Going into Lent

Ash Wednesday grey with heat, dust blowing in the streets, a gritty wind. As always, I go back to the  deeper understandings of fasting and  yearning for metanoia, for a more whole-hearted commitment to God:

To treat of fasting and of what is required to fast well, we must, at the start, understand that of itself fasting is not a virtue. The good and the bad, as well as Christians and pagans, observe it. The ancient philosophers observed it and recommended it. They were not virtuous for that reason, nor did they practice virtue in fasting. Oh, no, fasting is a virtue only when it is accompanied by conditions which render it pleasing to God. Thus it happens that it profits some and not others, because it is not undertaken by all in the same manner… We know very well that it is not enough to fast exteriorly if we do not also fast interiorly and if we do not accompany the fast of the body with that of the spirit…

We must fast with our whole heart, that is to say, willingly, wholeheartedly, universally and entirely. If I recount to you St. Bernard’s words regarding fasting, you will know not only why it is instituted but also how it ought to be kept.

He says that fasting was instituted by Our Lord as a remedy for our mouth, for our gourmandizing, and for our gluttony. Since sin entered the world through the mouth, the mouth must do penance by being deprived of foods prohibited and forbidden by the Church, abstaining from them for the space of forty days. But this glorious saint adds that, as it is not our mouth alone which has sinned, but also all our other senses, our fast must be general and entire, that is, all the members of our body must fast. For if we have offended God through the eyes, through the ears, through the tongue, and through our other senses, why should we not make them fast as well? And not only must we make the bodily senses fast, but also the soul’s powers and passions — yes, even the understanding, the memory, and the will, since we have sinned through both body and spirit.

Ash Wednesday, 1622


Moved by a great article on enclosed religious in the New Yorker:

A few felt called to the religious life at an earlier age. “I have the exact day that it started,” Sister Maria Deo Gratias of the Most Blessed Sacrament said. “it was a Friday afternoon at a quarter to three.” At precisely that time, when her sixth-grade peers were checking their answers on a spelling test, she felt the desire to go to church. After she went to Mass, the desire grew and grew; a few years later, she told her mother that she wanted to become a nun. It didn’t matter that she didn’t like wearing dresses (she sensed that the habit would be a bit different) or that she loved sleeping in (she was sure that she could get used to rising early). Even though her relatives bet against her following through on the impulse, by age fourteen she had left home for an aspirature, a boarding school for those interested in a religious vocation.

What does it mean to be called to the religious life? Even the most articulate of these women cannot find the precise words to explain how she came to understand her vocation. The youngest nun says, “I’m sure anyone who falls in love, they look back and say, ‘Oh, remember how we met? Or he showed his love?’ It’s the same, how God has shown his personal love.”


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