“This is the Lentiest Lent I have ever Lented,” read a post by one of our Diocesan priests. I laughed and thought that this was absolutely true.
As I was praying this morning, I was apologizing to God because I had overslept again. Giving up my “snoozing” was one of my Lenten attempts to increase in virtue. Only succeeding a few times, I examined my other Lenten offerings, er, failings. I gave myself a Lenten grade of C–.
Hot tears of frustration welled up in my eyes, why can’t I be stronger? Why can’t I figure these things out? I have no self-discipline! That line of thinking opened up an all out pity-party. A downward spiral of failures and frustrations began to heap up.
I had learned by listening to sessions by Fr. Timothy Gallagher on the Discerning Hearts app (his “Discernment of Spirits” series) that downward movements of the spirit are not from God and we should reject them as quickly as possible. I knew this in my head, but I got caught yet again in the snare of discouragement.
Then something happened. In my spirit, I felt peace. A few consoling thoughts came to me and continued throughout the day to form a Holy Week message of consolation. I share it here in hopes it will help console your heart a little too in these darker days of Lent by Pandemic.
Words From a Priest
One of my Lenten reads has been “Consoling the Heart of Jesus” by Fr Michael Gaitley. In this book, we meditate with some seemingly difficult concepts like suffering and surrendering our hearts and efforts to Christ.
There is a difference between a Lenten offering we put on ourselves and one superimposed by circumstances which are accepted with a docile heart that unites itself to Christ’s sufferings. And that’s part of the consoling inspiration that came to me in prayer with my Sisters in Christ this week. It helped complete the words I felt this morning.
Your frustrations are your prayer to me. What you can’t do by yourself; what you try to do and fail—your shortcomings…these are your offering. Where you need me, I enter in all the more…
Words From A Cardinal
Then I checked my email and saw the latest news from Rome on Zenit and this letter from Cardinal Burke was highlighted. There were two particularly comforting parts of his letter to the faithful:
But it remains the holiest week of the year, for it commemorates the events by which we are alive in Christ, by which eternal life is ours, even in the face of a pandemic, a worldwide health crisis. I urge you, therefore, not to give way to the lie of Satan who would convince you that, this year, you have nothing to celebrate during Holy Week. No, you have everything to celebrate, for Christ has gone before us in every suffering and now accompanies us in our sufferings, so that we remain strong in His love, the love which conquers every evil.
When you look to human behavior, my guess is that people will either use this pandemic as an excuse not to bother with Holy Week, or they will feel so oppressed that they are frozen into focusing on the news reports and bad news of what is out of control in this world. But Cardinal Burke reminds us:
In any case, Holy Week cannot be for us like any other week but must be marked by the deepest sentiments of faith in Christ Who alone is our salvation. The sentiments of faith during these holiest of days are, likewise, sentiments of deepest gratitude and love.
Weakness is Part of the Way of the Cross
What better time than Holy Week to surrender to God? Trying to do things of our own strength leaves us exhausted and bamboozled. How many times have you asked yourself why things aren’t going your way? Or how you seem to work so hard and yet the results are not what they should be? How often do you feel exhausted from trying so hard?
Here is an example from a story I read about Mother Teresa. Once when one of her spiritual daughters was leaving to go out and work and serve the poor. Her face was so downcast and her spirit so obviously heavy that Mother Teresa stopped her. She asked, “My daughter, do we follow Jesus or go ahead of him?” Her spiritual daughter answered, “We are told by Our Lord to ‘pick up your cross and follow me.'” Mother Teresa smiled and answered her “Well my daughter, then why are you running ahead of him?” (Story paraphrased). We aren’t meant to run ahead and combat the worries of our lives and try to wrangle with the circumstances on our own.
The best thing about Holy Week is that we can look to our own weaknesses and remember that we are following Christ and accompanying him to Calvary. Our weaknesses are our crosses. We pick them up and go behind our Lord, understanding that these same sufferings can be united to his own and console him in the Garden of Gethsemane (I am not the only one who snoozes…Peter, James and John.)
Holy Week can be for us a Holy Weak. Our weaknesses are what draws us close to Christ and make our hearts need him. He loves that we need him and desire his help. His mercy shines brighter for us in our failings. So pick up your cross and follow him. Do NOT go ahead to places where you have no grace to go, and can’t see the path. Let him lead you through this week where your failings will be resurrected by his Grace.
I pray an extra prayer for those who read this seeking some hope. May he protect you, console you and give you peace. This Friday, I will lift high your hearts and follow him to the cross in spirit. Please feel free to list any special Holy Week prayer intentions below.