When I was a teenager, my family befriended a newly ordained priest who had been assigned to our parish. He wasn’t even 30 years old yet, and having him to our house for dinner or sharing coffee and donuts after mass was a bit like having an older brother. He was instrumental in teaching my mom how to use a computer, and he taught my brother and I all sorts of funny versions of the mass parts set to the theme songs of movies and TV shows. He spoke several languages and kindled my brother’s love of language and desire to travel. And being a bit of a philosopher, he fanned the flames of my theologically curious mind and played Socrates to all my questioning. He really was the best “baby priest.”
Today he’s a grown-up priest, a servant to both the poor and the powerful; those who know him know this. Yet he still finds time to break open the scriptures in a daily blog post for all of us. His recent post about preparing for Lent was simple and inspiring.
So often we focus just on fasting. “What are you giving up?” I find “giving up” anything is very difficult unless I’m replacing it with something else. For example, this lent I am giving up Facebook. (Yes, I realize this post is on FB. I can post it remotely. But if you want me to see your comment, do it directly on my website.) I suspect this will be quite difficult, because FB is such an entrenched habit. I get to be social without having to leave my home, or even my bed. I get to feel “important” when people give my comments attention or “like” my selfies. I get to feel “intelligent” when I engage in political or religious discussions. Giving this up will not be easy. I’ve been awake only two hours and already I’m feeling “hungry” for my daily, no, hourly ego stroke.
Jesus said some demons can only be expelled by fasting and prayer. Prayer is what I will use to replace the hunger left by fasting.
I will be praying about several things. First, I will pray for myself. I know this probably sounds weird or even selfish, but it is what the Holy Spirit is asking of me. I pray that I can be a better mother. I pray that my heart will remain open and soft. I pray that God will heal the parts that are broken.
I will also be praying for someone I resent. Resent is too mild a word, really. All the more reason to practice prayer. The resentment is poisonous. Experience has taught me praying for those I resent is a discipline that leads to true conversion. Mine. Bless them, change me.
I’m praying for someone who is sick and doesn’t realize it. I desperately wish I could help, but I know I am powerless, so praying is the only thing I can do. My mother’s prayer in times when she feels powerless over the lives of those she loves is for “God’s guidance and direction.” So I’ll be praying for this person to receive guidance and direction.
I’m praying for two family members who very unexpectedly lost their husbands in the last year. I know several people whose spouses have died, and my heart goes out to all of them, but these two in particular are weighing on my mind. May God comfort their loneliness. I ask you to pray for them with me.
Finally, I will be praying for my children. Each of them is so precious, and each has challenges. All three are struggling in their own way with “growing up,” and as their mother I want nothing more than to keep them little forever, or at least until high school starts. Acceptance is difficult for all of us. I pray that they will be able to let go of babyhood gradually and gracefully as they take ever bigger steps into responsibility and experience the fullness of life. Yesterday’s snow day was a great start. For the first time all three played unsupervised on the snow hill with the other neighborhood kids, and without their mom. I was so proud of them for not needing me to facilitate fun.
Speaking of children, I hear them downstairs making their own breakfast. I’m not ready for that yet. Baby steps. Pray for me this Lent!