Thanks for the excellent report on the status of your Lenten practices. I’m jealous you found the self-denial-of-the-day app before me, though I am enjoying praying with my monks–they are definitely a keeper. I didn’t give up anything except my silly iPad games (which was a failure, not because I couldn’t give them up, but because I didn’t do anything particularly useful with the extra time. Sigh.) As for what I added, other than my above-mentioned monks (did I mention they chant for you if you say extra prayers?) the most successful was to try to get to three daily Masses each week. I’ve always loved daily Mass, the simplicity (the brevity!) and small, familiar congregation inspire my prayer life. I didn’t make it three times every week, but most, and came close others. Maybe not a slam dunk, but a solid layup.
The other thing I added was Dynamic Catholicism’s daily emails, which consist of Matthew Kelly videos outlining his path to getting closer to Jesus. I was chugging along with that pretty well, but a video format isn’t really me. Once I realized the videos went along with Kelly’s book I switched to mostly reading and got back on track. One little gem I plucked out of Day 26 was Kelly’s Prayer Process–Step one is gratitude, followed by awareness and significant moments (go over the past 24 hours, talking with God about any troublesome situations and discerning what He was trying to say to you in the moments). Finally, you end with peace and freedom (asking forgiveness and inviting change) and prayer for others. Not sure if this practice rose to Final Four levels, what with the stumble (and the fact that I’m only on Day 38), but the Prayer Process is a solid Lenten takeaway. Maybe like a giant foam finger souvenir. (“God’s Number 1! Go Team God!”)
My lent certainly wasn’t a Michigan State. Really, I think you’d have to get drunk at the Ash Wednesday service and punch your priest to fail that badly and that fast. I’d like to say my Lent compares to my beloved Virginia Cavaliers. While I think I got a littler further than they did, the ‘Hoos started out strong and showed grace in both victory and defeat, guided by a coach whose Christian values creates players of character. Last night Virginia, the number one seed in their bracket, lost to a ten-seed. They quickly built a twenty point lead but became complacent and let the game, and their tournament hopes, slip away. I think we can relate. We start with the best of intentions, but our human nature gets in the way. I give up Candy Crush but don’t pray instead. You get sick and OJ Simpson slashes the inspiration you get from the Catholic Channel. (And least he only MAIMED that. Thank heaven for small favors.)
I think we can agree that sin is like a double-digit seed, sneaking up on us when we let our guard down. No matter how talented we are or how hard we practice, if we don’t keep up our prayer life, if we don’t try to live intentionally with Jesus foremost in our mind, our bracket’s busted.