Living lightly: A Lenten reflection


By Mary Rourke

Thinking on a recent Scripture reading where the apostles were instructed to travel with hardly the bare necessities, and The Catholic Messenger’s invitation to share Lenten resolutions, I’ve resolved to travel more lightly this Lent. Marley’s ghost, in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” dolefully declares, “These are the chains I forged in life.”

What are the chains that weigh me down? “Thy name is Legion.” But it’s probably better to focus on a few. Since Jan. 1, I’ve been shedding stuff others can use that I’m not; eating healthier, resulting in more energy and money for more important things; and letting go of restrictive resentments that clog my spiritual arteries. To my utter astonishment, it’s been a joyful journey that Lent gives me a great incentive to continue.

When I walk through my front door at the end of the day, it’s easy to experience either of two extremes — blindness or awareness of all that needs doing. A priest once said, “The Lord hopes in us even when we don’t hope in ourselves.” Hope is easier to maintain when I remember that and focus on progress rather than perfection.

If I recall correctly, discipline and disciple come from the same root, which refers to being a student. From that perspective, I see Lent as a marvelous opportunity for freedom to be open and aware of what I really need – relationship, connection and shedding of bad habits of short-lived satisfaction from instant gratification.


It’s really hard to express my amazement at the insights that come from seemingly nowhere (grace?) that change my perspective about a memory, a person, an event, myself, 180 degrees.

We are gloriously made creatures, more than mere animals focused mostly on survival and ruled by instinct. We have been given wonderfully complex, creative minds, spirits, and soul-filled bodies. Lent is for living large in the truest sense of that term. Will we give and forgive and let ourselves be helped as well as help? Will we be aware and accepting of all we’ve been given already and constantly grateful for every breath and step we take? For me, Lenten discipline is less deprivation than daring to delight in the best of things.

(Mary Rourke is a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport.)

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