Many years ago, I heard some advice about Lent that has always stuck with me. The advice was that the best sacrifices to offer up are those we do not choose for ourselves. If we are honest with ourselves, don’t we sometimes choose things to do or give up for Lent that we are pretty confident we can be successful at? I am not saying that is necessarily bad, but a true sign of our willingness to make sacrifices is to accept something we have not chosen.
With that though in mind, I tried something with the parish where I served as Pastor before coming to the Cathedral. Each week during Lent, I would offer a challenge for the parish to consider undertaking. I was very encouraged with the response from the parish as they appreciated the challenge. I think there was something else that made the practice successful – we were all trying to undertake the challenge together. With that in mind, I would like to introduce these weekly Lenten challenges as a way for all of us to be in union with one another this Lent. This will also give us a chance to offer something up which we have not specifically chosen, providing variety to our spiritual lives as well as an opportunity to practice different virtues which will help us to grow in holiness. Each week, I’ll provide the challenge, list one of the fruits of undertaking that challenge, and some commentary on the challenge. So, are you up for the challenge(s)? Here we go, then…
Challenge: Give up hitting the snooze button
Fruit: Conquering your will
For full transparency here – this is a repeat challenge that I offered to my previous parish. A lot of people spoke about how hard it was, so I thought it would be a good place to start! One of the great promoters of this practice is a fairly modern saint, Saint Josemaría Escrivá. He calls this practice “the Heroic Minute” and describes it with these words:
Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a fixed time, without yielding a single minute to laziness. If, with God’s help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day. (The Way, 191) … The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and… up! The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body. (The Way, 206)
Give it a shot, and feel free to share your experience with me next Sunday as you walk out of Mass. And don’t worry, see these challenges as opportunities, not obligations. I’m not requiring anybody to do anything, just inviting. And if you stumble in the challenge, don’t beat yourself up. Get back up, ask for God’s help, and try again!
Also, this could be a good opportunity to recommit (or begin) the challenge we offered at the beginning of the year to pray Three Hail Mary’s each day for our parish – one for the clergy of the parish, one for yourself, and one for the entire parish.
Finally, if you have an ideas for a challenge that I can invite the parish to consider for a week, I am open to suggestions!