A burdensome Lenten journey

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Even Jesus didn't want to take the journey he had to take before reaching Easter Sunday.

Guest blog post by Lisa Calderone-Stewart

We are more than half-way through Lent. It’s the time when lots of us have simply given up on any “Lenten resolutions” we’ve tried to keep.

For folks like me with terminal cancer, Lenten symbolism is “slap you in the face” obvious: The monotonous desert that seems so lifeless but is actually full of life, the longing for living water, the need to escape spiritual blindness and enter the light, the clinging to the absolute faith that life will follow death.

Right about now, we might be tempted to say, “Enough already! We get it! Sin, death, Jesus, life, yadda, yadda, yadda! Can’t we just skip over the rest of Lent (including Holy Week) and simply do Easter? We all know what happens! We are just so tired of purple!”

That’s how I feel about dying: “Can’t we just skip those painful last few weeks or months and get to the ‘after life’ part?”

It's funny that we worry about this sort of thing, even though we know the ending. Even though we know the glory of Easter awaits us, we still fear the journey that gets us there.

Jesus knew this better than any of us. And he was afraid, too--enough to sweat blood. Just like us, he prayed to skip over the pain and not have to go through with it.

I often wonder: What if we didn’t know?

Here’s a rambling, tongue in cheek, stream of “conscience” look at Lenten spirituality and how we often end up fighting the journey. It happens to all of us--including church workers and priests! I wrote this poem a few years ago, before I was sick, but I like returning to it every year. Even now, it gives me that “boost” I need to keep walking the journey--and to keep wearing purple.

Lenten Ramblings

Fasting, alms and prayer.
Now and then… it’s hard to care!<
Forty days, not counting Sundays…
Don’t eat meat on all the Fridays…
You can tell, I’m just too spent!
Just too spent to care for Lent!

OK! I know! To fast is good!
Solidarity with the neighborhood…
On the other side of town
Where the poor are struggling down...

And alms are needed. Each donation
Helps a charity organization
Bring food and clothing to the poor.
We give and give; they still need more.

Prayer will bring us close to God.
It makes me feel especially odd
To pray out loud when I’m alone.
And yet I talk on my cell phone!
Hands-free ear piece -- I’m just saying
How could you tell I wasn’t praying?
Who’s to know which one I’m doing?
Why do I feel so strange in choosing?

It comes to this: I’m not the type
To get all thrilled with Lenten hype.

Yet it’s our sacred faith tradition,
Not a silly superstition.

More time with fasting, alms and prayer;<
I slowly remember why I care.
Again I gradually understand
And want to follow God’s command.

Every year, I hear the readings.
Every year, I feel the pleadings.
Sometimes it takes me forty days
To recognize my sinful ways.

I hide myself behind my door.
Please don’t make me face the poor.
The sick, the old, take them away.
I do not want their stares today.
I cannot bear to hear their cry.
I do not want to wonder why.

And forty days will come and go.
I learn what I already know.
The same thing happens every year.
It takes so long for me to care.

It takes so long for me to change.
I start out acting odd and strange.
I end up acting strange and odd.
Yet oddly closer to my God.

I pray a bit, I fast some more.
I start to care about the poor.
I start reflecting on my death.
I pause to take a deeper breath.

My shallow, arrogant, selfish ways
Are ruining my earthly days.
My pride trips me; I take a tumble.
I want to be more simple, humble.

Just when things start looking bleak,
I rediscover Holy Week.
I rediscover paschal pain,
The paschal promise of joy again.

Forty days in desert heat
Without a thing for him to eat
Jesus walked with blistered feet.

He calls to me, so I must go,
Although each Lent can scare me so.
I never know what I will find
So deeply hidden in my mind.

Forty days. And then I see
The glory that is meant to be.
First Lenten purple, then Easter white,
And everything will be all right!

I know it comes; it does each year.
And still I feel that Lenten fear.
I hate to start. I hate to go.
Imagine if I didn’t know.


Guest blogger Lisa Calderone-Stewart is the director of Tomorrow's Present and an author and speaker on youth leadership. Read more about her interfaith youth program in Student Teachers, from January 2006.

Lisa was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year. For more on her story, see "The dying wish of a youth ministry pioneer." You can also read Lisa's personal blog Dying to Know You Better, and she has a novel, Made To Write, available at the link. Her blog posts on USCatholic.org can be found at Final Thoughts.

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.


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