“My mouth will declare your praise…” Invitatory Psalm – The Divine Office
As we approach the third Sunday of Lent, towards the half way point of the penitential season, I think most faithful Christians start to wonder if they’re making a good Lent. “Have I kept my pledges to increase prayer, fasting and almsgiving?” Is there more or something different I can do to ‘add value’? Is my individual journey united with Christ in his suffering death and resurrection?” We can, of course, always do more, since we can never do enough to be united with the Lord however much He graciously accepts with joy the little we give Him on a daily basis.
St. Louis de Montfort, renowned for his deep devotion to the Mother of Christ, says that Christ never refuses – however small – our fasting from food, of some kind, or fasting from sleep. Those of us blessed with babies, be they newborn or teething, and infants going up and down with temperatures because of bugs, will be able to relate very easily to the fast from sleep, given the almost nightly sleep deprivation we have to endure as parents! That’s a Lenten penance right there. If every bleary-eyed parent or carer up in the early hours – and I include those in pain in hospitals and care homes, and the staff who look after them – knowingly and intentionally united their lack of sleep with the countless numbers of contemplative nuns and monks around the world who willingly rise in the middle of the night to pray and give glory to God, then how much richer, deeper, more supernaturally fecund would our suffering and hardship be? For the Lord would be able to apply the merits of what we offer Him in some mystical way to His great act of continuously saving humanity.
I love that very Catholic thought that somehow, somewhere known only to God, my willing but puny offering to Him of my suffering or deprivation might even help save another soul along with my own in God’s audacious plan…..it is an awesome thing to ponder.
Right now, as I write this, I am suffering a pretty hellish toothache, and I am not relishing the inevitably uncomfortable time in the dentist’s chair to begin the process of alleviating whatever it is that is causing the pain. But as we must literally thank God for everything, and it is Lent, I have altered my prayer from “please Lord make the pain lessen or take it away” to a more seasonal approach. I will try to recall every slap that Jesus had in the face, every verbal and physical insult hurled at his Person during his passion. I will give Him my discomfort in reparation for my sins in the hope that He can use it to purify me on my journey to Easter so that in some small but significant way I may be a better husband and father for having not moaned about the pain but offered it up as they say. Many venial and mortal sins are committed with the mouth, insult, gossip, anger, foul language or salacious talk, gluttony with food and drink and so on. I hope and pray my current pain and discomfort will therefore help me be mindful of the One whose mouth only ever proclaimed love, truth forgiveness and mercy. May your Lent be blessed with all those hallmarks.
– Edmund Adamus
Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life – Diocese of Westminster