This is one in a series of Lenten reflections.
By Karmen Butterer Saran
Special to The Catholic Times
Each year as Lent approaches I look forward to it. I imagine life slowing down a bit so I can focus on this dramatic time in the liturgical year.
I pick up a Lenten reflection booklet on Ash Wednesday and start my 40-day journey to Easter with the best of intentions. This year, I tell myself, I will make the time to reflect each day. I will pray more, give more, and sacrifice more. This year, I think, I will somehow wedge in a daylong silent retreat. This year, I tell myself, the jangle of life will not be a distraction and my heart will be prepared for Easter.
But this year, as every year in the past when I’ve tried to balance small children, work, aging parents, marriage and the tedious flotsam and jetsam of daily life, Holy Week arrives and I can’t believe the time has rushed past me and I am no more spiritually developed than before. The Lenten reflection book I dutifully grabbed as my guide to the next 40 days has bills and post-it notes stuffed between pages that never got read. I can hardly count the days that my evening prayers morphed into cataloging a “to do” list for our Lord. Or falling asleep.
Fasting seems to happen only through being too disorganized to make a lunch or making a bowl of cereal for dinner because the kids eat before my husband gets home from work.
This year — and I’m not proud to say it — Lent has developed into a season of impatience and unhappiness for me. What used to be a time when I could clearly at least see the joy of the season coming, was suddenly about being stuck in what my life had become. Oh, the things that aren’t going my way!!
We sold our house for which I am thankful, but haven’t found a new one so my family has moved in with my mother and is living out of boxes while we look.
Work has piled up and interpersonal relationships have worn me down. I’m thankful for work, but wonder why I’m so far adrift from my original career as a writer and editor.
My mother is getting older which is difficult to watch, but I can’t help but resent how my siblings are too far away to be of any real help going to doctor appointments and helping her out when she allows it.
Did I mention my 2-year-old suddenly got a virus that took hold in his lungs and I ended up spending a day in the emergency room followed by the weekend in the hospital with him?
When a friend easily tells me to “offer it up” my ear hears “give up!” How can I prepare to face the Crucifixion of our Lord when I am sure I am spiritually going through death by a thousand cuts? Why, asks my selfish heart, can’t He make all of this a little easier for me so I can focus on Lent?
As I chronicle all of this one night in prayer, it finally occurs to me that all of this happy mess of life, as I like to consider it, is my Lenten retreat. Every single day the Lord is giving me a chance to bear up under the unpredictable and frustrating aspects of daily life. He is offering me small but truly manageable practices in turning to Him for help. If my ear heard “give up” that is because He wants me to give up the silly control I try to apply to my life.
At Mass my heart grabs on to a phrase during the liturgy of the Eucharist “…entered willingly into His Passion.” And suddenly, I realize that this is what I needed to learn this year during Lent. He did this for us. Willingly. And I can at least try to do the same.
Karmen Saran is the director of communication and special projects at St. John the Baptist Parish in Ypsilanti as well as being vice chair of the board of directors of Catholic Urban Project. She lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and three children and is member of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish.