When I was in college, I would sometimes call my high school religion teacher just to talk. We would cover a multitude of topics—academic pressures, dorm life, family, spiritual stuff, etc.—but it was mostly me just complaining about how hard my life was while he patiently listened and offered spiritual counsel. During the winter break of my senior year, I went to go see him and he gave me a tour of his rectory—he was a priest—which included a visit to his personal chapel next to the bedroom. Right there, next to the prie-dieu kneeler and before the tabernacle, was the telephone. He had been talking to me on the phone, on his knees, before the Blessed Sacrament.
Life for nearly everyone has been upended to some degree these days, and it can be easy to get swept away in a current of fear and anxiety, or to teeter out on the edges of loneliness. In times like these, when many things seem to be out of one’s control, turning (or returning) to daily, simple practices of prayer can provide a deep peace that only comes from opening oneself up to the grace and love of God.
In times of crisis, people often—rightly—turn to prayer. When confronted with the very real limitations of humanity, the natural response for many is to cry out to God for protection, for rescue, for comfort. At times, though, it can be difficult to find words to articulate these cries for help. Indeed, we may feel helpless in the face of it all. When that happens, the liturgy of the Church and the words of Scripture provide a lifeline to God. By giving ourselves over to the Word of God and the prayer of the Church, we are freed from the burden of trying to speak for ourselves when our hearts are heavy and our minds are weary, and we are united by the grace of the Holy Spirit to our brothers and sisters across time and space—indeed, united with Jesus Christ himself—by making these words our own as they did.
This Ash Wednesday, here are three brief, thought-provoking articles that will hopefully help you enter more intentionally into this season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
“What are you giving up for Lent?” In my youth, this question was fraught with the anxiety of choosing which I would rather give up for forty days: ice cream or chocolate. More recently though, I have tried to embrace the ascetic element of this liturgical season as an opportunity to examine how God is inviting me to let go and who God is inviting me to become.