-A reflection for Lent by Mtr. Sandra Hutchinson
It’s taken a while for me to appreciate Lent. In fact, for quite some time I hated Lent. It was true that observing Lent did make me appreciate Easter more, but I still hated it. Until I realized something very simple. In the Northern Hemisphere, Lent falls during the last part of the winter, when the earth is barren and unproductive. Without refrigeration and modern food processing methods, during that time of the winter, food stores would be growing short and the need to cut down on their consumption would be growing.
For our ancestors, Lent took that necessity and consecrated it. It made the necessity holy. It reminded them in the middle of the daily struggle that a better time was coming, that God was with them in the hardships day by day and would bring them closer to Him.
Few of us now face exactly that same problem, but the underlying concept of Lent as a time of consecrated necessity can still enrich our lives.
For me, one small way that I sanctify necessity during Lent is to set aside my commute time as a way of drawing nearer to God. I live some distance from Boston, and the train ride takes about 45 minutes each way. It’s too easy to pull out my smart phone and play Candy Crush, or read tweets, or catch up on Facebook.
However, during Lent, I use time from home to work to do some spiritual reading. Last year, I focused on the history of women in the church; this year I seem to be splitting my time between the writings of St. Catherine of Siena and material on liturgy. Sometimes I prayerfully read the local weekly paper as a way of seeing the needs of the community and what role the Oratory can play in it.
On the way back from work to home, I create. Usually I crochet baby caps, and cotton washcloths, or other things that are needed by specific charities. While I work, I pray for the people who will receive them—and sometimes my prayers run further afield, praying for the broken world that we live in. At the end of Lent, I package up these items and send them to the charities (often with a donation). They are a tangible reminder of the fact that Lent is passing.
Lent becomes less of a merely painful time to be endured, but more a time of growth and service, and Easter becomes more joyful as result. And time that could just be wasted is made holy.
What other necessities could be sanctified in our lives?
Mtr. Sandra Hutchinson is the chaplain of the Oratory of St. Catherine of Siena in Beverly, Massachusetts. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image of commuter rail by Pi.1415926535 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses...) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.htm...)], via Wikimedia Commons
We held our first Ashes to Go this year at St. Mary of Grace Parish, our community in Delaware County, near Philadelphia/Northern Delaware! Preparations began the Sunday beforehand with the burning and blessing of the palms. Parishioners brought their dried palms from previous Palm Sundays and we made the ashes just before Mass. Then on Ash Wednesday, Bp. Tim and Mtr. Lyngine spent the morning at 13th and Locust in Philadelphia and the late afternoon at the Media train station offering ashes. To the nearby construction workers and waitstaff who popped over quickly during their brief breaks, the commuters who stopped quickly on their way to and from work, the parents with toddlers who came by, the folks who pulled over to park in loading zone to stop and receive ashes, the lovely train engineer who came by after parking the train at the end of his shift, and to all who came to experience the beginning of Lent with a reminder of God's invitation and promise of mercy and love, you will all remain in our prayers this season.
Congratulations to Dave Wood on his ordination to the minor order of Exorcist! The Mass and ordination were in Dave's chapel, and in addition to those who were present, a number of ICCC laity and clergy were able to attend via remote. Dave is very much dedicated to the traditional liturgy and this Mass was the Tridentine Mass in English from the English Missal.