Persons, Places and Things: Lessons for my Lenten journey


By Barb Arland-Fye

Backing out of the garage in our spotless, still new car, I noticed the door from our house to the garage remained open. “Colin, you didn’t close the door as I asked you to do!” I said in exasperation to my son seated next to me. “Go close the door.”


Colin apologized, got out of the car, entered the open garage and headed toward the panel with the garage door buttons. My frustration escalated. I wanted him to close the other door, which he inexplicably overlooked. His confusion over my instructions about which door to close led him to close the garage door — on the front end of the new car!

I felt an electric shock of panic as I imagined the damage to the new vehicle. The garage door went back up. I quickly put the car in reverse and got out to inspect the damage, but not before making an angry remark to Colin. No damage appeared anywhere on the car. Now a bit calmer, I apologized to Colin and tried to figure out why our communication failed. A little voice in my mind (perhaps God?) said, “Remember, Colin’s autism sometimes challenges his interpretation of what we ask him to do.”


Lesson learned, I thought, as we headed to our parish for Saturday night Mass. Colin, apparently shaken by the garage door incident, whispered loudly to me during Mass, promising not to damage my car again. Colin wasn’t the only one whispering to me. God’s whisper left me humbled as we sang the responsorial psalm: “The Lord is kind and merciful.”

My copy of the “2020 Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word” shows a notation next to that responsorial psalm: “For meditation and context.” I plan to reflect on verses from the psalm this Lenten season:

“Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes.”

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.”

After Mass, during a wine and cheese party at our parish, I chatted with Deacon Matt Levy about the transgressions of a public figure I admired greatly and wondered how I could reconcile that person’s deviancy with the tremendous good he accomplished for people with intellectual disabilities.

Deacon Levy advised me to pray about it, to ask for mercy for the soul of the public figure who died last year. The deacon said the failings of a revered public figure serve as a reminder that all of us are broken people, much in need of God’s mercy.

Scrolling through my Twitter notices Sunday, I came across one from Bonnie Rodgers, who tweeted “#psalm 103 #Sunday ‘the Lord is kind and merciful’ I’m counting on that.” I “liked” her tweet.

Deacon Frank Agnoli has provided The Catholic Messenger with an expansive guide to understanding Lent. He reminds us that “Lent is less about ourselves in isolation (and our personal sins) but about being a baptismal people, a people on a journey.”

I will keep that teaching in mind, hopeful that it won’t take a garage door coming down on our car to remind me to be kind and merciful, as our Lord is.

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on