It is just about that time again. Soon it will be Lent, and it will be time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I do not know about anyone else, but when I reflect on my attempts to grow spiritually during Lent, I probably have had more misses than hits.
As a child, I would always try to convince my parents that I would fast by giving up watermelon. Unfortunately, my parents were quite aware that watermelon was not readily available in Wisconsin during the late winter and early spring months. They also knew that I did not like watermelon.
One year I decided to give up money! That lasted until my grandfather gave me a shiny silver dollar. When my mother asked what happened to my promise to give up money, I informed her that my fast did not include “big money.”
As an adult, I dutifully abstained from eating meat on Friday. I would give up beef, pork and poultry for seafood and, of course, the Milwaukee fish fry! I was very excited when I finally reached the age where I was no longer obligated to fast. After all, it was such a sacrifice!
My attempts at improving my prayer life have been a series of “ups and downs.” Praying at bedtime resulted in my tired mind wandering. Morning prayer: who has the time? Rote prayer: boring! However, the prayer style that I was most faithful to started with asking God to help me give me what I wanted, or forgive me. I knew that prayer was meant to be a conversation, but much of my prayer was very one-sided – my side!
Almsgiving has always been easier for me. As children, we learned to save our treasures in “mite boxes.” I can still remember how excited I was to bring my little box forward during the presentation of gifts on Easter Sunday. I was confident that my contribution would save all the poor people in the world. I still get excited being able to share my wealth with others.
Don’t get me wrong; almsgiving is not always easy. When a food drive comes up, I can easily use it as an opportunity to rid the pantry of food that is far from our favorite. When I hear the collection bells at Christmas or see veterans selling poppies, I have found it easy to avoid eye contact and just keep walking. Moreover, of course, I know the church understands when I do not put anything in the collection basket because all I have is “big money.”
This year I have decided to take a different approach to my Lenten practices. This year I intend to focus on:
L – listening
Some people tell me that I am a good listener. However, I am not sure that my family or God would necessarily agree. This Lent, I intend to begin my prayer by being silent and listening for God’s voice. I also intend to truly listen to my family, instead of trying to multitask when they are speaking. (Did you know the brain is not wired to multitask?) Is there any one to whom you need to really listen?
E – engagement
I am usually generous with my treasure but am much more reluctant to give of my time and my talent. This Lent, I intend to engage in one project for the betterment of others. As of yet, I do not know what that project will be, but I am sure that God will lead me where He wants me to go. Is there somewhere or somehow that you are being called to more fully engage?
N – nurturing
There are two people that I intend to nurture more fully this Lent. One is our toddler granddaughter Olivia. I want to be more present to her during this important developmental time of her life. I am the other person whom I need to nurture. With multiple serious health issues, I need to provide myself with the self-nurturing that is needed. Who needs your nurturing?
T – trusting
Finally, I intend to trust more fully. This is not easy for me. So, I will focus on deepening my trust in God. By listening and engaging in His plan for me, I hope that I will grow in trust of Him, others and myself. Whom do you need to trust?
Hopefully, my words will give you something to reflect upon as you enter this holy, challenging season of Lent. Maybe we can share our Lenten success stories sometime!
Dr. Kathleen Beuscher, Ed.D.
Dr. Beuscher received her Doctor of Education degree from Cardinal Stritch University. Her dissertation was on the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Kathleen was involved in parish catechesis for over 30 years within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Kathleen currently serves as a Consultant for RCL Benziger, along with her husband, Jim.