When I was younger, I would attack Lent with great ambition and zeal. I would make lists and determine all that I could give up and all that I could do to make it a meaningful 40 days.
I still feel that way every Ash Wednesday. I am so excited. I think, “This will be a great Lent! Come Palm Sunday, I am going to ride into Jerusalem and not even complain about the long Passion Gospel.”
But then reality sets in. I realize that sometimes I have spent my Lent trying to determine if my giving up desserts meant I couldn’t eat donuts, especially after noon. After all, I rationalized, a lovely chocolate donut with sprinkles is a breakfast food. And if I happen to eat it a little later in the day, it is not a dessert, right? This kind of thinking has led me down a rabbit hole of wondering if muffins counted as a sweet and the exact status of hot chocolate.
Reading these words, I do realize how ridiculous I sound. However, it is hard to give a wholehearted effort while still coping with my enormous sweet tooth.
And it is not only chocolate that trips me up.
Sometimes I decide I will not focus on food at all but make more time each day for prayer, good works, and daily liturgy. I have constructed my cardboard CRS Rice Bowl, purchased my devotional books, and searched for missions or other talks.
But many times—not all—I have sat in church on Good Friday and realized my Rice Bowl held only a few coins. Certainly, I could write a check, but I wanted to have the daily clink of change to keep me involved. I wanted to be holier, better, stronger. But then I dwell only on the negative. I think I have not done enough this Lent.
It is a familiar feeling, because I have often started Lent wondering if I am doing enough.
And then I berate myself for focusing on myself and feel less than enough.
It is a silly cycle that may be familiar to some. But it is a cycle that I am working to break.
This Lent I resolve that I will go to my friends, the saints, for help.
One of my favorites is St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who said:
I expect each day to discover new imperfections in myself…I am simply resigned to see myself always imperfect—and in this I find my joy…My own folly is this: to trust that your love will accept me. I am only a child, powerless and weak, and yet it is my weakness that gives me the boldness of offering myself as a victim of your love, O Jesus!
The wonderful saint, who stressed that we all approach God and holiness in a “little way,” also said, “Holiness consists simply in doing God’s will, and being just what God wants us to be.”
St. Francis de Sales, the awesome patron saint of journalists, gave me some help too, saying, quite simply, “Be who you are, and be that perfectly well.”
And Pope Francis told me and the other 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, in Gaudete et Exsultate:
We should not grow discouraged before examples of holiness that appear unattainable. There are some testimonies that may prove helpful and inspiring, but that we are not meant to copy, for that could even lead us astray from the one specific path that the Lord has in mind for us. The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts, rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them. (#11)
So I will try to feel enough this Lent—and maybe even give up donuts and muffins too.