In the wet, pre-dawn darkness I dress for Mass and then tip-toe downstairs to brew coffee.
I have come to love these quiet Thursday mornings, beginning the day in prayer. There aren't many people who attend Mass at 6:30am; mostly elderly, some with canes, one with a wheelchair, a few day laborers, immigrant mothers with worried faces. But every Thursday morning they arrive silently, limping and hobbling into the pews, heads bowed. And I read Scripture for them.
I am the lector for Thursday 6:30am Mass in my parish. Being a lector means I read aloud that day's Scripture: a reading from the old testament, a Psalm and a reading from the New Testament--one of the letters or epistles.
"Mom, you have such a gentle voice when you read Scripture," one of my children remarked after hearing me read during a Sunday Mass.
I guess I do. At least, I try. My faith practice is very gentle these days.
I consciously slow myself down when I enter church, dip my fingers in holy water and make the sign of the cross over myself. I genuflect before I enter the pew, dipping one knee down while I bow forward and cross myself again. These gestures--the bowing, genuflecting, crossing myself, kneeling, standing, lifting my hands during the "Our Father"--somehow these bodily movements slow me down, like speedbumps to my ever-worried-frantic-soul.
I find myself sinking into the soothing ritual of Mass like sinking into a soft, feather bed.
All is gentle. All is rest.
This is how I want to approach Lent. Not frantically, not busily. Remembering that only one thing is needful: drawing nearer to Jesus.
I intend to make a gentle Lent.
If you're like me, you probably need less doing this Lent and more being. Lent always seems to sneak up on me. I muddle through January cleaning up Christmas, sluggish after so much wining and dining and celebrating---seem to find my stride in February and just when I catch my breath--oh! It's Ash Wednesday.
My tendency in years past has been to overdo Lent. To fast from So Many Things. To overcommit to So Many Hours of daily prayer. To pledge alms and then, forget to actually give it.
This Lent, I'm too burned out and exhausted to do ANYTHING big or busy.
This year, I'm being gentle.
For me, being gentle with myself and others is penitential--it helps me turn away from my busy doings that often lead to mistakes, distractions and worry and turn towards the merciful love of Christ.
Would you like to join me this year for a Gentle Lenten practice? Here's what we'll do: I'll share a few ideas for making a Gentle Lent. Think about your own Gentle Lenten practice and next week, on Ash Wednesday, I'll host a link-up where we can all share our thoughts and reflections.
Ideas For A Gentle Lent:
Stillness: set a timer for five minutes and just be still. Breathe. This Lent, my goal is to sit still and meditate silently for five minutes each day.
Fast from something simple: Lent is a time to examine the people, places or things we've become too attached to; things that are hindering us from living a fully free life. This Lent, I'm detaching from my inordinate affection for R&B music. :) During Lent, I'll listen to classical or meditative music.
Almsgiving: can you give either time or talent to someone else? This Lent I'll be writing one encouraging note a week and mailing it. I'll also be providing service to my parish through volunteer work.
Even if you've never practiced Lent before, please join me! Even if you're not religious or attend church, this Gentle Lenten practice is open to ALL. Maybe you have questions about Lent? Write about it! Perhaps you'd like to reflect on Lent from years past? BLOG IT. Maybe this year you're feeling angry with God or in a spiritual wilderness? POUR IT OUT! Then come back next week and share with us.
If nothing else, maybe you've been waiting for a good time to rid yourself of that Diet Coke habit! :) Don't go it alone! Let's do this Gentle Lent together!
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