US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Day 33: Phyllis Tickle

Lenzin our German ancestors used to call this season, and since then we have called it “Lent.”

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Phyllis Tickle: Spiritual season
The 40 penitential weekdays and six Sundays that follow Mardi Gras and precede Easter are the days of greatest calm in the church’s year. Since by long centuries of custom the date of Easter is annually determined from the first Sunday after the full moon on or after March 21, the intertwining of physical and spiritual seasons is virtually inevitable. The resulting union of deep winter and holy preparation makes reflection, even penitence, a natural activity. . . .

Lenzin our German ancestors used to call this season, and since then we have called it “Lent.” It is a time when Christians decorate stone churches with the sea’s color and wrap their priests in the mollusk’s purple. It was once a time when all things passed through the natural depression of seclusion, short food supplies, and inactivity, a time when body and land both rested. It is still, in the country, a final sanity before the absurd wastefulness of spring.

It is Lent once again, and for one more snow I can luxuriate in the isolation of the cold, attend laconically to who I am, what I value, and why I’m here. Religion has always kept earth time. Liturgy only gives sanction to what the heart already knows. (Wisdom in the Waiting: Springs Sacred Days, Loyola Press)

Reflection questions

1. What does Lent mean to you?

2. Reflect for a while on Tickle’s final sentence: “Liturgy only gives sanction to what the heart already knows.” What is liturgy? How does it reflect our inner yearning for God? 

Tickle (1934–2015) was a contributing editor in religion for Publishers Weekly and the author of more than two dozen books.