Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Begin Lent with a storm
by Mary Cronk Farrell
(From the Feb. 7, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
It seems strange to be writing about the beginning of Lent in the middle of a storm that has much of the city snowbound. The word Lent comes from an ancient word meaning springtime, at time which seems distant as I watch the snow fall, and pile up nearly as high as my picnic table on the back deck. Three thick branches of our fir tree have broken under the weight to land on the cable and phone lines, stretching them like rubber bands.
One might simply shrug at a Lent beginning in the grip by winter. This is the earliest Ash Wednesday ever falls on the calendar. In some latitudes Lent and even Easter always arrive in such weather. But recognizing that God is everywhere and at all times present, I wonder: What can I discover within this incongruity?
During Lent God calls us to a total change of heart. Itís hard enough to reform one little habit, almost impossible to transform oneís mindset to an entirely new way of thinking and acting. Notice thereís not just one Lent in a lifetime; it comes around every year for a reason.
Traditionally, the Church recommends three practices to remind us we depend on God to help us grow and change. The Lenten practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving open our hearts and teach us compassion.
The snowstorm pitched us into forced fasting. The power line near our house sparked and smoked about 15 minutes before exploding with a bang and a ball of fire, knocking out our electricity in an instant. My son reacted immediately in a well-known teenager tone: ďThereís nothing to do.Ē
Soon, I worried I wouldnít meet my deadline. My daughter suggested I write the column with pen and paper. But I need spell-check for instant corrections, cut and paste to move sentences and paragraphs, instant access to Google to nail down facts. Pen and paper: not an option.
Next my husband became hungry and cold. We canít even make a piece of toast, and itís dropped to 62 degrees in our house. He decides to drive to Taco Bell, but the car gets stuck as soon as he backs out of the driveway. Neighbors push him free and back into the driveway. He tries again, gets stuck again, neighbors again push him out again, and he retreats to the garage. One cannot live through a day like this and not become aware of our embarrassment of riches.
This awareness makes way for alms-giving. Recognizing our abundance, Godís unlimited goodness and generosity can stir us to respond in kind. We Christians cannot be free while our brothers and sisters remain enslaved by poverty.
Still, prayer is required. We need closeness with God for our hearts to change. When nature temporarily stops the world, we have a chance to notice and appreciate more. Through the snowfall, God said: Stop. Look. Listen. The quiet, beauty of my neighborhood covered in glistening white invited me to prayer.
Before the electricity returned, my son had invited friends to play a board game. The game engrossed the boys so much they didnít notice as the house grew colder and the rest of us wrapped up in blankets.
Outside a neighbor ran his snow blower down the block clearing the sidewalk for everyone. I saw him run out of gas, go fill up, return and continue down the street.
God has endless ways of drawing us nearer, ways of inviting us to change our minds and our actions. A snowstorm that temporarily makes us do without reminds us the world is often not what we expect it to be. It lays bare our illusions that weíre in control and can make it on our own. A snowstorm as we enter Lent can inspire us to look for meaning in incongruity, to trust that less can be more, and to believe that our hearts can change.
© 2008, Mary Cronk Farrell
(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and
childrenís writer. Her latest book, Celebrating Faith: Year-Round Activities for Catholic Families, has been
published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. Contact her at www.marycronkfarrell.com)
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