A Catholic Monthly Magazine

I hate Lent!

By Fr Patrick Brophy SM

I hope I don’t upset anyone by saying that. But the truth is that I find Lent long and trying. I can imagine people saying things like, “First World problems – if that is all he has to worry about, his life is pretty cruisey”, or “that’s pretty shocking for a priest, he should be holy enough to welcome the opportunity to do some fasting, prayer and almsgiving,” or “that’s not much in comparison with what the Lord had to suffer”. And these people would be right with those criticisms. I guess I hate Lent because it challenges me to look at myself and sometimes what I see is not what the ideal should be.
Lent is not just an opportunity to prepare for Easter, the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is that, but it is more. It is a chance to focus on what we should always be doing anyway.
I remember a priest telling us, that most of us aren’t great sinners. That really our sins are quite miserable – from weakness rather than evil. Even the ones that cause most of us great shame are really quite pathetic. Not that I’m advocating for improved, bigger and more serious sin! Just that most of us are not as bad as we think we are. And when you think about it, the sins most of us commit are not going to bring about the end of the world. They will Frayed ropemake the world – at least our little corner of the world – not as nice a place as it might be. That is the effect of sin. The priest went on to tell us that our lives are generally quite good, but that the goodness gets a little frayed around the edges – these might be called venial sins. Then when it gets too frayed, the danger is that the goodness might get ripped up – a more major fault that requires a bigger fix.
We’re meant to fix the fraying regularly – and most probably do. Confronted with the great loving goodness and mercy of God, we realise how little and flawed we are. We realise we are sinners. And we ask God’s pardon. Sometimes though, we forget to repair the frayed bit, or, we put it on the back-burner, or, we just hold out – ‘cos we like this little bit of perverse control over parts of our life we know we should give to God. So, Lent reminds us we need to get onto fixing – more accurately, allowing God to fix these areas. In its own way, Advent gives us this opportunity too. These are moments that help us to fine tune our spiritual lives.
It's just that it seems the Church enters a gloomy, colourless period during the 40 days of Lent. I guess that this affects me – that and giving up chocolate! (By the way, this worries me. One year I gave up sugar in my tea – never took it up again. The following year I gave up sugar in my coffee – I still don’t use sugar in either! Chocolate might go the same way…) So, I try to focus on giving alms – either money, time, energy or prayers, paying good things forward and spending more quality time in prayer and meditation; attempting to deepen the spiritual life and care for others that are hallmarks of our following of Jesus.
Like all of us, then, I have a challenge waiting when Lent begins with Ash Wednesday at the end of this month. At least we know that at the end of Lent comes the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord – and all that lovely chocolate!
On another topic - by the time you read this, I will have resigned as the Editor of the Marist Messenger. I have been asked by the Superior General, Fr John Larsen SM, to take up a new role in the Marist General House in Rome. The plan is that I prepare over the next couple of years to be the Bursar General of the congregation. This was not how I imagined I’d spend the next 6 to 10 years of my Marist life. However, as the saying goes: man (and woman!) proposes, God disposes. Therefore, at the beginning of March, I’ll travel to Rome to take up my new appointment. I’ll assume the role of Bursar General in early 2025. It has been a real privilege to be the editor of the MM in its 94th year. I hope that you, the readers, have enjoyed and benefited from my musings. You may, should the new editor wish, hear something from me, from the Eternal City. Please pray for me, the new editor, the Society of Mary and our beloved Marist Messenger.

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