at an early age, it allowed me to see Lent through a different lens. I no longer relegated the Stations of the Cross to Lent; I saw that the journey to Calvary was part of my spiritual journey every day. As my life unfolded as a young adult, I began to recognize the Veronicas in my life as well as the Simons of Cyrene; I learned that suffering will come, but I will not be alone in it.

My parents, extended family and parish community collectively gave me a gift. In immersing me in the Lenten experience, I was led to a greater depth of understanding of my faith and relationship with Christ. I believe Catholic families and faith communities still offer this gift today. As in the past, many Catholic families are dedicated to forming their children in the faith – sharing the great gift they have received.

As we enter this holy season, let’s give thought to the experiences we would like to invite others to experience and provide for ourselves. Let us not underestimate the power held within our devotions and Lenten practices. Often, I hear people say we can’t live in the past – always doing what we have done. I think we must be careful. I don’t think we can negate the value of something because of how long it has been in existence; but instead, look to see if it has passed the test of time. If practices and devotions are life-giving, enrich us, and lead us to truth and a deep encounter with our God, they are to be treasured and passed on like all good gifts.

As we make our way through this season of growth and conversion, do not miss the opportunities that cross your path. We can never know how God will make his presence known to us. It may be through an encounter in prayer, a chance meeting of someone you extend a kindness to; or it may be a glimpse of sacrificial love as we abstain from things for the benefit of others.