This year, the entire month of March falls in the season of Lent. Since the fourth century, Lent has been observed as a period of penance and renewal, including periods of fasting and abstinence. “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Recently, there has been a move away from “giving up” material things such as certain foods, like peanut butter, which I renounced in the fourth grade. This was truly a very penitential act, a real sacrifice for me as a child. Today, the shift has been towards doing more, more works of mercy, more helping of others, more volunteerism. It seems there has been an increase in giving OF oneself, rather than giving UP material things.
Saint Ignatius had a very practical view of the world in general, despite being intensely spiritual. Of all his writings, by far the most well-known is the Spiritual Exercises. In that work, which forms the basis of Jesuit and Ignatian spirituality, he writes,
This passage has a place in our Lenten observances, because St. Ignatius gets right to the point. All the “stuff” that we become attached to comes from God and is a gift that we should use to help us be more loving. But the stuff is only temporal, and when it becomes more important than our relationship with God, there is a problem.
I hope your Lenten preparations are consoling and will help deepen your relationship with God and each other. The Jesuits are always grateful for your prayers and support and pray for you daily.
Barry J. Leidl