Each year I make my Lenten Resolutions—sacrifices to give up, prayers to offer up, and works of charity to take up—all in a focused effort to grow closer to Christ in holiness. Every year I fail. To be honest, I think that might be part of the point of Lent. It is important to join our works to Christ in our salvation, to cooperate with Him, but, we certainly cannot do it on our own. And, not of our own merit.
On a personal, vulnerable level, I am discovering that I fail because I am weak-willed—a sinner after all—reluctant to eschew comfort and convenience for the Cross. But also, I fail because I am stubbornly barreling down a path to Holiness that is not my own.
I often say that my temperament is better suited to being a cloistered nun than a wife and mother. So, it should be no surprise that my preferred path to Holiness is one that favors contemplation, prayer and study to acts of charity, selflessness, and active love. And that my friends is why God gave me this path. Because I need it. I need them to sanctify me.
A mother’s path to Holiness is laid foremost in service to her family. Holiness is found in the ordinary, in the small acts of love I offer to my family as prayer. It is found in each dish rinsed, each pile of laundry folded, each story read for the thousandth time, each homework assignment I grit my teeth through—those are my sanctifying moments. This is my path to Holiness. And, as to not fall to the trap of segmentation, each action of my day needs to be geared toward that end.
I’ve been looking upon the lives of contemplatives as the gold standard for Holiness. And, perhaps to some extent they still are, but we are not all called to the same vocation for a reason. I have a strong desire to learn, to read, to study, to spend time in prayer. Inherently, those are the things of a Holy Life, but only when the motives are truly out of love for God and in service to my vocation—which above all else—is that of wife and mother. I have let pride sneak its way into my genuine desire to grow closer to God and allowed it to take root.
It is unreasonable in this season of my life—the season of toddlers and school-aged children with a full-time job—to resolve to: pray all of the Liturgy of Hours, pray a Rosary, read several devotionals, read daily Mass readings, pepper in a bit of spiritual reading and some leisure reading for good measure, write every day, and exercise, all while successfully performing my job duties and those of my primary vocation. Not all in one day anyway. Maybe that is quite obvious to everyone but me? Epiphanies come to us in different ways.
To be clear, I am in no way advocating a neglect of prayer life, or study, or even leisure, all in the name of the martyrdom of motherhood. The time spent in prayer and study must be, primarily, of service to my vocation. As with all things in life, the key is balance. And balance is hard. I am an all-or-nothing kind of girl and balance requires discipline. This is what I am strengthening this Lent. I am strengthening my will and my discipline by means of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Prayer– I am being intentional about my prayer life and that means praying Lauds (Morning Prayer) and Compline (night prayer) each day in addition to my regular practice of daily Mass reading and a devotional or two. I am also sanctifying my workday by listening to the Rosary on YouTube while I work. I manage to listen to and pray a scriptural Rosary every day and then listen to a beautiful Latin Chant version—sometimes on repeat, for several hours.
Fasting– I am continuing my fast from Facebook, which has been far easier than I ever imagined and working on my fast from swearing (such an awful habit), from staying up too late, and from soda (I allowed myself to slowly wean during the first weeks of Lent so I don’t end up with crippling caffeine withdrawal-it’s that serious).
Almsgiving– I am still planning to donate a box of clothes and books, donate change to CRS, and we are volunteering as a family at Feed My Starving Children. But, the real act of charity I will exercise this Lent, in hopes that the practice strengthens and grows beyond these 40 days, is serving my family without complaint. So-no heavy sighs as I wash the dishes, no full-on complaints when I fold the laundry, or lamentations when my toddler begs me to read the same story again and again, and no losing my temper with my son when we do homework, and no nagging and nit-picking my husband. I do these acts out of love of and service to family, and thus out of love and service to God himself.
How are your Lenten resolutions going? Have you ever discerned the need to recalibrate your Lenten Resolutions?